Monday, September 3, 2007

Haaretz and the Supreme Court - 2

As you'll have noticed by now, the attempts to reform the High Court are a recurring theme on this blog (click on the label `Israeli Democracy` and you'll see the entire string). Last week I devoted one post to the way Haaretz is participating in the discussion. This morning saw an interesting development in that sub-plot.

Amos Schocken is the grandson of Zalman Schocken. Zalman was a very wealthy German Jew, an owner of department stores and other enterprises. In 1913, for example, he founded the Schocken publishing house so as to enable Germany's Jews, who were losing their command of Yiddish and certainly Hebrew, to be able to read important Jewish books in German. In 1934 he moved to Mandatory Palestine, well before most German Jews realized they had to get out. In 1939 he purchased the small, and not very important newspaper `Haaretz` as a wedding present for his son, Gershom.

Amos Schocken is the son of Gershom Schocken, who published and edited Haaretz from 1939 until his death in 1990. At one time, back in the 1950s, he was a member of the Knesset representing the Progressive Party (which disappeared long long ago...).

Upon his father's death, Amos became the publisher of Haaretz. As far as I can tell, this is a hi-falutin word for `owner`. Unlike his father, he chose not also to be the editor in chief, but late in 2004 he demonstrated to us all that not being the top editor doesn't mean not being in charge, when he forced out Hanoch Marmari, the editor apparently chosen by his father. The paper's line throughout the 2nd Intifada had been far to left of mainstream, so much so that a number of prominent figures had publicly announced the cancellation of their subscriptions- and eventually Marmari had enough, and left. Amos remained steadfast. Perhaps this was admirable, it certainly didn't make him popular - and it told us something quite fundamental about Haaretz.

All of this is background to clarify today's move. Following the airing of Shlomo Avineri's pro-reform position last week (see that link above), Amos obviously felt that his people at the paper weren't succeeding well enough, so he himself joined the fray. Essentially, this is the heaviest gun the paper has, and his article not only takes a position in the on-going public conversation: it defines, with crystal clarity, what the position of Haaretz is.

I remain, as before, an agnostic ignoramus regarding the proposed constitutional changes themselves. However, I am on the side of those saying that the thought itself, of redefining the positioning of the courts, is not only not heresy, it's actually rather plausible. Schocken's article this morning only reinforces this, because the essence of his thesis is that things have been just fine so for, therefore woe to us if we allow them to be changed. But that is precisely the starting point of the entire discussion: that too many people think that the present situation is actually quite problematic.

No comments: