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Who’s who in Israel’s print media

Ittay Flescher
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One of Israel Hayom’s distinctive newspaper vendors (Amir Cohen, Haaretz)

Published: 12 December 2023

Last updated: 13 March 2024

In the second of a three part series on Israel’s media landscape, ITTAY FLESCHER explores the world of print and website media.

Moments after the seat tally of Israel's 2015 elections was released, Haredi journalist and author Yitzik Crombie shared a tweet he called “the real election results". Instead of listing parties, it listed names of newspapers and how many each had “won” for their readers. Israel Hayom has obtained 30 seats for Likud, all the way down to Haaretz who managed four seats for Meretz.

The tweet went viral because it illustrated how Israel’s newspapers have essentially become cheer squads for certain parties or ideologies. Nuance or diversity is far less important than catering to one’s base.

Israel's most popular newspapers and websites, in order, are Yedioth Achronot, Israel Hayom, Maariv, B’Sheva and Haaretz.

The Jewish Independent

There are also smaller sector outlets that speak to the diversity of Israeli society. These include Hamodia and Yated Neeman (Haredi), Makor Rishon (Religious Zionist), Al Quds, Al Arab and Al-Ittihad (Arab/Palestinian), and Vesty and Novosti Nedeli  (Russian language).

In English, the offerings range from  +972 Mag (far left website), Haaretz (capitalist left) and Davar (workers’ left) to Times of Israel (centrist but Netanyahu- critical) to Jerusalem Post (right), and Israel National News (far right settler).

The Jewish Independent

Yedioth Ahronoth – The leader of the pack

Israel’s most widely read newspaper is a classic daily tabloid with front-page drama headlined in a bold black font. It regards celebrity and human interest as more important than political analysis, and offers diverse topics including sport to tech and many columns on TV, culture and travel. While not a left-wing paper, it’s generally seen as being highly critical of Netanyahu.

In 2017 it was revealed that Netanyahu had three meetings with its publisher and editor Arnon Mozes, during which Netanyahu claimed that if Mozes made Yedioth's coverage more favourable, Netanyahu would limit the distribution of its main competitor, Israel Hayom. This led to the opening of "Case 2000", one of the ongoing corruption investigations against Netanyahu.

Yedioth Ahronoth is part of the enormous Yediot media company, which also includes the most popular Israeli news site on the web, ynet.co.il, the economic newspaper Calcalist, the women’s magazine Ha’Isha, the Russian language site Vesty, and the publishing company Yediot Books.

Its most popular and notable columnists and commentators include Ron Ben Yishai, Sima Kadmon, Nadav Eyal, Ben Dror Yemini and former Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich. Its house cartoonist Gur Morad almost never fails to capture the zeitgeist.

Gur Morad’s poignant view of Israel’s 75<sup>th</sup> anniversary, published in Yedioth Achranoth
Gur Morad’s poignant view of Israel’s 75th anniversary, published in Yedioth Achranoth

Arguably its most famous and influential columnist is Nahum Barnea. A winner of the 2007 Israel Prize for Communications, he broke the story of the behind-the-scenes of the UAE-Israel agreement, exposing a deal for the sale of F-35 aircraft and advanced UAVs to the UAE. The story led many to suspect the famed Abraham Accords were far more about weapons deals than Middle East peace.

Following the death of famed poet Naomi Shemer in 2004, Barnea wrote a highly controversial column about the poet who is most well known as the lyricist of Yerushalyim Shel Zahav. “The land of Israel was for her a one-nation land, devoid of conflicts, devoid of minorities,” wrote Barnea. “A one-sided deal for Jews alone. Even the wars to which we went out on with her songs were one-sided. It was not an enemy facing us, but a virgin land waiting to be conquered.”

In a 2018 column, he described the Jewish Nation State Bill as the anti-Israeli. "It is morally, historically and practically bankrupt and it shows complete disregard for our Druze brothers who carry Israeli ID cards and who serve loyally when called upon to defend the nation. There is nothing Israeli about the law,” he wrote.

The Jewish Independent

Israel Hayom – The “Bibiton” that soured

Walk the streets of almost any main road in a Jewish city in Israel around 8am, and before you see the first falafel stand open, you will see a middle-aged man in a red hat and jumpsuit handing out a free newspaper.

Israel Hayom is a daily owned by the family of Sheldon Adelson, a personal friend and benefactor of Benjamin Netanyah. When launched in 2007, it was widely seen as nothing more than a mouthpiece for Netanyahu, dubbed the “Bibiton” by its detractors.

Sami Peretz wrote in Haaretz that, “Israel Hayom gave Netanyahu the most precious gift he ever received. The newspaper played a part in his success in becoming Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. But the newspaper also played a part in distorting his thinking when it came to his preoccupation with media outlets. He allegedly concealed his friendly ties with Elovitch, intervened and tried to find buyers for Yedioth Ahronoth, tried to organize the TV market and bring in players who would support him, and behaved as he did toward Yedioth Ahronoth, Walla and Army Radio.”

All this changed in 2022 with the rise of Naftali Bennet to power and the death of Sheldon Adelson. While the paper is still right-wing, it has shifted away from Netanyahu, and today it’s very common to see on the front page stories critical of his management style and of the outrageous statements of his coalition partners. The change coincided with the departure of editor Boaz Bismuth, now a Likud MK.

The paper’s most popular columnists illustrate the more diverse views the paper now showcases: Sarah HaEztni Cohen of the right-wing My Israel movement is highly critical of the protests against the government and the Palestinian struggle against the occupation; Avi Bareli is deeply critical of the Supreme Court; and Dan Margalit views the protesters who stand up for the judges as national heroes.

The Jewish Independent

Maariv – Tough on corruption, gentle on the right

Maariv began with the founding of the State in 1948, when legendary Yedioth Editor Ezriel Carlebach broke away over an editorial disagreement and formed his own newspaper.

The rival papers began an ongoing battle for circulation and prestige which peaked during the 1990s when both papers were discovered to have bugged one another's phones.

Today, Maariv, which publishes daily but is strongest in its weekend edition, has only has 5.6% of the weekend readership, a far cry from its heyday when it dominated the news business.

Over the past decade, Maariv has become a more serious paper, although it retains a tabloid format. Its front page is now full of text in the form of article openings and opinion pieces. Its most popular columnists include Kalman Liebskind, Natan Zahavi, Miki Levin and Lilac Sigan.

Most influential is Ben Caspit. With 364K followers on X, his often humourous, sarcastic and biting tweets criticising and shaming Netanyahu often go viral on social media. Netanyahu sued Caspit after the journalist claimed Netanyahu had acted to benefit the spouse of a member of the team responsible for overseeing pending court cases against him. The case was settled out of court in May.

Maariv has been vocal on corruption and gentle on the right. It ran a campaign called "Where's the Shame?" stirring protests against rampant corruption in 2005.

During the withdrawal from Gaza, it praised the opposition orange movement as an exemplary democratic protest.

Maariv is owned by Eli Azur, who also owns the Jerusalem Post. Both papers were hacked by Iran on the anniversary of the assassination of top general Qassem Soleimani in 2022.

The Jewish Independent

B’Sheva – The voice of the settlers

If Betzalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir were newspaper editors, the paper they would produce would look like this one.

B’Sheva, published by the pro-settler news organization Arutz Sheva, is distributed free on Thursdays in religious population centres. The largest circulation paper in the religious sector, it is read by 130,000 families, mostly on Shabbat when they don’t use electronic devices.

B’Sheva has considerable influence on public opinion in the religious-nationalist public, including their MKs. It takes a clear and confident ideological line in its path but at the same time is open to a variety of opinions on politics and society.

It is vocal in support of settlers and in 2005 supported the soldiers’ refusal of orders to evacuate settlements in Gaza.

The Jewish Independent

Haaretz – The voice of the secular left

Founded in 1918, Haaretz is one of the longest-running newspapers currently in print in Israel. Its Hebrew readership is small but its English website, despite a paywall and more limited offerings, is internationally influential.

Stephen Glain of The Nation described Haaretz as "Israel's liberal beacon", citing its editorials voicing opposition to the occupation and to the discriminatory treatment of Arab citizens. Since the October 7 War began, Haaretz journalists Sheren Falah Saab and Amira Hass have been the only columnists in any Israeli newspapers to regularly feature images and personal stories about Gazan victims of the war. The rest of the Hebrew-speaking media have avoided publishing humanising stories about Gazan civilians. 

Haaretz has been owned by the Shocken family since its establishment. Its founder Salman Schocken, a Jewish businessman who left Germany in 1934, was active in Brit Shalom, a body supporting co-existence between Jews and Arabs, a position the paper maintains.

The paper is famous for its editorial page, where almost every columnist at Haaretz writes from various shades of a left-wing outlook. The exceptions are Nave Dromi and Israel Harel, who take more centrists positions.

Two years ago, journalist Noa Landau founded “Haaretz 21” an initiative aimed at amplifying underrepresented voices and stories of Arab communities in Israel. Since that time, Palestinian writers such as Yanal JabarinHanin Majadli and Sheren Falah Saab have had their writing featured regularly on the prestigious op-ed pages of Haaretz.

Haaretz is also strong on its coverage of the Diaspora. In July 2022, Haaretz journalist Judy Maltz ran a series of four articles about Australian Jewry, the most talked about of which had the headline, “Why Young Australian Zionists Are Backing the pro-Palestinian Greens.”

Haaretz is a strong supporter of the pro-democracy movement and has targeted protestors as subscribers with the slogan ”Democracy doesn't end at elections.”

A people of the newspaper

Palestine’s first daily publication, Ha-Zvi, was founded by Eliezer Ben Yehuda in 1909, with the support of Baron Rothschild. The newspaper was well-known support of the new Jewish migrants to Israel. At its peak, it sold 1,200 copies a day.

Today, the Hebrew press is still highly respected. The offices of main papers are celebrated through their street names, which recognise publishers and editors. Haaretz is on Schocken St, Yedioth is on Mozes St and for years the old Maariv building was on Carlebach Street.

Since 1909, hundreds of papers have come and gone in the Jewish State. While it’s often said that Jews are the people of the book, given the centrality and diversity of the news media in Israel, it can also be said in 2023, that we are also the people of the newspaper.


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ITTAY FLESCHER explains the ideological and commercial context of outlets and personalities creating Israel’s news.

Israelis aren't seeing the devastating pictures Australians see from the war in Gaza. They're watching a sanitised war (ABC)
There are two wars going on in Gaza right now — the one the Israeli public is watching and the one the rest of the world is watching.

About the author

Ittay Flescher

Ittay Flescher is the Jerusalem Correspondent for The Jewish Independent. For over twenty years, he has worked as an educator, journalist, and peacebuilder in Melbourne and Jerusalem. He is the co-host of the podcast ‘From the Yarra River and the Mediterranean Sea' and the author of the upcoming book ‘The Holy and the Broken.’ He is also the Education Director at a youth movement that brings together Israeli and Palestinian teenagers who believe in building equality, justice, and peace for all.

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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