Ḳol ha-ʻam - קול העם
About this newspaper
In August of 1937, the Palestinian Communist Party (dubbed as PKP and operating underground between the years 1921-1941), started publishing a monthly newspaper in Hebrew called Kol HaAm. Financing the publication during the British Mandate rule of Palestine and in subsequent years was made possible primarily via the donations of the party's members and fellow travelers. Until 1942, the publication was distributed stealthily.
In 1942 Kol HaAm started appearing as a weekly. Thanks to painstaking public and litigation efforts, the Home Office of the British mandate eventually granted the magazine a publishing license. On the 20th of December 1944, Kol HaAm made its first appearance as a legal newspaper.
As of the first issue, pride of place was given to essays on female and male working conditions and wages. The essays also contained harsh criticism of the positions held by the leadership of the "Histadrut". The contents of Kol HaAm voiced the Communist party doctrine, contradicting the political stances and the ideology of the Zionist. as well those of Arab parties of the establishment. During the Mandate period, the principal targets of the paper's antagonism were British rule, the Zionist movement and the local leadership. At the same time however, Kol HaAm called for the independence of Palestine for democratization of the regime, for Jewish-Arab cooperation and for "Workers' Unity". Emphasis was also placed on enthusiastic reports and commentaries praising the Soviet Union's socio-economic order, the equality realized between its multi-national peoples and the international stature it achieved. Speeches of Soviet leaders were also included.
During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and World War II (1939-1945) Kol HaAm devoted ample space to fighting Fascism and National Socialism. Between 1939-1941 Kol HaAm defended the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and criticized the war as an imperialistic endeavor. In April 1942 Kol HaAm was the first to raise the demand that the western allies would open a second (western) front in Europe against Nazi Germany.
After the war the escalation in national tensions and the turmoil in the country's political atmosphere contributed to the decision of the communist party to turn Kol HaAm into a daily. The first issue appeared on the 14th of February 1947. Kol HaAm welcomed the November 1947 United Nations resolution of establishing two states in Palestine, supported the founding of Israel and demanded founding a Palestinian state next to it.
In the young state of Israel Kol HaAm was renowned for its socio-radical and oppositional voice. Its attacks of the "MAPAI" party rule, the attitude toward the workers and immigrants etc., were most extreme compared to anything published in the other press. Similar fervor was expressed in opposing government policy toward the Arab minority. Consequently the newspaper was subjected to severe censorship that often resulted in printing white blocks (of omitted information) in its pages. The official Censorship authority banned news and commentaries while the Minister of Interior frequently issued closing decrees against the newspaper. In some cases, criminal charges were brought against the newspaper's top management. In the first political trial of Israeli history (commonly known as the "KOL HaAm - Ben Gurion case") that was held between 1949 and 1951, the individuals responsible for the main editorial article were found guilty of defaming the Prime Minister.
A Supreme Court verdict (issued on the 16th of October 1953) in an appeal against one of the newspapers closing decrees lay the foundation for the freedom of expression in Israel. In this precedent-setting court ruling, written by Justice Agranat, freedom of expression was deemed to be a "a superior right" the existence of which constitutes the infrastructure of all other civil liberties. Justice Aharon Barak, who later became the Supreme Court president, considered the KOL HaAm verdict as a major contributor to the freedom of the press and to the democratic disposition of the state.
The newspaper's adversarial voice was distinctly incompatible with the national consensus of the 1950's as well. It expressed objections to the "Military Rule" imposed on the Arab minority, the IDF "Retribution Operations" and the cooperation with Britain and France in the "Sinai Campaign" of 1956.
Kol HaAm also published supplements on a regular basis. Among them were sections on literature, art, critiques and a section for children. During the 1950's and 1960's the literary supplement was edited by the poet Alexander Penn, who also published his own songs and poems in its pages. Using the pseudonym of "Yud-Chet" Penn also published versed columns on current events. Other contributors to the literary supplement were poets and critics such as Mordechai Avi Shaul, Avigdor Hameiri, Chaya Kadmon, Michael Harsegor, Pinhas Ginossar, Amos Levin (Arie Decker) Ruth Levin and Moshe Nof-Barzilai. The play writer Hanoch Levin and the poet David Avidan published their early oeuvres in it.
As its chief editor from 1957 onwards, Moshe Sneh continued the newspaper's traditional ideological and political line for several years. The growing dispute within the Israeli Communist Party's leadership in the 1960's was reverberated on the pages of KOL HaAm. Between 1963 and1965 KOL HaAm became an arena for debates between the Mikunis- Sneh camp and the opposing one of Vilner-Toubi. At first the debates centered on the attitude toward the Arab Israeli conflict but later they expanded to include issues such as the standpoint vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. In early 1965 it had become clear that all members of the editorial board (except Joseph Algazy) had sided with the national line of Moshe Sneh and his ally Shmuel Mikunis.
This rupture in the leadership led, in August 1965, to a literal split in the Communist party. The Kol HaAm company including its daily newspaper, the printing house and the building of the editorial facilities remained in the hands of the faction led by Knesset members Moshe Sneh and Shmuel Mikunis. After being upheld in court, this faction became known as "MAKI" (Hebrew acronym for "The Israeli Communist Party"). The rival faction, "RAKAH (Hebrew acronym for "New Communist List), headed by Tawfik Toubi and Meir Vilner retained ownership of the party's Arabic newspaper Al-Ittihad (The Union).
After the rift, KOL HaAm articulated "MAKI"s new ideological line. While supporting the Arab Palestinian right for self-determination at it had always done, it criticized Arab states' and leaders' attitude toward Israel. It also expressed an ever growing dismay with the Soviet Union's attitude toward Israel and with the Soviet regime's anti-democratic abuses. It called upon the international communist movement to re-examine its traditional stances toward Zionism. In the internal Israeli arena, "MAKI" continued fighting for the protection of workers' rights and sought cooperation with the Zionist left.
In the spring of 1967, as Egyptian-Israeli tensions grew and amid Gamal Abdel Nasser's threats and closure of the Straight of Tiran , KOL HaAm called upon all parties involved to prevent the then forthcoming war. Nevertheless at the onset of the SIX DAY WAR, the newspaper viewed it as a legitimate act of defense and supported it. This approach did not deter the newspaper from harsh criticism of the occupation and of the settlement policy in the aftermath. It kept advocating a solution based on mutual Israeli Palestinian recognition of the right for self-determination for both peoples.
A decline in circulation led on the 12th of December 1969 to discontinuation of Kol HaAm as a daily and publication returned to be a weekly format. On the first of March 1972, Moshe Sneh passed away and Berl Balti was appointed chief editor. In 1973 "MAKI" started to cooperate with the Zionist leftist movement "TCHELET- ADOM" in a new formation under the name "MOKED". When the union between the two was completed in summer 1975 MAKI's weekly ceased to appear. The last issue of "Kol HaAm" appeared on the 30th of June 1975.
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