Anti-Semitism in the Israeli Press

Michael Freund,

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Michael Freund
Michael Freund served as Deputy Communications Director in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office under Binyamin Netanyahu during his first term of office. He is the Founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel (, a Jerusalem-based organization that searches for and assists the Lost Tribes of Israel and other "hidden Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people. In addition, Freund is a correspondent and syndicated columnist for the Jerusalem Post, and authors a popular blog on Middle East affairs, Fundamentally Freund. A native New Yorker, Freund is a graduate of Princeton University and holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia. He has lived in Israel for the past 19 years and remains a loyal New York Mets fan....

One of the most worrisome - and least known - developments in Israel in recent years is the tendency of some Israeli writers and journalists to spew forth anti-Semitic venom on par with that of our foes.

When a prominent journalist in Ha'aretz says that Israel exploits the Holocaust for political gain, or when an Israeli writer in Yediot Aharonot says that the Jews are acting like Pharaoh, it is time for all of us to wake up and take notice.

These types of anti-Jewish tirades, which I describe in the article below, only serve to give ammunition to anti-Semites and neo-Nazis everywhere, who can now more easily defend themselves by saying: hey, what do you want from me? I was only quoting Ha'aretz, etc.

It is essential that we speak out and protest against this trend, and demand that Israel's media stop serving as a platform for Jewish self-hatred. We already have plenty of enemies out there as it is - there is no reason for Israel's media to be playing along with them.

The Jerusalem Post, April 21, 2005

Global Anti-Semitism Goes Local?

By Michael Freund

The global rise in anti-Semitism over the past several years has left few parts of the world unscathed. From Western Europe to the Arab countries, Jews have become the targets of renewed vitriol and fury, leading various Jewish organizations to intensify their efforts to monitor and track this growing and worrisome trend.

But for all the attention being paid to international outbursts of anti-Semitism, there is one place in the world where this phenomenon has largely gone overlooked: right here in the State of Israel, under our very own (Jewish) noses.

That's correct – there is anti-Semitism here in Israel, too, and plenty of it. If you find this hard to believe, then just take a look at some of what appears in the local press and decide for yourself.

Take, for example, an article that ran this past Sunday in Haaretz. Zvi Barel, one of the paper's correspondents, wrote a piece entitled "To find shades of the old Harlem, or a Jewish Sadr City, look to Hebron." His main point: to compare the Jews living in Hebron's Avraham Avinu neighborhood with Iraqi Shi'ites in Baghdad who carry out terrorist attacks against US troops in the area.

Barel is, of course, entitled to his opinion about the Jews of Hebron, but to compare them to followers of renegade Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is simply twisted and hate-filled demagoguery.

Don't find it sick or offensive? Well, then, how about this from Amira Hass, writing in Haaretz on March 21: "Israel has turned the liquidation of Europe's Jews into an asset. Our murdered relatives are being enlisted to enable Israel to continue not giving a damn about international decisions against the occupation."

The last time I checked, accusing Israel of exploiting the Holocaust for political gain is considered to be blatant anti-Semitism. Indeed, just last month, the Anti-Defamation League released a report on anti-Semitism in the Arab press, noting with dismay that "many newspaper articles accused Jews of using the Holocaust to justify the persecution of others."

Yet, that is precisely what Hass herself was doing. And if you don't believe me, just check out the headline of her article: "Using the Holocaust to ward off criticism."

The anti-Jewish tirades in Israel's media don't end there. In a pre-Pessah article in Yediot Aharonot recently, one writer mused, "That which the Egyptians did to us, along with many other nations throughout our long history, we are now doing to the Palestinians."

That's right – the Jews are cast as Pharaoh and his evil taskmasters, playing the role of villains who enslave others.

And how about this pearl from Ma'ariv last October: "There is one principal difference between the ayatollahs in Iran and rabbis in Israel. There, religious rulings are compulsory; here they are merely a recommendation. But as the need and the response to such recommendations increases, so too the differences grow blurred."

The writer, one Moshe Gorali, was criticizing various rabbis for their opposition to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Gaza withdrawal plan. Apparently, he saw nothing wrong with comparing Israel's sages to the fanatical rulers in Teheran, the very same ayatollahs who seek Israel's destruction.

It would be easy to dismiss the rantings of such people as little more than angry rhetoric, the journalistic equivalent of those who spray offensive graffiti on the sides of buildings.

But to do so understates just how dangerous such hatred can be. If Israel's own newspapers are filled with anti-Semitic rhetoric, then how can we expect anything better from our neighbors? And the fact that the people who write such horrible things in the Israeli media also happen to be Jewish should in no way excuse the gravity of what they do. An article should be judged to be anti-Semitic on the basis of what it says, and not because of the religious beliefs of the person who wrote it.

It is therefore time for Jewish groups worldwide to consider adding a new section to their reports on global anti-Semitism, and to start monitoring some of the odious and hateful language that appears in Israel's own press.

As news consumers, it is our responsibility to raise our voices in protest whenever anti-Jewish rhetoric rears its head. We should flood Israeli newspapers that print anti-Semitic venom with phone calls, letters to the editor and protests, just as we would any other newspaper around the world.

Simply because the Israeli media operate in a Jewish country does not place them above criticism, or excuse their decision to publish what no one else would dare to say.

In the age of the Internet, when every newspaper has a potentially global audience, there is no telling just how far anti-Jewish sentiments can reach. The hatred may start at home, but it won't necessarily end there.

And that is why, now more than ever, we must do our utmost to bring about an end to the self-loathing and self-hate that is so rampant among us.