Podcast: Matti Friedman on China’s New Haifa Port https://mosaicmagazine.com/observation/politics-current-affairs/2022/01/podcast-matti-friedman-on-chinas-new-haifa-port/

The Israeli journalist joins us to talk about how a Chinese propaganda mission led by a man known as “Chinese Itzik” has dazzled Israeli citizens.

January 14, 2022 | Tikvah Podcast at Mosaic, Matti Friedman
About the author: A weekly podcast, produced in partnership with the Tikvah Fund, offering up the best thinking on Jewish thought and culture. Matti Friedman is the author of a memoir about the Israeli war in Lebanon, Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story of a Forgotten War (2016). His latest book is Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel (2019).

Haifa’s new port shown in 2020 during final stages of construction by a Chinese construction and operating company. StockStudio Aerials/Shutterstock.

This Week’s Guest: Matti Friedman


This past fall, Israel’s international shipping port in Haifa completed renovations and it recently went operational. Almost all of Israel’s international trade comes and goes by sea, and Haifa’s is the busiest of the country’s ports.

The Haifa port is also where the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet—based in Naples, Italy—comes to call when it needs fuel, and when it seeks to project power in the Eastern Mediterranean. Thus it sits at the very center of Israeli trade and industry and is a vital part of its military and diplomatic relationship with the United States.

The company that won the tender to operate the port for the next 25 years is the Shanghai International Port Group—the state-owned corporation responsible for the public terminals at the Shanghai harbor. Which means that Chinese cranes, Chinese software, and Chinese managers are now responsible for roughly half of Israel’s freight.

To get Israelis more used to working so closely with China, and to introduce China in the right way to the Israeli public, China Radio International—also a government enterprise—has dispatched the man who runs its Hebrew desk to mount a charm campaign. Widely known as Iztik ha-Sini, “Chinese Itzik,” he runs a popular, funny, and captivating YouTube channel, where he has produced hundreds of online videos that Israelis love. In this podcast we are joined by the Israel journalist Matti Friedman to learn more about the port in Haifa, its executives in Shanghai, and the propaganda mission that is dazzling Israeli citizens.