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Web Letter

Just another letter agreeing with those who believe that Mr. Glain's article is both too generous and (slightly) too harsh.

Even if you leave aside Ha'aretz, you can still sometimes pick out grains of truth from a combination of different newspapers, and even find stories which Ha'aretz doesn't cover!

Take, for example, Israel's recent military actions in Gaza:

The press reported on Thursday, 20 September, that Israel had declared Gaza a "terrorist entity."

The next day, the Jerusalem Post revealed that "Israel ha[d] rejected an offer by Hamas to renew a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.... Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's office reportedly contacted a senior diplomatic source in Jerusalem through a third party before the cabinet decided on Wednesday to declare Gaza a "hostile territory." After the cabinet decision, the source responded to Hamas's proposal, saying Israel would not hold talks with the group at this time."

On Monday, 24 September, the Jerusalem Post reported that Olmert, speaking before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, "tried to lower expectations for the November summit in Washington, repeatedly calling on MKs not to call the event a "peace conference."

For some unknown reason, the following day the Jerusalem Post reported that "Arab diplomats based in Cairo said..that the majority of the Arab leaders believe that the conference is just a 'waste of time.' "

On, 27 September, Yedioth Ahronoth reported that "[a]t least 11 Palestinians were killed in a number of Israeli strikes in Gaza Wednesday and Thursday.... four Palestinians, including a kid, were killed and 20 others were injured when a tank shell hit a house in the Beit Hanun neighborhood in northern Gaza." (Obviously recalling Israel's rejection of a cease-fire, this murderous campaign is also completely unncessary.)

Also on the 27 September, Yedioth Ahronoth reported that "Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri...continued to urge the international community to put an end to the Israeli aggression and said Israel 'does not give much importance to the November peace conference.' "

So I think if you aren't too intoxicated with "pro"-Israel fervour, you can get at the truth, even without Ha'aretz.

As another example of truth occasionally piercing the right-wing bulk of Yedioth's reporting, there was a fantastic article in the paper on 11 September by Moshe Zimmerman, head of Hebrew University's German History Deptartment (the article was in response to the discovery of that Jewish neo-Nazi gang):

[I]sn't the "working assumption" of Israeli society, which talks about a "Jewish state," about a preference to Jews to the point of undermining the rights of non-Jews? The manner in which settlers hurt residents of the territories is a display of violence that is no less dangerous than that of the gang that captivated public and political attention. The manner in which we abuse the population of the occupied territories, even with no relation to our fears of terrorism, should outrage us no less that the tales of the neo-Nazi gang....

Neo-Nazi groups in Europe and the US that persecute "others"--homosexuals, minorities, Jews and the disabled--by combining a racist tradition with a sense of social inferiority in order to create an outlet and justification for their aggression. The same is true for the Israeli neo-Nazi gang.

Therefore, we should look into another question: What led a group of new immigrants from Eastern Europe to use this type of violence backed by this type of ideology? Isn't the attitude of Israeli society to ethnic Jewish origins, that is, Jewish ethnocentricity and racism, an indirect or direct reason for the scary phenomenon we're discussing now?

As for Israel's freedom of speech rivalling that of the US, as some readers seem to imply: again, yes and no.

For example, I didn't see any mention (maybe I missed it) of the recent IAEA condemnation of Israel for refusing to open its nuclear program to international inspection (only Israel and the United States voted against the IAEA resolution) in either of the US's two leading broadsheets (contast with the firestorm of criticism reserved for Iran). The Israeli media had no problem covering the IAEA criticism though.

So on some matters, the Israeli media is better than the US's--but then you get the Daily Telegraph reminding you that " 'Defence Regulation 1945' makes it a criminal offence for anyone in Israel to publish an article with security content without first having it passed by the country's censorship office.... Local military journalists who have been able to find out information concerning the incident in Syria have not been able to publish it because it falls with the range of...41 sensitive areas."

And yes, isn't Rosner terrible?!!

Simon Barker

London, England

Sep 29 2007 - 9:27pm

Web Letter

For The Nation to say that Ha'aretz "is the last remaining defender of Israel's tradition of dissent" is not only misleading, it is absolutely, totally wrong.

I enjoy reading Ha'aretz every day, but the truth is that there are many newspapers and television and radio shows in Israel that criticize the government, whether it be left or right. Israel has a very live and active democracy just as we have in America. Ha'aretz is not the only media outlet for political expressions one might consider liberal. Any person visiting Israel can quickly and easily find a multiplicity of Israeli television, radio, newspapers and Internet sites from all different sides of the political spectrum. There is no monopoly of opinions in Israel, and no lone dissenter. What makes Israel special, with all its faults (and like any other nation Israel has its share of faults) is the strength of its democracy and the availability and ability of its citizenry to dissent. One of the many reasons Americans who have visited Israel love Israel so much is the vitality and breadth of its citizenry and the ability of its citizenry to openly disagree with the policies of its government without fear of repression, unlike every other country in the Middle East. I hope Ha'aretz remains forever but it is not the last or only remaining defender of dissent. There is a wonderful democracy in Israel and people disagree all the time, every day, and openly express their opinions.

Mark Jeffery Koch

Cherry Hill, NJ

Sep 18 2007 - 9:44am

Web Letter

As a daily reader and talk-backer on Ha'aretz, I appreciate both the diverse opinion pieces and the ability to voice my views. Although I lean more right than left I enjoy reading what Gideon Levy, Amira Haas and others have to offer as well as the opportunity to tell them what I think about their extreme views.

It's one of the only "places" where radical Islamist Israel haters, anti-Semites, devoted Zionists and everyone in the middle get the chance to go at it with no bloodshed but with words, and that too is something I value. I often think that perhaps one line I write might open their minds and reading what they write often opens mine. There are far too few forums for such exchanges, and we could all benefit by more writing and talking and less shooting.

Jane Maestro

Palm Beach, FL

Sep 11 2007 - 7:31pm

Web Letter

Ha'aretz is an excellent paper. It does have a variety of opinion on it's pages, and I think it covers Washington better than the Washington Post. Actually, you don't need the Israeli Lobby to find our what is politically correct as far as Israel is concerned. You just have to read Rosner's column. I think Benn is a little bit to the right, but he is an excellent writer. They are all good writers. The people who blog on it are interesting too. Many are very strident, but you can pick up some interesting information and get a feel for various opinions that influence the country. One thing I have learned is that being Jewish and or Israeli is very complicated and exhausting.

Pervis J. Casey

Riverside, CA

Sep 7 2007 - 5:47pm

Web Letter

Ha'aretz is indeed wonderful and indispensible, and this article is pretty good. I would like to supplement this article with a few points:

1. Go read it in English f or free!

2. This profile leaves out just how important Ha'aretz reporting and op-ed pieces are for progressive pro-real-peace American Jews, in our ongoing domestic fight with conservative American Jews, for whom the Likud-Netanyahu-Israeli government policy is never to be questioned (unless it is negotiating with Syria or the PA like Rabin did), AIPAC, Neocons and the like. It is our lifeline.

3. The flip side, is when Ha'aretz has rebuked knee-jerk anti-Israeli reporting. It often finds itself used and abused by some and has tried to push back with varying success. Anybody seriously interested in following up on Ha'aretz in particular, and how a newspaper deals with being part of a nation during a time of war should read these two articles from 2002, at the height of the intifada and when Ha'aretz was first being recognized globally due to it online English language version: A newspaper's mission, by Amos Schocken (the publisher); and an article digging beneath the surface in the Middle East conflict, by then Ha'aretz editor-in-chief Hanoch Marmari.

The story is more complicated then some might think.

4. Rosner is just awful. Completely embedded neocon/AIPAC/AEI. His spinoff work, such as the totally worthless "Israel Factor--which ranks presidential candidates in part by worthless right-wing overwhelmed Internet pseudo-polling--belongs as an AEI publication, not with Ha'aretz's name attached. Rosner is also tied in with Washington Post media via Slate.

5. The talkback section is terrible. Most of the respondents are vitriolic extremists from the fringes of either side. Rather doubtful if anybody in Knesset takes much of it seriously. It is an example of really bad blog commenting.

5. Ha'aretz is not very progressive when it comes to economic policy. Unlike its strong real-peace, get out of the settlements/occupation diplomatic policy line, it has been stuck in a "neoliberal" to outright pro-business, anti-labor, regressive taxes, pro-free market, growth at any cost line.In this sense it follows a similar line to the right wing of the Democratic party or British Labor party--the need to reform away from "socialist" past mistakes in order to achieve growth. It has underplayed growing Israeli domestic economic inequality/disparity/insecurity. Indeed, part of their argument for peace is it's economic benefit for elites. It does have a history with Schoken family as a business/financial newspaper. It is definitely not like The Nation overall.

6. Related to the above, and hinted at in the article, is its mediocre coverage of (at least in English online edition) of Sephardic/Mizrahim Jews, working-class and Labor issues.

Steven Auerbach

New York, NY

Sep 7 2007 - 5:27pm