Meir Fachler

What is happening to the Ha’aretz newspaper?

For over two decades I have been  a subscriber to the Ha’aretz  newspaper Hebrew edition which arrives at my doorstep pretty much every morning, six days a week. 

I won’t go into all of the reasons right now why this is so (we are also avid readers of and subscribers to the Makor Rishon newspaper), but suffice it to say, I get a vivid picture of what the political progressive secular left in Israel is thinking, who it hates, and what it hopes to achieve.

In recent years it has been the prominent mouthpiece for the RLB – Rak Lo Bibi – Just Not Bibi  campaign. I recall saying to myself and to anyone who was prepared to listen: “How short-sighted and stupid it is to put all your eggs into one basket – basing a whole electoral campaign on the negative, of who you don’t want to be prime minister – instead of focusing your campaign on what it is you would like to see in this country and how you intend to achieve it.” This sentiment was usually followed by: “And what if you’re wrong? What if you lose the next election? Are you aware of the backlash that the ruling party will unleash against you? They will come for you in full force!”

As we all are fully aware, that’s exactly what happened and my predictions came true. A far right-wing coalition was created and became the ruling government, and within a few short weeks massive changes were planned and the judicial reforms began to be put into motion. The ensuing protests and counter protests led to an ever-increasing schism within Israeli society that culminated in the tragic events on Yom Kippur in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, when physical violence broke out between religious and secular Jews over segregation between men and women in public prayer groups – less than 2 weeks before the brutal Hamas invasion on October 7th.

Since the events on October 7th and the ensuing war in Gaza and the northern border, Ha’aretz has been true to its cause, toeing a vehemently anti-government line, pretty much in the face of all other media outlets that (unlike Ha’aretz) have attempted to create a sense of national unity with everyone standing behind the current government’s efforts to win this war, probably in the knowledge that straight after the war is won, the public inquiries will demand that heads will roll (and heads will roll!). 

Everyday, Ha’aretz publishes articles and opinion pieces that attack every aspect of the government’s policies. Be it the handling of the army and the Defense Ministry, economic policies, foreign affairs, the welfare system, the policing system, and especially the leadership – or lack thereof, of Bibi. You name it – it is attacked in the Ha’aretz newspaper – up until this very moment. 

Today however, I noticed a large crack appearing in this uncompromising, left-wing, progressive, liberal, anti-government approach. Let me qualify this. I’m not saying that articles are appearing that are supporting or are in admiration of the current government. Far from it. However, three articles appeared today, October 25th, by left-wing writers who are acknowledging that the progressive liberal left-wing world views which they subscribe to seem to be crumbling down in front of their own eyes.

One article by Julia Fermentto Tzaisler, bemoans the incomprehensible double standards of international human rights organizations that stand for all human rights except when it comes to the human rights of Israelis. Another article by Chen Ma’anit, a member of one of the Gaza border left wing kibbutzim, describes how all the values that he was brought up on, including the belief that “if only Israel were to pursue the Two-State solution Jews and Arabs would live in peace and harmony with each other” was smashed to smithereens on October 7th. As a result he feels he has lost not only his physical home but also his intellectual and ideological home. In the third article written by the infamous journalist and whistleblower Anat Kam, who also acknowledges how the international left-wing Progressive worldview is ridiculously perverse in its double standards when it comes to Israeli politics and human rights, that was further driven home by environment activist Greta Thunberg joining the pro-Palestinian camp. She concludes by writing that that this sets an immense challenge to the Israeli left to figure out its own individualistic path when clearly there are no international organizations that it can now identify with, post October 7.

Nothing that happens in Ha’aretz is coincidence or a mistake – it’s all about policy. I am not privy to the editorial meeting of Ha’aretz. So I cannot say what is the meaning of this sudden shift of approach. All I can say is that it is happening. If the Ha’aretz newspaper is in fact the litmus test for us to check the direction of the progressive secular left wing in Israel, it remains to be seen how far this shift will go. Stay tuned….

About the Author
Meir Fachler is the director of Gemara Berura, a web-app for learning and teaching Talmud.
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