Haaretz Does Not Need to Apologize

Despite the charges against Haaretz, it can proudly wear the mantle of patriotism, because love of one’s country is the love of human beings, the search for solutions and a refusal to reconcile with the existing order.

Thousand rally in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square for soldier who shot Palestinian assailant in Hebron. April 19, 2016.
Moti Milrod

Haaretz is under attack. It’s neither Jewish enough, nor Zionist enough, according to Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, Channel 20 – the right-wing, religious television station – and a substantial portion of Israelis presumably agree with him.

I write in Haaretz, and sometimes I don’t like the spirit of its articles. Those same writers may not be too enthusiastic about I write, too. But Haaretz as a newspaper has no reason to feel it must apologize or defend itself. A prominent Likud official once told me, “I don’t like Haaretz because of its ideology, but it’s the only newspaper in the State of Israel.”

Haaretz isn’t in vogue right now, and it’s going further and further out of fashion. Most media outlets, and some of the politicians, too, have abandoned their ideals and adopted nationalist positions they opposed in the past. That hasn’t happened to Haaretz.

Lapid is furious at the one newspaper that hasn’t turned into a chameleon and that doesn’t change its views all the time. Attacking Haaretz is perfectly suited to the type of campaign he is waging. After all, he wouldn’t dare demand that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu come out against Tuesday night’s rally in support of the IDF soldier who shot and killed a wounded terrorist in Hebron. Where has the Lapidic pathos gone when it comes to basic moral bankruptcy and an utter lack of political acumen?

Despite the superior weapons at its disposal, Haaretz’s editors and its publisher chose to respond to Lapid’s remarks with apologetic stuttering; they reminded everyone that Lapid had once praised the newspaper, saying that ‘You’re okay.’ They said, for the umpteenth time, that criticism is an integral and vital part of every democratic regime. But this approach to Lapid says – at best – that the Yesh Atid leader’s tongue-lashing was misguided and that we really are okay.

Where on earth did this tone come from? Haaretz is waging a campaign against an ideology that was once marginal, but which has now become the bon-ton of Israeli society. While almost all the political parties have reconciled to the cursed settlements, which are sealing Israel’s fate, this newspaper is trying with all its strength to explain their inherent moral and diplomatic hazards.

When the prime minister sends Danny Danon, Ron Dermer and Dani Dayan to represent Israel at the United Nations and in United States, it is of utmost importance that the English-speaking world know that there is one newspaper that opposes the new image that Netanyahu and his envoys, together with AIPAC, are trying to fashion for us.

While the whole of Israeli society has joined forces to fight the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, representatives of the current are trying to draw a parallel between those who oppose the very existence of Israel and those who oppose the settlement enterprise. Haaretz knows, and its writers know, that if Israel would just admit that the settlements are a bargaining chip for future negotiations and not identical to communities within Israel, the BDS movement would die out on its own.

In addition to all this, Haaretz gives a platform for Arab writers who convey the opinions and attitudes of Israel’s Arab citizens – positions whose very expression are anathema to Lapid.

All this ought to be a source of pride; there is no need to apologize and to keep on trying to prove that Haaretz is “okay.” We should try to imagine for a moment what the State of Israel would be like without Haaretz, without its thought-provoking writers, without an alternative. It would look like the country had fallen, crumbling, at the feet of Netanyahu and Israel Hayom owner Sheldon Adelson (which is already almost the case).

Haaretz truly is a newspaper for thinking people; people who are searching for logical and moral responses to the injustice of the occupation. They do not support the new order being promoted by Sharon Gal’s rallies. They oppose the government’s populism.

Haaretz can proudly wear the mantle of patriotism, because love of one’s country is the love of human beings, the search for solutions and a refusal to reconcile with the existing order.