I was struck by the hypocrisy of a recent Haaretz expose, which in itself was very good journalism, finding that five of ten Israeli cultural institutions which by law were required to offer Arabic-language captioning for exhibits and public events, did not do so. It also noted that only ten of forty-nine institutions receiving state funding were required by law to have Arabic captioning. The only museum fully out of compliance of the ten was the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (others were partially out of compliance). So far so good. This is clearly a worthy piece of reporting.
But I was struck by the fact that Haaretz itself refuses to make itself accessible to fully one-quarter of the Israeli population for whom Arabic is its native language. Beyond that, if the newspaper wishes to impact public opinion in the region, you’d think it would scramble to either produce an Arabic edition or at least translate individual articles and make them available to the Arabic language press.
The fact that Haaretz has no Arabic edition is an indication of the failure of the special brand of liberal Zionism it represents. Haaretz can take on the cultural impresarios for their alleged racism, while escaping the charge itself.
Of course, Haaretz may argue as a private company it has no legal obligation to do as the cultural institutions do because of the receipt of public financial subsidies. But I’m not talking about legality. I’m talking about both morality and pragmatism. If you live in the Middle East and want to have an impact there, do you publish an edition that reaches at most 10 million readers (if you include the Hebrew-speaking Diaspora) or do you expand your vision so you may impact tens of millions more who speak Arabic? Further, Haaretz may argue that most literate Palestinian citizens speak Hebrew and so don’t need an Arabic edition. That too may be so, but I would think that as a matter of principle, a truly liberal Israeli newspaper embracing the rights of all citizens would make itself accessible to every citizen. Should Haaretz be a truly national newspaper or only one for the Jewish majority?