Israeli newspapers
Israeli newspapersYonatan Sindel/Flash90

The most frustrating aspect for a Gentile of defending Israel is realizing that the nation one defends is shamelessly defamed by its own citizens. That is the reason I suspended my Hasbara engagement on social media and why a pro-Israel Pakistani friend did likewise, considering absurd the danger of drawing the attention of his country’s secret police in order to defend a foreign country that tolerates a fifth column.

Imagine defending Great Britain in America at the height of the London Blitz, while London’s most prestigious newspaper claims that Winston Churchill is a warmonger; that successive British governments rebuffed any reasonable accommodation with Hitler; and that British racism is even worse than Nazi racism.

Can anyone imagine with what delight such columns would have been welcomed by Charles Lindbergh, Father Coughlin, and all other antisemites eager to welcome Hitler’s "New World Order"?

Great Britain was proudly democratic and Churchill was a goy, yet there is no chance either would have been foolish enough to tolerate pro-Nazi propaganda from any inch of British soil.

And yet Israel does so, ignoring the tremendous toll of homegrown pro-enemy propaganda on Israel’s diplomatic and military position abroad and at home.

Haaretz is universally viewed as Israel’s most prestigious daily newspaper: The newspaper of Israel’s intellectual and academic elites, and its moral conscience. Haaretz is the one Israeli newspaper State Department officials, European diplomats in Brussels, and foreign journalists in Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem read every day.

After scanning through Haaretz articles for almost three decades, I am certain that no other media outlet in the world has done more to tarnish the good name of Israel, Zionism, and the Jewish people.

During decades, Haaretz has branded Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria as religious fanatics; during decades, Haaretz has portrayed any party to the right of Meretz as a racist Jewish supremacist movement; during decades, every single Israeli mistake and misdeed has been publicized and amplified to give the impression that Israel is even more guilty than Fatah and Hamas for the absence of peace in the Holy Land.

Should we really be surprised that international bigwigs like Antonio Guterres, Francesca Albanese and many others blame Israel for October 7th?

Haaretz may not openly blame Israel for this massacre, yet almost all its articles and op-eds in the run-up to October 7th imputed virtually all iniquities in the Holy Land to Jewish misdeeds. The anti-Semitic opinions of Mr. Gutierres and Ms. Albanese essentially reflect the cumulative effect and impact of trusting and taking Haaretz seriously.

A short overview of reader comments and likes in the English-language edition of Haaretz demonstrates that this publication is a magnet for shameless anti-Semites. We are not talking of anti-Bibi remarks, post-Zionist opinions or even views sympathetic to Palestinian Arab suffering. We are talking of countless comments denouncing Judaism, the Talmud, and Jewish "chosenness" and "supremacism".

A sensible country would have shut down Haaretz on October 8th.

Yet Israelis seem to no longer strive for sensibility.

Discussing this issue with Israelis, three main arguments have been voiced to defend the right of Haaretz editors to defame Israel.

The first argument is that Israel is a democracy and that for this reason freedom of expression is sacrosanct.

The truth is that freedom of expression is always relative. America’s first constitutional amendment expressly champions free speech. However, no American publication would have allowed any of its columnists to claim a few weeks after 911 that American actions in Afghanistan were more cruel and immoral than destroying the World Trade Center.

Is America not a liberal democracy? Was October 7th for Israel proportionately not far bloodier than 911 for America? Is Israel since October 7th less at war than America after 911?

The second argument justifying Haaretz‘ right to support the enemy is that Israel is a Jewish State and that therefore the actions and example set by Gentile nations is not just irrelevant, but a reason to behave differently.

Personally, I am a great admirer of Jews‘ instinctive propensity to first examine their own actions and mistakes before blaming others. That is why in times of peace I respected Israel for allowing Haaretz to trash Israel every week from the heart of Tel Aviv.

However, as welcome and as healthy as self-criticism is in peace times, it requires red lines and consideration for the likely consequences of this criticism. When Haaretz columnists claim every day that Netanyahu and his cabinet kill innocent people to improve their position in opinion polls; when article after article highlights the plight of a population while hiding the fact that it festively celebrated October 7th, it should come as no surprise that Israel’s international position is increasingly precarious.

All these libels are read and relayed by international journalists, diplomats, and politicians.

And that is where the third argument in defense of Haaretz is absurd: "Very few Israelis take Haaretz seriously anymore."

Amos Oz once wittingly remarked that "Israel is the country where 9 million people have their own opinion, and 9 million people don’t care about anyone else’s."

Sure enough, Israelis can ignore the libels, half-truths and outright distortions of Haaretz journalists. However, the world takes them at face value and extremely seriously.

It is interesting to see how the stories that Haaretz reports appear a few days later in mainstream newspapers overseas. Since most foreign journalists in Israel speak neither Hebrew or Arabic, Haaretz provides them in English with all the scoops and scandals about Israel they thirst for.

Allowing Haaretz to defame Israel unfettered is akin to allowing Hamas‘ al-Aqsa TV to report live from Dizengoff Square or the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades to open a recruitment office in Umm al-Fahm. Arguably, the danger of doing so would be far smaller since Israeli security services would avert any resulting security risk.

Israelis must act against Haaretz.

The devil of how to do so hides in the details: If a cabinet minister calls for Haaretz to be shut down, two-thirds of the Jewish Diaspora will denounce the "fascist ideology" behind this call.

There is a far simpler and more effective solution: Name, shame, and boycott every single Israeli company that buys advertising space on any Haaretz Group publication.

Highlight how companies funding Haaretz are complicit in the death of Israeli civilians and soldiers, in the strengthening of Hamas, and in the libels and international defamation of Zionism and Israel.

After this campaign starts, I am sure that Gideon Levy, Amira Hass and Co. will be laid off and will soon start writing for Electronic Intifada.

If not now, when?

P.S. Given the immense value of Haaretz for Hamas and Fatah, it is truly astounding that Israel never bothered to open an Arabic-language radio station aimed at eroding support for Hamas in the Gaza Strip. A couple of million shekels devoted to providing Gaza residents with news about Hamas abuse and corruption scandals and good music and entertainment would have helped discredit Hamas in the eyes of many Gaza residents. Furthermore, anonymous calls from Gaza residents during live broadcasts could have provided Israeli intelligence services with invaluable information about the Gaza Strip.