Communications Minister Threatens Haaretz Newspaper, Penalizing Its Gaza War Coverage

Far-right Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi submitted Friday a proposal to take action against Haaretz by ending the publication of government notices in the daily newspaper. 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.

Close friends: far-right Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Karhi’s Facebook page)

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 army, 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.”

The Israeli journalists’ union said in a statement that “the communications minister has lost his way. Karhi, who spent most of this brief tenure in failed attempts to close the [Kan] 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.”

The Journalists’ Association of Jerusalem also condemned the proposal, calling it petty politics. “We can only note that every media company in Israel has the right to exist according to law without being placed under economic siege because of the opinions it publishes,” they said in a statement. In last month Communications Ministry has shut down the Lebanese Al Mayadeen news channel, but has yet to shutter the Qatar-based Al Jazeera channel, the original target of Karhi’s regulations.