I’ve written here a number of times about the pernicious influence Sheldon Adelson wields both in Israeli journalism and politics through his billions spent lavishly to fund far-right causes like the Shalem Center and the free daily, Yisrael HaYom (widely and derisively known as Bibiton–roughly translated as “Bibi’s rag”). Adelson, who made his billions off the misery of gambling addicts, loves Bibi and spent immense amounts ensuring he became prime minister and now that he is, that he stays so. He founded from scratch Yisrael HaYom, whose politics are a neocon cross between the Daily News, Wall Street Journal and Jerusalem Post. He spent money like it was going out of style, recruiting major journalists who worked for other papers. Most importantly, the newstand price was right–nothing.
Exactly what one would expect to happen did: the circulation of the other Israeli tabloids, Yediot Achronot and especially the right-wing Maariv, plummeted. Since they actually operate on an economic model and need to make a profit to survive, they couldn’t afford to match Yisrael HaYom’s rock bottom price.
In a battle to stay alive, Maariv enlisted Knesset members to draft a law which essentially would end Adelson’s support for Yisrael HaYom by requiring that all Israeli newspapers have Israeli ownership. I’m guessing that even if this bill passed that Adelson, who must retain a team of crack attorneys for just this eventuality, would figure out a way to co-opt an Israeli to be his front-man owner.
The point is, as much as I detest Adelson and his Israeli vanity publication, this can’t be the way to go about addressing this issue. The nativist prejudice inherent in it are offensive and objectionable. If you believe as I do that Adelson has purchased not only a newspaper, but a virtual monopoly on political discourse through his billions, there should be a way to counter this. Perhaps you could limit the amount an individual owner could sink into his paper without earning a legitimate return. Or you could define newspapers that do not have an economic model in a different legal category than one that does–and then offer public funds to the legitimate newspapers to place them on a more even playing field.
I realize that each of my suggestions probably has weaknesses of its own. But I’m sure a creative legal mind should come up with a less offensive proposal than this one. Can it really be in Israel’s best interests to have this Citizen Kane/William Randolph Hearst wannabe peeling off wads of shekel notes to any Israeli newspaper reader or pol who will belly up to the bar?
Thanks to Didi Remez for offering us the fulsome, sycophantic praises of Adelson’s Israeli and American Jewish toadies who are also opposing the Knesset bill: Natan Sharansky, Abe Foxman and Alan Dershowitz. Didi acutely notes that Sharansky, who frames his opposition in principled democratic terms, is deeply beholden financially to Adelson, who is the major backer of the Shalem Center, where the right-wing Israeli pol plays host to a neocon think tank. Abe Foxman, a “good friend” of Adelson who’s flown on the latter’s corporate jet, warns Israel “don’t hurt American Jews.” As if Israel isn’t a sovereign nation allowed to determine its own internal policies, even if they inconvenience Abe’s special chums.
I reserve my final and most derisive comments for Der Dersh who said:
“I am not sure that this bill is constitutional,” Dershowitz said…
Say it ain’t so, Al. Israel? A constitution? This is the guy who puffs up his bio with accolades like ““one of [the United State’s] ‘most distinguished defenders of individual rights…’” Yet this defender of human rights neglects to remember that Israel has no constitution. In fact, if Israel had a constitution it might actually be the democracy that shills like Dersh claim it is. Dershowitz clearly not only doesn’t know Israel has none, he doesn’t really care about the very rights such a constitution would protect. He cares only for Jewish rights. You’ll never hear this man mouth a word on behalf of Israeli Palestinian citizens’ rights. That’s because Dershowitz really sees Israel as an ethnocracy in which Jewish rights predominate. He also, being the great human rights advocate he is, is fully prepared for Israel’s minority community to remain second-class citizens in a Jewish supremacist state.
Didi closes with this incisive critique of Dershowitz’s blind spot when it comes to the Israeli power elite:
The ease with which Dershowitz chooses to tether his reputation to financial interests, just because they share his political views, is testament to how pro-Israeli advocacy has warped the intellectual standards of some Jewish-Americans.
This brings to mind that disgusting video shot by Adalah-NY, showing Der Dersh exiting Lev Leviev’s Madison Avenue jewelry emporium with a shopping bag held triumphantly aloft. Leviev is the darling and mega-funder of Chabad, oppressor of poor southern African miners who produce his baubles, and builder of illegal West Bank settlements. Clearly, Dershowitz’s alliances are with the monied pro-Israel elite like Leviev and Adelson. He has long since abandoned any pretext of supporting the rights and needs of the little man in Israel.