Editor's Notes: The new press war
Israel has become well-known for its varied, thriving and boisterous media.
Free Yediot Aharanot newspapers Photo: Courtesy: Susie Weiss
Forget about Iran’s nukes and Hamas’s rockets! Instead of spotlighting the
existential threats posed by Israel’s external enemies, the local media are
firing salvoes at each other.
In one corner are the daily tabloid
Ma’ariv, and Channel 10 television, which are both fighting possible closure,
and in the other, the left-leaning Haaretz and TheMarker (both owned by the
Schocken family), also seeking to stay afloat in the drowning world of print
Ma’ariv, the third-largest newspaper in Israel after Israel
HaYom (the freebie owned by US businessman Sheldon Adelson) and Yediot Aharonot
(owned by the Mozes family), announced on Sunday that it planned to halt its
daily print edition and continue only with Internet news. The announcement was
made by the financially strapped IDB Holding Corp., owned by Nochi Danker, who
also has the controlling shares in Ma’ariv.
The first shot in the new
media war was fired on Sunday by TheMarker’s Eytan Avriel, in an op-ed titled,
“Everything you need to know about the Ma’ariv crisis and didn’t know who to
Here are excerpts from the article, which cleverly hides a highly
opinionated article in an apparently neutral question- and-answer format:
did Ma’ariv get into enough trouble to bring it to the brink of closure?
Ma’ariv’s financial situation has been going downhill for many years, and
accumulated losses on its balance sheet have now reached NIS 1 billion. Unlike
Yediot Aharonot, Ma’ariv wasn’t particularly profitable even as far back as the
late 1990s. Over the past decade it suffered heavy losses under Ofer Nimrodi’s
poor management and due to not claiming any particularly substantial niche in
the news industry.
What brought on Ma’ariv’s severe decline over the past
few months? Perhaps it was Israel HaYom’s appearance on the scene?
In fact, it
wasn’t due to anything in particular. Ma’ariv already began suffering annual
operating losses of NIS 70 million to NIS 100m. five years ago. Well before
Israel HaYom became the leading player in the newspaper market, Ma’ariv was
already operating without a solid business model, dependent on fund-raising and
loans for its survival.
Didn’t Nochi Dankner, chairman of IDB, understand
this when he bought it in June of last year?
Dankner wasn’t interested in the
paper’s business model. He just wanted to buy power and influence. His implicit
influence over Yediot Aharonot – from the advertising budgets of IDB Holding
Corp. companies – apparently didn’t satisfy him. He wanted the entire economy,
especially the regulators, government and press, to know he owns a newspaper and
can thereby influence their fate.
Perhaps he also believed what he read
in the media about himself and his managerial talents, thinking he could make
something of Ma’ariv where Nimrodi and others had failed.
Caspit fired back at Haaretz in an article on Monday titled, “The prosecutor,
judge and hangman.”
“So long as Haaretz continues its attempt to destroy
media in Israel to save itself, it is losing its own right of existence,” Caspit
wrote in the underline.
Here are excerpts from his piece.
Haaretz, they say that Ma’ariv mustn’t be saved. They have been saying this for
some time. They say it in the air, at sea and on land, 24 hours a day, 365 days
Today I went over some of the articles in Haaretz about Ma’ariv,
and the penny suddenly dropped. If Haaretz were to give Ma’ariv the amount of
paper it is using to bring down Ma’ariv, we would have been rescued some time
ago. But our friends in Haaretz have no desire to save Ma’ariv. Their goal is
quite the opposite.
They want to kill Ma’ariv and they are investing all
their energies to make this happen.
It is an orchestrated, evil, bullyish
and charlatanic campaign by one newspaper in Israel to cause the closure of
There are those who maintain that Haaretz is not even
an Israeli newspaper, but I am not one of them. I want Haaretz to continue to
exist. Even though the newspaper sometimes causes Israel heavy damage (Haaretz
has an Internet site in English that contains essential reading for any
anti-Israel delegitimization campaign). Even though you ask yourself many times
whether Haaretz has lost its faith in the Zionist dream and the idea of a Jewish
Still, Haaretz is an important newspaper with gifted and talented
journalists, and it would be a disaster for democracy, for freedom of expression
and for the media and our society if it closed. I don’t want Israel without
Haaretz. I ask myself why Haaretz wants Israel without Ma’ariv?
Amid the crisis
facing the Israeli media today, Caspit cites a column last week by Haaretz’s Ari
Shavit, arguing that what is needed now is for the local media to band together
in the struggle to stay alive.
Israel has become well-known for its varied, thriving and
boisterous media. For the sake of their future and the country’s, they might
consider calling a truce in their internal war, and concentrate instead on
addressing the really pressing problems confronting us.