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
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
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, 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
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
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, the current leader of the 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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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, "Maariv" 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
There follows a concise survey of the Israeli daily press as it is
"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
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.