Ha’aretz update from Dorothy Naor of New Profile

Dorothy Noar of New Profile, the extraordinary Israeli feminist organization, writes about Ha’aretz rumors:

Dear Friends,

Essentially, the information below is on the right track. But a few corrections need to be made. My sources have requested not to be revealed, but are reliable.

Let me begin with a change that took place a few months ago, and that should have been a sign of things to come. Ha’aretz reduced the size of its News and Opinion sections. Spouse and I have subscribed to the Hebrew print edition of Ha’aretz for years. In addition to other sections, it used to have an A section (News) and a separate B section (whose main parts were Opinion, consisting of op-eds, the editorial, and features). One day the paper arrived with the parts of A and B melded into a single and thinner section than either had previously been. And so it has remained.

Ha’aretz has changed its policy from being a politically oriented newspaper, whose focus was socio-economic, to being one whose main concern is finances via the vehicle of the Marker. The former regular sections have diminished in size, and contain more ads than previously. The target audience is no longer the liberal community but the upper wealthy crust—an audience not much interested in either Palestinians or poor Israelis. In other words, the motive for change is economic rather than political. But the result is that socio-political issues play a smaller role in the new format.

Consequently, an investigative reporter as Meron Rapoport is no longer needed. He is not the only one to receive the axe. So also, apparently, Tamar Rotem. However, Amira Hass has requested, and was given, a year’s leave of absence. She intends to return. Whether or not this will transpire, we will learn eventually. Gideon Levy has not had his Twilight Zone taken from him. In the Hebrew edition, it has been shunted from the Friday Magazine to the This Week section in the newspaper (which also appears on Fridays). Twilight Zone continues to appear in the Friday Magazine in the online English edition. Levy has also been given other jobs in the paper unrelated to socio-political issues (e.g., reviewing TV programs). Akiva Eldar continues to work for Ha’aretz, but with less space than previously allotted him.

All of this constitutes a loss for those of us of a more liberal bent. But I don’t think that we can term any of this censorship. Levy and Eldar continue to express the same views as previously, and it is hard to imagine Amira Hass kowtowing to censorship.

One other correction. Below you learn that Ha’aretz has a new German owner. The owner is neither so new nor so influential—he purchased 25% of the newspaper in 2006, and is apparently a silent partner. The change in orientation is the publisher’s, Amos Schocken’s.

In a world that is globalized and where neo-liberalism reigns, I don’t see why any of us should be surprised that Ha’aretz is going the way of the world. The publishers want to make money. There is nothing new in this. I agree that it is our loss, and a disturbing one. But our battle is with globalization and neo-liberalism as a whole. Of course if we could find investors from the liberal sector who would pay Ha’aretz to continue its former ways—we might be able to have our newspaper back. But I personally don’t know any rich investors. Do you?

Dorothy

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