Haaretz Has Crossed Democracy’s Most Fundamental Red Line
In any true democracy, citizens cannot allow institutions to threaten their well-being. Israelis must now hold the newspaper Haaretz accountable for shamelessly and selfishly demonize the country and its army, knowing full well that the hateful lies of its writers will be repeated by foreign enemies.
One of the great challenges of democracy is balancing cherished values. Among these is freedom of expression, –an unhindered press and a public able and even required to speak freely without fear of reprisal. Another, even more basic fundamental value is self-protection. Enshrined in the dictum that “democracy is not a suicide pact,” which means that none of its shared values can be allowed to threaten society itself.
This is not an easy task, nor one approached lightly. Israel has always been quite liberal in its attitude, willing to expose itself to criticism, and even harm, in the name of honoring freedom. But democracy is not a “one size fits all” proposition. Not all democratic countries are under the same pressures or face the same threats. Unlike critics of Israel, no one questions Denmark’s right to exist or Peru’s to be recognized as a sovereign nation. Indeed, Israel is unique in this respect, with constant attempts to delegitimize it into oblivion.
Fortunately, Israel is not oblivious to this fact. Belatedly, perhaps, we are now pushing back against the global phenomenon of BDS, which is widely recognized as code for the weakening to death the world’s only Jewish state. We have little difficulty in identifying many of the purveyors of such hatred, whether in the Arab world, on the European continent, on the far-Left or the far-Right.
When a radical jihadist group or a neo-Nazi organization accuses Israel of being an “apartheid state,” or of committing extrajudicial executions of Palestinians, or the IDF wantonly murdering Arabs, we Israelis appropriately say, “These are the words of our enemies, of those who in every generation rise up to destroy us.”
But what happens when these same hostile entities get their ammunition from respectable Israeli media outlets that spew those very lies and libels?
Shockingly, this is not a theoretical question. It is a daily reality coming from Haaretz. What was once provocation in its pages — then stridency — has now become pure and simple hatred of Israel.
An assortment of recent headlines could have been lifted straight out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion: “Stop Living in Denial: Israel is an Evil State” (7/31/16); “Israeli Army Giving its Soldiers a License to Kill” (4/14/16); “Yes, Israel is Executing Palestinians without Trial” (1/17/16). And there are far more.
What do we do make of this; what do we do about it?
We seem to have no moral difficulty saying that when a Palestinian is seen brandishing a knife at Israelis, he or she needs to be stopped, even killed, because of the clear and present danger. However, many concerned citizens are stymied and paralyzed in the face of incitement.
Haaretz’s publisher and “trophy columnists” are neither stupid nor naïve. They know that their words are being used as ammunition by people who wish to harm Israel. Whether this is intentional or not, it is an undeniable effect.
Haaretz is probably hoping that the Israeli government will try to “censor” it, welcoming the opportunity to wrap itself in a mantle of self-righteousness before the Supreme Court. I am not interested in giving it the satisfaction. My interest, and the interest of all Israelis, is to exercise our own freedom of expression by not reading the paper and cancelling our subscriptions — in short, by shunning and shaming it.
If you intend to continue reading Haaretz, you must understand that you are being manipulated. Regard what you read with great skepticism, and make sure that you are getting more perspective from other newspapers.
Make no mistake; there are many good people at Haaretz, Israelis disgusted by the hateful posture of its publisher and owners. I call on these level-headed, decent writers and editors to speak up, to voice their displeasure with the horrific path on which the leadership has put the paper.
Haaretz sees itself as the fearless speaker of truth to power. This is nonsense. These are self-hating, self-promotional narcissists who are happy to throw their countrymen under the bus in the name of their own hateful, all-consuming egos.
I call on all Israelis, and all foreign readers of its English-language edition, to demand that Haaretz cease its demonization of Israel.
Amit Deri is the co-founder and CEO of Miluimnikim b’Hazit, Reservists on Duty.