Josef Olmert

On political double standards and Israel Hayom

Israel Hayom is not my cup of tea, not the media outlet I run to look at when I want to read a profound analysis of events in Israel. In fact, it is not the media outlet I run to read when I want simply to update myself about what is happening in Israel, as I have doubts whether this newspaper is even capable of being objective when it comes to factual descriptions of political events in Israel. Moreover, I know full well, that this is the BIBITON [the Bibi Netanyahu Iton…], and that the editorial line, as well as the news reporting is grossly biased, intended to mobilize political support to Netanyahu personally, and all this done with the lavish financial support of a Billionaire [Sheldon Edelson], who makes no bones that he has a political agenda.

That said, I ask the simple question “so what?” as I believe that all the above is totally irrelevant to anything connected with this newspaper. Their owner and the editorial board are entitled to do what they do, even if they pretend to be an objective newspaper. It is always a good question to ask, what is an objective newspaper, can ANY newspaper be really objective, but in this case, all these issues are irrelevant, and if the Israel Hayom crew pretend to be an objective newspaper[which they are not], it is between them and their professional conscience and readership. It is surely not a matter to be decided by the Israeli Knesset. The bill designed to block the distribution of newspapers which are offered for free, is an anti democratic legislation, a scare on the collective face of the initiators of it, among them politicians from parties which are members of the current coalition and competing newspapers.

Here is where the question of double standards is becoming so conspicuous. Who really believe, that it is a deep worry about Israel’s democracy which causes some MKs and newspapers owners sleepless nights? Who really believes that there are no political and commercial interests which are at the core of the new legislation? As much as it is expected of the Israel Hayom people to formally acknowledge that they are the Netanyahu’s mouthpiece, it is incumbent on those who push the legislation to admit that they promote it, exactly because they want to damage Netanyahu politically.The difference is, that the legislation is not just hypocritical, it is also anti democratic, whereas Israel Hayom can be charged with the former, but not with the latter, and in this case, this is a major plus for the newspaper.

The proposed legislation reflects the growing and unhelpful tendency in Israel’s politics, and it is the sheltering behind laws which exist and those which may be enacted as THE means of settling political debates. Netanyahu does enough which warrants political opposition from both Right and Left, but then, this is a political debate, which cannot be decided by arbitrary action of the Knesset. The elected body may have the right to legislate even an outrageous law like this one, but it is still wrong, and very likely to be voted down by the Supreme Court. The fact, that Netanyahu’s political rivals turn to the law book in order to beat him politically arouses two  simple questions; the first is, did they lose hope of defeating him in the political court?, and the second, is what and who are next? Why not, for example, the Ha’aretz newspaper, which is partly owned [20%] by M.Dumont Schauberg, a corporation which collaborated with the Nazi regime? There can be a good case to be made, that corporations which [and they never denied that] collaborated with the Nazis should not have any stake in ownership of Israeli news media outlets, but then again; I can hardly agree with any word written in Ha’aretz, but legislating against them?, well, should never happen.

In fact, there is at stake here, the bigger question of freedom of expression in Israel, and here too, there are so many double standards. Many of those who want to stifle Israel Hayom through legislation, will be the first to go to the political barricades, in order to outlaw some unpleasant MKs, for example Hanin Zuabi, and they will invoke the famous line attributed to Voltaire[though he never said or wrote it], that ” I disapprove of everything you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”, all in the name of democracy and free speech, even if what Zu’abi says, is a support for the killing of Israelis.

Well, principles like this[and I, for one, do feel, that Zu’abi crossed the lines] cannot be twisted so easily as was done by 43 MKs who voted in a preliminary reading to block the appearance of a newspaper which is distributed free of charge. Israeli democracy will be served if this shameful piece of legislation will be defeated in the end of the process in the Knesset.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina