Reporter Ethan Bronner brought a typical liberal issue to the forefront on Friday’s front page: “Protests Force Israel to Confront Wealth Gap.” Tent-city protesters have “shaken” Israel with their call for fairly distributed wealth. Bronner never identified the protesters as left-leaning in any way. They were merely championing a cause with “strong populist resonance.”
These large protests are a story, but no one in this article really questioned the protesters or suggested this was a very political campaign against prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Eugene Kandel, Netanyahu’s chief economic adviser, was interviewed, and he stressed agreement with the notion that “large and leveraged business groups can slow growth, cause instability, and hinder competition.”
Daniel Doron, director of the Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress, defined as a “pro-market research organization,” sounded like a liberal American Democrat. He complained that privatized Israeli assets being abused: “Today, the whole Israeli economy is built on rapacious elites fleecing consumers.”
That sounds more like Bill Moyers than “pro-market” Milton Friedman. Bronner channeled the protester demands:
The "tycoons," as they are known even in Hebrew, are suddenly facing enraged scrutiny as middle-class families complain that a country once viewed as an example of intimate equality today has one of the largest gaps between rich and poor in the industrialized world.
The tent-city protesters, who have shifted the public discourse by demanding affordable housing and other essential goods, issued a document this week calling for a new socioeconomic agenda. Topping their goals: "minimizing social inequalities."
In an earlier story on the protests, on July 31, Bronner was more forthcoming that the protests were “a possible opening for the defeated left.” Bronner’s new story underlined that while some believe the income gap has gotten short media shrift, other outlets have thrown it at Netanyahu:
Guy Rolnik, editor of The Marker, a financial daily owned by Haaretz that has attacked concentration of wealth, said the issue had gotten short shrift in the media because of who owned the companies and fears of losing advertising. Often newspapers seem to be the tools of moguls battling one another as well as certain political figures.
A television journalist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter, said his station would probably not do a program on wealth concentration to avoid upsetting the station's owners.
But many of the moguls are somewhat to Mr. Netanyahu's left on foreign policy, and their newspapers can be merciless on him. Other newspapers accuse the prime minister of being in bed with the rich. Still others say his focus on the tycoons is an attempt to draw attention away from the cost of settlements and his failed peace policies.
That sounds a bit more like America, where wealthy liberal newspaper owners often rail against maldistribution of wealth from the left.