Haaretz Is Israel's Fortress Guarding Democracy

Every day, when picking up this newspaper on the doorstep, readers can think of themselves as having more than a subscription - they have a share in the Zionist enterprise.

Over the last four years, since I left the political arena, I've written for this newspaper - and not by necessity. I decided to choose the liberty of writing over other forms of expression that provide wider exposure. I won't disclose to you my financial compensation, so let's put it this way - the writing is my wage. And now I get the feeling even this pittance won't be paid.

Two weeks ago, a well-known professor crossed my path. I was happy to learn that he's a devoted reader of my pieces, and I was sorry to hear he had canceled his subscription. One of my colleagues criticized him, the professor got angry and removed himself from the newspaper's list of subscribers, though he continues to read the paper.

I told him I thought he had made a rash decision unworthy of a person of his caliber, and that he should reconsider once the anger subsides. After all, given his worldview, he wouldn't expect a publisher or editor to censor journalists. Self-censorship, based on fear of tycoons or politicians' reprisals, is certainly unworthy. The professor listened and promised that he would give the subject some more thought.

Frequently, when I'm about to finish and sign an article, my conscience troubles me. Once again, I'm exploiting Haaretz's policy of nonintervention; once again, I'm damaging the newspaper, and someone will be enraged and boycott it because of me. Threats by big advertisers, interested parties, arrive each day; they must not be allowed to impose silence and carry out their plots.

Despite such qualms, and as though with an intent to provoke, I send my draft with the expectation that revisions will be recommended. This expectation has yet to be met. One might ask, has the owner gone mad and betrayed his economic interests? With our own hands, we're cutting down the branch we're sitting on.

This week an old acquaintance told me he will not remain loyal to the newspaper, after a 30-year allegiance. The new investor, the oligarch, is not to his liking, or to mine. I asked my friend whether he would have preferred investing himself, and I got the impression this wasn't an option for him. I reminded him of the global crisis in which print journalism is enmeshed, and that high-quality newspapers are showing the first signs of strain, threatening to leave us with only yellow sensationalist journals. He too promised to reconsider his position.

A few weeks ago, this page published a fine piece by Amalia Rosenblum, who lived overseas for 10 years and recently returned to Israel. She described how her father urged her to subscribe to Haaretz, even though it's not cheap. Rosenblum will not, I hope, be angry if I reveal her father's identity - the late Adam Baruch, a gifted journalist who worked for many newspapers but was never affiliated to Haaretz. Nonetheless, he had regard for its unique contribution to Israeli society.

And this is the goal, if I understand it correctly: to stick to important matters when everything is saturated by a ratings-culture; to reveal reality, when reality television brainwashes the public.

There's more: to express a different voice at a time of conformity, to set a different tone when everything else combines the voice of the masses with the bond between money and government - one national choir, reciting together.

Haaretz today is the fortress guarding Israel's democracy, and it needs to be defended, just as one fights for one's home. In a place where there is no opposition, it has become the opposition, and its work is more crucial today than ever before. Imagine what the country's landscape would look like without it. Once it was marketed as the "newspaper for thinking people," whereas today it's more accurate to define it as the newspaper for people who sometimes obstinately articulate their right to think a little differently and independently.

Every day, when picking up this newspaper on the doorstep, readers can think of themselves as having more than a subscription - they have a share in the Zionist enterprise, whose existence is threatened by those who distort it. And it's important to protect this enterprise from their clutches.