Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to deny comments attributed to him that The New York Times and Haaretz are Israel’s greatest enemies. But despite his denials, there are signs that right-wing Zionist groups, funded by large donations from the United States, are preparing to launch a major campaign to smear Jewish Israeli journalists who are perceived as being too critical or disloyal as feeding “anti-Semitism.”
Netanyahu reportedly targets New York Times and Haaretz
According to JTA, Steve Linde, the editor of The Jerusalem Post, said in a speech to the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO) that Netanyahu made the comments at a meeting a few weeks ago:
“He [Netanyahu] said, ‘You know, Steve, we have two main enemies,’” Linde said, according to a recording of the WIZO speech provided to JTA. “And I thought he was going to talk about, you know, Iran, maybe Hamas. He said, ‘It’s The New York Times and Haaretz.’ He said, ‘They set the agenda for an anti-Israel campaign all over the world. Journalists read them every morning and base their news stories … on what they read in The New York Times and Haaretz.’”
But there are good reasons to take Netanyahu’s denial with a grain of salt, not merely because the Israeli prime minister is considered a liar by French President Nicholas Sarkozy, and by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and even by former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
The “enemy” within
The day before JTA reported Netanyahu’s comments, a little noticed article appeared on the Israeli website Srugim headlined “Gideon Levy and his friends in the media reinforce anti-Semitism around the world.”
Gideon Levy is a well-known Haaretz columnist, who has often been critical of Israeli abuses against Palestinians.
The article is written by Chani Luz who is identified as “a media critic, and founder of the Tadmit Center for the enhancement of democracy in the Israeli Media.” The Tadmit Center also calls itself “The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel,” a far-right lawfare organization that is one of the beneficiaries of the “Israel Independence Fund,” a money-raising machine tied to settlers and their supporters in the United States.
“It is time to make order in the media”
Luz’s article was translated for The Electronic Intifada by Dena Shunra, who also contributed analysis. Luz begins:
As a meeting of the Knesset Committee on Aliyah and Absorption sets up to meet today on the matter of “Israel’s hasbara challenges in the international media” I wish to draw a direct line to us, to the arena of Israel hasbara. Two main points should be noted:
The struggle against Israel in the international media is fed by one-sided, biased, confusing, and extremist reporting in the Israeli media, and specifically - from the Israeli media in English.
The Israeli side does not do enough to bring information and integrate the full picture, from the ground, and leaves the media people as easy prey for the well-oiled propaganda system of the Palestinians and left-wing organizations, who support their anti-Israeli position.
The Palestinian struggle, with active participation by the Left, has succeeded in placing “the Israeli occupation’ and the control of Judea and Samaria in a respectable place in the media and political agenda.
Instead of understanding that for the media consumer abroad, slurring “settlers” and Israeli soldiers leads to a negative perception of Israel and of everything it represents, **the media creates horror stories which manufacture hostility to Israel as a whole, with no green lines.
Powerful Israeli media organs deal in creating a violent image for the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, the “settlers”, while ignoring and toning down violence coming from the left and from Arab residents.
Haaretz’s Gideon Levy “in the service of the enemy”
Luz then goes on to provide a number of unsubstantiated and unspecific examples of what she claims are media biases and cover-ups and then:
We can blame the anti-Semitism of the Goyim, but we can’t say that the fault is only with them. The Israel-internal poison arrows in the media doubtless make it harder for any way to win in the media arena abroad. One can’t demand that they be “holier than the Pope”. It is enough to read Gideon Levy in English to understand why we are hated in the world. It is time to make order in the media, as well.
The Ministry of Hasbara must invest in effective and smart ways to bring out information about the violent reality in Israel, including in Judea and Samaria, routinely – and who are the ones who initiate and carry out violent activities, daily.
The state must see to it that Israel will have reliable, professional, and alternative media to the ones who create weapons material for the war on consciousness, in service of the enemy. Too much Israeli money is invested in the media and the cinema industry, in the manufacture of propaganda materials which serve the enemy - and too little is invested in the rightful Israeli struggle.
Netanyahu may have denied his comments, but if he made them, they are exactly in tune with the message coming from Tadmit. Of course Haaretz has been no great friend of the Palestinians, and often serves Israeli propaganda purposes notwithstanding the occasional criticism. But in the new era of Israeli hasbara, anyone who voices a hint of dissent or reports reality is now an “anti-Semite,” even writers at Haaretz.