November 21, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: The hidden and the fake

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:29 pm by yisraelmedad

The hidden and the fake
For the past 12 years, this organization has been producing reports on the achievements of Israeli ministers and Knesset members in the national camp.
The NGO Mattot Arim describes itself on its website as an authentic grassroots Israeli organization that promotes the national interests of the residents of central Israel and the large cities within the former “Green Line.” It provides critical information on existential topics, information that often is not made available to the public by any other means. It aims to empower the citizenship and enable it to express itself in an informed manner so as to have positive influence on the Knesset, primary elections, the government and other centers of political power.

For the past 12 years, this organization has been producing reports on the achievements of Israeli ministers and Knesset members in the national camp. Their definition of an achievement is helping to bring about an outcome that the national camp electorate supports as well as preventing an outcome that the national camp electorate opposes. As the actors are elected parliamentarians and appointed ministers, “achievements” range from initiating legislation, voting in the Knesset, policy promotions, public pronouncements and so on.

Its 2018 report, published in October, noted that “almost 70% of the National Camp’s elected leaders had 10 or fewer achievements”. Their report is detailed, listing the number of achievements of each coalition party MK separately. For example, Bayit Yehudi Minister Ayelet Shaked was found to be the top performer, with 78 achievements in which she furthered the interests of the national camp. This is to be contrasted with Yisrael Beytenu’s former minister Sofia Landwer with not a single achievement for the national camp to her credit.

Especially with primaries and national elections in the near future, one would think that its report would raise interest, at least within the national camp and its media outlets. Indeed, Arutz 7 published their results, as did the religious website Srugim, but that was it. Nothing in the mainstream media or Makor Rishon and Israel Hayom. The right-wing media does not support its NGOs, as does, for example, Haaretz.

Contrast this with a very different NGO, Mashrokit (in English, the Whistleblower). It describes itself innocuously as an organization that “deals with public statements made by public figures in order to provide the news consumers with an essential tool for their informed and critical examination. Through a quick, comprehensive, balanced, and real-time examination of statements regarding the day’s issues, the Mashrokit seeks to lead a more credible, accurate and factual public and media discourse in Israel.” Furthermore, “the principles that guide the work of Mashrokit are precision, accuracy in facts and details, and the use of reliable sources, regardless of the speaker’s identity or the position presented.“ That sounds good and presumably, that is what Israel’s mainstream media also thinks.

As reported on November 14 on the ICE website, in the Haaretz newspaper, at the national Eilat Journalists Conference and on Kan Reshet Bet, this organization reached the conclusion that 74% of public statements made by Israeli politicians are fake news. Certainly, if true, that is quite worthy of publicity, not less and not more than Mattot Arim’s conclusion that “almost 70% of the National Camp’s elected leaders had 10 or fewer achievements.” Why, then, the striking difference in the media attention given to the two different reports?

As published on September 20 on The Marker’s website, a study of the Mashrokit organization’s website leads to the conclusion that mostly right-wing politicians are under scrutiny, an allegation vehemently denied by Michal Sela, one of their employees, who says, “We all have opinions, but we are apolitical…. It does not matter if you are left or right. It is important that politicians do not lie to you.” Indeed, we would agree. But it is also important that NGOs do not misrepresent themselves. Mattot Arim openly describes itself as belonging to the national camp. Mashrokit, on the other hand, is afraid to present its true identity, and no wonder.

In 2016 its largest donor was guess who? The New Israel Fund. Are they neutral? Not exactly.

Mashrokit’s concept of fake news is a very relative one. For example, Yehuda Glick, Likud MK, stated on September 14 that two million Palestinians live in Judea and Samaria. This was deemed fake news by Mashrokit. But of course, the number of residents is hotly debated – neither Glick, nor Mashrokit nor anyone else knows the correct number, since the Palestinian Authority refuses to hold a scientifically controlled census.

Likud MK and Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Hotovely criticized the Supreme Court for ordering the destruction of homes in Netiv Ha’avot in the Gush Etzion area. She states that this was “despite the fact that there was no Palestinian who had a claim on the land.” The Mashrokit goes into a long harangue to try to prove that this is false and that there are Palestinians who have a claim. However, in truth, that is a claim some Arabs made, but it was never proven in any court of justice. To assume that the Palestinians are truthful and Hotovely is not, is perhaps not surprising for an organization whose budget comes from the New Israel Fund.

Journalists today seem to be dissatisfied with the traditional roles of the press, which were to truthfully and objectively report on events. A journalist was a “committed observer,” as Gil Thelen, former publisher of The Tampa Tribune, wrote. But new norms have been developing, as we see above.

In the most recent issue of Journalism, published by Sage, three academics, Karen McIntyre, Nicole Smith Dahmen and Jesse Abdenour, report on a survey of more than 1,300 journalists concerning “contextual reporting.” What that means are stories that “go beyond the immediacy of the news and contribute to societal well-being.” Their analyses showed that younger journalists and female journalists highly valued three genres of contextual reporting: constructive journalism, solutions journalism, and restorative narrative. Moreover, the more favorable view of those genres stemmed from the journalist’s belief in activist values such as setting the political agenda and pointing to possible solutions.

In short, the media is becoming less of an observer and more of a player. The media has involved itself in the news. A monograph we published more than 20 years ago asked if Israel’s media was reporting or managing the news. We concluded that we found an increasing influence of the broadcast media on the political life of the State of Israel. Additionally, the bias in its reporting of public affairs deliberations was interfering with Israel’s democracy.

Mashrokit’s treatment by Israel’s media and the virtual non-existent treatment of Mattot Arim, we suggest, are further proof of our observation.

The bottom line is that Mashrokit – The Whistleblower – should first blow its whistle on itself, admit its ideology and stop trying to present the public with the fake news that it is objective in its judgments. And our mainstream media should do the same. The fact that an organization such as Mashrokit is provided uncritical publicity support by Israel’s mainstream media while Mattot Arim is not, gives further insight into how and why our media is not trusted by the public. 



November 7, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: Sowing hatred

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:45 pm by yisraelmedad

MEDIA COMMENT: Sowing hatred
The Jewish people are, on a global scale, small in numbers. But with all the differences between us, there is a fundamental solidarity.
The horrific murder in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue touched almost every Jewish soul, as well those of non-Jews. The outpouring of grief and consternation was felt everywhere – in the United States, Israel, Europe and elsewhere. In such times, the Jewish people gather in solidarity. Although one cannot equate it exactly with the anxiety and identification with Jews in Israel that occurs when Israel is attacked or goes to war, something of the same “can do” spirit was there.

The Jewish people are, on a global scale, small in numbers. But with all the differences between us, there is a fundamental solidarity perhaps most eloquently stated by our sages close to 2,000 years ago: “All of Israel are responsible for each other.” Ecclesiastes taught us that there is a time for everything, a time to cry and a time to love.

This was the spirit – except among too many of Israel’s leading journalists.

The opening salvo came from Arieh Golan. On Sunday morning, in the aftermath of the massacre when the shock was greatest, he had nothing to say after the 7 a.m. news but that the solidarity with the congregation in Pittsburgh was essentially fake, since these are Jews of Judaism’s Conservative stream, which, he declared, Israel has forsaken.

Next was Arad Nir, Channel 2 TV news editor. Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett was fittingly sent to Pittsburgh to represent the government and express Israel’s solidarity with the community in Pittsburgh. Nir was sent there ostensibly to cover the events. Appropriately enough, he interviewed Bennett. In his two-minute “interview,” these were his questions:

• Was Israel mistaken in the manner in which it related to the voices heard here and should Israel start toning down its proclamations?

• Regarding the friends of Israel who have an antisemitic background, perhaps Israel errs here?

In response to Bennett’s admonition that this is not the time for divisiveness, Nir lectured, “We should learn a lesson from this that would prevent such occurrences in the future.”

Bennett continued with his message of solidarity, but Nir would not be swayed, asking, or perhaps more accurately, stating, “But Conservative and Reform communities here feel estranged from Israel.”

Bennett noted that no one that he met had raised these issues, but rather that everyone was thankful for the presence of Israel’s representative at that time. In response, Haredi journalist Yossi Elituv summarized on his Twitter account: “When Arad Nir is in a state of post-trauma, no one can help with first aid. Bennett tried, but Nir insisted on evading reality.”

PERHAPS THE most outrageous act came from that icon of thinking people, the Ha’aretz newspaper, which seemed to be attempting to sow hatred, one of its strong points. It blatantly misquoted Chief Rabbi David Lau in an interview. No less a personality than Andrew Silow-Carroll, the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, an organization not noted for Orthodox or right-wing leanings, took Ha’aretz to task.

The interview was picked up by the American media and in the Washington Post. The headline was, “Pittsburgh shooting was widely reported in Israel, but not all media noted it took place in a synagogue.” As quoted by Silow-Carroll, the article itself stated: “In an interview with Makor Rishon, a newspaper aimed at the modern Orthodox community, the country’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi, David Lau, referred to Tree of Life synagogue as ‘a place with a profound Jewish flavor.’” Both Lau and Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, the Post posited, “stopped short of recognizing that it took place in a synagogue.” Even The Jerusalem Post’s Susan Hattis-Rolef in an op-ed article this Monday fell for the fake news.

Silow-Carroll was outraged and did his homework. In the interview, Rabbi Lau stated: “There is nothing to discuss about their affiliation. They were killed because they were Jews! Does it matter in which synagogue they pray in or what text they use?” In other words, Ha’aretz, on whom the Washington Post based itself, used the Pittsburgh massacre to portray the chief rabbi as a person who cannot overcome his biases in the face of grief, while the truth is that it was Ha’aretz that did its best – and succeeded – to present the rabbi in a negative light. This was then circulated by no less a newspaper than The Washington Post.

THE TRUTH is that this is not news. It so happens that one week later, left-wing Israelis celebrated the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin with their festival of hatred. The assassination was a tragedy, for all Jews, all around the world, irrespective of their political leanings. The Rabin memorial day should be respected by all of us. The central message should be that we cannot afford again to forget the terrible aftermath of the assassination of Gedalyahu ben Achikam almost 2,000 years ago. The only real answer to the act is and should be solidarity.

But no, this is not to be. Veteran left-wing commentator and branja (in-crowd) priest, Amnon Abramovitch, penned an op-ed for Yediot Ahronot. Its subtitle was rather positive: “For the purpose of union and peace, we should all make an effort to tolerate the other and stand together against Rabin’s murder – not for his legacy.” But of course, he could not leave it there. In describing the processes in Israel society, he claimed, “Religious Zionism, which was in shock following Rabin’s murder, held a national emergency conference under the title “preventing the radicalization process among youth” and since then, the group changed its strategy from a defensive one to offensive, and its youth members became more extreme.”

The bottom line of Abramovitch is that indeed we should unite – but only if the right wing beats its breast and takes all the blame for the assassination and all the ills of Israeli society, such as the “occupation.”

Unfortunately, conservatives in Israel know that when the Rabin Assassination Festival Season sets in, they have to bury their heads deep in the sand and just wait until it blows over. No matter how much they wish that this day could be a symbol of Israeli solidarity, it is not to be. Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein refused to participate in the hate festival, knowing well that it would not lead to anything positive. Likud Minister Tzachi Hanegbi barely managed to finish his speech; the crowd’s attempt to drown him out nearly succeeded.

Had our media been doing its job, it would have centered its energy this week in making sure that next year’s memorial day for Rabin would be what we all wish for, a day of mutual respect and reconciliation. Had the media been more attuned to the needs of the Jewish people here and in the Diaspora, and less willing to play along with extremist “progressive” groups in America who sought not to fight antisemitism but rather attack President Donald Trump politically, unity and mutual recognition could have been achieved.

But no, too many in our media prefer to sow hatred, not love. 


October 24, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: Weakening trust in democracy

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:06 pm by yisraelmedad

Weakening trust in democracy
Over the entire weekend, there was a war on our border – much more serious than a few months ago.
Israel’s public trusts the Israel Defense Forces and it is considered to be in the center of Israeli consensus. The last Israeli Democracy Index found that 88% of the Jewish public – and 41% of the Arab citizens – trusted the IDF. (Incidentally, from an all-time low of public trust in the media in 2016, the media had risen in 2017 by 4% reaching the “respectable” number of 28% last year.)

This past July, in the aftermath of the passage of the Nation-State Law and in response to voices within the army against it, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot called upon everyone to keep the IDF out of politics. Unfortunately, the events of this past week seem to indicate that it is the senior officers of the IDF who have embroiled the IDF in a very political issue namely, the correct response to the war on the Gaza border.

The rocket that destroyed a house and almost killed a mother and her three children in Beersheba created an outcry even within Israel’s Peace Now-promoting media. From the prime minister downward, the politicians were quoted as promising that Israel’s restraint has reached an end. After conferring with regional council leaders bordering on Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, “I have now concluded an assessment of the situation with the heads of the IDF and the top echelons of the security forces. Israel considers the attacks on the fence, on the Gaza perimeter, on Beersheba and everywhere with severity, and I said at the beginning of this week’s cabinet meeting that if these attacks do not stop we will stop them. To tell you today, Israel will act with great force.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, in an interview on Kol Chai radio said, “We must hit Hamas hard. This is the only way for reversing the situation and bringing the violence level down to almost zero.”

Eisenkot was quickly brought back from a visit to the States. The Cabinet met, and what happened? As reported in the media, last Friday approximately 10,000 demonstrators came to Gaza-Israel border and approximately 100 bombs, grenades and Molotov cocktails were hurled at the IDF forces and tires were burned. There were three attempts to infiltrate Israel. Some even succeeded, but the Gazans were forced to retreat after the IDF opened fire. Two Gazans were reportedly killed by the IDF, though the Hamas health authorities denied this and claimed that 150 people were injured. Dozens of fire balloons were sent and nine fires were initiated within Israel as a result.

Clearly, the border was “on fire.” Israel was again attacked with weapons of death and destruction and what was the media response? As reported in Israel Hayom, Reshet Bet and elsewhere, a “security source” claimed that “relative to the past half year, Friday was a day of reduced confrontations and perhaps the quietest one along the fence since the present round of confrontations was initiated.”

What was the governmental response? Liberman announced on Sunday that the Kerem Shalom and Erez border crossings would be re-opened and goods would be allowed in. As the demonstrations were mostly only at a distance of 500 meters from the fence, the army recommended leniency.

How did Israel’s media respond? Israel Hayom’s headline was “Gaza – the attempts to bring about an agreement are being renewed.” The sub-headline was “The Friday test of Hamas passed with relative quiet.”

This is a joke. Over the entire weekend, there was a war on our border – much more serious than a few months ago. For example, between August 12 and August 30, there were 29 fires caused by balloons and kites, an average of 1.5 per day, compared to the “relative quiet” of nine on this past Friday and Saturday. The level of the past weekend was perhaps the lowest during the month of October, but much higher than the previous months.

But our media swallowed the lie hook, line and sinker. No questions were asked and the veracity of the IDF proclamations was not questioned. The media did not do their job of seriously questioning all those responsible for their ongoing false proclamations. The media were allowing the IDF to get away with not merely providing the heads of state with alternatives but actually making sure that the IDF does not restore Israel’s deterrence.

There is nothing wrong with the IDF making recommendations. There is, however, something deeply disturbing when the IDF makes false statements aimed at promoting a certain policy. The worst part of this story is not the loss of deterrence vis a vis Hamas, but the loss of trust by the Israeli public. Eisenkot is not consistent in his call to keep the IDF out of politics. The media is not doing its job in calling the IDF to order here. It simply parroted the IDF uncritically.

The media’s role in weakening the public trust in important institutions is not limited to the IDF. Last week, three women journalists accused veteran senior journalist Dan Margalit of sexual harassment 30 years ago. We, of course, do not know the truth, and in spite of our severe criticism of Margalit as a journalist, at this point, we cannot accept public hearsay. The fact that Margalit, in the wake of the accusations, either left or was forced to leave his job in Haaretz is irrelevant here. He claims innocence and we must accept this until proof is provided.

There are good reasons why one cannot bring someone to court for crimes presumably perpetrated 30 years ago. A basic rule of law in a democracy asserts that one is innocent until proven guilty. Is it possible to have a fair trial 30 years after the fact? But Margalit is not the story here; rather it is the three women journalists who accused him as well as perhaps others.

The media deflect any criticism of their ethical performance or supposed bias by loudly claiming they are all professional. All are the best. They investigate and they report on what they find. They reveal the personal foibles and errors of judgment of politicians, business people and public figures. We are told we can, indeed, must trust them because they do their best.

Yet, if the claims against Margalit are true, indeed, as others against Ari Shavit were (by the way, also employed by Haaretz as is Yitzhak Laor who, in 2014, was accused of sexual harassment, causing Mifal Haypayis to reverse its decision to award him a prize), then are we to understand that strong, powerful women who take on the establishments – political, economic and military – women like Ayala Hasson or Yonit Levi, all of a sudden cannot quite call out a colleague for decades?

Or are other loyalties at work here, loyalties that also could influence, to the detriment of the truth and objectivity of the news, how they report political issues and diplomatic matters and which should cause the media consumer to question what is at work here?

In both cases, the public loses out and our trust in our democracy is weakened.


October 11, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: Media consumer, be aware

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:50 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Media consumer, be aware
Let’s play a quiz, shall we?
If we asked you which political leader, which party and which country are the ones involved after you finish reading the following description, what would you answer?

The leader had spoken at a party conference and launched a direct attack on the media, criticizing it as “a free press [that] has far too often [used that] freedom to spread lies and half-truths.” He then called on his party’s activists to use social media networks to challenge the mainstream press’ “propaganda of privilege.”

One of his chief allies then suggested to fellow party members not to pay attention to the media and another senior party official, who also spoke at the conference, opened his remarks with an attack on “our friends in the media.”

If you are thinking, perhaps, that this was US President Donald Trump and the Republican Party in America or even that it was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud here in Israel, you would be incorrect.

What we described above, including the words in quotation marks, actually occurred at the British Labour Party conference in Liverpool on September 25. The speakers were party leader Jeremy Corbyn and his chief ally John McDonnell and last time we looked, the two are quite decidedly hard-left socialists.

In fact, we noted in a previous column (on August 30) that Corbyn, at a different forum, the Alternative MacTaggart Lecture on August 23 in Edinburgh, was already gearing up an attack on the media in different words. A month had passed, but there has been no real media counter to his harsh words. We suspect that had the speaker belonged to a right-of-center party the response would have been much more vocal and strident.

In this period of the #MeToo movement and the spectacle of the Kavanaugh appointment hearings, the charges are that it is not only individuals who may be guilty of misdemeanors or worse, but there is a problem with the collective consciousness. We are witnessing investigations stemming not only from personal testimony concerning alleged sexual misconduct, but also arising from concerns about the working environment at certain companies and institutions.

One can only wonder why this atmosphere has not yet affected the media. Sexual misconduct is serious business, but so is fake news, especially when it hurts individuals. Unethical media behavior destroys the very fabric of democracy without which also the #MeToo movement would be powerless. Media infractions are not only due to an individual lapse of judgment, but are also fostered at certain networks and newsrooms. There is an atmosphere at work.

As a new study by Robin Blom indicates, one way to improve the ability of a media consumer to deal with biased and partisan news is “enhanced media literacy.” Blom, who teaches at Indiana’s Ball State University, is particularly concerned how biased perceptions about the news media disrupt public discourse and political learning. This contrasts with how assumed trustworthy news sources create the “trust” they foist on to their consumers and how, additionally, that “trust” contributes constructively to the public knowledge.

If the media are acting, some or most of the time, unethically and in a biased fashion, they are violating not only the element of trust between them and the public but are taking advantage of the right to broadcast the state awards to them.

How would this enhanced media literacy work?

Here is an example. Gavri Banai, one of the legendary “HaGashash HaChiver” entertainment troupe, appeared on Kobi Meidan’s culture review television program, broadcast over the KAN network as well as on a program at Galei Tzahal, the IDF radio (and other media outlets.) One of his main messages was that he refuses to appear in places that are to the east of the Green Line as these are “occupied territories.” He even will not visit Jerusalem’s Old City.

The media consumer should wonder why an entertainer is being asked to express ideological or political beliefs. Banai sings and performs. He is not running for office, is not a political scientist or an historian and his knowledge about political issues should have no more weight than any other citizen.

It is a fact that in Israel’s media, cultural artists – performers, authors, painters and dancers – are at least as important as university professors. Here too, enhanced media literacy would imply questioning this very fact. When an entertainer passes away, our radio stations go into mourning. When a known rabbi, priest or imam leaves this world, this is not newsworthy in the same manner.

But let us even accept the fact that artistic opinion is important to many people, one should still question such an interview. The interviewers should have questioned him about his adobe. If the “occupation” is so important to him, why is he himself living in a former Arab village, conquered and occupied by Israel?

Ayn Hawd, just south of Haifa, was attacked on the evening of April 11, 1948 and during fighting on July 17-19, the IDF overcame resistance and most of the 700-900 villagers resettled in a Jenin refugee camp. It was renamed Ein Hod and Banai maintains a residence there. It would also have been relevant to ask him why is a post-1967 so-called “occupation” different from an “occupation” that occurred in 1948? But such questions are not asked.

The vast majority of artists are left or even far left of center. That is why their opinion is so important to our media. They are not questioned, but used to promote a viewpoint that strengthens the liberal elite entrenched within the media. This is a phenomenon of self-growth, of the construction of an echo chamber. It is no secret that right-wing artists in Israel such as Ephraim Kishon and Naomi Shemer received quite a different treatment by the very same media.

Anyone who listens to KAN radio cannot but notice that their “star” anchor is an unprofessional propagandist who usurps the public microphone to purvey his version of liberalism. Aryeh Golan’s opening comments after the 7 a.m. news are always slanted towards the extreme left-wing. The intelligent listener, of whom there are many, understands that this kind of anchor cannot deal with any issue impartially and therefore the content of his program is rather meager and is there simply to support his personal outlook.

The option is that the listener leaves off listening to KAN’s radio station and going to the competitors. And today, unlike 20 years ago, there are very many. They are the true “public broadcasting” network today, not KAN. This is but one example of what we citizens should be doing.

Those who control the themes the media pushes, the personalities who relate to them, the number of times the theme is repeated and so on are what a true media literate consumer need study and of which he or she needs be aware. The more we are cognizant of how the media tries to pull the wool over our eyes, and to manage the news rather than report and discuss it, the less successful they will be.


September 28, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: The positive side

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:06 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: The positive side

Nesrine Malik, a Sudanese-British columnist for The Guardian, was quite critical of the liberal media in her Sept. 13 column. Her points of contention were the supposedly hallowed principles and media values of wanting a “vibrant discussion, robust argument, not an echo chamber; ideas should be tested, a debate will expose bigotry and prejudice.” She was upset with the excessive attention the liberal media gave Steve Bannon, the short-lived aide of President Trump.

Her view was that the liberal media erred in inviting Bannon into their studios and onto their pages and airwaves. What concerns them is, “All that is relevant is that he is relevant, that he has become someone of consequence due to his brush with power and seems to be at the center of something.”

Indulging Bannon “is an egotistical misreading of freedom of speech. It is about boasting liberal commitment to the value, rather than engaging with the evils that hide behind it,” she wrote.

While we find it refreshing that someone to the Left of the political spectrum can criticize her own cabal, we find her attitude to be deeply questionable. Ms. Malik’s bottom line is that there are “ideas that need [not]… be ‘exposed.’ We just need to fight them.” Who makes that decision?

We in Israel are all too familiar with that overarching “we-in-the-media-know- what’s-best” approach. Israel’s media are as elitist as any other. It uses its power to set out what is and what is not acceptable behavior of interviewers. It alone knows what’s best for the citizenry, who should speak and for how long and with whom. It’s as if the Unetaneh Tokef prayer we recited over the High Holy Days had the line “Who shall be allowed to speak and who shall be silenced.”

For decades we have been clamoring that at least the public broadcasters should con- sult the public and provide information to the public about its various anchors and columnists, but to no avail. This is the point where liberalism sinks its head deep in the mud.

A biased media culture is not a myth nor a right-wing bogeyman. Anne Davies, a 20-year veteran of Australian media, has written of “a distinctive culture–tribal, aggressive and centered around powerful editors” that can and does exist in media corporations. In her September 20 Guardian column, she quotes Peter Fray, the former Sydney Morning Herald editor and former deputy editor at The Australian , who said he had “felt you were part of a particular tribe where the norms and values were set by the chief and their key lieutenants.”

She then quoted, anonymously, a former senior executive at that paper who said reporters and interviewers have at times, “a strange vision of what journalism is about,” and that is “pursuing editors’ own agendas.”

Israel’s media are still non-pluralistic and dominated by the progressive left-of-center views of its directors, editors and reporters. It continues to try to block attempts to assure its ethical professionalism and legal obligation through legislation. It does its best to subvert the regulations lawmakers put in place to assure a balanced, pluralistic and diverse representation of Israel’s society, its elected parliamentarians and the full panoply of the nation’s actions as well as its minorities.

These are harsh words, but backed by too many facts. Take for example the issue of BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. Is it getting the fair coverage it deserves? On the face of it, the media highlight BDS successes. A handful of entertainers decide to boycott Israel and thus gain a headline or two. But is this really covering the issue from all angles? Do the failures of the BDS movement receive equal treatment?

This paper has been publishing over the course of the past few months dispatches by Benjamin Weinthal on the situation in Germany. This past week we read that PayPal has shut down the account of a German NGO International Alliance, which maintains links to Palestinian terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Has this been headlined on Israel’s state-run radio and TV? Could it be that the media elite just don’t pay attention to what The Jerusalem Post is publishing? Or does bad news sell more papers and attract more viewers? To us it seems that media-promoted claustrophobia stands behind the lack of success stories in the BDS struggle. The very idea that Israel is internationally successful frightens the progressives. It implies that the present Netanyahu government is not regressive.

Last Friday, Haaretz posted a short news item on its website by Yotam Berger that must have alarmed and dismayed opponents of a Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria. It was headlined “Settlers Establish West Bank Outpost in Response to Israeli-American’s Murder in Terror Attack.” Even worse, it noted that the “Civil Administration recognizes the establishment of the outpost and apparently there is no immediate intention of evacuating it.”

The paper did admit that the slain Ari Fuld z”l had resided in Efrat. What was missing was the fact, which may be verified on the web site of Peace Now, that the site, Givat Eitam, has been within the legally authorized zoning plan of Efrat since 2011. Was Haaretz stirring up international protests and pressure or was it innocently reporting? Were both the editor and reporter in cahoots in publishing the misleading item, or was at least one of them simply ignorant of the background of Givat Eitam, or both?

Another positive story Israel’s mainstream media missed was that of Rabbi Pesach Wolicki and Rabbi David Nekrutman of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC) who are helping the Christian Arabs of Bethlehem. They’ve been engaged since 2016 in a “Blessing Bethlehem” campaign which they said helps “the persecuted Christians living in the city of Bethlehem and its surrounding areas.” Food and food vouchers are distributed to 120 Christian families in Bethlehem. Their work needs be accomplished discreetly to protect the recipients.

Bethlehem is a hotbed of anti-Israel media attacks based on the security wall and also Christian anti-Zionism conferences. Israel’s media have failed to highlight the simple fact that Arab Christians are an oppressed minority in Muslim-controlled areas of the region. Here is a case with all the positive elements needed for a “good story.” An oppressed minority, religious coercion, poverty and the “Good Samaritan.” Yet it gets quashed since it would put the PA in a bad light, thus undermining the hope for “peace” in the eyes of the progressives.

Other good stories exist, not only about economic successes but also about the moral high road that typifies the Jewish ethos. We should view these achievements with pride and our media should promote them.


September 16, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: New Year’s thoughts

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:45 pm by yisraelmedad

New Year’s thoughts
We have used this column time and again to commend journalists for their good work and defend them. There should be nothing special about this. This is normative practice.
This post-Rosh Hashanah column begins with some meanderings about teshuva – the process of considering the wrongs of the past and attempting to right them in the future.

At times, this column may have been too forceful, attacking people without giving them the right to defend themselves. Yet our criticism is meant to be constructive. Even the best of professionals profit when their activities are reviewed dispassionately.

It is no accident that journalism is not the preferred occupation of religious Jews. The Torah instructs us: “Don’t go about as a gossipmonger amidst your people” (Leviticus 19:16). On the other hand, modern society cannot sustain itself without news. The middle way is to strive to abide by the journalistic code of ethics. This we will try, to the best of our ability, to stay true to the lofty ideals of journalism.

We are grateful to The Jerusalem Post and the opinion page editors for their confidence and support of our column. We are also grateful to our readers and especially those who comment on our column on the website. Your critique is essential to us; please continue.

WORLDWIDE, THE media focused this past week on the anonymous New York Times op-ed in which a White House insider harshly criticized US President Donald Trump. We cannot judge what is true, who the writer is and so on. But this event had a very positive side to it. It brought to the fore the dilemma of citation of anonymous sources. Most professionals agree that the writer of the article should expose herself or himself and resign from the position they are holding in the White House. Anonymity on important issues in the public sphere is unacceptable.

Here in Israel, anonymity, too, is a problem. This past week, the Trump administration decided to stop all payments to UNRWA. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded the decision. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman kept mum. Both were doing the right thing from their point of view. But too many news outlets cited anonymous Israeli military sources claiming that the decision was dangerous and would lead to serious unrest within the refugee community. The defense sources may be correct, although similar dire predictions regarding the US Embassy move to Jerusalem were wrong, but hiding behind anonymous sources is unacceptable. Our media did not press the issue, as was done with the New York Times. Why?

On Sunday, September 2, Monica Lewinsky appeared at the Influencers Conference of Channel 2 in Jerusalem. After a short presentation, she sat down to talk with Yonit Levy, the main television news presenter of the network. Levy opened with the question whether Lewinsky still expected a personal apology from former president Bill Clinton. She responded by leaving the stage, having been asked, she claimed, a question that violated the “clear parameters about what we would be discussing and what we would not.

In fact, the exact question she [Yonit] asked first, she had put to me when we met the day prior. I said that was off limits.” Lewinsky indicated what she was asked was “with blatant disregard for our agreement, [and] it became clear to me I had been misled.”
Alon Shani, the company spokesman, thought differently. His response was that “the question asked was legitimate, worthy and respectful, and in no way deviated from Ms. Lewinsky’s request.”

Was Shani or Lewinsky lying? But in this sad story, one voice was missing – that of Levy. Lewinsky claimed that in her discussion with Levy she made it clear that such questions were off limits. If this was not so, why didn’t Levy accuse her of being untruthful? Why is she hiding behind a spokesman? Veteran journalist Ya’akov Ahimeir took to Twitter to defend Levy’s right to ask the question (perhaps before Lewinsky’s clarification), writing, “what did [Lewinsky] think? That she’d be asked about climate warming? America’s space program? The Palestinians? She’s surprised? Nu, really.”

Ya’akov, we beg to differ. If there was an agreement, it should be honored. The public has a right to know what really went on between Levy and Lewinsky. This is not a question of gossip. Levy is a central figure in the Israeli media, anchoring Israel’s most popular TV news show. She should be a model of ethics and fairness, and as she well knows, one should not sacrifice fundamental ethics for the sake of a story.

Can things be different? Yes. Let’s look at Facebook.

Its founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, assured all in March 2017 that “if you want to have a company that is committed to diversity, you need to be committed to all kinds of diversity, including ideological diversity.” However, in the same above-mentioned New York Times, the public learned that Zuckerberg’s assurance is questionable.

On August 28, the paper informed readers that a missive written by Brian Amerige, a senior Facebook engineer, and headed “We Have a Problem With Political Diversity,” was making the rounds inside the social network. Amerige claimed that at Facebook, “We are a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views…. We claim to welcome all perspectives, but are quick to attack – often in mobs – anyone who presents a view that appears to be in opposition to left-leaning ideology.” One hundred fellow employees expressed their identification with that content. Amerige did not hide his identity. Was he dismissed from Facebook? We think not, and perhaps that is a compliment to the company.

WE HAVE used this column time and again to commend journalists for their good work and defend them. There should be nothing special about this. This is normative practice. For example, these past two weeks the media highlighted the conviction of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in Myanmar who reported on the Rohingya killings, in an attempt to defend them. Are we doing the same here in Israel?

Khaled Abu Toameh published in the Gatestone Institute bulletin that Arab journalists working in the Palestinian Authority assert that their media are not free. Quoting the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms, he wrote that both the PA and Hamas “silence their critics and deter Palestinian journalists from criticizing their leaders.” The center conducted a survey that revealed the thinking of over 300 PA journalists: 76% believe that Palestinian media laws do not promote freedom of the press; 91% said that Palestinian journalists are subjected to violations related to their work; 90% said they practice self-censorship and 83% believe that the Palestinian media is not independent.

We call upon the Israeli media to do what is right for the sake of their fellow journalists, for the sake of their own standing – as they often inform us – as paragons of democracy and morality and for the sake of any future peace: expose the PA’s abuse of the freedom of speech and defend your fellow colleagues!

Israel’s media have become more pluralistic this past year, due to the legalization of private channels such as TV Channel 20 and I24. We would hope that this would also reflect upon media ethics and solidarity.

Shana Tova!


August 31, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: Truth from Edinburgh

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:33 am by yisraelmedad

Truth from Edinburgh
If the public would vote every five years for the members of a broadcasting public council, then at least the council would have to pay attention to what the public wants.
It might appear to our readers ironic, and you’ll pardon the pun, to quote favorably words of Jeremy Corbyn, British Labour Party’s head and out-of-the-closet antisemite. Nevertheless, we call attention to his Alternative MacTaggart speech delivered at the Edinburgh television festival Thursday last week.

First, we approve of a basic media consumer principle he declared, one that we fixed when Israel’s Media Watch was founded in 1995, to wit, that “the public realm doesn’t have to sit back and watch.” Media consumers should be involved in all levels of response, from monitoring, to making complaints, to assuring that the media institutions – and especially those of the state-sponsored networks and outlets – bear responsibility for their product and to campaign against ethical and professional violations.

Second, Corbyn offered a remedy for media consumers who are assaulted by biased and even illegal media behavior. He suggested that those who pay the license fee, which is actually a radio tax, should have the right to elect representatives to the BBC’s governing board, potentially handing power to critics of its news output. In all humbleness, IMW proposed that basic idea more than 25 years ago here in Israel with the old IBA. The IBA may be gone, as is the Educational Television channel, but there still exist similar broadcast bodies, like Galatz, the Israel Army radio, as well as the KAN Israel Broadcasting Corporation, whose output is funded by the public, for the public and in the name of a public – but which refuses any public involvement, including that of the minister who is to supervise their operations.

Involvement, they assert, is interference. “Just give us the money and be off with you” seems to be the dominant attitude. The media personnel, directors, administrators, editors and reporters are the experts; they control who appears and for how long they talk, who balances them from an opposing viewpoint, if at all, and they demand the right of editorial discretion, including airing their personal opinions and observations.

As an example, we can point to how Channel 10 took advantage of the fact that the religious and traditional public do not watch television on Shabbat. The Tzav Echad organization complained last week about the channel’s coverage of a recent incident involving religious soldiers who had turned their backs to their female instructor when she exhibited a certain maneuver. The studio commentators chose to attack the fighters one by one and to prefer the instructor’s version. Presenters Ayala Hasson and Oded Ben Ami, who were supposed to maintain a neutral position, joined the unrestrained attack that disregarded all semblance of basic journalistic fairness and ethics values.

Unfortunately for the soldiers, (who it turns out were commanded by their officer to turn their backs) the instructor is the daughter of Ilan Shiloah, of McCann PR agency and a minority shareholder of Channel 10. Her mother is Shira Margalit, who was previously with Reshet and now with INTV – Innovation in Television. To top it all, she is the granddaughter of veteran journalist Dan Margalit and so the incident moved to center stage. Grandfather Margalit, so incensed that MK Betzalel Smoterich defended the soldiers, tweeted that the Jewish Home parliamentarian was a racist, fascist, a hater of the rule of law and a disgrace to humanistic Judaism.

For his part, Tzav Echad chairman Amichai Eliyahu demanded that the news companies be properly represented by the religious and traditional public and its positions, which remind us of Corbyn and IMW’s idea above. But no, the extreme to which our journalists go to was exemplified by left-wing Galatz radio presenter Yael Dan. In an interview in the left-wing Yediot Aharonot newspaper, she was quoted: “I envy right wingers, who are allowed to enter the various media outlets, supposedly under the guise of balance. They promote a very particular agenda. They do not come as journalists, therefore their weight is equal to 10 like myself and Razi [Barkai]. We are journalists and see ourselves first and foremost responsible for balance, objectivity and veritable conduct.”

Wow! Yael Dan is balanced and objective and we never knew.

Veteran journalist Ya’akov Ahimeir took her seriously and therefore took her to task. But to no avail. Her unrepentant retort was, “Comrades, calm down! I did not mean right-wing journalists, I was only implying certain people who were brought to balance with their political agenda and therefore their weight is heavier than any journalist who does not promote a political agenda.” Our interpretation: there are no right-wing journalists, only politicos.

In the Globes August 21 edition, Matti Golan demanded to know why a High Court petition has not yet been submitted to remove Geula Even, married to former Likud Minister Gideon Sa’ar, from her broadcasting job at Kan. The matter would be worthy for deliberation if only he had appealed in the past against many other media people who had returned to the jobs after serving politicians. The above-mentioned Oded Ben-Ami is a prime example, having worked for Ehud Barak.

Indeed, right wingers in the media are treated much more harshly than their left-wing colleagues, such as Dan and Barkai. Friday a week ago, Eyal Berkowitz used his program to lambast the Arab MKs. As reported in Yisrael Hayom, the tempest arose due to the fact that the Arab MK’s refused to come to Berkowitz’s joint program with Ofira Assayag. The latter asked Berkowitz what he thinks about this and he retorted, “Trojan horses… We don’t want you here in studio. If they come, I go. No chance that I will interview them. This is not racism, it’s just that they hate Israelis, they are terrorists who sit in our Knesset.”

Sharp words no doubt, but not sharper than prominent left wingers equating right wingers with Nazis or fascists and the like. But Keshet was quick to judgment and the program was canceled for the next Friday. The freedom of expression in Keshet’s view belongs only to those journalists like Dan and Barkai.

We add that anyone who has observed these Arab MKs in the plenum Knesset sessions or on the Temple Mount or in Naqba rallies or in their latest complaint against Israel lodged to the United Nations about the Nation-State law, would be nonplussed as to why one person’s freedom of expression is to be defended while another could lose his job.

We can only sadly sum up with the words of James Delingpole, who wrote on July 21 in The Spectator, “Gone are the days – if they ever existed – when political interviewers were dispassionate seekers-after-truth on a mission to get the best out of their subjects. Now, it’s mostly activism-driven, the aim being to advance your preferred narrative.” It seems that we sorely need to change the traditional power structure especially at the public funded media.

If the public would vote every five years for the members of a broadcasting public council, then at least the council would have to pay attention to what the public wants. That would be better than the present situation.


August 29, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: Respect for the Law? Not Kan

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:15 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Respect for the Law? Not Kan
Under good management the IBC should have no difficulty in providing the necessary, not the irresponsible, budget needed for covering the Eurovision expense.
The fifth paragraph of the second chapter of the Israel Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) law reads as follows: “The place of residence of the Board and Management of the IBC is in Jerusalem; the main part of its broadcasts will be from Jerusalem, not later than June 1, 2018.” It is today mid- August 2018, and Kan still operates from Modi’in. There isn’t even a target date for its return to Israel’s capital.

The Jerusalem paragraph was part of the give-and-take during the formulation of the law and was included due to the insistence of the Bayit Yehudi party’s members of Knesset in the committee that legislated the law. The heads of the IBC, chair Gil Omer and CEO Eldad Koblenz, are well aware of this but could not care less. It is much more convenient to get to Modi’in than to travel all the way to Jerusalem from the coast or what is referred to as “North Tel Aviv, Israel Media Land.” Convenience and personal gain are seemingly all that matters. The law? Not at the so-called Kan (“here” in Hebrew) public broadcaster.

Paragraph 2 of the 13th chapter of the law states that “the budget of the IBC will come from its income as stipulated in this law.” This was essential. For many years, the former Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), which preceded the Kan conglomerate, had to go to the Knesset finance committee every year to obtain approval for its budget. This meant that politicians could have some say on the operating plans and polices of the public broadcaster. According to our democracy gurus, such as the Israel Democracy Institute, it was wrong to have a mix between politics and media.

But theory, the law and practice are different things. Any psychologist knows that a criminal for one offense, say a thief, has the potential of committing other offenses. The same is true for white-collar violations. Koblenz and Omer seem to believe that Israeli law is at best a recommendation. So why respect it?

It was on July 5 that we warned in this column that one should expect that production of the Eurovision Song Contest in Israel next year would cost around NIS 150 million. We also noted the machinations of Messrs. Koblenz and Omer, whose hollow threats frightened the government into retracting the separation of the IBC into two entities, a news corporation and an entertainment company. This week their game continued. They publicly threatened the government that the Eurovision would not take place in Israel unless the government would take upon itself the expense. Immediately, this meant that the first installment of a guarantee for the sum of NIS 50m. to the European Broadcasting Union would be covered by the government. Omer’s letter noted that if the government would not cough up the funds by August 14, the game would be over and they would not produce the Eurovision. It most probably would not take place in Israel as a result. We are delighted to note that in this case, the government did not budge and the IBC had to secure a bank guarantee on its own.

Omer’s letter was not only misleading, it also exemplified a lack of respect for the law. Omer knows that the IBC’s budget cannot come from the state. It must be covered by its own income. Even if the government wanted to provide the IBC with an extra budget, this would need legislation and Knesset agreement, a process that cannot be implemented within a day, especially when the Knesset is on vacation.

But beyond these niceties, let us remember that at the time of the formation of the IBC, communications minister Gilad Erdan and finance minister Yair Lapid claimed that the new public broadcaster would be characterized by financial responsibility and prudence. The heads of the PBS were chosen based upon their supposed experience in managing large organizations to ensure careful fiscal management. Indeed, this was the main message of the new IBC. Erdan threw to the wind practically any other responsibility and it was only due to political pressure of other political parties such as Bayit Yehudi and others from within the Likud that the law was somewhat modified to pay lip service to the conglomerate’s responsibility as an Israeli and Jewish broadcaster.

Now we see that even this financial cornerstone is a very shaky one. Under good management the IBC should have no difficulty in providing the necessary, not the irresponsible, budget needed for covering the Eurovision expense. The mainstay of the IBC’s income is the car-radio tax, which is NIS 170 per car. The number of vehicles added to Israel’s road each year is more than 5%. Given that the number of vehicles in 2017 on Israel’s roads was over 3.3 million, this means that in 2018 the IBC’s budget will automatically increase by close to NIS 30m. Considering that the Eurovision will take place in 2019, this implies that the IBC will have an extra NIS 90m.
compared to today to cover the expense. In addition, its advertising income should increase due to the event. In other words, without exertion the IBC should be able to dedicate a budget of NIS 100m. to the event. Why then is the government needed? Why the noise and the pressure?

Yair Stern, a former director of the old IBA’s television unit, was responsible for the production of the Eurovision in Israel in 1999. His response to the present “crisis,” as he published this past Monday on Facebook, was “we also at the IBA produced a Eurovision. It cost at the time USD 7 million. We did not request an agora from the government. I brought half of the funding from Europe, the other from advertisement and government ministries such as the Tourism Ministry who had an interest in paying for ads. And yes, a bit from the IBA’s budget. No one was a cry-baby and we even overcame the threats of the religious in Jerusalem.”

Ya’akov Bardugo, a political commentator on Army Radio, has commented a few times in the past days that the IBC’s demands are irresponsible. But apart from him, Israel’s media have not called Omer and Koblenz out or challenged their maneuverings. No one has undertaken a public opinion poll on the question: Are you willing to pay NIS 20 per person in your family to assure that the Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Israel?

What Omer and Koblenz want is to add a tax of NIS 100 for the average family in Israel to cover their extravaganza.

We doubt that the majority of the public would want this and urge the politicians not to give in. It is high time that the IBC learns that the law must be respected even at Kan. 


August 1, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: Is our state democratic?

Posted in Media, Uncategorized at 11:13 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Is our state democratic?
The law does not prevent the election of a non-Jewish prime minister. So what is the whole brouhaha about?
These past week’s media attention was devoted to two issues, the Nation-State Law and the Surrogacy Law. They overshadowed almost anything else. In the news, they preceded the murder of Aviv Levi on the Gaza border on July 20 and Yotam Ovadia in the town of Adam on July 26. They took precedence over the ongoing war on the southern border. This legislation must be a real threat to the well-being of the State of Israel, otherwise it would not have been so central.

Before considering the media’s treatment of the issues, it is worthwhile to review the facts. The Nation-State law states three basic principles: 1) “The land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established; 2) The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which it fulfills its natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination; 3) The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

These three basic tenets were predicated on Israel’s proclamation of independence from 1948, which stated among others: “Accordingly, we, members of the People’s council, representatives of the Jewish community of Eretz-Israel and of the Zionist movement, are here assembled … by virtue of our natural and historic right…hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel, to be known the State of Israel.”

Is there any material difference between the law and the declaration? We do not find it. Did the media clarify that or muddle it? Both texts make it clear that the state is a Jewish State. No one’s citizen status has changed. All citizens, whether Jewish or not, have equal citizen rights, including the right to vote and be elected. The law does not prevent the election of a non-Jewish prime minister. So what is the whole brouhaha about?

One of the questions posed is if the law just restates the obvious from the declaration, why is it needed? This is an interesting question that could have been addressed equally to the two basic laws of 1992 that “declare basic human rights in Israel that are based on the recognition of the value of man, the sanctity of his life and the fact that he is free. Define human freedom as the right to leave and enter the country, privacy, intimacy and protection from unlawful searches of one’s person or property. This law includes instruction regarding its own permanence and protection from changes by means of emergency regulations.” 

These basic laws were also just a reaffirmation of the Declaration of Independence according to which the State of Israel “will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” 

Why then, was it necessary to legislate these laws? For a simple reason that the Declaration of Independence has no legal value. The Basic Laws enacted by the Knesset are an ongoing process of creating Israel’s constitution. Just as the 1992 legislation was needed to assure the humanistic principles underlying the Jewish State, so has the Nation-State law assured that Israel is a Jewish State. There is indeed only one part of the law in which Jews and non-Jews are unequal and that is the Law of Return. One may envisage in the future a Supreme Court which would invalidate the Law of Return since it violates the principle of equality. The present law prevents such a scenario, it defines the State to be Jewish and thus allows preference for Jews over non-Jews. 

However, the media discourse over the law is very different. Perhaps the best clue for what the brouhaha is about are the interviews on both Galatz and Reshet Bet with Assaf Heifetz, a former Chief of Police. Asked what is wrong with the legislation, he answered, the Druze population is obviously offended and if so, it must be a bad law and MK Benny Begin is against the law, so it must be a bad law. His answer was so silly that Ran Binyamini, the anchor on Reshet Bet, found it necessary to remind Heifetz why the law is bad – according to Binyamini it treats the Druze as second-rate citizens. Heifetz, of course, agreed with him. But in contrast to Binyamini, to be accurate, there are no second-class citizens in Israel. There are either citizens or non-citizens. Jews in the Diaspora who are not citizens of the State merit a special status through the Law of Return. Non-Jews who are not citizens, do not. 

Why indeed are the Druze so upset? Eyal Assad, head of the Druze members of the Bayit Yehudi party, explained on INN News on July 26, “The Nation-State law is a declarative law which defines the State of Israel as the State of the Jews and there is no Druze who has anything against that…. The anger is that the law equates the Druse and the Arabs. It left out the rights of the Druze.” In other words, the problem is not what is in the law but what it left out. Arabs are not drafted into the army, the Druze are. Such fundamental differences should not be glossed over. 

Atta Farhat, chairman of the Druze Zionist Council for Israel also supports the law. Yet who are the Druze representatives who are interviewed? People like Rafik Halabi, the former IBA editor, who did his best to oust Prime Minister Netanyahu in 1997 but failed. 

The same story concerns the Surrogacy Law. The noise was due to the fact that the law does not provide the rights of surrogacy to males who live together as a couple. This was deemed to be so blatant a violation of the rights of gay men that the National Broadcaster Kan permitted its employees to participate in the various demonstrations against the law. The media discourse was boring and very one-sided. The idea that allowing surrogacy to gay men may really harm women who would be paid to use their bodies hardly received any attention. Even today, gay men go to countries such as Thailand, pay money to poor women there who give birth and are then separated from their offspring for the rest of their life. One can only imagine the ensuing psychological damage. 

But no, such serious questions are not part of our media focus. It is much more interested in democracy. The Knesset legislation, it is claimed, and the media actively promotes this narrative, is, in both instances, a violation of democracy and so must be annulled, at all costs. 

If “democratic” implies that the Knesset is not sovereign to legislate but the media is, then perhaps we do not need such a “democratic” state?


July 18, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: A warning to media consumers

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:58 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: A warning to media consumers
The ultimate power of the media is editorial discretion. This is what gets stories published or broadcast as well as how they are served up to the media consumer.
The story of the mostly teen-age boys’ soccer team trapped with their coach in a cave in Thailand and their rescue was riveting. It had all the elements of drama, heroism, danger and the human spirit. And the media devoted hundreds of hours to reporting it. Even Israeli media sent special correspondents to the site. Experts on scuba diving, spelunking, stress psychology and medicine informed us of what could be.

During that same time, floods in Japan caused 200 deaths. There were terrorist attacks on security forces along the Tunisia-Algeria border where at least six people were murdered. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, 10 people were burned to death in ethnic attacks. At least nine were killed in an Al-Shabaab car bomb attack in Somalia, and in Tultepec, Mexico, at least 24 people were killed in fireworks explosions. Editorial choices had to be made, obviously, as to what we media consumers received and what was relegated to secondary attention, if at all.
An academic study published last month by Lia-Paschalia Spyridou of Cyprus’s University of Technology in Journalism, defines the functions of professional journalism as “agenda setting, gatekeeping and framing.” The ultimate power of the media is editorial discretion. This is what gets stories published or broadcast as well as how they are served up to the media consumer.
Many news outlets seek to paint their product as possessing a reputation for “dispassionate, high-minded journalism.” For too many, however, that is a hollow aggrandizement. Editorial discretion became famous in the 1987 US Federal Communications Commission decision that suggested while it would no longer uphold the “fairness doctrine,” it would expect that news broadcasting provides for a reasonable discussion of views. Editorial discretion is the instrument whereby editors not only evaluate sources, balance claims and seek to produce accurate and verifiable information, but it permits the selection of the story according to the above-mentioned agenda setting, gatekeeping and framing privileges which an editor possesses.
SOMEONE WELL-POSITIONED within the media milieu has provided testimony that something can go very wrong with the end product. John Cleese, of Monty Python fame, appeared on July 8 at London’s Royal Geographic Society, and according to The Guardian’s Mark Lawson who was present, had this to say about journalism bias, “American and Australian journalists interviewed him because they loved his work; British interviewers arrived intent on negativity and personal intrusion.” In referring to Shane Allen, head of the BBC’s comedy output, he added, “His real title is ‘Head of Social Engineering.’” In the end, it really isn’t funny that our news, our political, social, economic and cultural commentary, as well as our military overview, and the types of panel discussions we are shown can be – and have been – so biased.
Returning to Spyridou’s study, she saw “evidence showing that journalism has entered a second, more vigorous developmental stage at which journalists are pushed to negotiate their gatekeeping power and take advantage of the sociotechnical capital available” via social media platforms.
That, we would suggest, means that the bon mot of several years ago that social media involvement would permit a more democratic, representative and supervised media where the media consumer could almost approach a level playing field with the journalists and editors has been disproved. What has happened is that media people have managed to exploit those same platforms to preserve, to a significant extent, their fiefdom. Spyridou herself is optimistic about the “possibilities and opportunities for civic empowerment within participatory journalism”.
Where, and with what, does that leave us here in Israel? IfNotNow has been in the news lately. Haaretz, of course, has lent sympathetic coverage, but it is very helpful if a reporter is basically a semi-member of the group. It would appear that part of the Times of Israel coverage is provided by Steven Davidson. On June 22, he covered the “engagement” of Birthright participants at JFK Airport in New York by members of IfNotNow. Other stories of his have focused on the theme of progressive Jewish millennials. He penned an “American Jew in Palestine” blog in 2014. After visiting Hebron, he wrote, “There was only one thought that reverberated in my mind: Lebensraum. This was how it would have looked like if the Nazis had succeeded, I thought… as a Jew, I began to cry.” It appeared in Duke University’s Towerview September 9, 2014 issue as well.
As a media consumer of Times of Israel, do we now cry?

LET’S TAKE the treatment of a story on an El Al flight out of New York that was delayed, supposedly by ultra-Orthodox men who refused to sit next to a female.

A Facebook post that went viral indicated that the June 21 flight was delayed by over an hour due to the intransigence of four haredi men. One Khen Rotem posted that El Al was “dealing with matters of practical theology and personal faith versus the rights of the individual and civil order.” The mainstream press duly reported this version, obviously without confirming the truth.
Another passenger, Katriel Shem-Tov, emailed Sivan Rahav-Meir, an Israeli journalist, claiming the incident lasted but five minutes. The Times of Israel blog where she published her story in English included El Al’s response, which was that “The details that were reported about the incident were not accurate, to put it mildly. In actual fact, the delay was totally unconnected to the incident… Taking care of the two passengers who refused to sit in their allocated places occurred after the plane had already left the gate and only took a few moments.”
Could it be that the mindset of the overwhelming secular media refused to consider the remote possibility that the haredim were not guilty of the long delay? Are their professional standards so low? On July 12, Turkey arrested Adnan Oktar and perhaps as many as 200 of his followers. While an exotic personality, he has many links to Israelis. He has been charged with spying for Israel among more than 20 additional crimes. Back on March 29, Assaf Ronel of Haaretzpublished a profile of the group which was headlined as if it was a throwback to the magazine HaOlam HaZeh: “Orgies, Blackmail and antisemitism: Inside the Islamic Cult Whose Leader Is Embraced by Israeli Figures.” Haaretz, which is not known for any conservative sexuality line, was obviously upset with Oktar.
There was an intriguing aspect to the story. At the bottom, we could read that Ronel was “a guest of the Turkish state English-language television channel TRT World.”
The state television of the Erdogan regime? Many consider that regime antisemitic. It has supported Hamas and promoted flotillas to break the Gaza “blockade.” It is trying to buy property in Jerusalem’s Old City and fomenting violence on the Temple Mount. Is Haaretz a mouthpiece for Erdogan’s Turkey? A last example is Haaretz’s July 6 political cartoon commenting on the Israel-Poland declaration. It posed the Polish president and Israel’s prime minister holding hands over the rail tracks leading to Birkenau-Auschwitz with the caption “The beginning of a wonderful relationship.”
The relationship between the media and its consumers is perhaps reaching the end of a “wonderful relationship.”

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