For many American Jews, having Israel be part of Jewish identity means an obsession with following the intimate details of a country 6,000 miles away. Whether good or bad, that’s just the way it is, and even non-Jewish news sources spend a lot of time poring over Israel.
But what’s the best way to be well informed about Israeli politics and broader trends in the region? Hint: not the New York Times, the Washington Post, or anybody else. If you want local, go local.
That’s why I think it’s so important to know about the different English-language Israeli news outlets that exist. So many conversations about Israel, amongst Jews and outside of the community, tend to be misinformed no matter the political view or opinion. America is, after all, a very large island far away from the rest of the world, and unfortunately, that means a lot of misunderstanding about things that aren’t America.
So below is a personal, and unavoidably biased, guide to English-language Israeli news outlets to check out, recommended to anyone who feels that Israel is part of their identity (cause knowing things is good). The outlets span different politics, provide different voices of Israeli society in their opinion sections, and vary in their dedication to the “truth,” whatever that may be.
Lifehack: Follow at least two different newspapers that are listed here to get a more accurate perspective on the news. Also, go to their Facebook pages, click on the “follow” tab, and select “see first” to have the news be visible in your news feed. Reading headlines is an easy way to stay updated, and it takes only a second to scroll past the stories.
I won’t lie here: I don’t read +972 Magazine, other than the rare article that comes across my Facebook feed. But I do think they’re an important voice, unabashedly on the political left, born to do progressive activist journalism that focuses almost exclusively on problems in Israel. Be it refugee issues, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or any other social justice-related issue, +972 covers it with a critical angle.
So, why am I even writing about a news source I don’t read (and one I happen to personally think is heavily biased)? First of all, because they exist. But also because I don’t need to like them to be able to insist, wholeheartedly, that +972 provides a relevant perspective into the psyche of the Israeli left/far-left.
For Jews on the left, +972 will be a home for Israeli and Palestinian news that includes some strong reporting. For those of us with other political views, it’s a way to broaden our perspective. But regardless, keep in mind that opinion and news are much the same for this news source. Take it as you will.
Haaretz is primarily an Israeli newspaper that just happens to have an English-language part of the business. They also get a bad rap for sometimes wacky opinion pieces, absurd headlines, and struggles to keep their lefty politics out of journalism.
But look past that, if you dare, and you’ll find one of Israel’s oldest journalistic institutions with a talent for incredible reporting.
An example: A few months ago I happened to see an investigative piece about the consequence of Israel selling security-related cyber-tools to countries that abuse them. Programs created for surveillance and the reduction of terrorism become, in the hands of Mexico and others, a way for governments to spy on citizens and dissidents. Haaretz’s investigative piece had accumulated data, interviews, and insider information from around the world for a quality look at a problematic issue. It was an awesome piece of journalism.
While I have to admit that I don’t regularly follow Haaretz, there are many quality investigative reports that they produce on a regular basis. Just for that, they deserve a read, while also representing the views of a more mainstream Israeli political left in the stories and opinion pieces they produce.
The Times of Israel
What happens when a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post splits off from that paper, takes a group of reporters with him, and creates an online-only (dare I say, digital-first?) news organization? The Times of Israel.
Before we go further, I’m biased here because TOI is one of my main news sources (to the point that most of my news about America also comes from them). But screw it, TOI is great (full disclosure: I have written for TOI).
With strong news reporting on a range of Israeli issues, timely output, and truly great investigative pieces, TOI ticks all of my boxes for what I want from the news. Yes, like all real people and human institutions, there is a political leaning – in this case towards the center/center-left. But TOI keeps opinion out of their reporting, with the exception of analysis stories that have a measured perspective to offer, rather than an all-guns-blazing opinion. And those analysis stories give almost unparalleled insight on Israel’s inner workings.
If you do want opinion, however, there’s the variety of guest blogs that TOI offers, with writers coming from all kinds of backgrounds and perspectives (and quality) to engage readers. To be honest, though, I’m mostly over TOI blogs. They became an access point for anyone, genius or monkeybrain, to shove brain thoughts down the internet’s throats (full disclosure: I was one of those monkeybrains).
Ynetnews is like Haaretz, in that Ynet is really an Israeli paper that so happens to have an English-language division. But that’s where the comparison mostly ends.
I love Ynetnews because I feel a truly mainstream Israeli voice in their reporting and opinion pieces. Might that be my imagination? Sure. But even among Israelis, Ynetnews – and its parent company, Yedioth Ahronoth – has a reputation for being a solidly centrist paper with quality reporting. While there isn’t really any investigative reporting on the English side, I find that Ynetnews often catches the news that the other newspapers listed here don’t devote as much time to.
Ynetnews is also an important part of my “truth-finding” experience. Comparing news from TOI, Ynetnews, and The Jerusalem Post gives me a more accurate picture of whatever event has been covered, as details and different sources in one newspaper fills in gaps that I might not have noticed in another paper. Opinion pieces were written by Israelis, for Israelis, also give a crucial perspective on current events.
While politically centrist, Ynetnews is brutally honest about reporting on all aspects of Israel, which I also deeply admire. Oftentimes, Jews outside of Israel don’t know how to speak politics the Israeli way. Ynetnews is a great place to start learning.
The Jerusalem Post
I can’t believe the full disclosures I have to give here: I’ve written for various parts of the JPost machine, happen to live with the deputy managing editor of JPost in Jerusalem, and know a previous editor-in-chief who is incredibly personable and encouraged me a lot on a story I was working on (for which I’m very grateful).
But that’s not why I read JPost – though the free paper copies that come to my apartment to help. No, I read it because there are some truly phenomenal reporters who provide great coverage.
Lahav Harkov is the go-to for Knesset news, from overall to the insider nuts-and-bolts. Tovah Lazaroff (I live in her apartment, but she doesn’t know I’m writing this) has a razor-sharp sense of news and Israeli politics, as well as the settlements, and Israel on the world stage (including the United Nations). And there is no one better than Khaled Abu Toameh for English-language reporting about Palestinian affairs – period.
The list goes on. While I have a familiarity with the people that write for TOI and JPost, JPost has a lot of days where they just land top-notch journalism, a cut above the rest.
However, finding their better work often means wading through mediocre internet-team produced stories, and JPost does have a reputation for leaning more center-right than they do just plain center (especially with some headlines). But it’s absolutely worth diving in for the kind of English-language Israeli (and Palestinian) news reporting and analysis that you often won’t find anywhere else.
Arutz Sheva – Israel National News
Back to news sources I don’t really read, and to the politically right-most newspaper on this list. Arutz Sheva was deliberately started with a national-religious (nationalistic Modern Orthodox Jews, in American-speak, many of whom settle in the West Bank) perspectives.
Basically, Arutz Sheva is the Haaretz of the Israeli mainstream right, providing decent reporting, but always with a background of opinion. In my experience, Arutz Sheva doesn’t do the kind of in-depth investigative journalism that I love, and that I find so important from news organizations. However, they are a great window into the way that the mainstream Israeli right thinks about Israel and the region.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I tend to lump Arutz Sheva and +972 Magazine together. I very rarely read either of them, find their reporting at least somewhat biased, and see them deliberately representing a particular political view.
But if you want to understand Israel, then it’s worth a look at the politics of this place with a wide angle. Just don’t forget to check out the really great reporting that other news organizations do.
Lev Gringauz is a freelance journalist and contributing writer to TC Jewfolk, with a love for everything Israel. He can be reached at lev[email protected] for comments, questions, or story suggestions