Why Does Haaretz Keep Reporting on This Israeli Right-wing Think Tank?

Israel Harel
Israel Harel
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The Kohelet Forum offices.
The Kohelet Forum offices.Credit: Emil Salman
Israel Harel
Israel Harel

Attorney Avital Ben-Shlomo of the conservative Kohelet Policy Forum was invited to a discussion at the Education Ministry on “the education system’s goals and the ways to achieve them.” Ministry sources, Haaretz’s Or Kashti wrote Wednesday, have criticized the decision-making process that is supposed to be determined by state institutions.

The ministry’s discussion group is also attended by Fida Shehada, an Arab Israeli and a resident of Lod (she was absent from the last meeting). On July 7, speaking about the riots that took place in May and June, she told Dana Spector in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth: “For an occupied people we are so very quiet, so very polite .... If we weren’t quiet one night, the establishment should understand it ... they should be saying ‘they were quiet for 70 years, so let’s give them one night to go wild ... a drop of empathy, silent empathy ... to let us get a breath of fresh air.”

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Shehada also belongs to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. Inviting her to the forum’s discussions proves that the Education Ministry sees her as a statesmanlike figure without an agenda. Maybe Kashti thinks this too, otherwise he’d be outraged over her participation as well.

Numerous nonprofit organizations, institutes and officials from academia take part in the Education Ministry’s discussions. But as long as they’re on the correct side of the political spectrum, even the newspaper that abhors prejudice and concealing facts has found no reason to object.

“It’s unacceptable that an organization with a controversial agenda takes part in shaping general policies,” Kashti quoted one source as saying. Unacceptable? The following is one of many examples proving the opposite.

The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute is at the cutting edge of the Israeli intellectual left. It wrote in the introduction to a document “ahead of a debate by the Education Ministry’s management “ that “the paper was commissioned and crafted at the request of the ministry’s chief scientist. The work was financed by the Chief Scientist’s Office.”

It’s easy to imagine how Kashti and Haaretz’s editorial staff would have responded if the Education Ministry’s chief scientist had commissioned a funded position paper on education matters from the Kohelet Policy Forum.

Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer, vice president of the Israel Democracy Institute, a Haaretz commentator and a member of various public bodies that clearly belong to the left, is another example of this double standard. At the education minister’s request, Kremnitzer has drafted the ministry’s approach to civics, the most politically sensitive subject.

Haaretz didn’t protest or object. Doesn’t the man and the left-wing bodies he’s active in have, according to Kashti’s definition, “a controversial agenda?”

Do you disagree with Kohelet’s conservative agenda? (I’m not a member of this forum.) Then do it fairly by proving the fallacies of its positions. It’s wrong to pick on it selectively. What’s allowed and is even desirable to Haaretz favorites like the Van Leer Institute, the Israel Democracy Institute and the Mandel Institute of Jewish Studies is forbidden to Kohelet. That’s persecution, not criticism.

Despite the persecution, I suggest that Kohelet look at the other side of the coin. The excess attention Haaretz is giving it constitutes an invaluable public relations gift. In the eyes of the forum’s American conservative supporters, if Haaretz, which is considered the Israeli New York Times, repeatedly attacks an organization they fund, this proves that the organization is successfully carrying out their goal: effectively spreading a conservative agenda in Israel.

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