The recent campaign to shut down Israel Hayom, the only right-wing paper in Israel with any mainstream readership, is a depressing blow for freedom of expression in Israel. What’s even more depressing is how it’s supported by politicians on the right like MK Ayelet Shaked.
This detestable censorship effort is largely successful because of a populist smear which amounts to: “screw the foreign rich guy” who gives out papers for free. Israelis are suckers for campaigns against “tycoons”, a veritable swear word among Israeli elites and large swathes of the Israeli public. If he’s foreign? Even worse.
Except that this is not a campaign to save the little guy. The main backer for the attack against Israel Hayom is its largest competition, which also hands out free versions of its newspaper: the Yediot and ynet media conglomerate owned owned by the Mozes family — who are themselves “tycoons”. If Israel Hayom goes, Yediot is likely to almost completely corner the media market. So this is effectively a campaign to hurt one tycoon in favor of another.
The answer to competition — “fair” or “unfair” — is not picking sides but encouraging more competition. Don’t like Adelson or Moses’ line? Get investors or tycoons to fund your operation and give it a go. But don’t go crying to the Knesset if people don’t like what you sell or like someone else’s stuff more. It’s just pathetic.