web-site, supported by two major settlers' sites from the
West Bank and Gaza
Strip, is dedicated to the holy cause of "encouraging
and supporting the employment of Jews only". It is already
listing dozens of
Israeli firms that do not employ "Gentiles". In
the first months of the Intifada, Israeli racists initiated a
boycott of Arab shops and restaurants; now, employment of Arabs
is targeted. Let's keep the inevitable historical
analogies for another time; the point I want to make now is,
that most of you haven't heard of this web-site. Right?
site is neither confidential nor is it my discovery: I simply
read about it in the Hebrew Ha'aretz a few days ago (24.9.02).
But most of you could not. Why? Because this item was left out
of Haaretzdaily.com, the English version of Ha'aretz.
is not Ha'aretz
this a mistake? An exception? No it is not. Ha'aretzdaily.com
is not a full translation of the Hebrew paper; it's a selection.
It often omits certain items, certain columns, that Ha'aretz
does not find "suitable" for foreign eyes, like the
report I just mentioned.
way to achieve the same hidden bias is by "nationalistically
correct" translations. For example, when Hebrew Ha'aretz
read (2.7.02): "Recent reports about Egyptian intentions
to develop nuclear weaponry WERE APPARENTLY THE RESULT OF ISRAELI
PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE AND do not match intelligence information
in Jerusalem, according to a senior Israeli official",
the English translation simply omitted the words I've capitalised.
quoting an Israeli officer on the use of Palestinians as "human
shields", the English version read (16.8.02): "Before
the search [in a Palestinian house] we go to a neighbour, take
him out of his house and tell him to call the people we want out
of the next door house. [...] The neighbour does not have the
option to refuse to do it. He shouts, knocks on the door and says
the army's here. If nobody answers, he comes back and we go to
work." Sounds pretty harmless? Just because the
last sentence is a "nationalistically correct" translation
of the following Hebrew sentence: "If nobody answers,
we have to tell the neighbour that he will be killed if no one
Not What You Thought
course the "nationalistic correctness" of Ha'aretz
is not confined to its English version. In the last two years
– which saw both the Intifada and the launching of its English
on-line edition – Ha'aretz has taken a sharp turn to the
delivered at the end of May by its editor-in-chief is worth reading
to understand that. In the lecture, at the 9th World Editors'
Forum in Bruges, Belgium, Hanoch Marmari seems to have had two
objectives: one was to affirm Ha'aretz's liberal image
as a serious, "global brand" quality-paper: quite understandable
considering his function and audience. But the other objective,
just as apparent, was to discredit allegations of an Israeli massacre
in Jenin. Typically, it's this second issue that Marmari introduces
first, at the very opening of his lecture: "First, the
good news: Abu Ali's nine children are alive and well – as well
as children can be among the ruins of the Jenin refugee camp.
Please deliver this news to all of your friends".
two objectives – serving the paper's image and serving Israel's
propaganda – are highly interwoven; which of them prevails? Denying
the massacre cannot contribute to Ha'aretz's reputation;
whereas Ha'aretz's reputation is quite essential for denying
a massacre in Jenin, as well as for disseminating other official
best "proof" given for Ha'aretz liberalism is
its critical journalists, the best-known of which is Amira Hass:
it is no coincidence that hers is the only name mentioned in Marmari's
lecture. Amira Hass is indeed a superb journalist whose work is
utterly invaluable. She deserves every bit of her global reputation,
and more. But let's put things in proportion. Hass is not the
only journalist in Ha'aretz. She is "balanced"
by, say, Nadav Shragai, who reports on the Israeli settlers with
unconcealed sympathy, or by Amos Harel, who mainly quotes Israeli
military sources. If those three perspectives – the Palestinian,
the settlers' and the army's – diverge, you can imagine which
of them will make it to the front page, headline or editorial.
the controversy over Jenin is a good example: the very day that
Amira Hass, visiting the scene immediately after the operation,
carefully reported that one could not say at that stage whether
a massacre had taken place, Ha'aretz editorial (ab)used
her evidence to claim categorically that "There was no massacre
in Jenin", as its heading read (19.4.02). By the way, the
headline of the undervalued daily Yediot Achronot that
day was: "Israel in a Propaganda Offensive: 'There was No
Massacre in Jenin'": a responsible piece of journalism, reporting
the government's propaganda efforts rather then joining them like
Ha'aretz's editorial did.
far as columnists are concerned, Ha'aretz naturally prints
right-wingers as well as left-wingers. This does not mean that
"anything goes": though several op-eds and editorials
criticised the Israeli conscientious
objectors, no op-ed supporting them was ever allowed: that's
as far as liberalism goes. Moreover, the past year saw several
liberal and left-oriented columnists leave (leading sociologist
Baruch Kimmerling, critical economist Ephraim Reiner, Aviv Lavie's
excellent media criticism) or reduced (Meron Benvenisti). Ever
more columns are written by rhinoceros like Ari Shavit, who was
critically left-wing in the past and moved to the other end once
the Intifada broke out, or by Amnon Rubinstein, retiring Knesset
Member for Meretz, whose columns count Israel's blessings and
attack any criticism from the dovish end. In a recent column,
Rubinstein badly distorted a letter published in the Guardian
by Nigel Parry and Ali Abunimah, American pro-Palestinian activists;
when the two asked to publish a response, Ha'aretz typically
less revealing is the advertisement policy of Ha'aretz.
When an Israeli death-squad had assassinated the Palestinian colonel
Khaled Abu Khiran (14.5.02), Ha'aretz refused to publish
a condolence ad by the Arab-Jewish Partnership group Taayush
that stated that Abu Khiran "was executed without trial by
the State of Israel". The reason given for the refusal was
that Ha'aretz did not want to turn its condolence ad page
into a place for political expression. But Ha'aretz has
no problem publishing the standard condolence ad of the Government
of Israel after every terror attack, stating the victims were
"murdered by Sons of Evil": this does not sound like
a political statement in Ha'aretz's ears.
framing an item is enough to divert or even subvert its message.
The Guardian recently published an impressive interview
with Britain's chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks. In an unprecedentedly
strong warning to Israel, Professor Sacks argued that the country
was adopting a stance "incompatible" with the deepest ideals of
Judaism, and that the current conflict with the Palestinians was
"corrupting" Israeli culture.
(27.8.02) reported the Guardian interview quite faithfully;
but it put it in a more "friendly" light. The eight
paragraphs on the interview were followed by four paragraphs recycling
an old interview, more suitable for nationalistic ears: "In
an interview in Ha'aretz in January this year, on the subject
of 'The New anti-Semitism,' Sacks launched a vehement attack on
Muslims as the archetypal anti-Semites of the new millennium [...]
Referring to the Intifada which erupted in September 2000, Sacks
said that the Palestinian leadership was unable 'to acquiesce
in Israel's permanence. They see Israel as a Crusader state'."
Now that Sack's criticism of Israel is safely "balanced"
by criticising the Arabs, he can be let in.
are some of the more overt examples for Ha'aretz's very
one-sidedly limited liberalism. The picture emerging from off-the-record
talks is much harder. I have heard of censored op-eds, of suppressed
book reviews, of editors reproached for publishing mildly critical
stuff, of journalists fighting to insert a critical line.
this may not be so surprising: in a society sinking into the ugliest
forms of nationalism and racism, in a country actually run by
the army behind an ever thinner fig-leaf of democracy, in a land
where war crimes are rapidly turning from frequent exceptions
to a legitimate rule, it would be a miracle if one medium-size
newspaper remained an unaffected oasis of liberalism and free
expression. Neither Ha'aretz staff, nor its readers, nor
its advertisers live on an isolated island. However, too many
people in- and outside Israel seem to believe in this miracle,
and that's when it becomes dangerous. Ha'aretz should be
taken for what it is: a Zionist Israeli newspaper, operating in
a rapidly deteriorating society. Just as it reflects this society,
society's deterioration is reflected in it. Expecting to get an
objective, non-partisan picture of Israeli-Palestinian realities
from Ha'aretz is a dangerously naive illusion; even more
so from its retouched English edition.
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