Friday, November 14, 2003

I haven't discussed Haaretz for a while...
Every few days, I force myself to read the English language Internet version of Haaretz Hebrew daily newspaper. Those of you who have been reading my ramblings for a while (a fact I greatly appreciate, but still find quite hard to fathom), will know I no longer read the print version, which I read daily religiously from cover to cover for fifteen years. The reason I can no longer bear to pay to read this publication is not its high price but its lack of journalistic integrity. The political views of this newspaper’s owners, editors and writers find their way, unfettered, into all parts of the paper - news, featured articles, and art supplement alike, and not just the op-ed pages (their rightful place). Unfortunately, no other Israeli newspaper is as well written, serious, or comprehensive, so we continued reading it long after I personally could no longer stand it.

Now I read Haaretz as the world reads it, in English, and it is just as one-sided, just as lacking in journalistic integrity. Only in English the harm it does is far worse.

Haaretz is written for an intelligent Israeli readership; a readership that is exposed to other news sources, and that is usually in possession of wide knowledge about Israeli politics and society. Israelis read it in a certain context. Even if they accept the newspaper's political stand, they are usually aware that there are other points of view that Haaretz sometimes neglects to offer. The foreign reader of Haaretz, on the other hand, is not necessarily aware of this, or particularly knowledgeable about Israeli society, law, political life, and the conflict with the Palestinians, and therefore receives a completely warped view of Israel, should this be his or her main or only source of news about Israel. Especially worrying is the fact that Haaretz is regarded as an impartial and reliable source, and is widely quoted and referred to.

I wonder how many of the non-Israelis who read Haaretz realize how unpopular this publication is in Israel and how marginal its readership.

I once made the point, on my short-lived Hebrew blog, that Haaretz's English online version is widely read outside Israel, by people with an interest in this part of the world. I was the laughing stock of the (small) Israeli Blogosphere. Considering Haaretz’s reputation in Israel, it is rather hard to believe. I have attempted to explain this sad truth to people I work with, as well. They are just as skeptical. Very frustrating.

This said, I can't help linking to this review in Haaretz's book supplement about "The Israelis: Ordinary People in an Extraordinary Land", by Donna Rosenthal, in connection to the subject of Israeliness, which we've been discussing lately.

Update: I'd hardly posted this and it was linked to, which just goes to show it's always a good idea to trash Haaretz. It took me a bit longer to understand what a non-piscean was. LOL.