The political line of Israeli papers (a reader’s guide)

Posted: October 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: media, The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments »

Maariv and Yedioth Ahronoth showing the same headline (photo: yossi gurvitz)Newspapers in Israel have always been of great importance. One of the first things early Zionists did in Palestine was to create their own Hebrew papers. Every major political faction had its own publication, usually a national daily. Even today, with the decline of printed journalism, papers are still widely read, especially among opinion makers.

The Hebrew papers raise issues and frame political questions; Knesset members often quote news items and op-eds during Knesset debates, and Knesset committees conduct debates on issues exposed by the printed media. It is worth noting that Israel has never had strong local daily papers, so the printed media always tended to deal with national questions of diplomacy, politics and security, and less with local issues such as crime and local policies. So if you want to understand Israeli society and Israeli politics, you need to understand Hebrew printed media.

The old party papers died over the last two decades or so, and today’s papers don’t have a certain partisan affiliation. Papers in Israel usually don’t endorse candidates or parties, but they do have a political line. In the cases of Haaretz and Yisrael Hayom this line is very clear. With Maariv – and especially with Yedioth – it tends to be more subtle, and has changed over the years.

Here is a short guide to the political lines taken by Israel’s newspapers these days. Remember that these assessments are subjective as well, and reflect my own views and knowledge. Disclaimer: I worked for Maariv and for Yedioth’s internet division in the past, and in the past six months I have written a few stories for Haaretz.

Yedioth Ahronoth

Market Share* (June 2010): 35 percent on weekdays, 43.7 on weekends.

Internet site: Ynet (English edition here).

Politics: After years of dominating the printed media market, Israel’s leading tabloid has met a fierce rival – the free paper Yisrael Hayom, launched three years ago by gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Many people believe that this is the reason for the sharp anti-Netanyahu tone Yedioth has taken over the past year. The paper is constantly publishing articles attacking the Prime Minister, his staff and even his wife. Star pundit Nahum Barnea is especially hostile to Netanyahu; in fact, I think there is only one columnist in Yedioth – Hanoch Daum – who is an open Netanyahu supporter and a proxy to the Netanyahu family.

Leaving Netanyahu aside, Yedioth is a fairly centrist paper. It tends to be conservative on military and security issues, but more open than other tabloids when it comes to dealing with civil rights issues. The campaign the paper launched against the State Prosecution and the Supreme Court for their intervention in policy issues and nominations of high ranking officials seems to have calmed down recently.

I think people outside Israel don’t pay enough attention to Yedioth. For years, the paper was known for its ability to capture the voice of the average middle class Israeli. The front page story of the papers’ weekend magazine always presented “the man of the moment”, or the story that would be discussed during the following week. Yedioth is not as strong today – but it is still the most important media organization in Israel. Yedioth’s internet site (Ynet) is by far the most popular news site in Israel.

Yair Lapid, channel 2 anchorman and a possible candidate in the next elections, has a widely read column in Yedioth.

The bottom line for Yedioth Ahronoth: Conservative on security and Supreme Court; critical of the government and Netanyahu himself; slightly more liberal than the two other tabloids.

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Yisrael Hayom

Market Share (June 2010): 35 percent on weekdays, 25.7 on weekends.

Internet site: Yisrael Hayom (Hebrew, printed edition only).

Politics: According to most estimates, Sheldon Adelson’s free tabloid, which is circulated in 250,000 copies, is losing money. But Adelson’s intention in launching the paper was not to gain profits, but political influence.

Adelson’s paper is edited by a former proxy to Netanyahu, Amos Regev. Under Regev, Israel Hayom is extremely supportive of the Prime Minister, constantly pushing stories that present Netanyahu and his family in a positive way. Recently, the paper is taking on an even more nationalistic editorial line.

[A more detailed post about the ties between Yisrael Hayom and Netanyahu can be found here.]

Yisrael Hayom is very hostile to the Palestinians; it tends to emphasize security threats and to present a favorable coverage of some of the new Knesset bills which are aimed against the Arab minority, Arabs members of Knesset and leftwing NGO’s (though one could find in it from time to time an occasional op-ed expressing different views).

Yisrael Hayom is supportive of the State Prosecution and the Supreme Court, but only on corruption issues, not civil rights ones.

Yisrael Hayom doesn’t have its own publishing house, so the paper has outsourced its printing and distribution to Haaretz. There are rumors that this move saved Haaretz from bankruptcy.

The bottom line for Yisrael Hayom: Conservative on security, diplomacy and civil rights; highly supportive of Netanyahu.

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Maariv

Market Share (June 2010): 12.5 percent on weekdays, 16.1 on weekends.

Internet site: nrg (Hebrew only).

Politics: for years, Maariv was Yedioth’s greatest enemy (when I moved from Ynet to Maariv in 2003, I was told by one of the senior editors that I would never write for Yedioth again), but now both papers join hands in the battle against Yisrael Hayom.

Maariv ran into financial difficulties more than six years ago, and since then it has been changing its editors and CEO’s frequently. A new team of editors (Yoav Zur and Yoav Golan), and a new co-publisher (businessman Zachi Rachiv) seem to have stabilized the paper a bit recently.

Under its new editors, Maariv has taken a sharp turn to the right. The paper’s subtle criticism of Netanyahu could be a bit misleading. Maariv keeps a very nationalistic and conservative line. It was Maariv that launched the campaign against the New Israel Fund by publishing the Im Tirzu reports. The paper is extremely hostile to the Arab population and to human rights organizations, and recently, it shows a hospitable attitude to the settlement project (a recent double spread all but invited people to live in Tapuach, a settlement formally known as the stronghold of Kahane supporters). Among Israeli papers, Maariv is the most supportive of Avigdor Lieberman’s policies, and it usually presents a somewhat favorable coverage of the bills Israel Beitenu is trying to pass in the Knesset.

Rumors have it that it was a conscious decision by Maariv’s editors and managing board to take an editorial line that would exploit the current nationalistic trends in the Israeli society. The promotion of conservative contributors such as Kalman Livskind and Ben-Dror Yemini support this theory. Yemini is known for his campaigning against “lefty” influence in the Israel academia and media. He has repeatedly called to hold state funds from critical movies and from artists and professors who are “anti-Israeli”. Last week he published a double spread attacking Haaretz journalist Gidon Levi for an interview he gave to the Independent.

The bottom line for Maariv: Highly conservative on security; anti-civil rights, anti-Supreme Court; slightly critical of Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

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Haaretz

Market Share (June 2010): 6.4 percent on weekdays, 7.4 on weekends.

Internet site: Haaretz (English site here).

Politics: Haaretz was Israel’s liberal paper for many years, and one could claim that it’s the only paper committed to supporting civil rights and promoting democratic values. By Israeli standards, Haaretz is very critical of the IDF, thought in the past few years the paper was criticized for pushing Palestinians’ civil right issues into its back pages. Many leftwing activists and politicians are also dismayed by the liberal line Haaretz tends to take on economical issues.

Haaretz’s editorial line is very critical of Netanyahu and Lieberman, though some important contributors, such as Ari Shavit and Yoel Marcus are less clear on the issue. Haaretz journalist Amira Hass is especially known for her work on Palestinian rights issues.

Haaretz’ circulation is not substantial – it’s almost similar to that of the unimportant free tabloid Israel Post – but it is widely read and discussed by public opinion makers, politicians, diplomats and the international press, so it has a more substantial weight than its numbers. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that very few Israelis actually read Haaretz.

The bottom line for Haaretz: liberal on security, civil rights and economy; supportive of the Supreme Court; very critical of Netanyahu’s government.

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(*) Maariv and Israel Hayom are the only daily papers in Israel to disclose their circulation figures. The common way to measure papers’ share of the market – and the one used to determine advertising prices – is through the TGI poll, conducted twice a year by the independent company TNS-Telegal. The figures in this post relate to the June 2010 poll.

For daily updates on the leading stories in the Israel Hebrew press, check out the daily media roundup on +972 magazine.


The story behind the images of the crying boy

Posted: August 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

Haaretz’s Gidon Levy brings the Jaberi family’s account of the events that led to the images showing Khaled Jabari, aged 4, trying to prevent his father from being taken away by the army. Israel accused the Palestinians of “staging” the scene

Khaled jabari trying to prevent his father from getting arrested

Last week I posted here the now famous clip of Khaled Jabari, a Palestinian child, desperately trying to prevent Israeli border police soldiers from arresting his Father, Fadel Jabari, on charge of water theft.

A few days later, Haaretz’s Gidon Levy met with the Jabari family and heard their account of the arrest [Hebrew]. As it turned, the soldiers actually came for Fadel’s father, 65 years old Badran Jabari, who used a local settlement’s water pipe to water his vegetables field.

As I explained in my previous post, water is a major issue in the region of South Hebron, where the Jabari family lives. The Israeli authorities construct pipes mostly for the use of the settlers, and the Palestinian Authority has limited control in the region, so it can’t build its own system.

As it turned, the pipe Badran Jabari used was a joint Israeli-Palestinian one, and according to his account, he actually had an authorization from the Palestinian Authority to connect to the water system. The IDF Civil Administration, however, did not authorize the use of the pipe, which was supposed to serve a local settlement only.

It will be wrong to understand this story in the terms of relations between a local municipality and a farmer – a perception that might lead us to believe that while the Jabari family might have suffered some injustice, ultimately, they simply stole the water. The IDF is the sole authority in the West Bank, and it gives very little attention to the Palestinians’ daily problems. The Jabaris, and many like them, have no other options. Stories like the one which happened at their field take place all the time around Hebron; the only difference this time was the presence of a crying boy and a cameraman at the scene.

This is from Gidon Levy’s report of the arrest (my translation):

Last Sunday the Jabaris went to visit the family’s grandfather, Badran Jaberi. Palestine, Khaled’s mother is a teacher. Fadel, his father, is a peddler of clothes and curtains. The couple has three small children. Khaled [the boy seen in the clip], aged four and two months, is the older. Grandfather Badran, Palestine’s mother, was a professor of sociology and active member in the Pupolar Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He spent 12 years in Israeli prison, nine of them without trial, until he became a farmer. Israel has never allowed him to leave the West Bank.

Badran, aged 65, has 11 acres east of Kiryat Arba – a vegetables garden and a vineyard. The family of his youngest daughter, who lives in the north of Hebron, went there last week to spend a few days of the summer vacation. On the first day of their visit, Khaled joined his grandfather and together they went to work in the field where the zucchini, tomatoes and cucumbers are grown. A dog the child adopted accompanied them. Grandpa is calling Khaled by his nicknames: Jabber and Abbud. The family remained awake till late, eating, drinking and playing together.

Badran talks about what happened in good Hebrew, which he learned at Damascus University in 1965.

The next day, around six in the morning, the grandfather woke up to the sound of military vehicles approaching the house. He says it was a convoy of 20 vehicles: trucks, jeeps and bulldozers, border police forces, Police, Civil Administration and IDF. An entire army has raided his fields.

He went outside to ask what this was all about, but the policemen ordered him to return home immediately. He asked to speak with the officer in charge, but an officer told him the Civil Administration’s infrastructure officer has not arrived yet. “This is my field, what are you doing here? Rome will burn before Nero arrives,” he answered the policemen and soldiers, though it is doubtful if they knew what he was talking about. Badran had already experienced such raids: the affair regarding him tapping into the water network that crosses his fields has been going on for a long time, and included many such raids by the Civil Administration, which upholds the law only when Palestinians are concerned.

The noise made the grandmother come out as well. She was pushed by the soldiers and fell on the ground. They [the soldiers and policemen] began to dismantle the plumbing and to load the pipes on the truck. In doing so, they tore the plastic sheets and hurt the crops. Badran says that whenever he tried to speak with the officer in charge, they pushed him and cursed him: “Go home, old bastard.” To his daughter, Wissam, they referred as “a slut.”

Badran was handcuffed, while the action continued. Meanwhile, the younger son Wadee woke up. Badran says he told his son to get back to the house, but one of the officers ordered: “The SOB has boys, arrest the son.”

Wadee entered the house and run away from the back door, chased by the border police soldiers. “We were afraid for the child,” says Badran. Later, Wadee was caught [picture below] and his father tried to rescue him from the soldiers (Badran says his son was beaten). Then woke the eldest son, Fadel, little Khaled’s father. He went outside barefoot, wearing only his pajamas, and was beaten as well.

Badran says his son was knocked down three or four times. “We tried to talk to the officer, but it did not help. He just said [to the soldiers]: ‘arrest all those disturbing you. The old man too.’” Badran says he tried to calm his sons. He remembered how in a previous raid on his fields, on July 6, soldiers threw stun grenades and fired rubber coated bullets.

“After that, they took my child, Fadel, and Khaled woke up and tried to rescue his father,” Badran continues. “The boy was barefoot, he wept and shouted and fell several times between the legs of soldiers and the policemen. Khaled tried to defend his father and his uncle Wadee. ‘I want my father,’ he cried. When they took Fadel to the Jeep I told them: ‘Arrest me as well. What shall we live from? You took everything.’ I couldn’t take it any more. I sat and wept and told the border police officer: ‘You are harder than the stones here. You have no heart; you have no brain, look at what you are doing. You took everything’”.

A Palestinian photographer working for Reuters captured the events and passed the images on.

Fadel and Wadee were taken to the Kiryat Arba police station. Their father immediately sent a lawyer to the station, but he wasn’t allowed to meet them. The police told the father that they were taken to the Etzion detention facility. At Etzion he was told that Fadel remained there and that Wadee was taken to Ofer facility, near Ramallah. Last Thursday the two brothers were detained for six more days, in which they will be charged with assaulting five soldiers.

The border police spokesperson told Haaretz that “during enforcement action against water thieves in the southern Hebron hills, the police and army force was attacked with stones. Two people involved in the riot were arrested. During the arrest, as can be seen in the photos, the family chose to make a cynical use of a child, which was staged and directed [by them]. Instead of acting responsibly and removing the child from the scene, they chose to engage in cheap Anti-Israeli propaganda, deliberately aimed at presenting us in a negative way in the world.”

wadee Jabari arrested by border police soldiers near Hebron

Regarding the context of the affair, Levy writes:

In 1995 a water pipeline was constructed through the fields of Badran from the town Banni Na’im to the settlement of Tkoa. Badran asked the Israeli water company to connect him the pipeline passing through his field (…) and was referred to the municipality of Banni Na’im. Badran claims he received a permit from the municipality to connect to the water line. After a few days the army came and confiscated the plumbing. Badran turned to the Palestinian Water Authority in Ramallah, where they gave him and three of his neighbors a permit to connect to the water line.

After a month, the Israeli Civil Administration came back, deemed the connection illegal, and confiscated the pipes [for the first time]. Badran says that a Civil Administration officer once told him: “I do not want to see something green on your fields. I want to see everything yellow.”

Fadel and Wadee Jabari are still in Israeli prison, awaiting trial.


Why the Israeli case against boycott is so weak

Posted: May 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Left, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Regarding the discussion we had here on Gil-Scott Heron’s decision to cancel his show in Tel Aviv, here are some wise words from Gidon Levy. The real boycott, argues Levy, is the one that Israel is leading against the Palestinians and their supporters:

… entry into Israel and the West Bank is being affected by the recent frenzy of [Israeli] boycotts. Anyone who is suspected of supporting the Palestinians or expressing concern for their lot is boycotted and expelled. This group includes a clown who came to organize a conference; a peace activist who was due to appear at a symposium; and scientists, artists and intellectuals who arouse suspicions that they back the Palestinian cause. This is a cultural and academic boycott on all counts, the type of boycott that we reject when it is used against us.

Yet the anti-boycott country’s list of boycotted parties does not end there. Even a Jewish-American organization like J Street, which defines itself as pro-Israel, has felt the long arm of the Israeli boycott. It is permissible to boycott J Street because it champions peace, but we can’t tolerate a boycott of products made in settlements that were built on usurped land. Denying a visiting professor entry into Gaza for an appearance at a university does not qualify as a boycott, but cutting off ties with Israeli institutions that provide fast-track degree programs for army officers and interrogators in the Shin Bet security service – people who are often viewed around the world as complicit in war crimes – is viewed as verboten.

Read the full article on Haaretz.


Why I like Karni Eldad

Posted: November 30th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: The Right, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments »

karni eldadKarni Eldad, settler daughter of MK Arie Eldad from the radical Ihud Leumi party, is writing Op-Eds for Haaretz recently. I kind of like her articles: they are so blind and self-righteous, they actually make readers grasp the reality of the West Bank Apartheid -  Something even Amira Hass or Gidon Levi are having troubles doing. I often wandered if it’s some kind of satire, but from what I gather, she is for real.

In this one [English; Hebrew], for example, Eldad is portraying the ordinary middle class dilemma of a young couple: how to find a nice home with no Arabs around?

One of these hilltops had a special attraction for us. It has a mixed population, an excellent location, is close to civilization but not too close, without any Arab villages nearby. A young community, with young people who have a dream, and all the intrigues of any small community.

“There are three vacant prefabricated homes. Choose,” we were told. I turned white. “But, but,” I stammered. “I have already lived in a prefabricated home. Is there no exemption? Can you understand – I’m a musician and the acoustics in a prefabricated home are simply awful, and the doctor has forbidden it, and besides,” I said, pulling out the doomsday weapon, “besides, I’m spoiled.”

“It’s as I said,” the secretary continued, smiling. “There are three prefabricated homes. Choose one. I suggest the one belonging to Foxman; it hardly leaks at all.”

Great. What a headache. It turns out that it’s impossible to be a real right-winger without implementing the ideology using your place of residence as well. And it turns out that, like many other young couples in Israel, we can’t let ourselves live in one of the economically established settlements where there is asphalt instead of mud. It’s simply too expensive. So it turns out that we are moving to a hilltop. Soon. Maybe in the summer.