When a newspaper long perceived to align with a particular political slant is actually transparent about that slant, does it say anything new about the paper?
That is among the questions posed by a recent appeal from the publisher of Haaretz for more English-language subscribers. In a May 12 post titled “An open letter from the publisher: Subscribe to Haaretz and help shape Israel,” Haaretz Publisher Amos Schocken wrote that by subscribing to the newspaper, one can “become a partner in actively supporting the two-state solution and the right to Palestinian self-determination, which will enable Israel to rid itself of the burdens of territorial occupation and the control of another people.”
Taking this public political stance was deemed necessary by the newspaper “because the relations between us Israelis and the Palestinians, the Israeli occupation of the territories, is the single most crucial issue for Israel,” Schocken told JNS.org.
“As Secretary of State [John] Kerry said, Israel may become an apartheid state, if this issue is not solved in a way that will result in two states, or else the Zionist goal of self-determination for the Jews will be compromised,” the publisher added, echoing controversial remarks Kerry made in April.
The wording of Schocken’s May 12 letter is markedly different from a November 2011 letter obtained by JNS.org in which he also appeals for subscribers. In that letter, there was no stance taken on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nor indeed any mention of the conflict. Potential subscribers were simply told that they could become “part of the greater digitial community of Haaretz readers who believe that free speech, unvarnished information and speaking truth to power are an integral part of the core resilience of Israeli democracy.”
Tamar Sternthal, director of the Israel Office of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), criticizes Haaretz’s new strategy of marketing directly to readers on one end of the political spectrum.
“While it is legitimate for a newspaper to express its prevailing political views in its editorials, professional journalistic guidelines call for a separation of news and views. Once a media outlet engages in advocacy journalism, and allows a particular political agenda to color its news reports, it is no longer being faithful to the core journalism imperative to report the truth,” she told JNS.org.
Yet Eric Alterman—a journalism professor, media columnist, and fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP)—believes the perception that news reporting needs to be separate from political views is not as common outside the U.S., and that American newspapers “are [also] becoming more transparent about the conclusions that are implied by their reporting.”
“This is Haaretz’s political viewpoint. I appreciate their honesty,” Alterman, author of “The Cause: The Fight For American Liberalism,” told JNS.org regarding Schocken’s letter.
There is also a big difference between the political debate about Israel in Israel itself, and the discourse about the Jewish state in the U.S., noted Georgetown University professor and Middle East analyst Moran Stern.
“In the U.S. it seems that there is a clear—somewhat superficial—division between left and right, between pro-Israel and anti-Israel, and in Israel that is not really the case,” Stern told JNS.org.
In Israel, he said, “the exchange of ideas and even shared views among those who would be considered on the left, center or right is frequent.”
That may explain why Haaretz is trying to “target a specific camp within U.S. readership,” argued Stern. Although Haaretz tends to be perceived as a left-leaning paper, Stern believes that in its Hebrew edition it is “a very pluralistic and democratic paper,” whose contributors, specifically the opinion writers, “often come from the most far-left all the way to the leaders of the settlement movement.”