TEL AVIV — Haaretz is often described as one of Israel’s most influential newspapers, frequently compared to the U.S. “paper of record,” The New York Times.
Both papers share a similar, liberal Zionist viewpoint, but with a major exception: Haaretz is one of the few mainstream media outlets in either country to openly equate Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and its occupation of Palestinian territory with apartheid.
Last August, Haaretz correspondent and senior editor Bradley Burston wrote an editorial entitled, “It’s Time to Admit It. Israeli Policy Is What It Is: Apartheid.” Burston explained that while he once objected to the comparison between Israel and Apartheid South Africa, he now accepted the term could be applied to his home after repeated war crimes and human rights violations:
“This is what has become of the rule of law. Two sets of books. One for Us, and one to throw at Them. Apartheid.
We are what we have created. We are what we do, and the injury we do in a thousand ways to millions of others. We are what we turn a blind eye to. Our Israel is what it has become: Apartheid.”
Since then, Haaretz has repeatedly featured editorials and opinion pieces which reinforce the notion that the Israeli occupation of Palestine is equivalent to apartheid. A September editorial noted that “apartheid policies” and institutional racism “put Israel on the path to becoming a failed state” and, in October, the editorial board accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of having an “apartheid vision” for the future of the country:
“In the real world, outside the realm of speechmaking, Netanyahu is only ready to hold empty and aimless talks with the Palestinians, or to discuss ‘small steps to reduce tension,’ without relinquishing any control on the ground.”
The stance has drawn many Zionist critics, such as the editors of The Algemeiner, a Jewish newspaper in the United States, which accused Haaretz of having an “anti-Israel political agenda” in January. The newspaper stated: “With a circulation as low as 6% market share of Israeli print media according to recent research, Haaretz is utterly unrepresentative of the Israeli public and political system at large.”
Israel’s most popular newspaper is Israel Hayom, a controversial free paper owned by American billionaire Sheldon Adelson that promotes a conservative, Zionist agenda and may have improperly influenced Netanyahu’s reelection.
Despite its relatively small circulation in Israel, Haaretz may reflect a growing dissatisfaction with Israeli policies, according to journalist Ben Norton, writing in August for Mondoweiss. Using Burston’s editorial as an example, he wrote:
“Burston is no anti-Zionist. He served in the Israeli military as a combat medic. Burston also helped to establish a kibbutz. In a 2010 article he identified as ‘a supporter of the idea of a truly democratic Jewish state.’ …
Like many liberal Zionists, nonetheless, Burston is beginning to see more and more signs that the liberal Zionist dream has transmogrified into a nightmare.”
While the paper’s editors may hold a comparatively liberal stance on the ongoing occupation, some opinions presented by the paper remain downright genocidal. A Feb. 15 editorial by Amitai Etzioni, a Haaretz contributor and U.S.-based professor of international relations at The George Washington University, suggested carpet-bombing Beirut, a city of over 2 million civilian residents, as a way for Israel to eliminate the risk of Hezbollah rocket attacks.
In the Feb. 21 episode of the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast, journalist Rania Khalek criticized Etzioni and Haaretz for publishing his shocking proposal.
“This is really shocking,” Khalek said. “[A] very distinguished professor at a major university — you can imagine the backlash if that professor were to write an Op-Ed arguing very explicitly for the flattening of Tel Aviv [in response to the Israeli army’s war crimes].”