August 28, 2014
by YISRAEL MEDAD, ELI POLLAK, 27/08/2014
Personal foibles, ideological, economic policies are regularly attacked, yet our media is mostly derelict when it comes to holding politicians accountable.
Almost three decades ago, one of us (YM) was involved in initiating legislation that would make the publication of a party’s platform a mandatory part of the election process for representation in the Knesset. The justification for such a law has now been echoed in a July 22 Vancouver Sun op-ed (“Can we hold politicians accountable?”) by Brian Fixter.
Fixter, a professor of law at Douglas College in British Columbia, was asked in his contract law class: “Can we ever successfully sue a politician for a broken promise?” and realized that the electorate really has not “enough measures in place to hold politicians accountable for election promises.”
Fixter opined that the promises of politicians should be considered contractual.
Unilaterally changing the terms should be considered a breach of contract with commensurate results.
In England some two years ago, the TheyMadeaPromise.com website was launched, designed to document and monitor promises made by elected officials worldwide.
The mission of the website is “to make politics and politicians more accountable.”
Election promise details are checked for accuracy against publicly available data and then published. Upon the deadline by which the promise was to have been kept, readers will be invited to vote on whether the promise has been kept, broken, or whether a compromise has been reached (due to objective circumstances and obstacles) and then it is “flagged” accordingly.
If a particularly important promise is broken, they will either launch a petition or assure that the data receives the attention it should in an upcoming election campaign.
Here in Israel, we know that our media can be ferocious in its criticism of government.
Personal foibles as well as ideological and economic policies are regularly attacked, held up to ridicule or worse. Yet our media is mostly derelict when it comes to holding politicians accountable for their election promises.
Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin promised in his 1992 election campaign that, “Whoever even contemplates withdrawal from the Golan Heights would be abandoning Israel’s security.” A couple of years later, he promised the Clinton administration that he would be willing to withdraw completely from the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace agreement.
The opposition at that time, led by present Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, repeatedly reminded Rabin that he had promised the opposite – but the media did not do so. The attitude was, as was later also repeated by prime minister Ariel Sharon, that “what you see from there you don’t see from here [the prime minister’s seat].” The media swallowed this poor excuse and did not consider that part of its duty was, and is, to serve the public, the media consumers, by constantly questioning all elected officials, from the government as well as the opposition, when they backtrack on commitments they make.
One of course should be careful in making sweeping generalizations; there are a few journalists who have actually done the job of looking up past statements and comparing them with actions. One of them is Channel 2 news reporter and commentator Amit Segal. On July 17 he summarized the Likud’s promises.
Ehud Olmert was prime minister during Operation Cast Lead six years ago. At that time, Netanyahu, during a visit to the communities neighboring the Gaza Strip, proclaimed: “What should be done? In the long run there is no alternative but to eradicate the Hamas rule.” This is quite different from Netanyahu’s approach with Operation Protective Edge, which was at the outset that “quiet will be answered with quiet.”
During the 2009 election campaign, candidate Netanyahu claimed that if in power he would bring about the collapse of Hamas rule. (A video of these election campaign statements may be found on the Globes website.) Today, the most that Netanyahu will state is that following a cease-fire Israel will demand that Hamas disarm.
Segal also calls Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman to task. He, too, used strong words during the 2009 campaign: “When we will govern we will discuss annihilating terror and overthrowing Hamas. If you sum up the Cast Lead operation you may say that the soldiers won and the politicians lost.”
Former president Shimon Peres also does not win too many points. A week before the withdrawal from the Gaza strip, Netanyahu warned that the disengagement could lead to having rockets hit Ashkelon. Peres’ public response was: “Stop the warmongering, stop talking nonsense.”
The call for journalists to straighten out the record is not limited to right-of-center politicians. Take Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, presently heading the Hatnua party, for example.
As noted in the ALMonitor website, in the spring of 2011, when the first attempt was made for a joint Hamas-PLO government in Gaza, it was Livni who headed the opposition.
Netanyahu was prime minister. Livni attacked Netanyahu for not “making progress” in the peace process.
“To get support in the world is not only to go from country to country and tell them off that they are hypocrites and that we suffer from terror. The question is how does one create the hope that Israel is a real partner for a negotiating process which will end the conflict in the Middle East.”
As a member of the government and the cabinet, however, Livni meekly voted for the decision to impose sanctions on the Abbas regime in response to its decision to from a joint government with Hamas.
As stated a long time ago by our sages, exceptions reflect the rule, which in this case is that the media does not demand accountability from our politicians. Prime Minister Netanyahu has appeared (finally) at a few press conferences and allowed some questioning. Not one of our reporters dared challenge him, or Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, by reminding them of their previous statements. Ya’alon repeatedly stated that Hamas was defeated, when in fact it continues to shoot rockets at Israel, kill and maim Israelis and force thousands of residents to flee from their homes.
The IBA’s Carmela Menashe faithfully parrots all the info she is supplied by the defense minister and his aides. Menashe, a recipient of too many prizes for her “journalistic excellence,” is not capable of presenting her audience with an objective check of the reliability of the statements coming out of the ministry.
Representatives of the government are interviewed on radio and TV. The normal procedure in Israel is to ask their opinion, impolitely argue with them, even shut them up when needed – but hardly ever to confront them with their previous positions and demand an explanation for their broken promises.
Why? There are two options. The first is that looking up past remarks and making sure the citations are correct requires effort, and who wants to do homework? The second has to do with the media themselves. Whoever demands accountability from others should be accountable themselves, and as documented repeatedly in this column our media does not want to be accountable to anyone.
August 15, 2014
by YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK, 14/08/2014
In 2005, Israel’s media was largely exuberant about the upcoming unilateral retreat, for Sharon was implementing one of its dreams: the end of part of the “occupation”
Nine years ago Israel “disengaged” from the Gaza Strip. Most of Israel was mesmerized and many applauded the act. The pundits who appeared in the media repeatedly explained that leaving Gaza would lead to significant gains for Israel on the international front as well as on the security front, and their words seemed to influence public opinion.
Amnon Abramovitch, the irresponsible commentator and evangelist of Channel 2 news, coined the term “etrog” in reference to prime minister Ariel Sharon. In using it, he sought to instruct his fellow media personalities to safeguard Sharon from criticism, so that he could carry out the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Israel’s media was largely exuberant about the upcoming unilateral retreat, for Sharon was implementing one of its dreams: the end of part of the “occupation” and an end to responsibility for over a million residents in that stretch of territory.
Today, we all know that the withdrawal was disastrous. Sharon, who promised then-chairman of the Knesset Foreign and Defense Committee that he would not leave the Philadelphi corridor separating Rafah from Egypt for a period of nine months after the act, was too weak to even keep this promise. He could not withstand the pressure of president George Bush and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. Shortly afterwards Hamas came to power in Gaza, and the rest is history.
Is this important? Are there lessons to be learned from this sad chapter in Israel’s history? Is there a thread leading from the withdrawal to our present precarious and dangerous situation? Listening to and observing the Israeli media today, one might even conclude that there never was a disengagement. The same “experts” whose predictions were so wrong nine years ago continue to try and brainwash us today. The media largely does not ask the tough questions. Dov Weissglass, arguably the brain behind Sharon’s actions as his bureau chief, and the one who disparagingly referred to the Kassam rockets fired at us as “flying objects” does not, even today, admit any error. Worse, he has the audacity to continue and try to tell us what we should be doing.
Weissglass, in an article in Yediot Aharonot on July 29, called for the resumption of talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, this being his way to improve the situation in Gaza. As rightly noted by General (res.) Ya’akov Amidror in an article in Israel Hayom this Sunday, Weissglass did not even have the decency to admit his mistakes in the past. The word “humility” is not part of Weissglass’ vocabulary.
But the real question is not about Weissglass.
Rare is the politician who will admit errors. No, the real question is where is Yediot Aharonot? Sure, freedom of speech allows Weissglass to pontificate, but would Yediot give space in its business pages to an executive who drove his company into bankruptcy? Would it consider it wise to allow such a person to provide the public with his sagacious advice? And it isn’t only Yediot. Weissglass also appeared on Channel 10’s London and Kirschenbaum show on July 22 in a debate on whether the disengagement was responsible for Operation Protective Edge, where he followed the same script.
There were some serious journalists that were responsible enough to relate to this sad chapter of our history in the context of the current operation in Gaza. Shai Levy, on Channel 2’s Mako website, recounted the history of Gaza during the past 10 years, noting clearly how the withdrawal led directly to the confrontations with the Gaza terrorists. Ran Baratz, on the Mida website, recalled another icon of our media, Haaretz’s Nechemia Strassler, who ridiculed Binyamin Netanyahu for his resignation from Sharon’s government prior to the withdrawal.
So wrote Strassler at the time: “On the very day [of his resignation] he provided the public with horror scenarios: ‘An Islamic terror base is being formed in Gaza; Hamas is growing strong.’ He [Netanyahu] became even more extreme: ‘rockets will be launched toward Israel from terror bases which we are allowing the Islamists to establish.’ Tomorrow there’ll be an apocalypse.”
Strassler, we should add, continues to be allowed to publish his worthless tripe in Haaretz. He is often invited by the Internet media to comment, and yet no one dares ask him why anyone should take his opinions seriously.
On August 5, Shlomo Angel rightly noted in an article in Ynet that, “The wind supporting the disengagement has turned into a deadly hurricane whose climax is the present Operation Protective Edge. So, why has this discussion been muted?” Back in May 2, 2004, Shaul Mofaz, then defense minister, asked by Yediot Aharonot about disengagement, replied, “I am convinced, as opposed to all those who see black, that in reality, there will be less terror from Gaza. The Gaza Strip will not be Lebanon.”
Yet Mofaz is still taken seriously by the media.
One of the few reporters who did make it their business to report on the connection of the withdrawal to the present is Amit Segal from Channel 2 news. He provided in-depth coverage during Operation Pillar of Defense two years ago, and repeated it during the present war. On August 3, he riddled with holes the “quiet for quiet” platitudes of our politicians, showing based on history that each period of “quiet” was preceded and followed by massive military aggression against Israel.
He also had a clip on Channel 2 reviewing the various promises of politicians of a brighter future, pronouncement which today sound ludicrous.
His father, Hagai Segal, the present editor of the Makor Rishon newspaper, used his weekly column to raise the disengagement issue. Both he and General Amidror showed that the claim that the withdrawal actually reduced the number of Israel casualties belongs at best to Israeli mythology.
These voices, however, were the exception.
When Amos Oz or A.B. Yehoshua write an op-ed article in Haaretz, it is considered to be so important that the various anchors, such as Arieh Golan of Kol Israel, Ilana Dayan of Channel 2 and Razi Barkai of Galei Zahal take pains to read the articles on their programs, interview people and discuss them. When Gideon Levy articulates his irrational world view, the media has a ball. He is invited to explain his views in greater detail, others to refute, and Levy and Haaretz have once again set the media’s agenda.
Yet articles written by noted and respected journalists attempting to raise the very serious issue of the present war in the context of the withdrawal from Gaza are largely ignored. If the events prior to prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination are to be recalled annually to give that tragic event context, surely in discussions of the current reality in the Gaza Strip the disengagement should be recalled, too.
After so many military operations, including Summer Rains (2006), Hot Winter (2008), Cast Lead (2008-2009) and Pillar of Defense (2012) the media should devote more attention and airtime to reviewing the trustworthiness of its celebrities.
The related question of whether the public can trust the media is a central element in current events. In fact, it’s big part of the story.
August 7, 2014
by YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK, 06/08/2014
The truly dangerous press is the one which prostitutes itself.
The danger that lurks in the power of the press, we have previously noted, is probably less in what it publishes than in what it does not publish. A new aspect, however, has emerged from the recent military confrontation between the State of Israel and the Hamas terror group controlling the Gaza Strip: the truly dangerous press is the one which prostitutes itself.
While it is understandable that most Israeli journalists would not be able to freely ply their trade in downtown Gaza City, there are, after all, dozens of representatives of the world’s press packed into Gaza’s hotels and private homes. Do they see nothing of what is going on there? The former editorial page writer for The Wall Street Journal Europe, Daniel Schwammenthal, uploaded at Robin Shepherd’s The Commentator website on August 1 his article “Fear and trembling: Western media and Hamas.”
He noted the willful blindness in Western media reporting when the subject is Hamas in Gaza. It is a throwback to the PLO bullying three decades ago in Lebanon. He suggested that “many of the journalists are also terrified of telling the truth.” A more recent example is Italian Ricardo Cristiano, from the Italian state television station RAI, who in 2000 published a letter of abject apology to the Palestinian Authority for the pictures of the Ramallah lynching.
JTA’s Uriel Heilman took on The New York Times, asking some very basic questions: why haven’t pictures of Hamas fighters inside Gaza been seen in the media? Isn’t it odd that rockets and mortars are fired off by unseen hands? We see both sides in the Ukraine, in Syria and even in Libya. Gaza is a unique battlefield, one that is one-sidedly sterile. Can it be that every Hamas combatant is underground and out of view? Eileen Murphy, the paper’s vice president for corporate communications, responded that out of several hundreds of photographs, only two “very distant poor quality images” of Hamas fighters were identified. After all, they are not uniformed nor do they wear any insignia, she admitted.
But that not one was snapped carrying a gun? Murphy then simply admitted that, “We are limited by what our photographers have access to.”
Access? On the one hand, the journalists feed us how small Gaza is and yet dozens of media crews cannot show us who is firing off deadly projectiles? The Tablet website was more specific in doubting Murphy’s excuse. In a “Staff notes” column, it published that “mainstream news outlets… hide from their readers… that their photographers and reporters… are working under terribly difficult conditions under the effective control of a terrorist organization which… doesn’t hesitate to maim, kidnap and kill people that it doesn’t like.”
France’s Liberation published on July 24 that Radjaa Abou Dagga, correspondent for Ouest France, had been intimidated by aggressive Hamas interrogation methods.
On his Facebook page of July 30, filmmaker Michael Grynszpan related meeting that day a Spanish journalist who had just come back from Gaza. He asked him, “How come we never see on television channels reporting from Gaza any Hamas people, no gunmen, no rocket launchers, no policemen?” The frank reply was, “It’s very simple, we did see Hamas people there launching rockets, they were close to our hotel, but if ever we dare pointing our camera at them they would simply shoot at us and kill us.”
This reminds us of the 2006 incident in which CNN’s Nic Robertson admitted – after leaving Lebanon – that Hezbollah has “slick media operations… had control of the situation. They designated the places that we went to, and we certainly didn’t have time to go into the houses or lift up the rubble to see what was underneath.”
One correspondent for Finnish TV, Aishi Zidan, inadvertently confirmed that Hamas fired rockets from the parking lot of Shifa Hospital. Gabriel Barbati, an Italian reporter, tweeted on July 29, “Out of #Gaza far from #Hamas retaliation: misfired rocket killed children 2day in Shati. Witness: militants rushed and cleared debris.”
Later, on August 2, he uploaded that, “Both [Hamas and Israel] pressure press.”
Nick Casey tweeted, too, and admitted on August 3 that a witness to the attack at Rafah UN school “told me target may have been 2 men riding motorbike in front of school, both killed,” thus independently confirming the IDF spokesman’s claim that the army “targeted three PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] terrorists onboard a motorcycle in vicinity of an UNRWA school in Rafah.” Casey is a rare example of a brave and professional journalist; he also tweeted earlier on July 28 that a room at Shifa Hospital was being used as the Hamas press center.
Another example of extraordinary candid journalism is Indian Srinivasan Jain from NDTV who documented how Hamas sets up and fires a rocket from within a densely populated area, as has now France 24 reporter Gallagher Fenwick. The 5Pillarz site informed that Harry Fear, a reporter for Russia’s RT channel, was ordered to leave Gaza by Hamas after tweeting the location of rocket launchers.
These, though, were the exceptions. It would seem that any semblance of balanced news can be found only outside of the mainstream media outlets. The reporting of the mainstream media has been overwhelmingly biased.
The willingness of the international press to prostitute itself emerges clearly from Saul O’s list of “40 questions for the international media in Gaza” at the British Harry’s Place on July 31 and republished at the Volokh blog which is hosted by The Washington Post. These are some of his questions: “Has Hamas pressured you to delete anything you have published? Are you scared to publish photos of Hamas operatives on your news channel? Have you put to Hamas spokespersons that firing rockets from civilian areas in a war situation will draw return fire and lead to the death of civilians? Have you seen or heard evidence of Hamas storing weapons inside schools, houses, flats, mosques or hospitals? Have you tried to interview any of the parents of the 160 Palestinian children who died building the terror tunnels?”
We could add more: have the journalists inquired into how many local Gazans were killed and injured as a result of Hamas rockets falling short or exploding upon launch? Are there no natural deaths in Gaza, from accidents, old age or health issues, or are all a result of Israel’s actions? Are there truly no open spaces and fields from which the rockets could be launched, rather than from school-yards, mosques and hospitals?
Blogger Elder of Ziyon wrote, “Every single report on TV from Gaza should have this disclaimer: ‘Our reporters have been threatened, implicitly and perhaps explicitly, by Hamas to report only one side of the story. Viewers must not trust anything they are saying.’”
The press debacle in Gaza implies that although truth-in-advertising is an important media issue, the really disconcerting issue is truth-in-reporting. The international media is making money from lies and distortions presented as news – this is nothing but prostitution.
Correction: in last week’s column, we misspelled Liat Regev’s name, for which we apologize.
August 6, 2014
By YISRAEL MEDAD. 05/08/2014
Israel Police spokesman’s office noted that over the month of Ramadan, more than 400 Muslims had been arrested on the Temple Mount for disturbing the peace and some 135 charge sheets had been presented to the courts.
Josephus witnessed the moment, over 1,900 years ago, when the Temple first began to be engulfed in flames.
He writes in his The Jewish Wars, “…one of the soldiers… snatched something of the materials that were on fire, and being lifted up by another soldier, he set fire to a golden window, through which there was a passage to the rooms that were round about the Holy House, on the north side of it. As the flames went upward the Jews made a great clamor… .”
And he adds to his description that, “While the Holy House was on fire, everything was plundered that came to hand.”
On Thursday night, July 24, which marked Laylat al-Kadr, the anniversary of the revelation of the first verses of the Koran, when Muslims believe that God blesses everyone, and forgive all sins, a sacking of a building and the burning of its contents on the Temple Mount was repeated.
This time that structure was an Israeli police station located on the raised platform section, north of the Dome of the Rock. An ecstatic crowd of Muslims were the perpetrators.
Despite the great embarrassment, we can be thankful that no policeman was killed or wounded. That is not because back-up forces raced to the rescue, the heroic defense put up by the police barricaded inside the small building or because they managed to escape, some would say flee, through the back windows.
The simple fact is, as Jerusalem Commander Yossi Parienti announced on Channel 10 television, that the police left the building, locking it and walking away earlier on in an orderly fashion.
They did not desert it, he insisted.
Whether the police prematurely fled before the attackers or beat a strategic retreat in expectation of a worse development, the result was one police station looted, ransacked and burned. To top this activity, literally, two masked Arab youth climbed up the roof and planted a Palestinian flag atop the “Islamic-conquered” police station. The expensive security cameras affixed to the station were destroyed.
But there was more damage. Confidential documents dealing with security issues, including identities of suspected Arabs instigators of violence, as well as Jews, were found dispersed at the site, uncollected.
Have the police learned from their errors of planning and judgment? Monday morning this week, once again specially-equipped police officers were required to enter the courtyard following the throwing of rocks as well as the shooting off of Roman candles.
A surprise awaited them: blockades had been set up that halted their advance temporarily. At least five were wounded.
But why are the police, time after time, still surprised? Why is entrance permitted during the evening hours and if so, why is the Temple Mount not cleared toward morning? Why can the rioters gain the benefit of hours to prepare, to bring in dangerous materials? Why do the police to fail, repeatedly, to deal with what one would presume is a simple matter of security? Several members of the force admitted to Channel 2 TV reporter Shimon Ifergan that they were ashamed at the decision that was made and that they were ordered to withdraw from the Mount for their own protection with the full knowledge that the station was the target.
But how is it that given the dangers faced by police, the policy of our law enforcement is to allow such riots to develop, to be the norm? In a response from the Israel Police spokesman’s office, it was noted that over the month of Ramadan, more than 400 Muslims had been arrested on the Temple Mount for disturbing the peace and some 135 charge sheets had been presented to the courts. Nevertheless, the taking of preventive measures seems to be the police’s weak point.
One could argue that the police are caught in the middle. On the one hand, they are responsible for maintaining peace and order but on the other, the political echelon, ever since 1967, seeks to placate Jordan as the holy site’s patron, hoping to offset any real local Arab control, as via the Palestinian Authority, for example. But this paradigm of false coexistence ignores Jewish rights and involves willful blindness to the inroads of the Islamic Movement.
Israel’s government is not obligated to begin the construction of the Third Temple.
However, the government is obligated to not allow the destruction of state property, the trampling of basic human rights of non-Muslims, the provocative, violent behavior of male and female Islamists, the holding of pro-Hamas assemblies and the flying of terrorist flags and planting of banners on the mosque buildings in support of anti-Jewish propaganda.
Exerting Israel’s sovereignty on the Temple Mount, applying the law of the land, promoting religious freedom, protecting the site’s legacy above and below ground are all things the state must do, in the interest of the Jewish character of the state, for the commitment to human rights for all and even for the Waqf authorities who have proven less than capable of administering the site.
The author serves as the secretary of the El Har Hashem NGO which promotes Jewish rights on the Temple Mount.
July 31, 2014
By YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK, 30/07/2014
As we know, since our own media repeats this many times a day, the reported casualty count has surpassed the 1,000 mark.
In a recent article, entitled “How selective body counts incite more violence,” Professor Alan Dershowitz relates to the casualty count in Gaza. The article, published in this newspaper on July 23, argues that “The media has obsessively counted every dead body in the conflict between Hamas and Israel. They rarely explain why so many more Palestinians than Israelis have been killed: Hamas does not allow Palestinian civilians into their shelters, while using civilian areas from which to fire their rockets; Israel, on the other hand, devotes its resources to building shelters and Iron Dome protection.”
As we know, since our own media repeats this many times a day, the reported casualty count has surpassed the 1,000 mark. It should be noted that the only source of information with respect to body counts comes from Hamas and Hamas-supervised NGOs. Every announcement should have thus been qualified with the phrase “according to local Hamas sources” or “as per NGO estimates.”
Let’s ask some questions which our media does not. If indeed there were 117 bodies recovered over the past weekend in the ruins in Gaza, where were the pictures? Hamas avidly publicizes gruesome pictures, but in this case for some obscure reason did not provide much proof as to the number of victims.
Our reporters take pains to interview “residents” of the Gaza strip to portray to the Israeli public the terrible destruction that the IDF has inflicted. Why don’t they interview some of the foreign reporters and ask them tough questions, such as “have you seen bodies in the rubble?” Or, “Are you free to move around in the Strip or do you go only where your Hamas-appointed stringers point you?” Then there are the disparities in the reported casualty figures. For example, according to Al Jazeera, as of late afternoon on July 24, 627 casualties had been reported. A second website, The International Middle East Media Center, reported as of mid-afternoon on July 28 865 casualties.
However, when one tallies up the list of names of those reportedly killed up to July 24 according to the IMEMC site, the number is 765. The difference between their report and that of Al Jazeera is 138. We did not undertake a full comparison, but for example, IMEMC reports the death of Ahmad Suleiman Abu Saoud, 34, from Khan Younis on July 21, while the same name does not appear on the Al Jazeera list. In another example, IMEMC has 184 casualties from Khan Younis for the period until the end of July 23 while Al Jazeera reports 112 for the same period.
Both websites cite the Gazan health ministry, so who should we believe? Why does our media treat this data as reliable? But this is not the end of the story.
The Israellycool blog analyses the age and sex of those reportedly killed.
Using the Al Jazeera data published until July 23, of 535 casualties, one finds that 78 percent are male and 22% female. 44% of the males are in the 18-28 age group, meaning one may assume that the majority of these were members of Hamas militias. In other words, the number of innocent civilians killed is much smaller than the sum total. Certainly, every person killed is a tragedy, but with an enemy who makes callous use of people and their lives, we here in Israel should be doing the simple job of adding one and one and finding out that in Hamastan they add up to three.
We have been in touch with some senior people within the media establishment, urging them to have their reporters undertake a serious study of the Hamas propaganda. Yet not much has materialized. Our media is either incompetent, lazy or worse, willingly an accomplice to Hamas misinformation.
The body count is only the tip of the iceberg of information either suppressed or manipulated by our media.
Consider a much more minor but still meaningful example: Last Saturday night, extreme Israeli left-wingers held a demonstration against the war.
Of course, this was not the description used. Some media outlets called them peace activists and some related to them simply as members of the Israeli Left. But how many were there? Haaretz reported 7,000, NRG 2,500, Walla 3,000, Ynet 5,000. Channel 10 accepted the 5,000 figure but its reporter defined it as “large.” As usual the tough questions were not asked, for example, who funded this rally? On Channel 1, just before midnight on July 25, advocate Gaby Lasky was identified for viewers as “a legal expert on human rights.” Lasky, in fact, was the former chairperson of Peace Now and a leading Meretz party politician. Why was this information suppressed? However, a woman representing a group called “Warm House for Soldiers” was interviewed by Dov Gilhar on Monday midday on Channel 10 TV. When she began to speak strongly against the unnecessary endangering of Israeli lives due to considerations for the safety of Gaza residents, she was asked if she represented a party and her airtime was cut short.
Kol Yisrael’s Keren Neubach, in addition to continuing to assemble imbalanced discussion panels, uses Twitter, as many journalists do. She tweeted on Monday, July 28, that the diplomatic maneuvering between the United States and Israel over the exact version of the cease-fire offer was “childish.”
On Sunday evening on Channel 1 TV, Liat
Raviv Regev, referring to the deaths of soldiers, asked national camp advocate and journalist Israel Harel about this “heavy price.” Harel quickly upbraided her, noting that it was unnecessary to employ such an adjective. In the first place, the task of soldiers is to protect Israel and its citizens.
Soldiers know and are prepared for the ultimate sacrifice.
In a similar discussion the previous week with Oded Shachar, also on Channel 1, Hebrew University’s Dr. Limor Samimian-Darash also lashed out against the media’s treatment of this subject, saying that in the past decade or so, the media discourse is that the public must protect the soldier, at almost any cost (as in the Schalit case) and that this is just the reverse of what the atmosphere should be. But these are voices in the wilderness and just point out how much our public discourse has become mutilated.
The Israeli media demanded that the IDF undertake a thorough reckoning in the wake of some of the disasters of the Second Lebanon war, and rightly so. Sadly though, the same media did not do the same.
During that war the Hezbollah and Pallywood film production industry went into overdrive. Yet their imaginative constructs – which caused serious damage to Israel’s international image –were discovered by bloggers and people abroad, not our media.
Our media swallowed these fabrications hook, line and sinker. Have they learned anything? Seemingly no, for even Professor Alan Dershowitz does not dare question the actual body count.
July 25, 2014
by YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK, 23/07/2014
The news from abroad covered in Channel 2’s central evening news edition was exclusively devoted to anti-Israel events.
Operation Protective Edge is entering its third week. With only a limited stream of reliable information from Gaza reaching the public, the media finds itself situated at a crucial nexus. Network commentators and guest experts are becoming more familiar, their prejudices and weaknesses, their strengths and biases more apparent and the good and the bad of their journalistic endeavors more obviously recognizable.
Journalists, writes Mark Coddington of the University of Texas, “cast themselves fundamentally as sense-makers rather than information- gatherers.” In reviewing the many television and radio broadcasts during the current operation, we have noticed several paradigms that should be brought to the attention of the media consumer.
Given that this is the third round of military activity since the 2005 Gaza disengagement plan – which was promoted, praised and protected by the media – it was disappointing to hear very little self-criticism from the media.
An egregious example of a journalist’s shifting attention from the real problem was Amos Harel’s July 17 column in Haaretz where he asserted that the “IDF fears that, without Hamas, Gaza could descend into a Somalia-like situation, in which dozens of gangs or clans would take over various parts of the strip.” As it is, Gaza has for decades already divided into clans and tribes; it is the political-theological ideology of Hamas that is the more potent danger for Israel.
It is also discouraging that certain inconvenient elements are glossed over. For example, we were all told that the rocket fire from Gaza increased as a result of the IDF search for the three kidnapped youngsters and the arrests of Hamas operatives in Judea and Samaria. The simple fact is that ever since April the number of rocket and mortars fired toward Israel had been increasing steadily. Incidentally, these launchings also kill and injure Gaza residents, which should have been part of the commentary to reports on the high numbers of casualties being claimed by Hamas.
Another element is the content the media conveys from abroad. Given Israel’s special diplomatic considerations, support from the major and even minor powers is important and a factor in Israel’s ability to continue the military actions needed to provide long-term security for the country and its citizens. As we wrote in last week’s column, our media should present truthfully how we are perceived in the eyes of the world. We found then that television Channel 2’s Arad Nir was wanting in this respect, which continues to be the case.
Nir is the chief foreign news editor for the station.
Our review indicates that he is extremely selective in his editorial decisions regarding what to show us, what not to show us and in his analysis of what is happening around the world. In fact, we have found that he is engaged in minimizing our perception of what is happening.
For example, on July 10, he discusses a major pro-Israel demonstration in New York, but accompanies the report with no visuals.
On July 13, only one out of several pro-Israel demonstrations is mentioned. On July 11, anti-Israel rallies were extensively covered. On July 17, even an anti-Israel rally in Cracow, Poland, a city not very important for Israel’s diplomatic position, was reported.
In fact, for three straight days, July 16-18, Nir made sure that the news from abroad covered in Channel 2’s central evening news edition was exclusively devoted to anti-Israel events. At the same time there was ample evidence that Israel had significant support from major newspapers, columnists and television stars, including the progressive liberal Bill Maher. Such support is arguably of much greater significance than demonstrations by Muslims or extreme left-wing radicals. Indeed, the anti-Jewish violence in Paris and Los Angeles had more significant ramifications for the local communities than for Israel.
Nir’s unprofessional judgment is actually not surprising. He maintains a Twitter account and there one can find the retweeting of blatantly anti-Semitic caricatures, notably those of Carlos Latuff. Many of the tweets are without any comment, as if Nir is completely neutral regarding their news value or worse, allowing people to think he might sympathize with their contents. He also retweets anti-Netanyahu cartoons such as one by Haaretz’s Amos Biderman on July 14 portraying the prime minister as the Major Kong character in the Dr. Strangelove film without comment, even though the original tweeter wrote, “there’s only one Biderman.”
CNN’s Diane Magnay was sent packing to Moscow after calling some Israelis “scum” on her Twitter feed. If he had been employed by CNN, Nir would have been fired over his conduct, but our media lets him continue his unprofessional acts, in the name of “freedom of speech.”
On July 13, he retweeted a claim that 77 percent of Gaza victims are civilians, again without any evaluative element. His only source for this statistic is Hamas, and we all know how reliable Hamas’s information is. To simply repeat this statistic is irresponsible journalism – unless one is actually interested in promoting and magnifying Hamas propaganda. On July 16, Nir wrote, “Hamas offers conditional ceasefire for 10 years. If genuine should be checked as a starter for long-term agreement.” Is it professional for a news editor to give advice to the political echelon or to critically report on their activities? Another item Nir decided should not be brought to the attention of Channel 10’s viewers was the July 3 passing, in the Dutch parliament, of a motion calling for an end to the salaries that the Palestinian Authority pays to terrorists. The motion passed unanimously.
It read, in part, “…since 2011, the Palestinian Authority transfers money to Palestinian convicts in Israeli prisons [and] that these moneys can have a negative effect, in which criminality and terrorism are rewarded.”
A European country, a member of the inimical EU and with a sizeable Muslim population to boot, adopts a very pro-Israel stand. That is not a worthy news item? Kalman Liebskind, writing a fortnight ago in Ma’ariv, termed this type of media practice as a form of “occupation of thinking” which is dictated to lower-level employees by centrally-positioned persons with editorial responsibility.
Nir is not alone. Kol Yisrael also uses statistics provided by Hamas as to the number of Gazan casualties. We asked one of Kol Yisrael’s editors why they do this. The laconic answer was that since the IDF spokesperson does not provide the numbers, there is no choice but to mention Hamas figures, while noting that the source of the information is Gaza.
Such an attitude is no better than that of CNN or other outlets with crews in Gaza which bring to the world the misery of the Gazans without a word about who is really responsible.
Tuesday’s The Marker reports that the expanded format of the news broadcasting of channels 2 and 10, with multiple on-scene reporters, endless hours of studio screen-time, Live-U technology, satellite time and such is estimated to cost NIS 600,000 per day per network.
It is a shame that too much of this money is being wasted on poor journalism that, in the end, does not serve the public. Even the reality shows are a better investment.
July 17, 2014
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 17/07/2014
One of the duties of our media is to present truthfully how we are perceived in the eyes of the world.
A professional media network is challenged during times of war. It is not easy to get hard facts. Both sides will invariably attempt to assure the media coverage they want, and not necessarily the truth. During the past few days, the BBC exposed how Hamas manipulated old pictures from Syria and Iraq, presenting as images of the present round of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. A reporter on the scene, hearing a siren or a rocket and having to take cover himself, is hard pressed to let his audience know what really happened.
Any war is not only determined by the military results but also how they are perceived. One of the duties of our media is to present truthfully how we are perceived in the eyes of the world. This often entails broadcasting video clips from foreign news outlets, such as CNN’s Ben Wedeman showing the damage inflicted on Gaza by our bombing.
The same holds true for a clip aired by TV Channel 2’s Arad Nir on Sunday night in which CNN reported that Israel had hit a Gaza infirmary for handicapped people which, so the story goes, could not be evacuated on time.
However, in both these cases, the Israeli media did not handle the material professionally; Wedeman could not have gotten such a report without “help” from Hamas. In 2003, Jordan Eason confessed that CNN chose not to report on the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein’s regime as the truth “would have jeopardized… lives.” Previously, in his 1989 memoir From Beirut to Jerusalem, Thomas Friedman wrote that “physical intimidation” was a major impediment to honest reporting from PLO-dominated Beirut. But TV Channel 1 dared not challenge Wedeman on this issue.
Similarly, Nir, who stressed that Israel tries to prevent such occurrences, did not include an IDF response to the video. Nor did he note that apart from damage, the clip did not actually show that any of the patients had been harmed.
But these are relatively minor issues. The real story this week is how Channel 2 and Channel 10 covered the Hamas side of the story. The most egregious case, widely publicized, was the appearance of Likud MK Yariv Levin on Channel 10 last Friday. He was invited to participate in an hourlong broadcast to share his views on the situation.
The channel naturally brought in other interviewees.
The first, to “balance” Levin, was Ran Cohen (not the former Meretz MK), the executive director of the Israel branch of “Physicians for Human Rights” (PHR).
PHR’s anti-Israel positions are well known. It blames Israel for the recent war, in its words: “Years of intensifying control and closure of Gaza on the one hand and the absence of activity to promote a just solution and end to the occupation on the other hand is leading us into the abyss, fanning the flames of hatred and revenge.”
Its Israeli tax-free status was revoked recently in view of its political activities.
The moderator noted that Israel allowed 130 trucks to enter the Gaza strip . Cohen claimed that only 13 supply trucks entered, five with medical supplies. He then claimed that the medical situation in Gaza is terrible. Not due to the present war but a result of the Israeli blockade on Gaza since 2007.
At this point, MK Levin, a member of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, accused Cohen of outright lying. For the next few minutes, Levin did not let Cohen talk. He was outraged by the fact that Channel 10 would countenance what according to him were outright falsifications and blatant lies. Levin claimed on his Facebook that after a commercial break, he was not allowed to return to the program. Cohen, however, was allowed to continue his diatribe, this time uninterrupted.
Channel 10 didn’t stop there, either. The next day on the London and Kirschenbaum program they invited a representative from Gisha, Iman Gabor, head of its research department, ostensibly to obtain a deeper understanding of the economic situation within the Gaza strip. Gabor was allowed, without interruption, to lay the blame for the poverty in Gaza on Israel and its blockade since 2007.
Gisha is a European Union and New Israel Fund organization which testified for the Goldstone commission. It sees its mission as, among other things, safeguarding the transfer of supplies to and from the Gaza strip.
Another source of information for our media is interviews with residents of the Gaza Strip. On July 12, Channel 2, in its weekly news roundup, interviewed Sunny Obeid, a Gazan journalist who accused the IDF of deliberately targeting civilians.
On July 13, Oded Ben-Ami on his Channel 2 program interviewed “Ahmed,” who described the difficult situation within the strip. On July 12, Nadav Peri of Channel 10 news interviewed a Gazan resident.
UNRWA officials have also been interviewed by all major Israeli outlets. For example, the UNRWA official interviewed on Channel 10 on July 13, who described the inability of his organization to help. UNRWA, according to him, just does not have the means to help all those who need it.
These interviews are typically bland, containing very little actual information.
It could be different. As reported by Yossi Melman of Ma’ariv, on July 11, he, together with former ambassador Danny Ayalon, were interviewed on the i24 news channel. At one point, a Gazan journalist was added to the discussion. Upon being asked what the situation is in Gaza, he launched into a vicious attack on the Israeli government, which he claimed is targeting civilians.
The moderator, Lucy Aharish, an Israeli Arab, challenged the Gazan’s claims. She then asked the Gazan why the citizens of Gaza are not coming out in droves, demonstrating against the Hamas government. As Melman reported, he has never heard a moderator on Israeli TV channels asking the same questions.
Another “star” is Haaretz’s Gideon Levy. In a July 13 op-ed, he wrote that “Israel’s real purpose in the Gaza operation is to kill Arabs… the Israel Defense Forces already has a ‘map of pain,’ a diabolical invention…. Since the first Lebanon war, more than 30 years ago, the killing of Arabs has become Israel’s primary strategic instrument. The IDF doesn’t wage war against armies, and its main target is civilian populations.”
Channel 2, naturally, invited him to present his views on air. This was done on the street in Ashkelon.
A passerby noted what was happening and simply prevented Levy from talking. After a few minutes, the anchor gave in and the interview did not take place. Of course, later Channel 2 did interview Levy, in spite of heated objections from the public. Channel 2 did not interview, say, Baruch Marzel to balance the extremist Levy.
To be fair, the war has been ongoing for over a week, and the media has to fill air-time. Many people have been interviewed, including representatives of Yesha and other right-wing organizations.
But, as especially evidenced in the Gideon Levy affair, many in the public are incensed.
Hamas, according to some, could not have asked for a better ally.
July 9, 2014
by YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 09/07/2014
There is a real dilemma here. On the one hand, the more business there is the lower the prices, and everyone gains.
Gideon Sa’ar is our interior minister.
As such, he is responsible for overseeing the Hours of Work and Rest Law, 1951. One aspect of the Jewish nature of the state is that its holidays are defined by the Jewish tradition. The Jewish festivals are recognized as holidays; schools and businesses are closed and people do not need to go to work. The weekly day of rest is Saturday.
For many years, in all of the Western World, Sunday was considered holy. Even today, in many European countries businesses are closed on this day. Especially in the United States, it was recognized that from a business point of view this absolute rest was wasteful. Since most people do not work, they have time to go shopping. As Ecclesiastes has stressed, money will answer everything, so the Americans relaxed the regulations.
Today, in the US you can go shopping everywhere on Saturdays and Sundays.
Many European countries followed the American example. Even in socially conservative countries such as Switzerland, numerous shops and stores are open on Sunday, especially in the heavily visited tourist areas.
There is a real dilemma here. On the one hand, the more business there is the lower the prices, and everyone gains. Many people do not have the time to take care of their household affairs during the week. It is during their leisure time that they can take a stroll in a shopping center, look at products, sip a cup of coffee, have the kids play in the shopping center playground and do the weekly shopping.
If that’s the good, what is the bad? As stressed often by Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich, opening businesses on the day of rest is anti-social. Who are the people behind the counters, who are the waiters? Typically, they are not wealthy. They go to work on days of rest because they need the added income. What do their children do when their parents must work? Even if these same employees have a different day of rest during the week, as mandated by law in most countries, their family life is harmed. The children still have to go to school.
Shopkeepers are also affected. If some shops are open, then anyone who closes shop is under financial pressure. Either they lose clients or they have to work on the day of rest, harming their family life. The independent shopkeeper does not have even a day of rest during the week.
In Israel, this question also takes on a religious-historic aspect. One of the most difficult challenges to observant Jews over the millennia was the need to keep their businesses closed on Shabbat. In most places, up until the 20th century Shabbat was like any other day and only Sunday was the day of rest. So Jews had to close their shops two days a week and still survive.
One of the stated goals of Zionism was that a Jew would be able to live in the Jewish state without having to pay a price for the observance of Jewish tradition. For the Zionist founders of the state, it was obvious that this implied that Shabbat would be the day of rest, on which all businesses are closed.
But ideals and reality don’t always go together. The secular kibbutzim realized that they could legally open shopping centers on their land. This led to the creation of shopping centers all over Israel that are outside municipal borders, so that now Shabbat shopping has become to many a way of life. This is so especially in the Tel Aviv area.
What about the shopkeepers who would prefer to stay closed? Tough luck. They have to get used to the new order. Money is more important than values.
For many years, the Tel Aviv Municipality played a game. It allowed convenience stores and supermarkets to open on Shabbat, at times levying ridiculously small fines, and everyone was happy. That is, until some shopkeepers who were unhappy with the Shabbat competition went to the Supreme Court. The court ruled that the municipality was acting illegally and ordered it to change the municipal law. This was promptly enacted, allowing in effect almost anyone to open shop on Shabbat. In Israel, though, the interior minister oversees the municipality, and two weeks ago Sa’ar decided that the new law showed disrespect for Shabbat and annulled it. He did leave allowances for businesses in certain specified areas to remain open, such as in the Tel Aviv Harbor area.
It is at this point where the media started playing a role. Did it give Sa’ar a fair shake at explaining his motives? Did it present both sides? Some did, some did not. The Israel Broadcasting Authority did a fair job. On the TV Channel 1 nightly news of June 29, the item was related and the views of those for and against aired. On the next day, this balance was repeated on Kol Yisrael’s evening news program.
Galatz was also reasonable, bringing to its morning news program Nachon Lehaboker opposing views, albeit two opposing Sa’ar’s decision and only one in favor.
The record for Channel 2 TV is mixed. The Reshet programs We talk about this and Today’s Talk aired on June 30 presented a balanced view.
Channel 2 News was unprofessional, to put it mildly. On June 29, Yonit Levy “interviewed” Minister Sa’ar.
Not only did she not let the minister talk, she tried to give the impression that Sa’ar’s decision was motivated purely by desire to curry favor among the religious sector. She did not relate to the fact that the whole issue had been raised in the first place by Tel Aviv shopkeepers with their appeal to the Supreme Court. Sa’ar was followed by Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), both of whom (naturally) opposed Sa’ar’s decision. Levy did not interrupt them.
The worst of all, though, was Channel 10. It opened this segment of the June 29 news broadcast with “The interior Minister who has lately started to observe Shabbat.” The London and Kirshenbaum June 30 program had a picture of Sa’ar dressed up in a shtreimel and sporting peyot, and presented only one side of the issue, namely that stores should remain open. The Hakol Kalul June 30 program headlined its treatment of the issue with, “Did Minister Gideon Sa’ar order the closing of the supermarkets because he is becoming more observant?” The innuendo was that Sa’ar is politically motivated, and that his main interest is the next Likud primary.
The Economic Night June 29 program was one-sided in its vociferous stand against Minister Sa’ar’s decision.
So, what have we got? The public broadcaster – on the cutting block just at the moment – did its job; fair, decent and balanced coverage.
Channel 2 TV was, on the whole, slanted against Sa’ar, although it remained within acceptable bounds of fairness in its coverage. Channel 10 TV was, as usual, unethical and unprofessional. It is high time that this channel, which is in daily violation of the law, be closed down. Not only on Gideon Sa’ar’s account, but also on account of Israeli media consumers, who would be much better off if TV 10 disappeared from our screens.
July 7, 2014
אתם זוכרים את דבריה של האם רחל פרנקל, בהספדה על בנה הנרצח נפתלי?
“הבטחתם שתמצאו ותביאו אותם, והבאתם אותם. גם זה חסד גדול כבר היו דברים וזה לא מובן מאליו”.
“כבר היו דברים”.
כל אחד וזכרונו הוא אבל הנה אחד שעדיין סופו לוט בסוד איומים:
הוא נולד בסטניסלבוב שבגליציה והיה סטודנט ומדריך בחוג של נוער ציוני בעירו. בשנת 1911 עלה לארץ-ישראל וכאן הצטרף למפלגת פועלי-ציון. הוא עבד בשמירה והיה בין הרועים הראשונים בארץ. כשומר נמנה עם הקבוצה שיצאה לחריש הראשון על אדמת מרחביה. על פי עדות חבריו היה “פועל מצויין, אדם טוב ובעל הומור וחביב על כולנו”.
בשנת 1914 היה בין השומרים שיצאו ליישוב אדמות קלנדיה (לימים עטרות) שליד ירושלים. לאחר שמירת לילה יצא ברגל לירושלים ועקבותיו נעלמו. חבריו חיפשוהו בכל סביבות ירושלים אך לא מצאוהו ונראה שנרצח וגופתו הוטמנה במערה.