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.
July 3, 2014
by YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK, 02/07/2014
Public broadcasting that denies its Israeli roots undermines two millennia of Jewish aspirations for a vibrant Jewish culture in our homeland.
One of Communications Minister Gilad Erdan’s (Likud) pet projects is the dissolution of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, the abolishment of the TV tax and the creation of a Public Broadcasting Corporation, a new public entity which is to replace the IBA. Instead of the wasteful IBA and Educational TV, with their close to 2,000 employees, the new PBC will have at most 750 or so employees, and is to be run by competent management. Its NIS 700 million budget is to come from a variety of sources, mainly the car license tax and advertisements. The public broadcaster will not generate its own TV programs but is to outsource them. Israel’s post-Zionist film industry is already frothing at the mouth in anticipation of all the public money to be thrown at it.
The Knesset debate revolving around the proposed legislation is intense but lopsided.
Minister Erdan is steamrolling it through a special committee, which meets four times a week for hours without end, to make sure that all is done before the Knesset adjourns for its summer vacation. Erdan is demonstrating once again that Likudniks know how to use power for the sake of carrying out a post-Zionist agenda.
On the first day of the consideration of the specifics of the bill, one of us (EP) noted that the new entity is titled The Public Broadcasting Corporation and requested that one word be added and the name revised to The Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation. The minister did not agree and in the committee vote only four MKs supported the proposed change – Issawi Freij (Meretz), Nissim Ze’ev (Shas), Mickey Rosenthal (Labor) and Yoni Shetbon (Bayit Yehudi). Committee chairperson Karen Elharar (Yesh Atid) and three other coalition MKs voted against and so the amendment did not pass.
One wonders why. Almost all public broadcasters in the world are named after their country. The standard examples are the British Broadcasting Corporation, France Television, Germany’s ARD (Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland) and ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen). Also in the Far East, for example in Japan, the main public broadcaster is the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK). Even tiny countries are proud enough to use their names; in Iceland, the public broadcaster is The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.
Why is Minister Erdan so insistent that our Public Broadcasting Corporation remain anonymous? Well, one might say, what’s in a name? After all, the broadcaster is operating in Israel and in Hebrew. However, even this argument, as we shall see, is not precise.
The bill originally submitted to the Knesset was a piece of unadulterated post-Zionism.
Any mention of Zionism, Jewish heritage, the Hebrew language or Diaspora Jewry, all of which are part of the ethos underlying the IBA and part of the original 1965 IBA legislation, were cast out. Only the pressure of Minister Uri Orbach of Bayit Yehudi, who conditioned his support for the new legislation as a government- backed law, forced Erdan to soften up a bit. With the help of Bayit Yehudi MKs Yoni Shetbon and Ayelet Shaked, the present legislation does state in paragraph 7b that the “Public Broadcasting Corporation’s broadcasts will be independent, will be aimed at all citizens of the State of Israel and will reflect the Jewish democratic State of Israel, its values and its Jewish heritage.”
Compare this one sentence with the existing IBA law, which states that the IBA will “reflect life in Israel, the struggle for independence, and Israel’s achievements; the IBA will foster good citizenship and equality; it will strengthen the connection with Judaism and the Jewish heritage and will deepen knowledge in these spheres.” There’s much more in that vein. For example, the IBA is to “Promote Hebrew and Israeli creativity; foster knowledge of the Hebrew language and promote its use, taking into consideration the decisions of the National Academy for the Hebrew Language.”
The present version of the proposed PBC legislation, also inserted only after heated discussion – and a personal request from Dr.
Tali Ben-Yehuda, director-general of the academy – is: “The PBC will ‘promote and care for the Hebrew language.’” This is only the beginning. The new chair of the public broadcaster cannot be an intellectual; he/she must be a good business person.
This is the new ethos. Good management, competitiveness and high ratings. Education is mentioned only in passing with respect to youth, and only because the new law liquidates the educational television service. The understanding that the public broadcaster is arguably the most influential educator in Israel has obviously not reached Minister Erdan.
Another one of the casualties of the proposed law is the concept that Israel’s public broadcaster should serve as a bridge to the Diaspora. The readers of this article in The Jerusalem Post, many of whom are avid followers of the IBA’s news in English, should be concerned. One may expect that this will be one of the first victims of the new public broadcaster.
The proponents of the bill stress on every occasion that the new law will prevent any political interference with the public broadcaster’s operations. All appointments to the board of the new broadcaster will be made by a panel of three. Its head, a supreme or district court judge emeritus, is appointed by the minister.
But the other two co-panelists are appointed by the judge. This does not imply the de-politicization of the public broadcaster but rather assures that no matter what the Israeli public thinks, the public broadcaster will be ruled by an elitist minority. The broadcaster will be public in name only, while overtly political in practice, its politics dominated by a controlling minority.
Minister Uri Orbach has often stated that real change in the Israeli media can come about only if more Zionist-oriented people enter the profession. If the public broadcaster materializes according to Minister Erdan’s vision, there will be no place in it for Zionists.
Even if more people do want to enter the profession – and there are many such people – they will hit a wall, with the law justifying lack of recognition of Zionist-oriented programming.
We do not understand Minister Erdan. In the past, he has made very clear statements about the post-Zionist bias of the Israeli media, so why is he now creating such an entity? We call upon all those with the power to do so to please stop this lunacy. A post-Zionist Public Broadcasting Corporation which denies its Israeli roots is not merely a waste of the taxpayers’ money, it undermines two millennia of Jewish aspirations to establish a vibrant Jewish culture in our homeland.
This article was written prior to the sad news about the murder of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah. At this point in time we can only ask and pray that the Almighty will send his condolences to the bereaved families and that they will find consolation in Jerusalem.
June 25, 2014
On May 30, 2014, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA), informed us of a rather disturbing story – disturbing, that is, for anyone who worries about the resurrection of blatant anti-Semitism.
It was based on an open letter published on the JNS website written by Myron Kaplan, a CAMERA senior research analyst.
The Achille Lauro, a Greek cruise ship, was hijacked on October 7, 1985, by terrorists, members of the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), affiliated with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Reem al-Nimer, widow of PLF leader Muhammed Zaidan, testified in 2013 that the hijacking was planned 11 months in advance. The goal was to hijack the ship, run it to Ashdod port and then kill Israelis.
Surprised by a crew member, the terrorists were forced to alter their plans. They then set out for Syria, demanding the release of 50 Arab terrorists held in Israeli prisons in exchange for the hostages held on the Achille Lauro. The Syrians did not allow them to take refuge in the Syrian harbor in Tartus. The hijackers then murdered an American citizen: wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer.
He was shot twice and the ship’s crew were forced to throw the body and the wheelchair overboard.
The PLO’s Faruq Qadummi denied responsibility and claimed that Klinghoffer’s widow, Marilyn, killed her husband in order to collect life insurance payments. It took over 10 years until Muhammad Zaidan, who eventually died in 2003 in American custody, finally admitted responsibility and the PLO reached a financial settlement with the family.
But this is only the background to our “story.”
In 1991, the librettist Alice Goodman, together with musician John Adams, created an opera titled The Death of Klinghoffer. It was backed by theater director Peter Sellars and choreographer Mark Morris. One of its five commissioners was the Brooklyn Academy of Music. John Rockwell, in a special report to The New York Times on March 21, 1991, gave it a rather positive review, predicting that the opera might reach greatness.
Indeed, the opera has finally reached the world scene. The New York Metropolitan Opera decided to present it to the public, not only as an opera at the Met but also to simulcast it in high definition to over 2,000 locations in 66 countries, all over the world.
So, what is so disturbing? The title of the Opera already says it all – the “death” of Klinghoffer. He did not “die,” he was murdered in cold blood. Adams’ libretto portrays the terrorists in a positive light, as idealistic freedom fighters. The opera includes blatant anti-Semitic statements as detailed by the Zionist Organization of America on its website.
It is an inglorious attempt to rewrite history, portraying the “bad guys” as the “good guys.”
Myron Kaplan was appalled and beseeched the Met to at least change its decision to broadcast the production to the whole world. Kaplan’s appeal together with the pressure of various organizations, such as CAMERA and ZOA, succeeded. The Met agreed to cancel the worldwide production, but the opera itself will continue to be part of the Met’s 2014 fall season program and will be staged at least six times.
Is this story of interest to the Israeli public? We think that it is. It exemplifies many of the problems Israel faces.
Attempts to rewrite history are ubiquitous, but here arguably the most important opera house in the world is participating in this anti-Semitic distortion. Secondly, this is a prime example of the importance of NGOs. It is only through their efforts, and not through governmental intervention, that the Met backtracked. Thirdly, though, it highlights Israel’s weakness when it comes to defending the Jewish people and itself. Official Israel has been silent on the issue. Israel’s President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have not taken an official position, nor requested the Met to completely cancel the “opera.”
Why? One reason has to do with “agenda setting.” A well-known standard for pushing an agenda in the media is to have it surface at least 100 times within a one-week period. The radio and TV advertising business is guided by this. For example, the post-Zionist media will repeatedly cite President Peres’ complimentary comments to the Palestinian Authority’s leader Mahmoud Abbas, supporting the agenda of those among us who believe that Israel should deal with a Hamas-dominated government.
Has our mass media dealt with this matter? The Klinghoffer opera affair was mentioned on May 19 in Haaretz, in its cultural section. In the English version, published on June 6, the paper outdid itself, headlining the cultural news item with “Opera set to be performed by the Met in November, but Klinghoffer daughters say ‘biased’ and ‘historically naive’; Rabbi says great art should be provocative.”
The rabbi in question is Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, VP for philanthropy at the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
Isi Leibler mentioned the affair in two lines in an op-ed in the Israel Hayom newspaper. The Arts and Entertainment section of this paper had an item on the cancellation of the world broadcast on June 19.
That’s about it.
This attitude is typical of our news media. In January, NGO Monitor exposed the anti-Israel actions of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), an NGO which is funded ($9 million annually) by Britain, Norway, the European Union and other countries.
These funds were used to intervene in Israeli policy and strengthen the international campaign of demonization against Israel. The NRC’s strategy is to “use all possible legal means to disrupt the Israeli legal system…and to add to the load on the courts and the Supreme Court.” It has funded close to 700 cases, most of which deal with property rights in Judea and Samaria. The coverage of this issue, reported only on the Galei Israel radio station and the IBA’s Kol Israel radio, was next to nil. The governments involved were not called to task by anyone in official Israel.
At Israel’s Media Watch, we are bombarded by people in Europe with complaints about anti-Israel bias in their local media. Jewish organizations such as the excellent Swiss Audiatur website attempt to defend Israel. But it is difficult. Official Israel is loath to provide statistics in too many cases and our local media does not demand transparency on issues which might just dispel the Palestinian narrative.
The pro-Israel NGOs in the United States did a great job in the Klinghoffer case. Official Europe has no problem in funding political NGOs and the press does not find it outrageous to support the agenda of these government- funded organizations (here, Israeli governmental support blemishes the recipients, coloring them as propagandists). Razi Barkai of Galatz honored the tenth anniversary of the anti-Israel and arguably anti-Semitic and European Union-funded organization “Breaking the Silence” with an interview.
At the end of the day, though, perhaps we should thank the Met.
Its actions serve as another warning bell to all as to what we should be doing to defend our country and our people.
June 19, 2014
by YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK, 18/06/2014
We call upon the media to stop framing this kidnapping story, and to just present the facts as they are.
Alain de Botton, a writer, television presenter and a Fellow of the British Royal Society of Literature and who also happens to be Jewish, has published The News: A User’s Manual. In it, he asserts that news has replaced religion as the prime source of influence on society. The public, he says, is expected to treat it deferentially and comply with its rules without question or hesitation. The media is in the “habit of randomly dipping readers into a brief moment in a lengthy narrative … while failing to provide any explanation of the wider context,” he writes, – or in short, guilty of unethical manipulatory practices.
John Ryley, head of Sky News, was adamant in refuting these claims. This past week he said that news organizations do not “shape” people’s views, rather the people are being given “the most accurate information impartially, so that they can shape their own views. We are not doing what de Botton accuses us of – trying to ‘craft a new planet’ in the minds of the audience.”
But media consumers are very much the target of shaped news reporting. Since the 1960s, when “New Journalism” took root, the central idea has been that journalists influence readers through the language they employ and how they position themselves in the story. Journalists dramatize their interpretation of events, and drama, in turn, leads to an unequal test for the media consumer: choosing between the truth and the beauty of a narrative. The journalist, like a theater director, frames the presentation using parameters that he or she controls, rather than merely presenting the story as is.
This past week’s kidnapping sadly provided us with some examples of this type of “framing.”
On Friday night, Channel 2’s political correspondent, Rina Mazliach, hosting the weekly round-up program Ulpan Shishi, said, “Netanyahu decided to prefer the freeing of prisoners over a freeze of construction [in Judea and Samaria]. His critics, who don’t want as yet to say this in their own voices but perhaps may state it later, [believe] that if he hadn’t made this decision to free prisoners there wouldn’t have been any motivation to kidnap Israeli civilians to release more.”
Sitting across from her, the channel’s Arab affairs correspondent Ehud Ya’ari expressed amazement, saying, “Are you speaking seriously?” To this Mazliach responded, “I hope you pay serious attention to what I am saying; I demand it. I hope you realize I am quoting Netanyahu’s critics.”
Mazliach was hiding behind anonymous persons, using their supposed statements to literally accuse the prime minister of responsibility for the kidnapping. We, her audience, are kept in the dark. Who are these persons? Is she herself among them? Mazliach could have presented the issue quite differently.
She could have posed the question of whether Netanyahu’s decision to release prisoners instead of halting construction in Judea and Samaria communities could have motivated the kidnapping. That would have been fair.
Even better, she should have quoted the critics by name, giving them due credit but noting at the same time that Israelis have been kidnapped previously without any connection to either a prisoner release or to housing construction.
But no, Mazliach preferred to use anonymous sources to dramatize the issue and accuse the prime minister. Ethics be damned.
A second example of “the frame” was the loud media voices laying the blame for the kidnapping with the three kidnapped boys. Ra’anan Shaked of Yediot Aharonot wrote on his Facebook page that “the heart of every parent in Israel is telling all the same thing: ‘[expletive], those crazies take their children with them to live in the territories.’” To its credit, the mainstream media also attacked extremists who “blame the victim.” Voices were heard asking if these persons also think the way woman dresses can be blamed for her rape. An excellent item was featured on the Walla website. A youngster from Judea and Samaria was invited to explain his view on hitchhiking. He noted that when buses were bombed, murdering hundreds, people continued using them, blaming the terrorists for the carnage.
No one complained that people should either walk, bike or drive. In Judea and Samaria, hitchhiking is the equivalent of using public transportation. If a terrorist kidnapping occurs one should only blame the kidnappers for the atrocity, no one else.
In an op-ed published in Haaretz on June 15, Uri Misgav expressed dark forebodings. He wrote – dramatically – about the media and the left wing retreating into silence as the eighth anniversary of the Second Lebanon War drew near.
“The media,” he wrote, “is giving in to Bibi [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] by being his fawning lapdog, the Left is shutting up, the government is acting as its own publicist, insanely, so as to disguise its ministerial and strategic responsibility.”
Drama, did we say? This appears to be mere histrionics.
Ben Caspit, two days later in Ma’ariv, took it further, writing of Netanyahu’s “success in harnessing the kidnapping/terror attack to detour the media’s attention from the unending scandals of his and his wife’s behavior, from the garden furniture removed from Jerusalem to Caesarea, etc.”
The two assumptions in that assertion, namely that the prime minister is actually cynically manipulating a tragic incident to his own personal ends, and that his and his wife’s actions – in this case a supposed theft of government property by Sarah Netanyahu – is a proven crime and not simply an accusation, are not only disconnected from the main story but lack all factual basis. Even opinion pieces should be based on fact.
Three youths have been taken from their families; their lives are in danger. We call upon the media to stop framing this story, and to just present the facts as they are. The families, who are suffering from the terrible uncertainty, need support, not “frames.”
June 13, 2014
by YISRAEL MEDAD, ELI POLLAK, 06/11/2014
The campaign for the election of the 10th president of the State of Israel was described by many pundits as the dirtiest ever. The filth hit almost everywhere. A shoddy video attempted to connect president-elect Reuven Rivlin to the convicted criminals Moshe Katzav and Ehud Olmert. Is there any senior politician whose photo was not taken with a former president or prime minister? Even the writers of this column have had their photos take with the two.
Hatnua MK Meir Shetreet was accused of doling out a quarter of a million shekels in severance pay to his housecleaner, who worked in his home for only two years. Former Knesset chairwoman Dalia Itzik was reminded of her NIS 75,000 bill for a hotel room in Paris for four nights as well as NIS 70,000 spent on the tax-payer’s account for the renovation of her home in Jerusalem. This information “helped” her to “volunteer” that she had a third apartment.
Minister Silvan Shalom was forced to absent himself early on due to accusations of sexual misbehavior, which were proven to be unfounded. Former Labor party leader and MK Binyamin Ben- Eliezer dropped out this past weekend due to revelations concerning his expensive home in Jaffa, funded partially by multi-millionaire Abraham Nanikashvily, who seems to also be entangled in the criminal proceedings surrounding the Ashdod Port.
Only two candidates, neither of whose candidacies were serious to start off with, Nobel Prize laureate Professor Dan Shechtman and former Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner, managed to emerge unscathed.
The truth is, though, that the same stories may be viewed very differently. Let us remember that of the past three presidents, two – Ezer Weizmann and Katzav – were forced to leave office.
Weizmann resigned in the wake of accusations of financial improprieties and Katzav as a sex criminal. It is the job of the media to uncover the truth regarding the candidates before the election, not after the results are counted. An alert media could have prevented the Weizmann-Katsav debacles. Instead, the good name of the office of the presidency was severely damaged.
One may well assume that the public would want to know of any serious offenses committed by the various candidates.
Eldad Yaniv publicized the issue of Ben-Eliezer’s expensive home. It is not a crime to be wealthy, but when a leader of the Labor Party, who did not make millions in business, spends funds which are only a dream to most Israelis on an extravagant home it is not surprising that eyebrows are raised.
Ben-Eliezer, a seasoned politician, was aware in advance that his home would become an issue; at least this is what MK Eitan Cabel, his senior supporter in the Labor Party, claimed. Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich let it be known that she would support Rivlin. A president of the state must be capable of providing the public with an open and satisfying explanation of such things.
One cannot but compare Ben-Eliezer’s home with the very modest dwellings of many former presidents.
The same goes with MKs Itzik and Shetreet. Yes, these accusations seem like mudslinging, but if the accused are so innocent, why didn’t they from the beginning clarify their personal affairs? It is the job of the media, once it gets wind of such seemingly inappropriate behavior, to publicize it. Instead of pointing fingers in the air, claiming that sinister forces are at large and playing around with the presidential election, we should be grateful that we live in a democracy where information is free and politicians cannot get away with misdoings. The fact is that the video concerning MK Rivlin was roundly criticized by the media for what it was – a smear campaign.
There seems, however, to be a general feeling of discontent with the media’s treatment of the presidential election. During the past 20 years the media was derelict in its duty to engage in the admittedly difficult and sometimes expensive task of investigative journalism. Compare Ben-Eliezer with president Shimon Peres. The latter increased the presidential budget from NIS 20 million annually to over NIS 60 million. Ben-Eliezer’s home cost “only” NIS 9 million (as reported) – and taxpayers didn’t foot the bill. Itzik’s NIS 70,000 renovations are comparatively a drop in the bucket.
Did the media know about Peres’s extravagance prior to his election? The opulence of the Peres Center is, of course, not a state secret. Yet Peres can go to the pope and shake hands with terrorists in Rome, as well as engage in scores of precedent-setting “diplomatic work meetings” with visiting statesmen, with hardly a peep from the media. Not to mention the separate domiciles of president Peres and his late wife.
There is another aspect to the media’s failings. The platforms of the various candidates were discussed to some extent during the last days prior to the vote. But why didn’t the media present the public with a civilized debate in which each of the candidates could present to the public directly their vision for the next seven years? To quote polls is insufficient. The tough questions should have been asked directly and openly. The fact that the Knesset elects the president is not sufficient ground for claiming that such a debate is unnecessary.
Given the rowdy nature of Israeli talk shows, one might claim a debate would be demeaning of the presidency. A candidate who respects herself or himself and the public, however, would know not to bend down to the depths of the usual shows. In the distant past, Israel had debates between prime ministerial candidates and these were rather informative.
The president of Israel is no longer merely a figurehead. President Peres has amply demonstrated the power of the president to influence government policy. The release of terrorists could have been stopped by the president. Even the process of government formation can be influenced by the president’s choice in asking one politician or the other to undertake the task.
Former president Katzav could have taken a strong public stand against the expulsions from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria. Had he done so, history may have been written quite differently.
The media during this year’s campaign should have forcefully demanded that the candidates provide direct answers to the public on the issues surrounding the presidency. It also did not put the heat on Peres for misappropriating his power, creating the anarchy that exists nowadays.
It might well be that the media has its own agenda. In cooperating with a serving president and low-profiling the campaign for a new one, a bond can be formed, one in which a certain type of president can be catapulted into the house on Jerusalem’s HaNassi Street. The pundits had this race wrong, most of them predicting a close end run between Itzik and Rivlin. It is a relief to know that our politicians do not (yet) always dance to the media’s tune.
June 5, 2014
by YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK, 04/06/2014
Jerusalem has presented our media outlets with a special problem over the years.
Jerusalem has presented our media outlets with a special problem over the years. As we all know, from viewing, reading and listening to the media, the theme of Jerusalem Day is most usually that the city is divided and we should surrender Israeli sovereignty over the eastern neighborhoods to the Palestinian Authority. They can then have their share of Jerusalem as their capital.
A second theme is moaning over the “terrible state of our capital”; secular residents and young people leave the city, whose remaining social makeup is only Arabs and haredim (ultra-Orthodox). A third theme is that Jerusalem Day is a holiday mostly for the national-religious camp and their Christian supporters.
The biased reportage is well reflected in the visit of Pope Francis to the Temple Mount on May 26, 2014. An agreement was reached between the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Wakf that the IBA would have an IBA van on site to cover the story, but the agreement was violated. The ministry gave in to pressure and the compromise was that the van could enter the Mount – but without the logo of the IBA.
This story was picked up by numerous media outlets.
But only a few bloggers caught on to the fact that the pope was escorted not only by Sheikh Abdul Azim Salhab, president of the Council of the Islamic Wakf in Jerusalem, and Grand Mufti Mohammed Hussein, a preacher at the Aqsa Mosque. Jordan’s Prince Ghazi was also present as representative of his country’s status as the patron of “Jerusalem’s Muslim and Christian holy sites.” This inclusion of a foreign country’s representative in an official state visit was simply not discussed.
No one thought that it appropriate to ask the Foreign Ministry or the Prime Minister’s Office about this violation of Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount. Let us imagine that Israel had not allowed the Jordanian official presence, and Jordan had expressed its “outrage.”
One can be sure that all the pundits would have taken up the cause.
Not less striking was the fact that there was no broad reportage of what Salhab and Hussein said to the pope.
The mufti said that peace has been removed from the city and that, “Our goal is to fight the Israeli occupation of oppression… that wants to wipe out our presence – both Muslims, both Christians… to take control of the holy places… There are ferocious attacks against the holy places… and attempts to change the status- quo… We urge you to prevent damage to holy places and to stem the attacks on al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Hussein added that the mosque is “subjected to aggression and invasions of extremist settlers” and that Israel seeks “to Judaize the mosque and divide it so as to share it, both in terms of time [certain hours] and in terms of the areas [specified places].”
The pope heard that Jews have no rights, history or future in Jerusalem. The Israeli reportage of all this, as exemplified for example by Ynet, was as bland as could be. No one complained about the pope’s silence. Had this information been fully shared with media consumers, perhaps there would have been less amazement at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s words at Ammunition Hill last Wednesday when he spoke of the phenomenon of Temple denial.
Pope Francis in his reply to the two Muslim dignitaries said, “May we work together for justice and peace” and added, “from this holy place I make a heartfelt plea: …may we respect and love one another as brothers and sisters! …May no one abuse the name of God through violence!” Was the pope pressuring the Wakf to lessen its provocative and violent behavior toward Jews and Christians who visit the Temple Mount but cannot display religious respect or practice any worship there? That could have been a very big story. But our media is just not tuned in to this side of the story and so missed the opportunity.
Many of our politicians swear, whenever the opportunity arises, that Jerusalem will be unified “forever.”
Our media thinks quite differently. There is an enormous gap between the coverage of national days such as the Holocaust Memorial Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day and even Tisha Be’av, as compared to the media’s relation to Jerusalem Day.
The right-wing Galei Yisrael radio station, broadcasting mainly in Judea and Samaria, dedicated the whole day’s programming to Jerusalem. A very special item was an in-depth interview with Naomi Shemer’s daughter Lalli. She described her influence as well as that of Rivka Michaeli on Naomi Shemer’s “Jerusalem of Gold” masterpiece, which is perhaps the symbol of the reunified city.
She claimed to have brought singer Shuli Natan to the attention of her mother, and that Michaeli’s admonishment to Shemer for not including the Old City in her song led to the creation of the second stanza: “How the cisterns have dried; The market-place is empty; And no one frequents the Temple Mount; In the Old City.”
Compare this to the IBA’s Reshet Bet radio station.
The radio program on Jerusalem Day between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. was hosted by Iris Lavie. She had a long item relating to Shavuot, but the only mention of Jerusalem Day was that of the traffic announcer who described the closure of roads in Jerusalem due to the day.
Is this an accident? We believe not. Lavie is also the permanent editor of the weekly left-wing-dominated program of Professor Moshe Negbi. Lavie often identifies with Negbi’s post-Zionist agenda. During the interview with Professor Rachel Elior on Shavuot, Lavie made it a point that she is a resident of Tel Aviv.
Lavie’s program was not unique. Reshet Bet dedicated two programs to Jerusalem Day including one hour covering the official Jerusalem Day ceremony, which took place in the Russian compound in the city. The army radio station Galatz did not do much better, with three programs. The IBA’s TV Channel 1 had six programs relating to Jerusalem Day, TV channels 2 and 10 had none.
The media’s disinterest in Jerusalem is not limited to Jerusalem Day. For example, how many people know that in the aftermath of the Oslo accords, officials of the European Union are not permitted to visit the eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem unless they are hosted by official representatives of the Palestinian Authority? Why is our media so cold when it comes to Jerusalem? We can only reflect that for the avowed secularists of Israel, who have an aversion to anything relating to religion, Jerusalem is the problem. It is the holy city, it does not fit in with their post-Zionist view of how Israel should look.
Is it easier for them ideologically if Jerusalem were ruled by the Palestinians who would then eradicate any Jewish connection to the city? Surely, if there were more Zionist- and Jewish-oriented figures in the media, Jerusalem Day would look and sound very different.