Haaretz owner Amos Schocken has written an open letter appealing for online subscribers. Not surprising considering that Haaretz’s circulation is as low as a 6.1% market share of Israeli print media according to market research carried out for the last half of 2013.
Put simply, the views of Haaretz are utterly unrepresentative of the Israeli public and political system at large. Yet, Haaretz is still considered to be the paper of note by outsiders who consider it to be the Israeli equivalent of the New York Times (no surprise then that Haaretz has embellished this image through a partnership arrangement with the NY Times as the publisher of the Times’ international edition).
Schocken urges readers to subscribe to Haaretz’s website. In contrast to a journalistic mission statement, this is how he promotes his paper:
By doing so, you will become a partner in the ongoing effort to shape Israel as a liberal and constitutional democracy that cherishes the values of pluralism and civil and human rights. You will become a partner in actively supporting the two-state solution and the right to Palestinian self-determination, which will enable Israel to rid itself of the burdens of territorial occupation and the control of another people.
Schocken also claims:
To put it plainly: If news is coming out of Israel, it is coming from Haaretz more often than not, and if views are sparking controversy, debate and reflection throughout the Middle East or the Jewish world, they either came from Haaretz or are playing themselves out in our op-eds, comments and blogs.
In this he is correct. Despite its low circulation, Haaretz is the newspaper of choice for foreign journalists, commentators and political figures, many of whom share parts of the same agenda as stated by Schoken. While there is nothing wrong in this by itself, Haaretz has taken its agenda-driven mission to an entirely new level, particularly through the reach of its English-language website, which it uses to push its agenda far beyond Israel’s borders. Indeed, Haaretz has, in the past, demonstrated that it is more concerned with its international audience than its domestic Israeli one. Haaretz, unable to exercise any meaningful influence on domestic politics uses its English-language website and print newspaper to encourage external pressure on Israel.
Haaretz is referred to as a credible source and so many negative stories that appear in the international media do so as a result of an initial Haaretz story. Yet, Schocken himself has admitted that Haaretz is anything but objective. And just how far is Haaretz prepared to go to push a political agenda? There appear to be few red lines when one considers the hateful writing of Haaretz star columnist Gideon Levy who won the 2012 Dishonest Reporter Award for manipulating an opinion poll to “prove” that Israel was an apartheid state. And correspondent Amira Hass who brazenly defended Palestinian stone throwing even if it could cause Israeli fatalities.
Schocken’s mission statement is also noteworthy by what it omits. While he is happy to employ positive terms such as “liberal,”pluralism,” and “civil and human rights” what about “Jewish?” This speaks volumes for a media outlet that often looks like it is embarrassed by Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state.
Schocken’s appeal reveals that Haaretz is striving not for objective and accurate reporting but for promoting a political and campaigning agenda. It is incumbent, therefore, that the foreign media see Haaretz as a political entity rather than a primary news source. Even more so than Haaretz, foreign journalists should refrain from promoting their own political agendas when reporting on Israel. Using Haaretz as a cover for biased reporting is unacceptable.
While Haaretz is a product of Israel’s vibrant democracy and press freedom, it also plays a major role in the demonization of Israel. Amos Schoken’s open letter sadly acknowledges that Haaretz is anything but an unwitting accomplice.