Guardian

Guardian’s love letter to Haaretz helps explain their failure to understand Israelis


You don’t need to be a politically partisan Israeli to understand the significance of a speech given by MK Isaac (Bougie) Herzog, party chairman of the centre-left Zionist Union, on Wednesday.

The opposition leader said:

“I don’t see a possibility at the moment of implementing the two-state solution…I want to yearn for it, I want to move toward it, I want negotiations, I sign on to it and I am obligated to it, but I don’t see the possibility of doing it right now.”

Herzog explained that, if he became prime minister, he’d implement practical security measures – such as completing the security barrier around all the settlement blocs and physically separating the Palestinian villages surrounding Jerusalem from the capital – rather than pursuing a bilateral peace agreement.

Herzog’s speech of course merely acknowledged what’s understood about Oslo and its aftermath by the vast majority of Israelis within the broad centre: That the Palestinians have demonstrated they’re unprepared to accept a final agreement which ends the conflict and closes all historical claims against the Jewish state; and that, in the current environment, and absent security arrangements that the Palestinians will likely not agree to, the new country of Palestine would likely quickly become a failed state, or devolve to something akin to the Hamas terror entity in Gaza.  Additionally, the bloody consequences of withdrawals from Gaza and South Lebanon indicate to most that, contrary to conventional wisdom, terror isn’t about ‘the occupation’, but about the continued rejection of Israel’s right to exist within any borders.

Enter the Guardian and its recent love letter to Haaretz (To Whom it May Concern review – searing images of Israel by Haaretz, Jason Farago, Jan. 20).

The second paragraph of what is ostensibly a museum review of an exhibit of Haaretz photos is a perfect illustration of how the Guardian – and, to varying degrees, other UK media outlets – sees Haaretz and how this colors their understanding of the Israeli electorate.

The photograph, shot by Nir Kafri, appeared in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in 2001, and it forms the opening salvo of To Whom It May Concern, an insistent, eye-opening exhibition in New York of photojournalism from one of the world’s most important newspapers. Haaretz is Israel’s oldest daily, just shy of a hundred years old. “It is the very model of a liberal newspaper,” the Guardian affirmed in 2014 – a bastion of seriousness, scepticism and oppositionality in a country with little time for nuance. Its detractors, inevitably in a region of such angry divisions, decry the paper as far-left or even anti-Israel, but in fact it espouses a disappearing sort of Zionism, one intertwined with liberal values and freedom for all. In a lengthy 2011 profile, the New Yorker editor David Remnick called Haaretz “arguably the most important liberal institution” in Israel. But as the country continued its drift to the right, and as oppositions between Israelis and Palestinians hardened further, Haaretz has grown lonelier – and thus even more vital.

In short, the Guardian sees Haaretz how journalists and editors at the paper see themselves: the surviving remnant of what’s left of “true Zionism”, stalwart defenders of Israel’s (eroding or even disappearing) democracy and moral decency amidst a dangerous extreme-right drift.  “A better Israel”, the Guardian informs us later in the review, “is what Haaretz has been advocating all these years”.

Indeed, the photographic examples cited by the article evoke the paradigm of Israeli villainy contrasted with Palestinian victimhood which is almost entirely devoid of nuance – a binary moral tale told in one form or the other in the news and opinion sections of the Guardian (and other British dailies), whose reporters rely on Haaretz to understand the Jewish state.

Of course, one of the main problems with viewing Israel and its people through the Haaretz prism is that, except for the English foreign edition, Haaretz is an extremely marginal publication, read by a small number of actual Israelis – garnering a 6.1% market share within the national print media according to research in 2013. 

Whilst the paper may remain popular with the cultural and political elite, it’s gradual drift ideologically to embrace the delegitimizing – and at times even antisemitic – radical left, coupled with an increased propensity towards errors, mischaracterizations, falsehoods and mistranslations renders it increasingly irrelevant to a decidedly news-obsessed Israeli society.

Contrary to the Haaretz narrative, most Israelis don’t question the strength and durability of their democracy, and in fact take immeasurable pride in its democratic institutions, the independence of its press and judiciary and commitment to civil rights.  Moreover, most Israelis understand that “end the occupation” is merely a slogan, not a serious policy proposal to deal with extraordinarily difficult political and security issues. 

As Times of Israel senior analyst Haviv Retig Gur summed up the significance of Herzog’s speech on Twitter, “Herzog tries to be taken seriously by a skeptical public by redefining ‘left’ as an aspiration rather than a policy”.

Perhaps Israelis and their supporters abroad would have more respect for Haaretz and the Guardian if they didn’t seem to possess such contempt for the hard-earned skepticism and undeniable sobriety of the overwhelming majority of Israelis who – like Bougie Herzog –  long passionately for peace, but see the world and the region as it is, not as they’d like it to be.

88 replies »

  1. ‘but in fact it espouses a disappearing sort of Zionism, one intertwined with liberal values and freedom for all.’

    Actually no. HaAretz espouses a form of extremism which ‘they’ say is true Zionism. But actually it is the same pseudo ‘Zionism’ espoused by many radical extreme left wing Jews around the world who simply cannot quite understand why the true Israeli LEFT have been culled into silence. They simply do not realise that The Palestinians don’t want peace with any Jewish state on ‘Muslim Land’. The Palestinians need to re-evaluate their basic positions. If, and when, ‘they’ come forward with clear proposals accepting Jewish sovereigntity on what was, and is no longer, ‘Muslim Land’, and ending all future claims, I believe that the ‘passive’ rational left in Israel will re-awaken with a vengeance and be ready politically to meet the challenge of the Israeli right wing. Both religious and secular.

    The thing that I personally find so revolting about HaAretz, I used to be a subscriber, is their almost complete absence of demands from the Palestinians to make the necessary compromises which will facilitate any agreement. And the Palestinians must stop inciting their children to be Shaheedim. It is completely immoral. No people in the world has ever used its children on virtual suicide missions.

  2. I would wonder, somewhat bemusedly, if Haaretz and the Israeli Left as a whole understand (or care) that their chosen narrative of being swept up in a emotional tide of right-wing support (however the hell they would define that) isn’t accurate, that the Israeli center and even a fair number of liberals have decided that they can no longer swallow the Hard Left narrative no matter how often Leftists overseas (like a certain UK paper that’s hemorrhaging money and readers) insist that this is the only way to avoid catastrophes. It’s also a bit odd that Left mouthpieces like Haaretz are constantly making emotional appeals to their fans and supporters but have major conniptions when the Right does the same thing (and does so much more successfully). The Israeli Left got tossed from power because they didn’t deliver on any of their core promises, apologized for atrocities and told people who called them on this that they were no better than Ariel Sharon or Bibi Netanyahu. They haven’t learned anything from their mistakes and don’t want to. Which is their right as humans, but as I’ve noted on Haaretz message boards (which, in ANOTHER oddity, once had a far-Left comment given 300 “like” items even though the article for it hadn’t been posted yet–like I say, odd), the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.

  3. Ha’aretz is an Israeli newspaper written by Israelis. Which makes this blog post nothing but a whinge that the Guardian has written an article they disagree with. You choose to live in a democracy; deal with it. If you can’t, North Korea’s just over there.

    • Again Webber you meddle with Israeli matters without the slightest idea about its democratic character and anything else. Maybe you should relate to the growing antisemitism in your own country, the tolerance of Muslim sex slave traders and hate preachers in the same place, the tolerance of political violence against Israelis at King’s College as we have seen now etc. before mentioning North Korea. Ha’aretz is an Israeli newspaper written by partially Israeli and partially non-Israeli Israel haters whose lies and smears are excellently and cleverly exploited by any other Israel-hater worth of its salt. I’m sure you would be warmly welcome there as a leading contributor. To criticize anti-Israeli incitement in the Guardian and Ha’aretz has nothing to do with democracy. As you have already demonstrated your total ignorance of the idea of free speech now you just added a new fact – you don’t have the slightest idea what the concept of democracy means.

      • Disagree (and it’s actually quite rude just to call people by their surname) (and surely your racist and inaccurate suggestion that “Muslim sex slave traders” is tolerated in the UK is you meddling in British matters? How dare you etc…)

        • So apart from having problems with the familiarity of basic concepts like democracy and freedom of speech you have difficulties to understand simple English texts. I don’t give a rusty nail about the events in your country – these matters are your problem not mine. What I said that you – I repeat you – should be busy to solve these first before putting your nose into the business of others. Why I’m not surprised that Israel bashers are intellectually challenged morons as well?
          BTW saying Muslim sex slave trader is racist? Muslims are a race today? Not a culture/religion? An other subject where you somehow seem to be a complete ignorant jerk.

          • @peterthehungarian –

            1. For someone who doesn’t “give a rusty nail about the events in your country” you sure spend a lot of time commenting on a website devoted almost entirely to criticising the words and actions of UK institutions and individuals – press, politicians, academics, etc – with the aim of influencing BRITISH public opinion about how BRITONS speak and act and the BRITISH events they attend or support….

            2. Your argument that the word “Muslims” denoted culture/religion – not race – when you referred to Britain’s “tolerance of Muslim sex slave traders” could equally be used by an antisemite defending his reference to “tolerance of Jewish thieves/warmongers/bloodsuckers” (take your pick of stereotype). The bottom line is that mass-defamation of this grossly ignorant and discriminatory kind is out-and-out bigotry.

            • Miranda Defarge,

              1. You imperiously think that the UK is above criticism? British institutions have been HIJACKED by Socialists and Islamofascists. The British people are being hoodwinked into accepting Islamofascism which has already murdered British people in Britain. See 7/7 of Londonistan, Lee Rigby, Yvonne Fletcher, rape gangs, Islamists spitting on British soldiers marching in Luton, Islamists threatening the UK with 9/11 scale attacks.

              Every terrorist attack by islamofascists anywhere in the world brings your fascist worldview closer to blowback.

              2. Islam/Muslims are NOT a race – other than to racists like yourself. Where have gangs of Jews raped British girls like Muslims have? The rape gangs that afflict your debased socialist entity are entirely Muslim. The terrorist attacks on innocent people have been perpetrated by Muslims.

              Go to Hell Miranda.

            • you sure spend a lot of time commenting on a website devoted almost entirely to criticising the words and actions of UK institutions and individuals – press, politicians, academics, etc – with the aim of influencing BRITISH public opinion about how BRITONS speak and act and the BRITISH events they attend or support…
              You must be a very lucky person Miranda – just imagine the option that malevolence and stupidity could cause physical pain, This website criticizes all of the above when they lie about us they incite against us. If all of the above shit collection what you call British press, politicians, institutions etc. were busy with chewing each other asses and messing with each other security and well-being then believe me we would left them alone.
              “Muslims” denoted culture/religion – not race – when you referred to Britain’s “tolerance of Muslim sex slave traders” could equally be used by an antisemite defending his reference to “tolerance of Jewish thieves/warmongers/bloodsuckers” (take your pick of stereotype).
              One small but significant difference Miranda. The Jews are not warmongers and bloodsuckers more than any other community only in your and Bellamy’s world, while the Muslim sex slave traders were tolerated exactly because they were Muslims and stopping them would be racism. Is it really mass defamation? Have you ever heard of ISIS and their policy on sex slaves? Or they are not Muslims? Or they are not a mass representing millions of coreligionists? Have you ever lived in a traditional Muslim country personally studying the laws governing the relations between sexes? Could be that you are just an other ignorant asshole babbling about subjects you have no idea about? I vote for this option. But maybe you should concentrate my original argument – solve your own country’s problem first including the tolerance of sex slavers irrespective of their religion and culture and then if you will achieve the Methuselah age required to do it the you can try to solve ours. Till then you are kindly requested to STFU.

            • Miranda,
              You point 1. is a foolish attempt at “turning the tables.” The complaint here at this website is about your “institutions and individuals” attempts to meddle in the affairs of others in a biased and ignorant way, rather than your own country’s numerous problems.

              Your point 2. is just detached from reality whacky. Why you would think that your society’s tolerance/denial of Muslim sex slave traders is an indictment of all Muslims living in your country, or would be equated to traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes of your country is beyond me. This is not about Muslims or Jews, it’s about you and your institutional and individual cultivation of bias and ignorance and your tendency to foist those ignorant views on others to motivate troublesome meddling in the affairs of others.

            • “could equally be used by an antisemite defending his reference to “tolerance of Jewish thieves/warmongers/bloodsuckers” (take your pick of stereotype)” –

              Jews are an ethnicity, pathetic ignorant moron.

          • If your argument had any weight whatsoever (or if you genuinely believed it did) you wouldn’t have needed to pepper it with abuse (‘problems with the familiarity of basic concepts’, ‘intellectually challenged morons’, ‘complete ignorant jerk’). It would have stood out on its own merits.

            • Telling you the truth is not abuse Webber. You are writing about a subject you have no knowledge about using ideas and concepts you are not familiar with. Add to this the fact that you criticism of others is disgustingly hypocritical taking into account the behavior of your own politicians and countrymen.
              If you think that my arguments had no weight maybe you should try to answer them instead of crying about rudeness. But don’t worry I don’t expect it from you – you are not equipped neither intellectually nor morally to do it.

              • No, telling the truth is not abuse. You’re quite right. However, comments such as “intellectually challenged moron” and “complete ignorant jerk” are (i) not statements of fact so therefore not capable of being described as truth, and (ii) obviously rude.

                You’re plainly not interested in having be answer your arguments, I can tell that from your attitude.

                • When you don’t have any arguments then you have the following options:
                  1. Stating that your opponent is not interested to read your arguments.
                  2. That your opponent is rude.
                  3. That your opponent is a racist.
                  Now that you emptied this box of options what will you do Webber?
                  But in a certain way you are correct, I’m not interested arguing with ignorant and morally challenged hypocrites like yourself. My comments are addressed to others simply directing their attention at you as a type – the type of Israel critics whose only goal to satisfy their narcissistic self image as some kind of morally superior light for the masses while being simply know nothing nobodies.

                • “comments such as “intellectually challenged moron” and “complete ignorant jerk” are (i) not statements of fact so therefore not capable of being described as truth” –

                  Utter nonsense. You have provided masses of solid evidence for the fact that you are an ignorant moron and a mega-jerk.

            • Stop being such a crybaby webber. Are your hands and feet webbed too? There are surgeons who can fix your problems, or you can get a job in the traveling freak show.

          • If your argument had any weight whatsoever (or if you genuinely believed it did) you wouldn’t have needed to pepper it with abuse (‘your delusional world’, ‘Webber’). It would have stood out on its own merits.

            • “If your argument had any weight whatsoever blah blah” –

              You don’t really understand the first thing about logical propositions, do you, Webber?
              The quality of my argument has nothing at all to do with the style of prose in which it is written.

  4. Have to agree with a lot of what Herzog says. This 2 state thing is a delusion designed to deflect the world from the reality of the situation. The reality is that there is a de facto one state between the river and the sea. That isn’t going to change. Its time to stop talking about ” occupation ” and peace” and start to work for the democratising of this state with full and equal rights for all, including freedom of movement and settlement.

    To those that will be whining oh but that will mean the end of ” the Jewish State ” I say boo hoo. Whatever bed Israel ends up lying on is one it made for itself. I am not talking about a one State solution. I am talking about the one State reality.