Tag Archives: Ha’aretz

From Ha’aretz editor, about rumors

This letter is circulating [read prior Muzzlewatch posts for more information]:

From: Haaretz Daily Newspaper <contact@haaretz.co.il>
Dear Dr Raymond Leicht and Ronit Beck,
Thank you for your letter. I’ve received five similar letters today. Some of the writers noted with concern that an aggressive campaign is being conducted against the paper based on false information. It may be the case that the disinformation is being spread out by extreme right-wing circles or perhaps it is based on a simple misunderstanding.
The substantive point is that, as part of the printed media crisis, five reporters and editors are leaving the paper in consequence of the elimination of the ‘B’ section of the paper. For the record, at least two of these hold opposite views to Meron Rapoport who is mentioned in your letter. He is indeed a talented writer, but he has been working for us for only three years, since he was sacked by Yediot Acharonot. Newspapers are trying to survive and they have two choices – increase their circulation or cut down on editorial costs. The New York Times has recently sacked 7 per cent of its reporting staff (presumably some of these would have been identified as being on the Left). Closer to home, Ma’ariv has announced that it would be cutting down its stuff by 10 per cent in the course of this year. I hope that our path will take the opposite direction, that we will succeed in convincing more people to join our readers circle. Obviously, cancellation of subscriptions will have the opposite affect and force us into further cutbacks.
This course of action is indeed painful, but it is rather limited compared to developments in similar newspapers around the globe. But, there is no connection between the cutbacks and Amira Hass’s sabbatical leave. That leave was agreed upon well before I took over as Editor, and she is expected to return to the paper, if that is her wish. This is not her first leave of absence nor is it a new practice; Tom Segev had returned from an even longer break less than a year ago,
In fact, if a change had taken place in the past month – since I took over the role – it has been in precisely the opposite direction to what you describe in your letter. Purely by chance, it was in this period that Haaretz received exclusive information upon which we were able to base some stories that were prominently published. These included the exclusion of Norman Finkelstein (Yossi Melman), the new attempts by the Justice Minister to influence the High Court (Shahar Ilan, Jonathan Lis), the Elad NGO takeover operations in East Jerusalem (Akiva Eldar) and of course the Talansky-Messer affair (Gidi Weitz).
As for the move of Gideon Levy’s column from the “Week End” to the magazine section, this had happened four years ago, as result of lack of chemistry between Gideon and the then Musaf editor, Rogel Alpher. It was me who initiated the column during my stint as Musaf editor in 1994. I was also the one who came with its name, the “Twilight Zone”. I see it as a vital part of the paper.
It is saddening to note that such an aggressive disinformation campaign is being conducted against Haaretz. But as a fighting newspaper we are used to encounter organised mudslinging campaigns. We hope to survive this current campaign as well.
I thank you for your interest in Haaretz and hope this letter has alleyed your fears.
Yours Sincerely
Dov Alfon
Editor Haaretz

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Letter from Ha’aretz reporter Amira Hass

Amira Hass writes today:

Dear friends,

The rumors and and some inaccuracies concerning my work at
Haaretz, and the general interest and manifested alarm -
indeed require my comments. You two have asked me directly about
those rumors. So here is my answer:

1. I am on an upaid sabbatical (since March 2008). It was my
request to have this leave of absence. I needed it badly, after
almost 15 years of covering the Israeli occupation from within (and
for a great part of this time – working up to 15 – 18 hours per
day). For long periods the work was done in the stressful
circumstances of military invasions, bombings and shellings,
standing in front of tanks or edgy armed soldiers, curfews, strict
closures, PA mainfested malcontent with any critical reporting etc.
No less stressful has been life in the orwelian theater of a
“peace process” – trying – usually in vain – to make the
readers and my compatriots aware of the deception and the
explosiveness of the situation.

2. In November 2007 i was told by Haaretz that my contract and
terms of employment should be changed as i had been writing too
little over the past year.

3. In November i was too tired and dispirited to be able to
explain all that was obviously needed to be explained, and to
negotiate the terms of a new contract, and therefore we agreed to
postpone everything. . According to my agreement with Haaretz, i may
write free lance during my year leave of absence. As i have been
away most of the time, it hasn’t happened yet (except for two
op-eds). Also, according to the agreement, by the end of the
sabbatical i’ll return to work for a half year – within the same
terms. It is then that it will be decided how to proceed.

4. Alll this took place BEFORE haaretz nominated a new editor
in chief.

5. As for the dismissal of other colleagues (several editors, not
only reporters): It is of course sad to know that people
who have worked for years, and dedicated time, thoughts, energy
and professionalism – have to start looking for a new place.
I do find it extremely deplorable that Miron Rapoport will not be
writing for Haaretz. He is a very prolific reporter, who excells
at investigations, who writes well and for whom journalism is
clearly about “monitoring power” and
challenging authorities.

Since i placed myself in Gaza, at the beginning of the 90′s, i have
learned that in our society (where there is democracy for Jews) -
the right for freedom of thought, expression and information is
fairly guaranteed. But there is no OBLIGATION to excercise these
liberties.

This year i intend to complete the writing of a book on Israel’s
policy of closure (“the robbery of time and space” – as i term
it).

thank you for your concern -

amira

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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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