Sheldon Adelson and My Personal Moral Dilemma

Adelson’s newspaper, Israel Hayom, spares no effort in waging the unceasing campaign to perpetuate the rule of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Orian Morris
Orian Morris
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Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson,
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, Credit: AP
Orian Morris
Orian Morris

Pleased to meet you. My name is Orian Morris and I have worked as the literary critic for the Makor Rishon newspaper for the past five years. I would like to share with you the rather strange dilemma I have encountered: Sheldon Adelson has bought the newspaper I regularly publish my articles in, as per a court decision and against the recommendation of the employees.

This newspaper, which is openly faith-based and right-wing, has known how to provide complete freedom of expression until now in opinions opposed to its principles, and has never interfered in any judgment or phrasing in the many articles I wrote over these years − except for one case in which the editor asked me to not use the phrase “sperm penetrating into the vagina” in an article for the literary supplement.

Adelson, the new owner, has promised not to touch the content of the paper and not to harm the radical freedom of opinion that characterizes Makor Rishon. But can you really make such a deal with a billionaire? Is it at all possible to continue to write “impartially” when your owner is the man who with his own hands has driven the local media to its knees, and has contributed greatly to the circumstances that led to the closing of Maariv, a newspaper published continually since before the founding of Israel?

I know that such dilemmas are not fashionable in the period we are now living in. Theoretically, the world is much more complex and there is nothing that is not tainted by economic and political interests. But still, here they are of a different quality and essence: Adelson is a billionaire who has lived his entire life in the Diaspora, even though he declares that he is a Zionist in all his body and soul. His money was made from owning casinos all over the world − business that is illegal in Israel. In the past he openly declared that in his opinion Israel must take over the occupied territories, and even called publicly to drop an atomic bomb on Iran so as to prevent it from making progress in its nuclear track.

In the political sphere, his newspaper, Israel Hayom, is waging an unceasing campaign to perpetuate the rule of Benjamin Netanyahu, and is sparing no effort to endear Bibi − the man and his family − to us. This is the basic and guiding line of the newspaper, even though it is done with light and sophisticated spin, and not overtly. Its entire purpose is to slant public opinion against the need for an alternative government, and more than once the paper has waged all-out warfare against every reasonable candidate who could possibly challenge the ruling government.

Another campaign that is running without any shame in Adelson’s paper is against the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. If Adelson can also beat it and bring about its closure, Israel Hayom will remain alone and monopolistic among the popular press − only due to the depths of the pockets of its owner, who is not finding it difficult to handle the losses entailed in distributing hundreds of thousands of copies free every day.

We can only assume that the minute he also defeats Yedioth Ahronoth, Adelson will start to charge for Israel Hayom. And why shouldn’t he do so, when it is not facing competition − or criticism?

Dear readers, tell me yourselves what one poor literary critic should do from the moment he learns that he is employed by the monopolistic conglomerate of cross holdings of this baron from the Diaspora. And not just any baron, but one who calls publicly for Israel to take actions that violate international law, such as annexing the territories; and even offers to carry out war crimes such as initiating a nuclear attack against a country that there is a doubt whether it even has non-conventional weapons.

It is clear that we are talking about an irresponsible and unrestrainable person and power. True, in the Knesset there is also an effort at the moment to write a law that will ban this brutal and corrupting attempt to take over the media − and in doing so take control of public consciousness. But in this case there is a serious problem: Adelson is not just the baron with the newspaper, he is also the generous patron of Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Netanyahu’s devotion to Adelson can easily be understood, since it has raised him up from his position of inferiority as the head of the Likud party when it was at its unprecedented depth of only 12 Knesset seats. Testimony to this relationship could be seen by all when Netanyahu put the special strategic dialogue with the Obama administration at risk so as to support Republican candidate Mitt Romney, the candidate Adelson was backing. He bet on the wrong horse, and Bibi in his turn did well to show what came first: The interests of the Israeli people who chose him for his lofty position, or the cross interests of the lord who backed him on the wings of a free newspaper that corrupts opinion.

If you will allow me to return to my own personal dilemma − it is clear that Adelson will have very little interest in whether one literary critic who is leaving one newspaper calls not to cooperate and to block him using the law. But is there another moral option? In any case, thank you for listening.

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