|A column by Gideon |
Levy's during the
war led to a mass
21 September '14..
Last Friday (Sept. 12), Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken hosted an unusual meeting with more than 100 Israelis out of a reported total of 600 subscribers who recently cancelled their subscription to the daily paper. The mass cancellation was widely regarded by the Israeli media as a response to a July opinion piece by Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy attacking the morality of Israeli pilots participating in Operation Protective Edge:
I would like to meet the pilot or the operator of the drone who pushed the death button. How do you sleep at night, pilot? Did you see the pictures of the death and destruction you sowed – on television, and not just in the crosshairs? Did you see the crushed bodies, the bleeding wounded, the frightened children, the horrified women and the terrible destruction you sowed from your sophisticated plane? It’s all your doing, you excellent young man.
The Seventh Eye, an Israeli media watchdog, published a detailed account of the meeting, which ended in a mass walkout by the audience.
Things started smoothly enough, with the crowd granting a warm reception to both Schocken and Haaretz Editor Aluf Benn as the two described the paper's liberal policy. Benn reassured: "We are not the United Nations, we are Israelis, we live within Israeli society, and as such we covered the events that happened to the Israeli side."
Things quickly unraveled, however, once the floor was opened to questions from the audience. The Seventh Eye reported:
Zuzovsky says he was a Haaretz subscriber for a total of 60 years, and had canceled his subscription twice – both times because of Gideon Levy. His wife, Zuzovsky said, was the widow of an Air Force pilot, and he cannot bring home a newspaper comparing her grandchildren's grandfather to murderers.
The "Seventh Eye" describes how the atmosphere in the meeting slowly devolved from a high cultured social tête-à-tête to a no holds barred tit-for-tat:
The exchanges with the publisher shattered any sense of hierarchy in the room. “No one canceled his subscription because of Nehemia Strassler,” [a Haaretz economics writer] shouted someone in the hall. “Yes!” screamed other members of the audience [in agreement]. “There were those,” says Schocken. “There were not! None!” one shouted back.” “Let's try to keep the order," pleaded Schocken.
Another audience member announced he will not renew his subscription of 39 years until Levy apologizes. The next, who identified himself as a Haaretz reader for 35 years, announced theatrically that he will turn his back to the stage and only then speak. He is received with applause. He demanded Levy's apology as a condition to renew his subscription. Various other speakers, including ex-pilots, echoed similar sentiments to loud applause.
As members of the agitated audience left the room, those remaining heckled Schocken who admonished: "You were Haaretz subscribers, you can be ‘Haaretz unsubscribers’ but we can still talk like civilized people." The diminished crowd grew increasingly hostile as the publisher argued that Levy was had been proven right when he wrote a similar article in the past. Finally, Schocken gave up on the possibility of convincing many to renew their subscriptions, and the former Haaretz readers left the room.