Four factors have converged to make Haaretz more annoying to Israelis today than ever before. First, the country is less receptive to a left-wing agenda as most of its citizens tilt rightward. Second, the country feels it is under an unjustified and hypocritical international siege and so is less forgiving when Israelis are perceived to be providing Israel’s critics with ammunition. Just recently, Jewish Israelis ranked “left wingers” as one of the groups contributing least to Israel’s success. Third, Israel’s left is very small, and also feeling under siege. Fourth, the left’s frustration with Israel makes it bitter and antagonistic. It makes it more prone to test the patience of other Israelis by upping the rhetorical ante in its criticism of country, leaders and groups.
The result of this increasingly provocative discourse is often pathetic, at times comical and occasionally worrying. Haaretz irks the majority of Israelis by giving voice to preposterous descriptions of what Israel is or does (“fascism,” “apartheid”), and the majority and its leaders never fail to take the bait and fly into a rage. It is a childish game and, in the long run, Israel loses. Its quality newspaper of coherent dissent, necessary in a pluralistic society, has become a platform for juvenile contrarianism. Its left-wing opposition, to which Haaretz gives voice, has become synonymous with needless antagonism; public debate has been made blunter and less constructive; the public is angrier and less tolerant of dissent.
Tempting as it is, the story of the people vs. Haaretz is not a story of a country whose public is no longer willing to tolerate debate. It is a story about a group within Israel that is losing its ability to communicate with the rest of society and have any chance of influencing its future. It is a story about a group within Israel that finds its relief in provoking the rest of us until we snap.
Shmuel Rosner, “The People vs. Haaretz”, The New York Times (13 May 2017), A23.