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Israel's Communications Minister Threatens Haaretz, Suggests Penalizing Its Gaza War Coverage

12:00 Nov 23 2023 Israel ( יִשְׂרָאֵל0 * دَوْلَة إِسْرَائِيل‎ )

Israel's Communications Minister Threatens Haaretz, Suggests Penalizing Its Gaza War Coverage Israel's Communications Minister Threatens Haaretz, Suggests Penalizing Its Gaza War Coverage
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Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi Credit: Haim Goldberg / Flash 90 Published by Haaret

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi. Published by Haaretz
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by Jasmin Gueta for Haaretz
Nov 23, 2023

Israel's Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi submitted a proposal to take action against Haaretz by ending the publication of government notices in Haaretz. Karhi, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, said the newspaper was "sabotaging Israel in wartime" and was an "inflammatory mouthpiece for Israel’s enemies."

The proposal, which was submitted without being vetted by the ministry's legal adviser, would immediately halt any payments to Haaretz from any state entity within his purview.

Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken responded to Karhi’s proposal by saying, “If the government wants to close Haaretz, that’s the time to read Haaretz.”

Karhi's proposal, which would forbid the publication of official government notices in Haaretz, and would cancel all state employee Haaretz subscriptions – including those held by members of the IDF, the police, the prison service, government ministries and government companies – was sent to Cabinet Secretary Yossi Fuchs.

In a letter to Fuchs entitled, “Taking action against the Haaretz newspaper for the dissemination of lying, defeatist propaganda,” Karhi wrote: “Since the beginning of the war, I have received many complaints that Haaretz has taken an offensive line which undermines the war's goals and disparages the military effort and its social fortitude. It is possible that some of the paper's publications even cross the criminal standard set in those far-flung sections of the penal code reserved for wartime only.”

Karhi added: “The State of Israel is one of Haaretz’s customers, and the government has the power to decide that it isn’t interested in being a customer of a newspaper that is sabotaging Israel in wartime and undermining the spirit of Israeli soldiers and civilians in the face of the enemy.” He noted he was still waiting for his ministry's legal adviser to offer an opinion regarding his proposal, “and I don’t know what it will be.”

The Israeli journalists’ union said in a statement that “the communications minister has lost his way. Karhi, who spent most of his brief tenure in failed attempts to close the public broadcasting corporation, has decided to tame a new target. His new proposal to end all government business with Haaretz is a populistic proposal devoid of any feasibility or logic, and its entire purpose is to garner likes among his political base at the expense of dedicated journalists who are working night and day right now to cover the war."

“We support Haaretz’s journalists, and we’re certain they will continue to do important work for the benefit of Israel and won’t be deterred by Minister Karhi’s stupid, empty threats,” it added.

In his letter, Karhi cited the recently approved emergency regulations that allow the government to take action against foreign media outlets that harm the country.

“It’s inconceivable that at a time when we are taking action against foreign stations, an Israeli newspaper should continue to get a significant share of its funding from the Israeli public while it serves as an inflammatory mouthpiece for Israel’s enemies,” he wrote.

The security cabinet recently authorized Karhi to take action under these regulations against Al Mayadeen, a Lebanese television station affiliated with Hezbollah that also reports from Israel, on the grounds that it harms national security and serves a terrorist organization. Karhi subsequently signed an order blocking the station’s internet channel in Israel and asked the army to issue a closure order for its offices in the West Bank.

However, the cabinet refused to approve his request to close the Qatari station Al Jazeera, in part because of Qatar’s involvement in negotiations for the release of the hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Prominent journalists from around the world have denounced Karhi's threats. CNN's Jake Tapper tweeted: "A push to undermine the free press from the Netanyahu government." The Nation's Jeet Heer wrote: "Haaretz is a great newspaper, needed now more than ever." Yashar Ali, who writes for the Huffington Post and the New York Magazine, wrote in response: "I just subscribed."
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