The Stories Haaretz Prints That Its Readers Won’t Read

What would Haaretz be if it didn’t publish reports that its readers refuse to read because they are too busy banging their heads against the excuse that 'we didn’t know'?

Palestinians run for cover from tear gas during clashes with Israeli forces near the fence along the border with Israel on June 14, 2019.

I wouldn’t have picked on Ofer Aderet’s June 18 article if it didn’t reflect the phenomenon of selective reading and spotty memory found among Israelis.

The article is titled: “Haaretz at 100: Always critical, always independent.” The article surveys the shifts in the newspaper’s ideological angles since it was founded 100 years ago. In the third-to-last paragraph, he mentions a number of the journalistic exposés by Haaretz writers since 1977 (such as Dan Margalit on the Rabin dollar account), and, as an example of the newspaper’s open-mindedness, he notes in the final paragraph some of the opinion columns that set off great public controversies.

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Without giving the headline and date, Aderet cites Gideon Levy’s column, “Lowest deeds from the loftiest heights,” published July 15, 2014. The Haaretz correspondent for historical affairs did not mention that the article was written a week after the IDF unleashed a new onslaught, one distinguished by lethal aerial bombardment of dozens of houses with their occupants, including women, children and the elderly, inside. In the same paragraph, Aderet mentioned my article “The inner syntax of throwing stones” from April 3, 2013, also without its headline and date.

“Amira Hass justified throwing stones at Jews in the West Bank,” was how Aderet phrased it. I don’t take back what I wrote, of course. I repeat that Palestinians have the right and duty to resist this violence of ours, the Israeli occupiers and usurpers, the same as any other human group that faces violent forces filled with a sense of superiority that are trying to subjugate it. Yet I actually devoted most of the article to the limitations of stone-throwing as a tactic of struggle when it is not part of a broad, systematic strategy and program taken up by the public and leadership. But that was in the third paragraph and afterward. Too far down for the impatient Israeli website surfer. So it seems the problem with the article is that it was printed in the newspaper for Israeli readers.

The only problem with the above-mentioned op-ed by Gideon Levy is that I didn’t write it. But whoever remembers and mentions only “Lowest deeds from the loftiest heights” among his writings, forgets and airbrushes out the 32 years and hundreds of articles in which he reported and continues to report on prototypical Israeli actions.

He wrote about Shin Bet torture before the honorable judges of the High Court of Justice acknowledged that such a thing was going on here, and prohibited it. He reported on soldiers shooting children in the back, again and again. He didn’t ease up and told how our soldiers raid homes night after night and how Israeli employers abuse Palestinian laborers. At age 100, what would Haaretz be if it didn’t offer readers the vocabulary, the facts and the depiction of reality that go against the flood of official and military briefings, and not just opinion pieces and provocative musings?

Although for only 28 years, I too report from these precincts that oblige me to use terms that are not found in the dictionaries of other Israeli media outlets – terms that Haaretz prints today, but some of which it wouldn’t have printed 35 or 20 years ago. Hostile foreign regime, building rights for Jews only, policy of destruction of Palestinian water lines and solar panels, robbery of the indigenous population’s land and water, robbery of time, carving up of territory and breaking apart of Palestinian society, bantustans, concentration camp Gaza, nation of jailers, apartheid. Behind these terms are descriptions of wide-ranging processes, structural processes of settler colonialism and expulsion, which are the fruit of cunning and calculated planning.

It is customary to believe in the journalistic fraternity, and not only there, that the pinnacle of journalistic endeavor are investigations based on secret documents that reveal facts which those implicated in them do not want revealed. The problem that Gideon and I face is that the facts we have reported and continue to report, in which the Israeli people is implicated, grow on the trees and wallow on the ground. Reach out your hand and take them. These personal stories are considered an inferior genre of journalism. Another reason not to remember them or remind people of them. But what would Haaretz be if it didn’t publish these consistent, insistent reports, the ones that readers refuse to read because they peel them and their leaders away from their self-image as eternal victims and destroy in advance the excuse that “we didn’t know”?

The accumulation of remarkably similar “personal” stories from women around the world has exposed and drawn the pattern of male domination, and lies at the base of feminist thinking and activism. Today it is no longer acceptable to dismiss personal stories like these. At least not in public.

Of all Israeli media outlets, Haaretz is the only one that for decades has authorized the repeated publication of personal Palestinian stories, which, unaccompanied by secret documents or belated confessions by army officers, expose and draw the pattern of the domineering Israeli behavior and the criminal character that foretells disaster. This accumulation of information had an influence on this newspaper’s ideological emphases.

Gideon and I were not the first or only ones to present the Palestinian voice and thereby tell about ourselves, the Israelis, but we have been doing this for longer than our colleagues have. It doesn’t interest most Israeli readers, but still I fulfill my duty and exercise my right here to remind you of the nature of our work.