For many people, Haaretz occupies much the same position as the Rand Daily Mail did in South Africa before it was driven out of business in 1985. It is the lone voice of liberalism in the world’s most racist far-right state.
Except that there is one important difference. Whereas the Rand Daily Mail opposed Apartheid, Haaretz is a supporter of Zionism. It’s editorial line is that Zionism and Israel can be humanised; that you can have a non-racist version of Zionism; that a Jewish state can indeed be a democratic state. It is the classic oxymoron.
In Israel, the political terms “left” and “right” take on a different meaning to that which is normally understood; they define one’s attitude to the Palestinian question. In normal, non-ethnically based states they define one’s position in respect of class and economic issues. The Israeli Labour Party (ILP) fails to meet the criteria of a left-wing party on both counts.
That is why former leader Shelly Yacimovich declared that it was a “historic injustice”, no less, to characterise the ILP as a left-wing party. Labour, she insisted, “has always drawn its power from being a centrist party. There have been both hawks and doves within its ranks.”
Where Yacomovich was being economical with the truth was in her statement that “Labour has always drawn its power from advocating peace, but pragmatically,” In reality, there isn’t a single Israeli war that the ILP hasn’t supported. Its record of murdering Palestinian refugees seeking to return to their lands in the 1950s (they were labelled as “infiltrators”) bears comparison with anything that Likud has achieved subsequently.
On economic matters, Haaretz is a free market newspaper. Its Defence Correspondent Amos Harel is close to Israel’s security establishment as was his predecessor Zeev Schiff (which didn’t prevent Moshe Dayan trying to have him fired). Above all, though, Haaretz is loyal to the Israeli state. It is signed up to the Zionist agenda even if it permits a couple of anti-Zionist journalists, Gideon Levy and Amira Hass, to write for it. Hass and Levy are very much exceptions to the norm.
Haaretz is certainly the most astute of Israeli newspapers. It realises that an Israel drifting inexorably to the political right is haemorrhaging support in the West and that Israel, even more than South Africa before it, is dependent on political support in the United States above all. That is why the growth of support for the Palestinians in the Democrat Party is so worrying for the more intelligent Zionists, who can see beyond the end of their nose.
The newspaper has a depth of coverage of Israel which shows some, at least, of the reality of what Zionism means in practice. It is sincere in wanting a Jewish state that treats its Arab citizens equally. The problem it continually faces, though, is that a Jewish State, by definition, cannot but treat its minorities as tolerated guests.
That is why Haaretz, despite its criticisms of the consequences of Zionism as they play out in Israel, is still loyal to the idea of a Jewish state. Like the Rand Daily Mail it too is opposed to sanctions on Israel, especially through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign..
The rise of Jeremy Corbyn, an avowedly socialist leader of Britain’s Labour Party, has tested liberals not only in Britain but Israel too. When it comes to socialism, liberals are no less hostile to the ideas of the common ownership of wealth than conservatives. That is why in Britain it is the liberal Guardian and its Zionist commentator Jonathan Freedland, above all, who have led the charge against Corbyn.
The attitude of Haaretz towards the Labour leader in Britain has also been hostile. With a few exceptions, notably Gideon Levy and Israel’s most famous poet, Yitzhak Laor, its coverage has been almost entirely hostile. Haaretz correspondents have bought into the idea that Corbyn and the Labour Left are anti-Semitic.
A friend in the United States sent me an article by a hitherto unknown writer, Alona Ferber, and suggested that I might like to reply to it. The article – in Haaretz – was headed “Corbyn’s Labour Will Never Stop Gaslighting Jews” (20 February).
The title alone demonstrated where it was coming from. It made no attempt to be even handed and read like an ill-digested propaganda article that went from one untruth to another with gay abandon. To Ferber, support for the Palestinians is “gaslighting Jews”.
WHat’s more, Ferber’s article consisted of a series of assertions unsupported by anything in the way of evidence, which was conspicuous by its absence. In what has become a hackneyed metaphor, Jews were the “canary in the mine”; it’s a tired and clichéd analogy. I suggested that, on the contrary, anti-Semitism in the Labour Party was the dog that didn’t bark in the night… (Sherlock Holmes and Silver Blade)
Beginning with the resignation of the “7 Dwarfs’, right-wing MPs (later to become 8), all pro-Israel, who decided to form an Independent Group, Ferber even repeated the myth that Ken Livingstone had said that “Hitler was a Zionist”, even though this has been debunked repeatedly. A cursory search on Google turns up the transcript in which the former Labour MP and Mayor of London describes Hitler as “supporting Zionism”, something which is accepted even by Zionist historians such as David Cesarani and Lucy Dawidowicz.
I therefore sent in an article by way of reply. The Haaretz Opinion Editor, Esther Solomon, sent a curt response: “Thanks for this, Tony, but we’ll pass.” I sent a somewhat longer response:
I’m sorry that you don’t feel courageous enough to carry a reply to Alona Ferber’s article “Corbyn’s Labour Will Never Stop Gaslighting Jews”. It would appear that anything from a Jewish anti-Zionist perspective that challenges the mainstream narrative about Labour “anti-Semitism”, a narrative which Haaretz has been plugging away at for the past few years, not least from Ms Ferber, is off limits. For all Haaretz’s liberal credentials, there are limits to the debate you are willing to entertain. It suggests that Gideon Levy and Amira Hass notwithstanding, you are not willing to challenge the Zionist consensus as to what constitutes “anti-Semitism” abroad.
There is of course nothing unusual in this. Both the Labour and Conservative parties in Britain, like the Republicans and the Democrats, whatever their domestic disagreements, maintain a policy of bipartisanship overseas. It is interesting to see that you follow in their footsteps.
I am not surprised that you have failed to given any reason for your decision not to accept my piece. It is of the same length as the original and certainly more substantive and well argued, I have said I would forego any fee and as a prominent Jewish victim of this fake anti-Semitism crisis in Britain’s Labour Party I am able to offer an unrivalled perspective as to what has actually been happening. Ms Ferber’s piece is, by contrast, little more than second hand gossip and hearsay, a hackneyed repetition of all the old cliches and phrases.
What is happening in the Labour Party is, at least in part, a product of the dirty-tricks operations of Gilad Erdan’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs. This was documented in Al Jazeera’s film The Lobby where Erdan’s operative, Shai Masot, was seen to be heavily involved in internal Labour Party affairs and working closely with Labour Zionist groups.
Once again if you scratch a liberal you find a conservative underneath and if you scratch a liberal Zionist then you find a mainstream Zionist lurking.
I then sent a second message about the Livingstone inaccuracy:
Further to my previous email. Do you think you can correct Alona Ferber’s repetition of a lie, a lie that has been pointed out many times previously, that Ken Livingstone said that “Hitler was a Zionist”. It is not true.
READ: The Antisemitism Wars
Again this is an example of the Goebbels technique of repeating a lie until it becomes the accepted truth. What Livingstone actually said was:
“Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism – this before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”
The whole transcript can be found in the Independent of 28 April 2016. It would have taken about one minute to find it with Google yet this brazen liar prefers to go with a version of what Livingstone said which is wholly untrue. His allegation that Hitler, i.e. the Nazis, supported Zionism in Germany prior to 1939 is, as I pointed out in my response, supported by most Holocaust historians. I am sorry you are too cowardly to print a full rejoinder but you might at least correct obvious untruths and lies.
At least I assume that Haaretz has some concern with correcting inaccuracies?
I received no reply. Checking the article a couple of days later I sent another response pointing out that they still had not corrected Ferber’s lie. Checking again a day later there still has not been any correction and it still reads: “Usual suspect Ken ‘Hitler was a Zionist’ Livingstone reiterated his belief that he has never (ever) seen any anti-Semitism in the party (ever).” It would appear that Opinion Editor Esther Solomons is none too concerned about errors and inaccuracies in the articles her newspaper carries.
Below are samples of the articles that Haaretz has published on the Labour Party’s “anti-Semitism” smears.
An article by Adam Langleben of the Jewish Labour Movement which contains his usual hysterical anti-Corbyn invective: You, Jeremy Corbyn, Have Led Labour Into Authoritarianism, Mob Rule and Institutionalized Racism Against Jews 19 February 2019
There are then a whole series of articles on the same theme.
Anti-Semitism Was Symptom and Catalyst of U.K. Labour Party Split, Not Root Cause Anshel Pfeffer 18th February, a particularly hostile columnist who writes, “Jewish MP Luciana Berger, who was the target of years of racist, misogynistic and anti-Semitic abuse and physical threats – much of it from Corbyn loyalists.” This is totally untrue. Corbyn supporters have not subjected Luciana Berger to racist abuse nor has any evidence been produced to substantiate this.
Ocasio-Cortez and Corbyn Praise Each Other on Twitter After Phone Call by Azriel Bermant, is ostensibly about a phone call between Alexander Ocasio-Cortez, the new left-wing Congresswoman from New York.
In International Holocaust Remembrance Day Was a Mistake, Anshel Pfeffer states that, “In London, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who’s never met an anti-Semite he didn’t like, made a big show of signing a book of Holocaust remembrance in the UK parliament and then attending another remembrance event in his Islington constituency.” (31 January 2019)
In Jeremy Corbyn Could Learn Some Statesmanship on Palestine, Azriel Bermant asks, “Will the UK Labour leader remain a pro-Palestinian protester, shunning left-wing Israeli Jews but engaging with Hamas? Or can he develop the political maturity and integrity needed to become a real force for change?” There’s nothing like a neutral sub-headline.
Then there is On Israel-Palestine, Jeremy Corbyn Is No ‘Peacemaker’ by Colin Shindler (20 September 2018). Shindler is a Zionist academic in Britain who was formerly associated with the left-Zionist group Mapam. Then another article by Pfeffer (3 August 2018): Why Corbynism Is a Threat to Jews Throughout the Western World.
The only balancing articles I could find were Who Put Out a Contract on Jeremy Corbyn? by Yitzhak Laor (27 August 2018):”‘Slander by the right doesn’t justify the Israeli left’s malice and interference in British politics ‘in the name of the Jewish people’.”
Gideon Levy also made his admiration for Corbyn clear when he wrote that Corbyn “is an icon of the left, a man who had spent a lifetime fighting for the values he believed in” on 8 September last year, albeit in Hebrew not English.
If you want fair coverage of the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn you need to turn to +972 Magazine with articles such as Yes, Corbynism poses a threat — but not to Britain’s Jews where Matan Kaminer writes that, “Smearing Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-Semite has become a popular hobby among members of the British establishment — perhaps because what he stands for is a direct threat to their ideological and economic interests.”
Unfortunately it’s not only the British Establishment but the Israeli one too, including its liberal “opponents” in Haaretz. Scratch a Liberal Zionist, and you will find a chauvinist lurking underneath.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.