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Israel Society & Culture:
The Press


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A few years ago the newly-appointed ambassador to Israel of a western European country presented his credentials to the president of the state. After the brief official ceremony, the two exchanged the usual pleasantries. Suddenly the president looked at his watch, begged his guest's pardon, and turned on the radio on his desk.

The ambassador waited patiently while the president listened to what was clearly a newscast and then turned off the radio. “What happened?” asked the ambassador. “Nothing,” replied the president, a little surprised. “I thought that if you turned on the radio, you must have a special reason,” remarked the diplomat. “No,” said the president, “it's a conditioned reflex. If I don't hear the news, I am uneasy for a full hour ' until the next newscast....”

Visitors to Israel are often astounded at the apparently compulsive need of Israelis to listen to the news. Ecclesiastes may have stated that “There is nothing new under the sun,” but Israelis believe the opposite: they look forward to the news every hour on the hour out of a seemingly mystical belief that today is different from yesterday. And the world seems to agree, at least where Israel is concerned: relative to its size, Israel is the world's largest source of news. In no other country are events reported so copiously and in such detail to television viewers and radio listeners, by one of the largest contingents of foreign journalists anywhere in the world.

Israelis are also avid readers of newspapers. Until the 1960s the printed press was the primary provider of news since Kol Israel, Israel Radio—the only station in those days—broadcast only two or three newscasts a day. The papers, as we shall see, also served ideological commentators on current events. Recent years have seen the increased place of radio and television, although Israel still boasts one of the world's highest rates of newspaper readers among the adult population.

The story of the Hebrew press in Israel began nearly a century before the establishment of the state, and indeed decades before the founding of the Zionist Movement. The Hebrew press in Palestine was inaugurated with the publication of the Jerusalem weekly Halevanon in 1863. Its founders were Yoel Moshe Salomon (later a founder of the town of Petah Tikva) and Michael Cohen (who was later a founder of the town Nahalat Shiv'a), both of whom were mitnagdim. About six months later, the premier issue of a second Jerusalem weekly, Hahavatzelet, appeared. Its editor, Rabbi Israel Bak, also set up the first Hebrew printing press in Jerusalem. Hahavatzelet served as the mouthpiece for the hassidic movement in Palestine. Fierce hostility prevailed between the two weeklies and their editors had no qualms about informing on each other to the Turkish authorities about alleged illegal political activity. The upshot was that the authorities shut down both weeklies.

It was not until 1870 that Hahavatzelet, now edited by Bak's son-in-law, Israel-Dov Frumkin, was again permitted to appear. The revitalized weekly immediately launched a campaign against the halukka system, the near-total dependence of the Old Yishuv (The Jewish community in Palestine) on donations from philanthropists abroad. A number of new weeklies saw the light of day in the years that followed, but all failed. Only Hahavatzelet continued to flourish. Frumkin was subjected to a herem - excommunication from the Jewish orthodox community—but undaunted, he continued to publish militant articles. One of his demands was for the community's veteran members to assist refugees from Russia who had arrived in the country following the pogroms of the 1880s. Frumkin also took the part of Yemenite immigrants, who were being exploited by farmers in the Jewish colonies.

In 1882, the man who would become known as the “reviver of the Hebrew language,” Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, arrived in Palestine. Ben-Yehuda was well known to the readers of Hahavatzelet, having contributed to the paper while a student in Paris. He immediately joined its staff, but dreamed of founding his own paper in which he could profound his own views.

His dream was realized in 1885, when Ben-Yehuda took over another weekly, Hatzvi (“Deer”). In contrast to Hahavatzelet, Ben-Yehuda's weekly was more news-oriented and relied less on opinion pieces. Indeed, according to Ben-Yehuda, Hatzvi was a “daily newspaper that appears once a week.” In any event, it quickly became the organ of the new yishuv and of the Zionist camp in the country in general. At the same time, it served Ben-Yehuda in his drive to disseminate a new, spoken Hebrew. It was in Hatzvi that thousands of words renewed or coined by Ben-Yehuda and his colleagues first saw print.

In 1901, Ben-Yehuda at last received a permit from the Turkish authorities to publish his own paper, and Hatzvi became Hashkafa. The very name, meaning “Outlook,” reflected Ben-Yehuda's ambition to emulate the foreign press, where names such as The Observer in England and Observateur in France abounded. Beginning in 1904, Hashkafah appeared twice a week.

The Second Aliyah (wave of Jewish immigration to Palestine), which began arriving in 1904, was largely composed of committed socialists. As such, they had little sympathy for the bourgeois Ben-Yehuda and his paper, which had financial support from Baron Edmond de Rothschild, the new immigrants' bitter ideological foe. In 1907, activists in Hapoel Hatza'ir (“The Young Worker”) established a weekly which bore the name of their movement, and three years later, the Poalei Tzion (“Workers of Zion”) movement began publishing yet another weekly, Ha'ahdut (“Unity”). These publications, which restored an ideological thrust, numbered among their contributors David Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, A.D. Gordon, and many other leaders of the Zionist Movement in Palestine.

Herut (“Freedom”), a Jerusalem-based weekly which began publishing in 1909, edited by Haim Ben-Atar, was considered the mouthpiece of the city's Sephardic community. In 1910, Ben-Yehuda responded by founding the first daily newspaper in Palestine, Ha'or (“The Light”). The responsible editor was Ben-Yehuda's son, Itamar Ben Avi, who had returned from France where he had been working as a journalist for some years.

Eliezer Ben-Yehuda was often criticized for his “sensationalist” editing, expressed mainly in the form of large display headlines. However, such criticism paled in the face of that to which his son was subjected. Accused of gutter journalism and irresponsibility, Ben Avi did not flinch; indeed, the more he was attacked, the more he leaned toward sensationalism. He also introduced technical improvements in Ha'or and gave it an external appearance in line with modern papers abroad.

World War I brought ruinous times for the Hebrew press in Palestine. Only Herut (which had become a daily in 1912) continued to appear regularly. However, immediately after the British conquest of Palestine at the end of 1917, many people who had been exiled by the Turks returned. The Third Aliya got underway and the yishuv grew apace.

In 1919, a group of Jerusalem writers began publishing a daily paper called Hadashot Ha'aretz (“News of the Land”). There was a large turnover among its first editors; however, in 1923 the paper moved to Tel Aviv and Dr. Moshe Glickson was appointed chief editor (a post he held for 14 years.)

Ben-Yehuda was one of the founders of Hadashot Ha'aretz, but soon discovered that he had no common language with his colleagues. The father then joined his son and helped him realize their dream, the establishment of a Hebrew daily, Do'ar Hayom, which from the outset was intended to emulate the famous English paper from which it had borrowed its name, meaning the “Daily Mail.”

At Ha'aretz (the name had been shortened from Hadashot Ha'aretz), most of the editors and journalists were of Russian origin and espoused a liberal-democratic tradition. The paper had no political patron and it tried to adopt a conciliatory role in the acrimonious political feuds that erupted in the yishuv. Do'ar Hayom, in contrast, took a militant and nationalist stand. At the end of 1928, Ze'ev Jabotinsky became its editor for a brief period during which the paper was the organ of the Revisionist Movement, which he headed.

The political left in Palestine did not have a daily paper of its own until 1925, when Davar (which can be loosely translated as “event” or ”word”) was founded by the Histadrut, the General Federation of Labour. Its editor, Berl Katznelson, was a prominent leader and ideologue of the labour movement. Katznelson devoted much work and thought to his paper; its Friday literary supplement attracted some of the most important writers and poets of the period.

Davar signaled the next stage in the evolution of the Hebrew press in Palestine: the party political press. True to the political tradition eastern Europe, the yishuv had atomized into a large number of parties. Each of them considered it a sacred duty to establish its own paper, believing — more shades of eastern Europe — that a daily paper was the most effective means to advance the party's interests an ideology and ensure that its followers received the “correct” educational guidance.

The Revisionist Movement, after failing to convince Itamar Ben Avi to turn his paper into their mouthpiece, founded Ha'am (“The People”) in 1931, but within months it was shut down by the British authorities. They then founded Hayarden (“The Jordan”) and, in 1938, Hamashkif (“The Observer”). Jabotinsky was a steady contributor to these papers, and their editors included his secretary at the time, Ben-Zion Netanyahu, father of Benjamin Netanyahu, one of the leaders of today's Likud party.

The General Zionists at first tried to find their home in Ha'aretz. When the party split in 1936, its right wing set up its own daily Haboker (“The Morning”). Similarly, the national-religious Hamizrachi movement established a paper, Hatzofeh (“The Seer”).

A much-related anecdote in the history of the Hebrew press tells about Baruch Karuh, a night editor on Haboker. In August 1945, on the day following the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, papers around the world, including the Palestine press, headlined the event. But not Haboker. Its headline was about a debate in the central committee of the General Zionist Party. When Karuh was asked by his astonished colleagues to explain the journalistic grounds for his decision, he replied: “I knew that President Truman would not reprimand me for the headline. But I knew equally well that Yisrael Rokach, a leader of the General Zionists, would be with rage if the debate in the central committee was not headlined...”

Karuh, of course, took the issue to its absurd extreme. But the story encapsulates the essence and disposition of some of the major paper during the British mandate period, and indeed during the first two decades following the establishment of the state in 1948.

The Arab disturbances of 1929 generated a huge demand for news. Also pushing in that direction was the Nazis' rise to power in Germany in 1933 and, in the same year, the assassination of Chaim Arlosoroff, a promising young Zionist leader, on the Tel Aviv seafront. Arlosoroff's murder left deep scars in the country's political camps which have not entirely healed to this day. Each side sought to express its views—and “guide” its faithful—in the tumultuous debate, and for that purpose a newspaper was a necessity.

Ha'aretz, the only serious paper that was not subject to party authority, was purchased in 1937 by Shlomo-Zalman Schocken, a German- Jewish multimillionaire with a passion for high culture (he paid a regular salary to the greatest Hebrew writer of modern times, S.Y. Agnon, for the world publication rights to his works). Schocken placed the paper in the hands of his son, Gershom (Gustav), who was its editor in the decades that followed.

Ben Avi's Do'ar Hayom experienced many vicissitudes. Despite his controversial personality (he was aggressive, got involved in fist- fights, and rumours about his private life abounded), Ben Avi was acknowledged to be an original, creative editor. His raucous headlines and sensationalist tone were not completely adopted by the Hebrew press, but their influence was certainly felt. Other technical and editorial innovations which he introduced were also gradually picked up by the party papers.

Do'ar Hayom, for example, was the first paper in Palestine to appear in the morning. Until then all the papers had appeared around noon. The reason was not commercial but technical: the telegraph service in Palestine was prohibitively expensive. Reports sent by Reuters to Egypt via telegraph, for example, arrived in Palestine by train! Not until 1929 did Reuters begin transmitting direct telegraphic reports to the country. Ben Avi was the first to exploit this in order to publish his paper in the morning.

When Do'ar Hayom folded in 1936, after 17 years and long drawn out death throes, it seemed to prove that most of the Jewish population in Palestine still wanted ideological papers which would tell them not only what was happening but would instruct them on what to think about it.

Still, the dream of a non-ideological mass-circulation paper never died. Toward the end of the 1930s, an investor named Kumarov established the first evening paper in Palestine, Yediot Aharonot (“Latest News”), which attempted to emulate the format of the London Evening Standard. However, it soon ran into financial difficulties and Kumarov was forced to sell the paper to Yehuda Mozes, a wealthy land dealer and savant who regarded the paper both as an interesting hobby and as a long-term financial investment.

On the eve of the state's establishment there was a flourishing and vibrant Hebrew press in Palestine, mostly owned by the political parties: Mapai had Davar; Mapam Al Hamishmar(“the Watchman”); the General Zionists Haboker; the Revisionists Hamashkif; the National Relgious Party Hatzofeh; the ultra-orthodox Agudat Israel Hamodia (“The Informant”). In 1947, the Communist party which until then had published a weekly, began putting out a daily paper called Kol Ha'am(“Voice of the People”).

The fact that the press was in the hands of political parties was actually quite convenient for both the papers and their staffs. For the economic burden was borne by the parties and considerations of circulation and sales played only a secondary role. Only Ha'aretz and Yediot Aharonot were free of party dependence.

About three months before the establishment of the state, what came to be known as the “putsch” took place. The chief editor of Yediot Aharonot, Azriel Carlebach, a brilliant publicist and editor, then considered the country's leading journalist, and with him dozens of reporters, editors, administrative personnel and staff of the printing press left Yediot Aharonot overnight and established a new evening paper, Ma'ariv (“Evening”), funded by Oved Ben-Ami, a banker and investor from Netanya. The defectors were certain that Yediot Aharanot would fold, but this was not to be. Displaying resourcefulness and tenacity, Yehuda Mozes and his son Noah filled the vacancies and continued to publish by the skin of their teeth. In the years to come- and indeed to this day—the rivalry between the years to come—and indeed to this day—the rivalry between Ma'ariv and Yediot Aharanot has been one of the central axes around which the Israeli press revolves.

The huge influx of new immigrants the early 1950s radically altered the face of Israel. The party press mobilized to “educate” the newcomers and inculcate in them their own brand of political culture. To further this effort, Mapai, the ruling party, founded a chain of papers in the immigrants' native languages and two papers in simple Hebrew: Omer (“Speaking”), and Lamat'hil (“For the Beginner”). This venture was not a great success. The new immigrants felt deprived as compared with the veteran population, and the party press, whether in their languages or in Hebrew, proved unattractive.

The notion that every party “deserved” its own paper became virtually axiomatic in this period. Even small parties made the financial and organizational effort necessary to establish their own daily. Ahdut Ha'avodah set up Lamerhav (“The Region”), the Progressive Party Zmanim (“Times”). For a time, the minuscule ultra-orthodox Po'alei Agudat Israel party published two dailies, the shortlived Hakol (“The Voice”) in Jerusalem and She'arim (“Gates”) in Tel Aviv.

The heavy hand of the military censor was felt powerfully in those days, indeed, sometimes it effectively silenced the press. Political and security scandals were hushed up. When young Jews were arrested in Egypt in the mid-1950s and accused of committing acts of sabotage at the orders of the Mossad, the press was instructed to write that the charges were without foundation, even though the editors knew differently. Many journalists were outraged by this state of affairs. The authorities responded with a sophisticated invention, unexampled in any other democratic state: the Daily Newspapers Editors Committee. The committee still exists, but its power and status are constantly declining and there are increasing calls for its abolition. The committee meets frequently to hear briefings from senior government and defense establishment officials - on condition they do not publish what they have been told without prior agreement. In the battle against censorship a crucial role was played by the weekly Ha'olam Hazeh (“This World”). It was founded in the 1940s under the name Taysha Ba'erev (“Nine P.M.”) by a Francophile journalist, Uri Kesari, who wanted to get away from the ponderously ideological press and focus more on the lighter side of life—fashion, leisure, entertainment and so on. In 1950, the magazine was purchased by two young crusading journalists, Uri Avneri and Shalom Cohen.

The German-born Avneri had been in his youth a member of the underground. After the war, he joined Ha'aretz as an editorial writer but his ambition was to found a paper that would fight the Mapai establishment, which he considered corrupt and corruptive of the ideals for which his friends had given their lives. Shalom Cohen, who was born in Egypt, believed, together with Avneri, that Israel must try to integrate itself into the surrounding Arab world. In short order Ha'olam Hazeh came to be loathed by the establishment, and by no one more than Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.

The magazine exposed corruption, political and sexual scandals, attacked respected politicians with unprecedented ferocity, and urged the adoption of a foreign and domestic policy completely at odds with the official line.

From the journalistic standpoint, Ha'olam Hazeh was influenced by two world-class weeklies: the American Time and the German De Spiegel (whose founder, Rudolph Augstein, had been a childhood friend of Avneri's). It was the first news publication in Israel to print large photos, artistically cropped. Every word that appeared in the magazine was copy-edited by Avneri, Cohen, and young copy editors for whom Ha'olam Hazeh was their first experience in journalism Some of them, such as Sylvie Keshet and Ziva Yariv, would later make their mark in other papers. Another first for Ha'olam Hazeh was its publication of photographs of nude women, until then something utterly unseen in puritanical Israel.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Ma'ariv virtually controlled the dailies market, its circulation more than double that of all the other papers combined. At the same time, Ha'aretz acquired the leading place among the established population, politicians, the business world and the intelligentsia, which it has kept to this day. The party press was still strong, but its power was waning. Yediot Aharonot lay far behind. It was considered sensational, unreliable. However, Noah Mozes and his cousin, Dov Yudkovsky, an Auschwitz survivor who was ap pointed managing editor and displayed tremendous journalistic an organizational skills, did not despair. They covered the paper's heavy deficits by selling off family assets and with the profits from the “Toto,” a football pool system for gambling on the weekly soccer matches, an idea Yediot Aharonot borrowed from Italy.

Yudkovsky felt that the “Second Israel,” as the new immigrants were dubbed, was alienated from Israeli institutions, including the press, and foresaw that once they had been absorbed in the country the new arrivals would want to read a paper that was completely unidentified with the establishment. Thanks to Yudkovsky's perceptive feel for what was of interest to the Israeli public, Yediot Aharonot was the first paper that put out a daily sports section and a special sports supplement on Sunday. The sports section gained it young readers and in time brought about the demise of the specialize sports papers that had previously filled this gap.

The independent papers grew stronger as a result of the country's improved economic situation in the 1960s. Their circulation rose an their advertising revenue increased exponentially. Coincidentally the decline of the party papers was hastened, as they were unable to cope with the new challenges. Ma'ariv, continued to be the leading paper, but Yediot Aharonot was breathing down its neck. The Mozes Ludkovsky team now launched another innovation: they acquired gifted journalists by offering unusually high salaries. They also devoted more thought to the paper's features and entertainment content. They also expanded the depth of the hard-news section. Reporters such as Yeshayahu Ben-Porat and Shlomo Nakdimon published political scoops that jolted the country, and Baruch Nadel was a groundbreaking investigative reporter who exposed official corruption. Aharon Bachar, who began with Ha'olam Hazeh, brought a new style to the Hebrew press—personal, pungent, sarcastic—and became the country's most popular columnist. Noah Mozes initiated a series of circulation-boosting projects, such as an atlas that was appended to the Friday paper in sections, book offers, and the like. Besides their commercial success, the projects brought Yediot Aharonot prestige—and thousands of new readers.

The face-lift of the Israeli press was accelerated further in the 1970s. The Yom Kippur War of 1973 contributed to the democratization and openness of the media. Journalists who, before the war, had promoted the myth of the invincible, error-immune Israeli army did some serious soul-searching. The kind of lacerating attack on the country's leadership which had earlier been confined primarily to the papers of the opposition parties became legitimate and even dealt in the mass-circulation papers. The 1970s also marked the selection of the process wherein Yediot Aharonot became the country's highest-circulation paper at the expense of Ma'ariv, which seemed to stagnate.

In 1976 there was an attempt to cut into the success of Yediot Aharonot. Eliezer Zhurabin, owner of the thriving “Dahaf” advertising agency, together with other business personalities, set up an evening paper Hayom Hazeh (“This Day”). Its concept was derived from the German Bild: a mass product, sensational, unabashedly right-leaning. Moshe Dayan, who two years earlier had been forced to resign as Minister of Defense following large-scale demonstrations protesting his role in the blunders of the Yom Kippur War, was appointed editor-in-chief.

At first, Ma'ariv and Yediot Aharonot were fearful of the new competitor, but very soon they realized that their apprehensions were unfounded. Zhurabin refused to give his employees tenure, at that time enjoyed by virtually every journalist in the country. The other papers warned their staffs that anyone who “defected” to Hayom Hazeh would not be allowed back. The result was that Zhurabin was forced to hire inexperienced reporters and editors, a situation that was clearly reflected in the product. The paper folded in just four months.

In the 1980s, Yediot Aharonot chalked up unprecedented sales and revenues. The phenomenal success was marred by the death of Noah Mozes in a road accident (1986) and the internecine family feuds that this unleashed. One result was that Yudkovsky unexpectedly resigned and went over to Ma'ariv, which had been purchased by the Jewish-British tycoon Robert Maxwell, who within two years turned out to be an international crook and died in mysterious circumstances.

A major development in the 1980s was the establishment by the dailies of local papers. The Schocken network, created by the owner of Ha'aretz, was the first serious effort in this direction, followed by Yediot Aharonot. The locals furnished small and medium businesses with a relatively cheap advertising outlet. They also introduced a new writing style in the press, direct and sharp, sometimes to the point of brutality. Watching the flourishing local papers and envious of the dazzling commercial success of Yediot Aharonot, a group of industrialists created another chain of local papers, called collectively Rehov Rashi (“Main Street”). They soon discovered, however, that a newspaper could not be run like a socks, noodle, or steel factory and closed down the chain after suffering heavy losses.

Far more serious was the attempt by Amos, the son of Gershom Schocken of Ha'aretz, to set up an evening paper that would capture a substantial slice of the Yediot Aharonot pie. Hadashot (“News”) was a journalist's journal: vibrant, sometimes embarrassingly yellow, at other times excessively highbrow. In any event, it did not find until formula for success and in late 1993, nine years after its founding, it too folded.

At the time of writing, the world of journalism in Israel is being rent asunder by police investigations of alleged wire-tapping at both Ma'ariv and Yediot Aharonot. The editors of both papers, as well as senior staff at Ha'aretz are being rigorously cross-examined and it seems likely that criminal charges will be preferred against several of them before long. This may have enormous repercussions on the future face of Israeli journalism.

There follows a concise survey of the Israeli daily press as it is today:

Yediot Aharonot: Undoubtedly the country's number-one paper. The editor, Moshe Vardi, who studied international relations in London, is the son of the late Herzl Rosenbloom, the paper's editor from 1948 to 1986. The paper's circulation has reached 350,000 on weekdays and more than 600,000 on Friday (the weekend paper). Dimming the success are the bitter quarrels among the stockholders in the Mozes family, although for the moment, the major stockholder, Aharon Mozes, son of Noah, is firmly in the saddle.

Ma'ariv: Its circulation figures—about 150,000 on weekdays and 250,000 on the weekend—show a significant recovery over the past three years. Ma'ariv underwent a series of fluctuations in this period, affecting both its ownership and its editorial policy. Maxwell made Yudkovsky chief editor. Following the former's death, Ma'ariv was acquired by Ya'akov Nimrodi, who made a fortune in Iran during the era of the Shah. His son, Ofer, a lawyer and a Harvard Business School graduate, preferred to become managing editor of Ma'ariv rather than help run his father's other ramified business interests. After the Nimrodis purchased Ma'ariv, Dov Yudkovsky was replaced by Dan Margalit, a veteran reporter (who has to his credit one of the greatest scoops in Israeli history: the exposure of the illegal bank accounts of Leah Rabin in Washington, which forced Yitzhak Rabin to bow out of the premiership in 1977). The current editor is Ya'akov Erez, the paper's former military correspondent.

Ma'ariv's strategy has been to emulate its great competitor in almost every way. The paper adopted a tabloid format and injected colour into its news pages (as Yediot Aharonot had done in 1984 and as Hadashot did from its first day).

Ha'aretz: Its circulation is about 50,000 on weekdays and 60,000 on weekends, but its influence remains far larger than the numbers suggest. The editor, Hanoch Marmari, a graphic artist by education and a former Satirist, pursues the traditional line: no sensationalism, old-fashioned graphics, a great deal of foreign news. The paper's format allows it to get on to a single news page twice as much material as Ma'ariv or Yediot Aharonot. The paper's pride is its op-ed page, which is followed closely by Israel's decision makers.

Ha'aretz traditionally takes an opposition line. (Menahem Begin said once, during his tenure as prime minister, only half in jest, “The last government that Ha'aretz supported was the British mandate...”)

Davar, belonging to the Histadrut (Federation of Trade Unions), has not been able to stem its constant decline in the past two decades. It has a circulation of less than 10,000, and were it not for the massive party subsidies that it received, it would have closed down long ago. Davar has been acquired by its staff as a cooperative and they are now searching for investors. Al Hamishmar, which belonged to the Mapam political party, and suffered similar problems, closed down this year.

Jerusalem Post: This is an English-language daily, but is an integral part of the Israeli press scene. Its founder was Gershon Agron (Agronsky), later a mayor of Jerusalem. For years the paper loyally supported the Mapai/Labour ruling party, but a few years ago it was acquired by the Canadian Hollinger Group, whose owners hold right-wing nationalist views. In the wake of the radical reshuffle that took place, a number of the paper's senior (and dovish) journalists left. The circulation of the Jerusalem Post is small, only about 15,000 daily and 40,000 on the weekend, but its influence exceeds its numbers since it is read by the diplomatic community in Israel and all foreign journalists posted here. The paper also publishes a weekly international edition, read mainly by Jewish subscribers overseas, with a circulation exceeding 40,000.

Hatzofeh, Hamodia, Yeted Neeman, Yom Leyom: The total circulation of these papers, which belong to the various religious parties, is below 5,000. They make no pretense of providing the normal range of services of a daily paper, but serve primarily as mouthpieces for their parties' political and spiritual leaderships.

Globes, Telegraph: These are relatively new daily financial papers (the former was founded five years ago, the latter in 1993), clearly based on London's Financial Times. The editor of Globes is Adam Baruch, a lawyer by education, who previously held senior positions in Yediot Aharonot and Ma'ariv, and exerted considerable influence on the style of many of Israel's young journalists. The editor of Telegraph, Matti Golan, was editor of Ha'aretz. He was also the first editor of Globes. Both financial dailies are put to bed in the late afternoon and are distributed to subscribers' homes or offices in the evening. News stand sales account for only a small percentage of their circulation. It is still too early to assess their strength and influence within the overall array of the Israeli press.

One of the former staples of the Israeli press scene—the clear division between morning and evening papers—is no more. In the 1980s, both Ma'ariv and Yediot Aharonot reached the conclusion that there was no economic logic to putting a paper to bed in the early morning. Today, all the dailies in Israel are put to bed about two in the morning (except for the financial dailies).

Today's Israeli press is lively, dynamic, and free. The government still tries to exert an influence, but with far more caution and sophistication than in the past. In the mid-1980s, the military censors ordered the closure of Hadashot for four days after the paper ran a photograph showing two Arab terrorists being led away for interrogation by agents of the General Security Service, even though, according to an official communique, they had “died of their wounds.” The money affair finally exploded in a tremendous political scandal, and the government learned the lesson the hard way. Cooperation between the press and the government still exists on sensitive issues on which there is a national consensus, such as immigration from countries of distress. However, even here, experience shows that if the press does not publish the story, members of Knesset—who endorse parliamentary immunity as members of Knesset—are likely to.

Since the 1970s, radio and television have become serious competitors in supplying news. After the Yom Kippur War, Kol Israel began broadcasting some twenty newscasts a day. Galei Zahal (Army Radio was the first to “cut in” to its regular programmes to report on breaking news. The state television station (Channel One) until recently made do with one news programme a day, but now broadcasts breakfast news and a late-night bulletin. The commercial television station (Channel Two), which began operating in late 1993 also has its own news division, as does Educational Television, in a highly-regarded programme, “Erev Hadash” (“A New Evening.”) Moreover, cable television provides instant access to CNN, BBC, and Sky News, as well as news programmes in a host of other languages.

Commercial television in Israel is still in its infancy and its impact cannot yet be gauged. Probably television will cut into the advertising revenues presently enjoyed by the dailies, especially Yediot Aharonot and Ma'ariv. Still, it should be noted that these two papers are senior partners in two of the three commercial television companies.

Writ large, the development of the Israeli press in the past and its situation in the present reflect the processes undergone by the Zionist enterprise and by the State of Israel in the past seventy years: from a small community holding unshakable views, with a rigid eastern European political culture in which ideology was dominant, to a democratic state in which the political culture is more pluralistic and closer in spirit to that of western Europe.


Sources: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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