Purge underway at Ha’aretz

Ha’aretz is the Israeli paper that has consistently provided the most credible, principled and vivid coverage of the impact of the Israeli occupation and pervasive anti-Arab racism. Human rights groups depend on Ha’aretz, which publishes a highly popular online English edition, to convey otherwise unheard stories to a broad global audience. It’s difficult to imagine the catastrophic impact of such a purge.

While Ha’aretz has been under great pressure to alter their coverage, the issue seems to be profit–Ha’aretz’s ability to maximize it.

Jeremiah Haber first broke the story about rumors of a purge of Haaretz’s most outspoken writers like Amira Hass (who has asked for and received sabbatical), and Meron Rapaport, who though still filing stories, is said to have been fired.

Inside sources have told us that these rumors of a broader purge that may eventually involve other writers like Akiva Eldar and Gideon Levy are true. We are told this is part of

“…a very conscious shift to the right because of American Jews. They see American Jews as their primary audience for the English language edition. They’ve been getting, apparently for years, many many complaints, calls and visits from people with influence and money who have been haranguing them about their coverage.

This source also says

[Haaretz columnist] Shmuel Rosner is their guy in the US. They get their feelings of the pulse of the American Jewish community from Rosner, not just his own political views–he puts out there that the American Jewish community is on the right on this stuff. The perception is that while there are Jews with other opinions, they aren’t Jews who really care about Israel- either they are alienated or actively anti-Israel. They don’t see the pro-Israel/pro-peace types.

While more alarming reports are emerging, it should be noted that there has not been a detectable major shift in editorial policy. Recent pieces criticizing the banishment of Norman Finkelstein and supporting Carter’s visit with Hamas are two noticeable examples.

Nonetheless, this report by Ed Corrigan says:

A new German owner has purchased Haaretz and a “Putsch is being carried out among reporting staff,” in the most important and liberal Zionist paper in Israel. According to inside sources, the new owner has carried out a rough, sittingroom survey that revealed that “the occupation doesn’t sell newspapers” and they are therefore concentrating on the business world (ie. The Marker). Twilight Zone, Gideon Levy’s regular Friday column, has been scrapped, Amira Hass has been degraded to freelance on half salary, Meron Rapaport has been fired and Akiva Eldar has lost at least one half page a week.

CAMERA has already stated that Haaretz is enemy number one because of its unapologetic coverage, including liberal use of the term “apartheid” to describe conditions in the territories. Nonetheless, as newspapers across the world continue to hemorrhage readers, it is not clear how much of this simply comes down to economics.

Either way, as Ha’aretz, ironically observed about the 10 year banishment of Norman Finkelstein, this is another ominous example of the erosion of open debate and free speech in Israel. It’s a trend we know something about here in the United States, don’t we?

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