Thanks to Phil Weiss for noting this terrific profile of Haaretz by Stephen Glain in The Nation. Every Israeli newspaper has its own functional niche in the country’s media marketplace and both Maariv and Yediot each have important columnists. But there really is no paper quite like Haaretz for the breadth of its coverage. It is to Israel, and even the entire Mideast, what the New York Times or The Guardian are to those respective countries. I simply could not write this blog in this format without the resource that Haaretz provides. What other media outlet has two reporters, one of whose beats is the West Bank and the other, Gaza? The latter, Gideon Levy, writes the most wrenching, disturbing and powerful profiles of Palestinian in extremis. He deserves the Israeli or even international journalism equivalent of a Pulitzer for the sheer humanity of his writing.
I read the English language website and not everything there meets the high standard that the paper’s Hebrew language edition does. Translations and grammar are skewed and sometimes even mysteriously truncated (toned down?) possibly for Diaspora consumption. Also, one has the feeling that the military censor (yes, Israel still has such a thing) tamps down debate. For example, Israel’s recent incursion into Syrian and, it appears, Turkish airspace, has been stifled by such censorship. One wishes Haaretz had a bit more of the gumption shown by the NY Times in the face of LBJ’s [correction: “Nixon’s” of course] White House during the Pentagon Papers case. But one can’t lay blame for this at the doorsteps of a single newspaper when the issue is systemic and goes to the nature of Israeli democracy (or lack of it).
Glain really nails Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz’s right-wing U.S. correspondent:
Then there is Rosner’s blog, a landfall for hardliners inside Ha’aretz’s liberal archipelago. In the wake of Hamas’s Gaza takeover in June, Rosner suggested (in a piece written with Aluf Benn) that the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might be ditched in favor of a Palestinian confederation or autonomous region comprising Gaza, the West Bank and Jordan. Such an alternative, Rosner wrote, “can be viewed as part of the search for a solution, but also as a whip being held over the head of the hesitant [Palestinian Authority President] Abbas.” It was a brazen proposition even within the Washington Beltway, where the goal of Palestinian statehood is embraced across much of the political spectrum.
Rosner, who worked as an editor at Ha’aretz before moving to Washington, acknowledges his minority status at the paper but says he is no outcast. “As an editor,” he says, “I’ve had to justify my decisions to colleagues, but the dialogue was always professional. I don’t agree with most of the paper’s editorials and neither do a lot of readers, but they subscribe anyway because it is so good.”
I have inveighed here about Rosner’s piss poor journalism and narrow-minded approach to Israeli and American Jewish politics. And if Haaretz is “so good” it’s not because of Rosner’s contribution. I’m not just saying this because of his politics because someone can be conservative and yet write well on this subject. But Rosner is not that person. He doesn’t bring anything to the debate. Yes, he makes AIPAC happy and perhaps that’s one of the sole reasons he’s there. But if it is, that’s a dumb reason to keep a columnist. Find someone conservative who has a voice and something important to say.
Here’s yet another example of why I find Rosner obtuse and tone deaf:
“Never trust Ha’aretz as a true reflection of the average Israeli newspaper reader,” says Shmuel Rosner, the paper’s right-of-center chief US correspondent. “For many Israelis, Ha’aretz is like The Nation. People who read it are better educated and more sophisticated than most, but the rest of the country doesn’t know it exists.”
If Haaretz wanted to be the New York Daily News of Israel, a widely read tabloid, it wouldn’t be Haaretz. And why should it try to be that? Because 90% of Americans might not know the New York Times exists does that detract from the role it plays in society? Haaretz holds out a vision not of what Israeli society IS, but what it might be on its best days. And that’s more than enough for me.
In the unlikely event that I could BE a newspaper and some of the this were on my tombstone, I’d die a happy man:
As a newspaper that succeeds with smart reporting and good writing, Ha’aretz is a model worthy of emulation for a troubled news industry worldwide….Unique among national newspapers, Ha’aretz is both public forum and chronicle of a religious and political movement that has, for good or ill, transformed a region and consumed the world. If the paper has a bias, it is less its liberal sensibility than its appeal to the possible–like Yitzhak Rabin’s “calculated risk” for a negotiated peace–over the reflexively negative of our post-9/11 world. By creating a home for opinions and values that are at odds with its own, Ha’aretz radiates security in its identity and convictions. And by supporting dialogue with Israel’s enemies, it projects confidence in the Jewish state’s ability to coexist with its neighbors as just one rational actor among many. At a time when the Zionist movement appears to be content with exchanging one ghetto for another, Ha’aretz insists on an Israel that is of the world as well as in it.
When I was a Hebrew University grad student in 1980, I read the Hebrew edition every day and it was a major language tutor for me. I felt it kept me in touch with the heart of Israeli society, politics and culture. I sometimes fantasize that if I’d made aliya working for Haaretz might’ve been one of the ways I couldn’t earned a living and made a meaningful social contribution.
So let us sing hosannas to a beacon of light and tolerance in Israel: Haaretz.
A brief historical note: the “Pentagon Papers” were published in 1971, during Nixon’s first (and only full) term:
Also, can you provide a link for your previous post on Rosner? I would like to read it.
Richard Silverstein says
God, I knew that. I guess it comes fr. writing late at night when not all cylinders are firing properly!
I may’ve mentioned/discussed Rosner in more than one post, but this is representative of my views.