May 27, 2015
|The headline “Channel 10 may shut down after Knesset rejects debt payment” appeared in The Jerusalem Post on December 12, 2011. The station then owed NIS 60 million in royalties and franchise fees. MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen (Likud), at the time the chairman of the Economics Committee, noted that “Channel 10, as a financially weak company that will require government support, cannot be the watchdog of democracy. At best, it would be a poodle.”
Another headline, in Haaretz on December 14, read: “Channel 10 expects board to shut down station on Dec. 31” – but the year was 2012, 12 months later. And on December 28, Haaretz ran the headline: “Channel 10 halts broadcasts, blames Netanyahu” and informed readers that the station had begun an on-air protest campaign using a denigrating photo angle of Netanyahu and warning of imminent closure following failed last-minute attempts to bail out the station. But this was only six months ago, in 2014.
If you are thinking that December is a jinxed month for Channel 10, we’ll quote this Ynet report, published on a July 14, whose headline informed us that “Channel 10 may go off air in one month.” The reason provided by Yossi Meiman, who owns a controlling interest in the channel, was that “his media group may stop financing its broadcasting.” However, other “sources” in the media group informed the reporter that the “crisis emanated from a regulatory failure.” The year then was 2009. Finally, in a May 20, 2015 review of the never-ending saga of the closure of Channel 10, Haaretz’s headline was: “Channel 10 may shut down after buyers back off.”
The financial aspects, the responsibility of the owners, the proper government regulatory system and the parliamentary oversight should all be considered. But perhaps first and foremost one should consider, three years later, Shamma-Cohen’s observation that a financially weak company cannot be a robust watchdog of democracy.
Channel 10 broadcasts the daily hour-long London & Kirschenbaum interview show which our monitoring has exposed time and again for its left-wing biases.
Raviv Drucker produces a weekly investigative program and appears frequently, several times a day on average, on the network. His personal bias against Netanyahu (the two have been in court airing mutual recriminations), characterized by a nasty snideness, is well recognized. There’s a biting satire show, Gav HaUmma (The Nation’s Back), and the daily evening news broadcast, which has proven unwilling to back down from in-your-face criticism of government positions.
JUST LAST week, the first part of a documentary on opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog’s election campaign was aired on Channel 10’s HaMakor (The Source) program.
It was a devastating portrayal of a politician. The second part was even more damaging. Reuven Adler, hired to save Herzog’s campaign, was heard calling Herzog Tzipi Livni’s key-holder.
Gideon Levy demanded in his May 21 column that Herzog immediately resign, adding that the Zionist Union’s head shouldn’t have been the party’s candidate for prime minister, should have resigned the day after his defeat and, at the least, “should quit his post…in the wake of the documentary.” The Twitter accounts of political reporters erupted.
The film uncovered the evident collusion of central elements of the media who were probably aware of multiple aspects of the developing failings of Herzog’s campaign and the negative comments from within the campaign headquarters. The film’s director and sole interviewer, who sat in Herzog’s cars, accompanied him seemingly everywhere and participated in senior staff meetings, is Anat Goren. Goren is the life-partner of… Channel 10’s Raviv Drucker. The couple have three children.
Attila Somfalvi of Ynet, in line with his boss’s preference, saw the “good,” tweeting that Herzog “at certain moments was a real man: he didn’t blame anyone, didn’t sidestep his responsibility.” Haredim10’s Sari Rot’s tweet read: “am I the only one who wasn’t shocked how bad [Herzog] was? I actually think he was human, considerate, a mensch.” Drucker, incidentally, publishes a personal column on the Haredim10 website, an example of secular/haredi coexistence. Avishai Ivri, main writer at Channel 1’s “We’ll Be the Judge” satire crew, wryly commented that perhaps PR whiz Reuven Adler should have run himself. He probably would have lost but, Ivri typed, it “wouldn’t have been such a sad joke.”
Orit Galili, formerly of Haaretz, admitted that the journalist referred to in the film as warning Herzog the Friday prior to the elections that Netanyahu would win was herself. Kol Israel’s Keren Neubach was blunt: “I can only wonder what made Herzog allow Goren to film him in such embarrassing moments… and why anyone presumed he could win.”
That last Neubach observation is the heart of the matter.
Herzog’s “march of folly” was open and as the film clearly shows, obvious to many media people; the producers, director, cameramen, support crew, editors and their assistants and perhaps even Raviv Drucker himself. Herzog’s victory was very much in doubt, but this was kept a secret. Journalists hid the reality from the public.
As Israel Hayom’s Haim Shine wrote on May 19, the film showed journalists “who saw Herzog’s audience- less election conferences in Beit She’an and Beersheba but still tried to convince us that Herzog was our salvation.” More important for him, and for democracy, was his demand “that the media take a look at itself and atone for its sins, the sins of arrogance, deception and exploiting freedom of speech.”
Channel 10 violated professional ethics. Its editors must have known about Goren’s devastating report, but they preferred silence to honest reporting. Why then should we the public believe anything controversial emanating from this channel? The latest in this saga is the channel’s accusations against the prime minister who, on his last day as finance minister, implemented a recommendation of the Second Authority for TV and Radio (SATR) to impose upon the channel a payment of NIS 16.8m., a past debt of the channel for the right to its broadcasting concession.
Channel 10 immediately cried foul, accusing Netanyahu of purposely harming the negotiations to find a new financier for the channel. It promptly petitioned the Supreme Court to annul Netanyahu’s decision, and Justice Anat Baron ordered the prime minister to respond to the claims within a week.
Netanyahu, before the elections, acceded to Channel 10’s blackmail. Despite six months’ breathing space to mend its ways, the channel showed no gratitude to the politicians’ largesse. Why should the Treasury overlook the channel’s debts once again? Channel 10 is a blight on Israel’s media industry. It does not uphold accepted media norms, it wastes the public’s money and it does not hesitate to blackmail the political system prior to elections. We can only hope that the prime minister will not once again cave in to the channel’s pressure and that the Israeli public will for once and for all be rid of it.
May 21, 2015
|It took some time, but Israel finally has a new government.
Its stability is questionable, and there are elements in the media doing all they can to destabilize it, even though one may safely assume that the public would not want its tax money to be used for yet another costly election campaign.
New governments in Israel, especially if they are not left-wing, do not receive the traditional 100 days of grace. Criticism of the prime minister for his keeping the Communications Ministry portfolio to himself is broad and biting. The Zionist Union’s Tzipi Livni, speaking on Galatz radio Tuesday, asserted the elections were a “ploy” by Prime Minister Netanyahu to “take over the media…to dominate the media…which is the watchdog of democracy.” Minister Ofir Akunis was deprived of full responsibility for the ministry, yet he does serve in the capacity of a minister in the Communications Ministry.
Given that the prime minister will be kept busy by his myriad other responsibilities, among them the Foreign Ministry and the efforts involved in holding the coalition together, one may well assume that Minister Akunis will de facto be the communications minister and only in acute cases would he need the advice and consent of the prime minister.
Minister Akunis also has a record of being an honest politician who has the public interest at heart. Indeed, even though his appointment is only for one year – MK Tzachi Hanegbi is scheduled to get the job a year from now – a year is plenty of time to tackle and solve some of the big issues facing our media today.
The Knesset wanted to bring in deregulation, turning the concession law into a licensing law. Fundamentally, the idea is that opening up a TV station would be similar to opening a new restaurant. All that should be needed is a license. In practice, the SATR simply wasted taxpayer money, assuring that while the title of the law was changed from concessions to licenses, the conditions to be fulfilled by a licensee are equivalent to those of a concessionaire, and the results are evident. We still have to suffer from Channel 10 TV. Channel 2 TV has not changed much and the Israel Broadcasting Authority is in a financial-managerial-procedural crisis. As written in Ecclesiastes, “There is nothing new under the sun.” The new law provides the SATR with almost unlimited power in demanding license fees, bank guarantees, interfering in programming and more.
The new government should thoroughly revamp this law, making it possible for anyone to open a radio or TV station. The authority of the SATR should be limited to making sure that the licensees have the necessary equipment and that the broadcasts do not violate the law in terms of content. There is no reason in the world why national broadcasting must be limited to the Galatz army radio station and the IBA.
Technology allows for opening dozens of radio stations on the FM channels. Israel for some unfathomable reason does not yet have satellite broadcasting for cars.
With some legislative effort, which incidentally would probably be supported by quite a few members of the Opposition, the new minister can create a true revolution.
No more the monopoly of the few and powerful, true competition is what we need in the media. One may also assume that such steps would significantly lower the cost of advertisement, allowing more small companies to advertise their wares through the electronic media.
The outgoing minister responsible for public broadcasting left the public broadcaster in shambles. The new board, recommended by the appointments committee chaired by former regional court justice Esra Kamma, has not been approved by the present government. The present law states that the TV tax will be abolished, but without a massive influx of cash from the Finance Ministry (that is, from our pockets) the public broadcaster will not be able to continue operations. The change of guard is way behind schedule, new legislation is needed just to keep the broadcaster alive, and essentially, the present situation is close to anarchy. There is no public supervision of the IBA, and the results are evident.
Broadcasters do as they will, violating basic ethical guidelines. The programming we are receiving, especially on radio, has not improved.
We call upon Minister Akunis, if indeed he is given the opportunity to do so, to thoroughly revamp the public broadcasting law, turning the IBA back into what it should be, a public broadcaster which serves the public interest, rather than an unfair competitor to the commercial broadcasters. Israel (or any other country in the free world) does not need a publicly funded commercial entity. Either liquidate the IBA, canceling all the taxes, or make sure that it keeps its hands off the business world and provides the public with the quality public programming we sorely need.
The same holds true for the army radio station. There is no justification that we can think of for continuing to fund it from the public coffer. Our small country does not need two national public broadcasters. The only reasons it continues its operations is that it serves the needs of the media in providing jobs and lucrative salaries and that it advances a left-wing, post-Zionist agenda.
One can be sure that if the army radio station were to become right-wing, our “democrats” would quickly shut it down. In a true democracy, where checks and balances are essential, the military does not have a national media organ of its own.
We have not even started to delve into other issues, such as providing fair competition between Internet and cell phone providers. Even this has far reaching implications for the average Israeli. For example, if the cost of roaming abroad was reasonable, the average Israeli abroad would have no difficulty following the media when not at home. As the cost of roaming decreases and the quality of Internet broadcasting increases (4th generation services), the need to shell out money to outrageously expensive cable and satellite TV stations diminishes.
The bottom line is that the new minister has the opportunity to create a true revolution in our media life.
Instead of populist slogans such as “I have abolished the TV tax,” a well thought-out program can do wonders for us all.
May 13, 2015
Media Comment: The media and elections — Britain and Israel
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 05/13/2015
This past week’s election in England and that in Israel two months ago beg the comparison of what role the media played in each campaign.
The day after the recent elections, this apology was published: “This is the confession of a political journalist. I get paid to know about politics, to explain politics and yes, to predict politics. On this general election, I failed. I got it wrong. I didn’t see this result coming…My job is to tell the people who read me things that will leave them better informed about the subject at hand. And I didn’t do that job as well as I could have done….”
No, that was not an Israeli media pundit like Amnon Abramovitch, Ben Caspit or Yossi Verter, but rather James Kirkup of the UK Daily Telegraph. Did anything similar occur among the many pundits who were predicting a very different result from that which happened on March 17 here? Could it have happened? Or did all simply explain why they were not responsible for the information they were peddling.
This past week’s election in England and that in Israel two months ago beg the comparison of what role the media played in each campaign.
In England, an ongoing Cardiff University media research project found, for example, that the BBC’s election coverage was focused more on policy issues than the other four main broadcasters during one two-week period.
According to a YouGov poll there, almost two-thirds of the public did not think the quality of the British press had improved since the Leveson inquiry which investigated press ethics and law violations (discussed in previous columns). Does anyone think that Israel’s media has improved its political coverage over the years? More relevant to the situation here in Israel, threefifths of the respondents in England lack confidence in the self-regulation system set up by the newspapers and 59 percent support tougher regulation of the press.
The study found support for tougher regulation even among the readers of newspapers that have been most opposed to stronger measures. Mention “regulation” in Israel and you will be abusively attacked.
In an unusual move, opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband gave an interview to Russell Brand, a comedian and actor with 9.6 million Twitter followers and his own YouTube channel, and Brand publicly endorsed Miliband. Miliband even tweaked press magnate Rupert Murdoch during the interview, saying: “The British people have a lot more sense than some of these papers give them credit for.” Words that return to haunt. But even London School of Economics media professor Charlie Beckett said Miliband’s move made sense: “Russell may get better cutthrough than Rupert.” The media provided extra spin, mocking Conservative Party leader David Cameron’s attempts to consider Brand and Miliband themselves as a joke.
In the end, Brand’s effect on the voting probably matched that of our own cultural icons, Yair Garboz, Natan Zach and others of the far Left, and drove voters in the opposite direction. The presumptuous self-importance of media-linked personalities took a hit in both election campaigns. The day after the count, they realized that they lived “in a bubble” of their own making, linked with the inability, or worse, unwillingness, to step outside and investigate the real world.
Another failure of perception was provided by David Yelland, a former British newspaper editor, who said, “The era, both here and in the US, of newspapers endorsing candidates and the feeling that that carries weight, that has gone.” We are not sure that Arnon (Noni) Mozes agrees with that opinion. Mozes, the owner and publisher of Yediot Aharonot, led the attacks against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, threw the full weight of his media power and influence behind the campaign to defeat Netanyahu – and continues to do so. His methods are unethical, his media’s professional standards are wanting.
Haaretz continued its own nasty opposition to the Likud and Netanyahu on Sunday, linking Cameron to its perception of how they both won with this headline to Anshel Pfeffer’s “analysis”: “Cameron’s surprising election victory owes a lot to the fear factor, a la Netanyahu.” We thought that the Tory victory was dependent not “a lot” on fear but other factors such as the economy. And if fear was a factor, of what were the Scots afraid that they wiped out the Labour Party north of Hadrian’s Wall? Should analysts not be held to some standard of consistency? The left-leaning Independent predicted that Cameron would use his majority to pursue “a radical agenda” which would cut welfare, shrink the size of the state and re-define Britain’s relationship with Europe. It then quoted, anonymously (as our local media does) “Conservative insiders” that he would move to the Right after years of compromise with the Liberal Democrats.
Reading the minds of political leaders is also practiced in Israel in an attempt to rein in politicians who do not toe the media line.
In England, as Netanyahu did here, politicians attacked the press. Labour politician Sadiq Khan declared: “The problem is if someone reads a hostile paper day after day, after a period of time they might start believing the nonsense that’s being written.” And across the aisle, the government’s culture secretary Sajid Javid accused the BBC of ethics violations. After calling one particular item “very, very anti-Tory” (Scottish comic Rhona Cameron called the Tories a “cancer”), he intimated that the job of changing the way the press is regulated, in an upcoming BBC charter review, would include an investigation into bias. He made it clear that the corporation’s license fee could be cut if his party returns to power (which it did).
Here in Israel, the media response to any attempt by politicians even to raise the subject of change within the media, even the state-sponsored networks, is to have them led to the whipping post. Incidentally, Israel’s Zionist Union co-leader, Isaac Herzog, used the term “virus” in his attack last week on Netanyahu’s coalition maneuvering, but there was no media protest.
On the other hand, as Dror Eydar noted in his Israel Hayom column of April 29, the political figure who Israel’s Left portrayed as a fascist now “is being painted as a romantic figure. [Avigdor] Liberman hasn’t been attacked for the promises he made before the election, for his declarations of supposed commitment to the right-wing camp…Why should they go after Liberman? Because anyone who could smash the Netanyahu coalition is welcomed.”
He listed Yediot’s Nahum Barnea, Sima Kadmon and Shimon Shiffer as the paper’s cheering squad who praised Liberman’s bowing out of the coalition.
Alastair Campbell, formerly Tony Blair’s press spokesman, in a pre-election address, pointed to a central problem media consumers are forced to suffer here as well: “My complaint about newspapers has never been that they are biased…[but that] the broadcasters…allow that bias to impact on them.” There is in Israel our media elite milieu, which accepts mainly the news and views that come from within the milieu.
In England, one paper acknowledged that “at times, like on Thursday, or at the recent Israeli general election, polls get it wrong.” Can we ever expect that the media will get things right?
May 6, 2015
|One of the bright chapters of Israeli history is the emigration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. In contrast to many other societies, Israelis welcomed the Ethiopian community wholeheartedly. Many a family took it upon themselves to personally care for Ethiopian immigrants, even though the cultural and social gap was big. Apart from a few exceptions, the religious Orthodox school system made conscious efforts to absorb them. Although much needs to be done, many of the community, and especially the first-generation Israelis, have become successful professionals, in politics, medicine, the military and more.
Listening to our media this past week, one would get the impression that Israelis are racists who have systematically done all they could to take advantage of the Ethiopians without giving anything in return. Indeed, there was the video of violence against a member of the Ethiopian community by policemen.
Such violence cannot be condoned, and already the relevant authorities have taken steps against those responsible.However, was this incident really outstanding and unique? Was this the first time that the Israel Police used excessive force against someone? Hardly. There was the police brutality in Amona in February 2006 against innocent youths whose only crime was demonstrating peacefully, sitting inside nine houses scheduled to be razed. Indeed, a comparison between the Amona events and the demonstrations by some in the Ethiopian community this past week is illuminating.
Police brutality in Amona was very different.
Yehiam Eyal’s skull was cracked by the police, leaving him hanging between life and death.
Miraculously, he survived. Yet this is what Haaretz had to say about the incident in an editorial on February 2, 2006: “On the night between Wednesday and Thursday people prayed for the health of 14-year-old Yehiam Eyal…they accused the police who clubbed him. Yet even those whose heart goes out to the child lying helpless in his bed cannot fail to see the cynicism and viciousness of this emotional manipulation…Even if there was a policeman who used excessive force one may ask what were these children doing at the Amona hilltop on the day of its forceful evacuation?”
In Jerusalem last Thursday and again on Sunday, members of the Ethiopian community clashed violently with the police. In contrast to Amona, where the demonstrators did not raise even a hand against the police, these demonstrations saw violence, too much violence, coming from demonstrators. On Sunday, they closed off the Ayalon highway, causing huge disruptions in traffic, reminiscent of the big demonstration organized by former MK Moshe Feiglin against the Oslo process, back in the summer of 1995. Closing off traffic is not only illegal, it is a violent act. The police, who were quick to arrest any demonstrator during the year preceding the 2005 expulsion from the Gaza Strip and North Samaria who so much as indicated with her or his foot that they intended to block a road, in this case allowed the disruption to take place.
As a thank-you note, the demonstrators proceeded to go to the Rabin Square in Tel Aviv and eventually hurled rocks, bottles and whatnot at the police and then accused the police of employing excessive force. The number of wounded police officers vastly outnumbered the number of wounded demonstrators. All the wounded demonstrators were released from hospital in less than 48 hours; unlike in the Amona case, no demonstrators were seriously hurt.
How did the media respond to the Ethiopians? They employed excessive empathy, going out of their way to show understanding for their actions and motives, reminding us all the while how badly we as a society have reacted to this community. No one asked, for example, who funded the buses that brought thousands to the demonstrations.
Consider the following comment made by Yuval Ganor, the anchor of the 7 a.m. news program on Kol Yisrael, prior to interviewing Knesset chairman Yuli Edelstein on Monday: “As someone who was stuck in the traffic jam resulting from the demonstration, one may say that the majority of the Israeli public is very understanding, identifies with their [the Ethiopians’] feelings.” One wonders what Ganor’s sources of information were. But let us not be so small-minded. Ganor was just expressing his understanding that the media represents the majority of the Israeli public.
Consider a second example: Keren Neubach, also from Kol Yisrael, who opened her 8 a.m. program with her usual personal comments, noted that the country had come to a standstill and that this was a positive development.
It would seem, she added, that nothing will ever change in the shoddy and discriminatory attitude toward the Israeli of Ethiopian descent. One should ask why was it so urgent in that case for the police to disperse the protesters the way they did.
Neubach was not even honest enough to remind listeners that the police acted only after allowing the demonstrators to stop traffic for hours in Tel Aviv.
Niv Raskin on Galatz at 8 a.m. interviewed Genatu Mngistu, one of the organizers of the demonstration. He did not ask him why he should not be jailed for breaking the law and blocking traffic. Rather the questions went as follows: “What was your feeling at the end of the demonstration? That you succeeded in creating an agenda in the media or that someone harmed your struggle? In the aftermath do you think that you will move toward public office? To have influence?” Raskin then interviewed Yaron Ohayon, deputy commander of police in Tel Aviv.
These were his questions: “What were your instructions to the large forces who were there? Did you see groups of anarchists, leftand right-wing organizations who stoked the fires? People talk about the outrageous ease with which the police strike and are violent only due to the skin color, many complaints of this sort have surfaced…,” and so it continued.
The same accusatory style was used by Asaf Liberman, the anchor of the 7 a.m. news program on Galatz.
The truth is that the true racists in this whole sad series of events were the media themselves. Their treatment of the Israeli Ethiopian community was as if they were different from other Israelis. The laws of this country, which outlaw violent demonstrations, seemingly are not applicable to Israeli Ethiopians. The leaders of the demonstrations are not innocent babes, but criminals who illegally stopped traffic, demonstrated without a permit and should be prosecuted for their actions. At the least, these questions should have been posed, but they were not. Rest assured, if these same actions had come from “the settlers,” the calls denouncing them would come from almost everywhere, and justifiably so.
It is not racist to assert that the law applies to all, Israeli Ethiopians, Arabs, haredim (ultra-Orthodox), residents of Judea and Samaria and the homeless. We simply wish to remind our media that, as our sages put it, “Without the fear of government, one would swallow his brother alive.”
April 30, 2015
|Two rather unique and even extraordinary people passed away during the past two weeks. Both were over 80 years old and both had impacted Israeli society in many different ways. One is Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein, the rosh yeshiva of the Gush Etzion Hesder Yeshiva in Alon Shvut, who with the late Rav Yehuda Amital fashioned a special Torah learning atmosphere for Modern Orthodoxy.
The other is Dr. Meir Rosenne, lawyer, diplomat and ambassador, and a senior member of Israel’s Foreign Ministry staff.
We do not want to compare between the two, nor do we intend to even hint that one has contributed more or less than the other. They contributed to Israeli and Jewish life in totally different spheres. There is, though, one ground for comparison and that is how the Israeli media related to them, both in life and afterwards. And since our local media devoted too little coverage to their deaths, we wish to add some perspective.
Dr. Rosenne, in view of his background as Israeli ambassador to the United States and to France, was frequently interviewed by the media as an expert on foreign affairs. Rabbi Lichtenstein was a very modest person. Radio and television were very far from his milieu; his world was that of Torah. The media was introduced to him, four decades after his arrival in this country, only on the occasion of his being awarded the prestigious Israel Prize last year.
Journalists hardly ever spoke with him (barring the rare event of a journalist who was a former student of his yeshiva).
In contrast to many rabbinical leaders, Rabbi Lichtenstein was the embodiment of a lover of peace and a pursuer of peace.
His brief connection with the dovish Meimad religious-Zionist party was the exception as far as personal political involvement went, although he certainly commented on affairs of state such as the Gaza disengagement and the Temple Mount.
The Har Etzion Yeshiva which he led together with Rabbi Amital was not your characteristic “right wing” yeshiva.
Rabbi Amital was identified with the Oslo process, and served as a minister in Shimon Peres’ government for the six months following the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. Rabbi Lichtenstein was not a leader of the settlement movement, living most of his life in Jerusalem. Yet, not only could he work together with Rabbi Amital, he also appointed Rabbi Yakov Medan as a rosh yeshiva in his place, on the basis of Rav Medan’s Torah knowledge and intellectual prowess. Rav Medan’s strong support of the settlement movement was just not relevant.
There are other aspects of Rabbi Lichtenstein’s life which are noteworthy.
Money did not interest him. A known story is his willingness to cut his salary for the sake of the yeshiva during financially hard times. He was a man of letters, with a PhD in English literature. This should be contrasted with, for example, the Har Hamor Yeshiva (which split off from the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva), where anything having to do with the humanities, especially in a university context, is considered to be strictly forbidden.
Indeed, how many heads of yeshivot in Israel can boast of a PhD? We know only one: Rabbi Dr. Nachum Rabinowitz, who heads the Hesder Yeshiva in Ma’ale Adumim.
One may have thought that such a personality would be used by our media as a model of Jewish life in it broadest sense. Rabbi Lichtenstein was a teacher of tens of thousands, who influenced generations of students, among them leading rabbis and academic figures. Yet, the media was not interested in him, and even when he died, Kol Israel did not think it worth mentioning. It took a plea from Israel’s Media Watch to convince the powers that be there to mention him briefly in the 9:30 a.m. news flash preceding the 10 a.m. funeral.
Dr. Rosenne was a secular Jew. He was born in Romania in 1931 and immigrated to Palestine in 1944. His legal education was at the Sorbonne, where he obtained his PhD in 1957, at the same time also working for the fledgling Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Rosenne was a model public servant.
He was the legal adviser at the Foreign Ministry from 1971 until 1979.
In this capacity, he took part in the truce negotiations between Israel and Egypt following the Yom Kippur war.
In 1978, Rosenne was a member of the Israeli delegation to the Camp David peace negotiations. He then served from 1979 to 1983 as Israel’s ambassador to France. From 1983 until 1987 he was ambassador to the United States.
This overlapped the premierships of both Yitzhak Shamir and Peres.
Rosenne was a public servant trusted by both Right and Left in Israel. This is especially noteworthy considering that recently too many Israeli diplomats abroad have made it a habit to publicly criticize the Israeli government they purportedly serve.
Since then he served in a number of roles: he was president of the Israel Bonds organization, a member of the board of IDB Holdings and, to our pride, served as president of Israel’s Media Watch since 2010.
Rosenne passed away on April 14. The sad news was broadcast on Kol Israel, including a short biography as well as the time and location of his funeral.
It is interesting to note that the Israel Hayom newspaper covered in some detail the funeral of Rabbi Lichtenstein, giving it substantially more space and depth than Dr. Rosenne’s obituary. However, the coverage of both personalities in the media was largely superficial. Both served as role models. Their biographies are very different but also very educational.
Dr. Rosenne entered Israel illegally, during the British Mandate. He was outstanding at the foreign office, understanding that the duty of a civil servant is to serve his government.
Rabbi Lichtenstein came from very different circumstances, having grown up and matured in the United States.
He could have followed in the footsteps of his father-in-law, Rabbi Dr. Joseph B.
Soloveichik, becoming the rabbinical leader and authority of Orthodox Jewry there. He chose the idealistic but hard way of coming to Israel, establishing a yeshiva and dedicating himself to his students in Israel.
It is high time that our media understands that our society exists, reinvigorates itself and withstands world pressure only due to people like Rabbi Lichtenstein and Dr. Rosenne. If we want to continue to exist and safeguard our culture, historical heritage and ethical legacy we must present the proper role models in the media.
Let us be optimistic and hope that our media will pick up the challenge.
April 16, 2015
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 04/15/2015
The names of the programs changed, governments changed, and even sometimes the actors changed, but the messages and the writers remained the same: Israeli satire originated from the far Left.
Rogel Alpher made some insightful observations in his Haartez column of March 27. He clarified the local Israeli left-wing mindset as to who is permitted to broadcast satire. He bemoaned the lack of American-style satire shows in Israel, such as those hosted by Jon Stewart or John Oliver. He was not looking for mere entertainment, but for the presentation of “an opinionated, reasoned, unapologetic view, whose liberal agenda is obvious.” He is very much bothered that “Israeli television deliberately excludes” such programs.
For Alpher, Oliver and Stewart “are journalists with comic skills…to convey a researched, well-argued message.”
They expose their audiences to “satirical research” which “influences…[and] changes opinions.”
Satire has long been a staple of our television programming. Older folk will recall Nikui Rosh (Head Cleaning) and Zehu Zeh (That’s That) broadcast on TV Channel 1 in the 1970s and 1980s. Then, in the late nineties, influenced by the British Spitting Image program, TV Channel 2 gave us the Hebrew version, called the Chartzufim.
These were followed later by Eretz Nehederet (A Wonderful Country) and Matzav HaUmmah (The State of the Nation) programs, among others.
The names of the programs changed, governments changed, and even sometimes the actors changed, but the messages and the writers remained the same: Israeli satire originated from the far Left. It was pro-secular, anti-religious, pro-cosmopolitan and anti-settler. It took satire to the extreme. Chartzufim for example included two outrageous skits, one portraying the Shas rabbinical council as a group of dancing ayatollahs and another with two Ashkenazi haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) sitting at an outdoor café being served the dismembered head of a secular Israeli on a plate of lettuce.
On February 17, 2009, Eretz Nehederet presented a clip portraying a “settler family.”
While the mother ironed clothes on the back of an Arab, the grandfather took out a gun and shoots another Arab (or an IDF soldier) and a daughter shouts “Nazi” and “Hitler” at anyone she does not like.
Complaints aplenty were made, but were all rebuffed by Giora Rozen who, at the time, was complaints commissioner for the Second Authority of TV and Radio (SATR).
His response was: “The materials used were brought to the forefront of the public discourse by the minority group who used them. This group is now surprised about the language and reality which the satire uses to present the lightheadedness, the price of extremism and their own strong language.”
The commissioner was not worried about the fact that such a clip could create hatred between Israelis and depicted Jews with Nazi-like imagery. Worse, he permitted a situation whereby all “settlers” are put under one roof as crazy Arab-hating Jews.
This type of pandering, racist satire is characteristic.
On June 4, 2012, Eretz Nehederet related to the support Likud MKs Miri Regev and Danny Danon gave to south Tel Aviv residents in their struggle against the illegal residents in their neighborhood. Both MKs were depicted as Nazis deporting innocent civilians. Danon was presented as Hitler.
Complaints were answered by Yehudit Levit from TV Channel 2, who responded: “The…program is satirical. The purpose of the clip was to present the public discourse over the issue of the infiltrators. Satirical programs are naturally characterized by going to the limit in the presentation of issues and deal with them so as to bring about criticism and thought. This can sometimes also sometimes hurt the feelings of viewers,” concluding, “The value of freedom of speech supersedes any feelings which are hurt by the program.”
This year, for the first time in the more than four decades of Israel’s broadcasting history, a satirical program which presented itself as Zionist and not extreme Left was permitted to be aired over the IBA’s Channel 1. It took over four years of negotiations before the director general of the IBA, Yona Wiesenthal, was brave enough to declare that satire is legitimate independent of which part of the political spectrum it comes from.
To be sure, the Hakol Shafit (We’ll Be the Judge) program was balanced by another show, HaYehudim Ba’im (The Jews Are Coming), which preceded it. This latter program’s main message was to make fun of anything and everything holy and honorable in our Jewish heritage. Of course, Hayehudim Ba’im hurt people’s feelings but, as already explained, this is what satire does and freedom of expression is a higher good.
Or is it? On April 2, Hakol Shafit’s show included a segment in which a young woman named Chloe relates how she fell in love with a Muslim boy named Amir. This eventually led to tragedy, as Amir forces her to convert to Islam and then murders her when she refuses to allow him to take a second wife.
The reactions from the Left and Arabs were sharp; the principle of freedom of speech was forgotten. MK Zuhair Bahloul (Labor) said that this was “horrifying and shocking…one must ask whether this is not the freedom of incitement. I demand from the IBA to exercise discretion and forbid the transmission of this skit. Otherwise we might lose our elementary sensitivity to a whole segment of the population.”
The same Bahloul, when presenting a radio program on the A-Shams radio station, did not hesitate to explain why he visited Mohammed Bakri, the producer of Jenin, the “documentary” that libeled IDF soldiers, saying: “I showed solidarity with a great artist and actor, in order to pour some cold water on the racist campaign against a personality who can only be admired.”
Bahloul had no sensitivity for the IDF soldiers. He did not consider that such libel only leads to further hatred and even provide justification for some hotheads to take the law into their own hands. In this case, freedom of speech was much more important.
MK Michal Rozin from Meretz described the clip as racist, misogynistic and inciting.
Channel 1 then censored it. Why is it that our self-proclaimed liberals know how to be liberal with other people’s feelings but not their own? Adam Gopnik, reviewing on January 26 in The New Yorker Michel Houellebecq’s new novel, Submission, whose theme is an Islamic takeover of France, wrote about the essence of satire: “He likes to take what’s happening now and imagine what would happen if it kept on happening. That’s what satirists do.” A “sincere satirist” is one who is “genuinely saddened by the absurdities of history and the madnesses of mankind. He doesn’t ‘delight in depicting our follies.’” What is good for Europe suddenly is unacceptable for our cultural elite here in Israel? Indeed, the response of Avishai Ivri, one of the writers of the We’ll Be The Judge program, to the Walla news site was along the same lines: “The skit deals with an English girl from London whose name is Chloe and the topic is the radical Islam in Europe, not necessarily in Israel.”
But he who laughs last laughs best. The act of censorship was the best advertising that the Hakol Shafit program could ask for.
April 8, 2015
by ELI POLLAK,YISRAEL MEDAD, 04/08/2015
Israel’s media is driven and guided by American and European culture.
A central challenge our forefathers faced upon their exodus from Egypt was adapting to a new culture, one which no longer emulated the practices of the center of the civilization of that age, Egypt. The people of Israel succeeded and the ethics and morality they accepted strove for justice, empathy with the downtrodden, care for the poor and for the orphan. This was very different from their Egyptian experience and it is not surprising that along the journey to the Promised Land there were those that expressed their desire to return to the “old ways.”
Given the time of year, it is appropriate to apply that ancient model to today’s problem of Israel’s media identity.
Israel’s media is driven and guided by American and European culture. The reality shows, even with their high ratings, represent low culture. Other symptoms of sickness include the growing practice of replacing hard news with infotainment and creating media icons who are employed for their good looks and quick tongues. Our newspapers no longer separate between news and views, as the last election campaign amply demonstrated.
It does not have to be this way. The time has come for our media to make its own “exodus from Egypt,” from the superficiality and the emptiness too often purveyed abroad.
Israeli science is excellent because it does not emulate the United States. Basic science is valued in Israel. Our scientific community understands that fundamentals drive scientific progress. Our colleagues abroad look at us with envy. Increasingly, they are forced to turn toward applied science, otherwise they do not get funding.
Our Israeli media could also become a light unto the nations, if only the powers that run it were driven by Jewish culture and heritage, if only they were proud of their background.
Israeli television can and should reflect our national values. We have a rich, 3,000-year history which could be a limitless source of inspiration for historically based entertainment and education.
Jewish humor and especially the Yiddish and Sefardi humor of the past few centuries enabled our people to survive with a smile even under very difficult circumstances. It is very different from the slapstick humor of American sitcoms. Typically, it is biting, makes a point but at the same time is hilarious.
Oddly enough, Jewish comedians in the US seem to be very successful. Why has this genre disappeared here? Only last week, we were at the premiere of The Little Dictator, a 27-minute film created by Nurith and Emanuel Cohn. The Jerusalem Cinematheque hall was packed and the crowd was enthralled. Jewish humor at its best. Why can’t we have more of this on our screens? Are the biographies of people such as Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman or Baruch Spinoza boring? It is not difficult to think of a documentary series describing the rise of Jewry in the United States.
Colleagues our age bemoan the fact that their children and grandchildren are quite ignorant of their Jewish heritage. Too many of our youngsters no longer understand the Bible. The Jewish prayer book, which has helped generations of Jews, is a stranger to them. Religion should not be a “four-letter word.” High-quality TV programming could go a long way in educating us. Who among us knows the history of our prophets Elijah, Elisha or Jeremiah, to name a few? Bruriah, the wife of Rabbi Meir, is an amazing example of female leadership in our history. Queen Shlomzion is not less an outstanding personality.
The Rabbinical Court, with all of its drawbacks, is a unique Jewish institution. How about a TV series depicting the dilemmas of people appearing before it? One would suspect that if the Jewish Israeli population had a better understanding of the deliberations of this court, it would also know how to stand on its rights and get more out of this court system. One film in 50 years (“Gett”) is just insufficient.
But not only history and Jewish culture should be at heart of our media. We live in a globally based business environment. Most of our parents had no knowledge about the financial markets, derivatives meant nothing to them, and they also had no money to worry about. The situation today is very different. Yet too many Israelis are not well educated in financial matters. The only reason that our pension system is so complex is that no one in the media has taken the political leadership to task and demanded a thorough revision, simplification and end to profit of financial institutions on account of the pension funds. These issues could be dealt with and even be entertaining.
One of the problems many of us face as we grow older is taking care of our aging parents.
Most do not have a clue how to face the various dilemmas arising from debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia or Parkinson’s disease, to name a few. Do we or don’t we urge our parents to enter old age homes? The same is true when taking care of children with disabilities. A media interested in helping could go a long way in providing answers. Our newspapers, instead of harping on murder and drugs, could send their reporters to provide information on these and many other issues which we face on a daily basis.
We pride ourselves as being a high-tech society and rightly so. But is this sustainable? Only if we create enthusiasm for science and technology in our younger generations. Our media should play here a central role. We grew up on the space race, in the aftermath of the immense success of science in World War II to help eliminate the German and Japanese dictatorships. As children, science was the “in” thing. Today, our best and brightest become lawyers and accountants. We do not denigrate these occupations, but wouldn’t it be better if more of our bright youngsters were excited by the inspiration and creativity to be found in the sciences? Where there is a will ,there’s a way. Admittedly, presenting original, inspirational and informative programming and newspapers is expensive. Much more expensive than the low-quality material we receive now. But, just as good science in the long run is a worthwhile investment, the same goes for the media. Original films can be sold all over the world. Not only do they lead to good economics, they also would go a long way in presenting Israel in a positive light to the world, something we are sorely lacking.
The Jewish community is not limited to Israel. The evangelical Christian community is huge and would be very interested in Jewish and Israeli documentaries. The Chinese interest in Israel and the Bible is huge. In South Korea, schools have adopted the Talmudic pilpul model whereas in Israel, secular state school pupils have no knowledge of the Talmud at all.
The Israeli media should exit Egypt. With leadership – we do need a Moses – and determination, it could be a light onto the nations.
April 1, 2015
by YISRAEL MEDAD, ELI POLLAK, 04/01/2015
Much has been written concerning the required reckoning in the aftermath of the media’s fiasco during the four-month election campaign.
Much has been written concerning the required reckoning in the aftermath of the media’s fiasco during the four-month election campaign. The real question, though, is not what needs to be said, but what must be done. Our media needs to clean itself up thoroughly for there is too much chametz (leavened foods forbidden during Passover) lying around.
What could be done by government, the media itself and by media consumers? Let’s start with Channel 10 TV. This channel, as we have often written, has sullied Israel’s TV scene. It has cost the taxpayer over a billion shekels since its first broadcasts in January 2002. On March 22 it requested a broadcasting license for the next 15 years.
This request is now under deliberation by the Second Authority for TV and Radio (SATR).
But allow us to remind ourselves that prior to these elections, the channel was, as usual, in arrears in its payments, at that time to the tune of NIS 36 million. The government and the Knesset decided that this was not the appropriate time to close down the channel. The attorney general saved the day, allowing the channel to continue broadcasting until June 30, even though the law stipulated that under the circumstances the channel should be closed down.
The request to continue operating for the next 15 years under license, instead of the present concession system, came at the last moment. The law has set several conditions for granting a license. Among them are presenting guarantees for paying a NIS 67m. annual license fee. Another demand is to spend at least NIS 130m. annually on local programming. Thirdly, there is a NIS 3m. fee just to submit a license request. In addition, anyone who wants a license must convince the SATR that they are financially stable.
It is no wonder that Israel lacks good TV programming.
The government obviously considers the media a cow, to be milked at will, with the government controlling the milking schedule. If it so happens that the cow is sick, as Channel 10 is, the cowhand decides to forgo the milking for that day. When this repeats itself too many times and the cow stops giving milk altogether, it is sent out for slaughter.
Channel 10 has continued to pay its debts, albeit only after receiving generous reductions which were then promptly applied to the other channels.
Thus, last week, the SATR decided to reduce the license fee to NIS 45m. and to forgo the license request fee of NIS 3m. to anyone already owning a concession. This last step was clearly meant to enable Channel 10 to submit its request without paying the fee. Why should Channel 10 have any advantage over new players? The logic is beyond us.
The present socialist law is ridiculous. In a free economy, anyone should be allowed to request a broadcasting license.
Technology is such that the airwaves are essentially limitless.
There is no reason to impose unnecessary draconian rules and regulations on broadcasters.
There is an analogy between restaurants and the media. A restaurant has to prove that it can uphold minimal sanitation standards. A TV station must do the same. It must prove that it has the ability to uphold minimal broadcasting standards, both technological and content-wise. But that is all that it should be obliged by law to do. A profitable TV station pays the salaries of its employees and taxes on profits.
The government should content itself with the resulting income.
We have often demanded in this column that Channel 10 be closed down. Being realistic, we expect the government to be too weak to do the right thing, which is to stop violating its own laws by continuing to make concessions to the channel. Nevertheless, even our politicians could show some leadership and thoroughly revamp the law, allowing anyone to broadcast and stopping government meddling in the broadcasting business. This would lead to true pluralism, and would end the Channel 10 saga, since it would be only one of many and would have to stand on its own two feet or cease existing.
But let us not assume that this would heal all of Israel’s media woes. Part of the problem, which also appears in the Channel 10 saga, lies in the superiority complex of the media. Too many in the media feel that they are above the law. Consider our national broadcaster IBA’s TV Channel 1, which should be a model of good citizenship. It decided, on Election Day, that the present law forbidding any Israeli TV channel from broadcasting statements of politicians is archaic and promptly violated it. At Israel’s Media Watch, we submitted a formal complaint to Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran, chairman of the Central Elections Committee, but do not expect any action to be taken.
There are other laws on the books that should be upheld.
One of them demands that all voices in Israeli society be heard. It has never been enforced, or to phrase it differently, people such as Ari Shavit of Channel 1’s Friday night Yoman show or Moshe Negbi, the IBA’s sole legal pundit, seemingly consider themselves to be the voice of everyone and so are not willing to allow themselves to be balanced by someone else sharing the studio with them on the same program.
This ridiculous state of affairs has been summarized aptly by Yaron Dekel, the present head of the army radio station Galatz, in a March 23 op-ed published in Globes: “The late minister Uri Orbach was a ground-breaker of the entry of right-wingers in to the mainstream media…there are not enough successors to Orbach.
Only a significant entry into the established mainstream media of journalists with kippot, residents from the periphery and those holding a rightwing line will change the situation and free it from its ‘in-a-bubble’ reality.”
In contrast to pundits such as ourselves, Dekel does not need to write; he can actually do. He can clean up the chametz in the Army Radio station.
The production of Hakol Shafit, a decidedly right-ofcenter satire series on Channel 1, shows that it is possible to provide good media content while remaining pluralistic.
Why cannot Dekel create real pluralism? We do not accept his claim that there are not enough successors to Orbach.
We can think of a half-dozen people at least who could be anchors of the news programs on the channel and do the job at least as well as people such as Yael Dan and Razi Barkai.
Public mass media should neither be dominated by an interfering government bureaucracy or by politicians who are members of various Knesset committees that seek their own airtime. It should not be the fiefdom of an elitist ideological and cultural clique behind the microphones and in front of the cameras. It is high time to discard the chametz.
March 26, 2015
by YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK, 03/25/2015
Ominously, the opinion polls seemed to reflect more the opinions of media personalities, executives and editors as well as the owners of media outlets than those of the man in the street.
In the wake of the collapse of the election- day exit polls, and the subsequent piranha-like mutual frenzy of media rivals following the Likud victory, James Taranto, writing in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, provided a bit of consolation, if not encouragement. He noted that American experts also flopped. For example, Sam Wang of the Princeton Election Consortium had tweeted on Monday that “Netanyahu staying PM seems hard. I’ll stay w/ 3-1 odds against.” Paul Waldman of The Washington Post wrote, “There is a real possibility that Benjamin Netanyahu will lose.”
That American professionals are no better than their Israeli counterparts is nice to know, but the real problem is that those polls, ordered and paid for by central media outlets, developed a Golem-like aspect and, for all intents and purposes, took over the reporting platform. They were the story rather than being commentary. Almost all coverage began to revolve around the numbers and percentages.
Ominously, the opinion polls seemed to reflect more the opinions of media personalities, executives and editors as well as the owners of media outlets than those of the man in the street. Too many in the media were dancing around themselves in a closed circle. As Raviv Drucker of Channel 10, who did all he could to bring about the downfall of Netanyahu, freely admitted, “Maybe we live in la-la land.”
Amir Teig, writing in Haaretz on March 23, was even more critical, claiming that the country’s media outlets “have now come to understand the extent to which the public is hostile to them…the campaign revealed the one-dimensional character of the media and a sense that the media believe they know what’s best for their own audiences.”
The important issues facing the public, such as the local and international situation, analysis of economics and of defense matters, the relationship with the Palestinian Authority and more were shuffled to the background. Even some of the background of members of the new 20th Knesset, such as the Bulgarian hotel manager job held by the Likud’s Oren Hazan, a resort that also had a casino, was ignored. The media not only reflected its own biases but was shallow as well. It simply did not provide the information the public needed to make an informed decision on whom to vote for.
As Sir Alan Moses, chairman of England’s Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), declared three weeks ago, examples of media “abuse, intrusion, distortion, lies, cruelty and brutality” need to be addressed and regulatory rules need be fine-tuned.
Most importantly, wherever there is bias, the media cannot judge itself; oversight must include external partners.
In the week since the elections, Israel’s media, to its credit, is asking itself how it got the election results so wrong. As Nati Tucker described in The Marker, “Journalists misread the political landscape, newspapers were blatantly biased and polls proved to be utterly mistaken.” They engaged, he asserted, “in unethical and often ugly journalism.”
Drucker went even further: “There was a torrent of one-sided, biased reality. Netanyahu was smart enough to translate this revulsion into votes.”
But this preference for one-sidedness also carried over to the media’s introspection this week. For the most part, the discussions, interview panels and columns carried by the various networks, print, electronic and online, were staffed by media personnel.
The Tik Tikshoret program, which is supposed to deal with media infractions, brought to its panel discussions journalists Yaakov Ahimeir, Baruch Kra and Barak Ravid. Kalman Liebeskind, who dared to suggest in Maariv that journalists with a proven left-wing bias should be fired, drew sharp attacks from Channel 10 staff.
Drucker slugged it out with Channel 2 TV’s Amit Segal via tweets and Facebook posts following an op-ed Drucker published in Haaretz. Drucker asked in his op-ed, full of self-importance and unrepentant for his behavior: “Which model is better for the viewer: a reporter who wants the Right to win but conceals his views, or a reporter who acknowledges his preference and then reports on the facts?” Segal responded that the problem with journalists like Drucker was not mistakes in analyzing forecast data but in their total mobilization on behalf of the political Left.
Yediot Aharonot owner Arnon Mozes hasn’t apologized for the unprofessional behavior of his newspaper, nor has Amos Schocken, publisher of Haaretz. On the other side, Benjamin Netanyahu already has expressed contrition for his remarks regarding the busing of Arabs to the voting booths.
Yet, despite the across-the-spectrum admissions, and the clear evidence, we expect that nothing will change. Those responsible at the management and editorial levels in the Israeli media organs for overt media bias are unwilling to admit their professional errors, are not willing to reach personal conclusions and will not permit outsiders to participate in the post-performance debriefing.
This criticism should not detract from the value of the voices heard from within the media. To strengthen the charges of institutionalized bias, Arianna Melamed, herself a left-winger and a long-time member of the inner media elite who worked at Maariv and then moved to Ynet before resigning last year, published on her Facebook page this past Saturday that Yediot’s Mozes had personally spiked a column she penned critical of the Zionist Union’s Tzipi Livni.
“Mozes,” she wrote, “turned journalists into circus dogs. Yediot is the exact mirror- image of Israel Hayom. In one, Bibi is a dog and in the other, he’s a king.” She added, “Yes, I can relate much about the anti-Bibi media.” Her harsh remarks were then also reported on Channel 10’s Mako news site.
Another aspect of the biased media is evidenced in the coverage of US President Barack Obama’s unprecedented dressing- down of Prime Minister Netanyahu for saying that “Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them in buses.” Kol Yisrael’s Arieh Golan broadcast his personal disgust with Netanyahu’s “racist” remarks.
Never mind that Netanyahu was merely stating the truth or that the money for these activities came, in part, from funds whose connection to Obama’s State Department is currently being investigated.
Haaretz’s Benny Ziffer wrote on March 19 that the “‘Arabs on buses’ comment was not racist.”
Not a single Israeli media commentator pointed out that there were other disparaging and even racist expressions directed at sections of Israel’s populace, that were not addressed by Obama. The divisive words, of course, came from left-wingers and we mentioned them in our column last week. Somehow, the White House was quite selective in the media sources that were passed on to the president.
Yair Garboz and Yehoshua Sobol, Meretz supporters, targeted traditional religious people who identify with the Right. Tzipi Livni had referred to Netanyahu as “garbage” to be taken out to the bin. Last Wednesday, columnist Yonatan Geffen told a club audience that those who voted for Netanyahu shouldn’t “cry when your kids die in the next military operation.” Truthfully, it is Obama that has opened himself to charges of racism; he only complained about comments referring to Arabs, but the words shaming Jews were considered by him to be kosher.
To improve, the media must realize that it is a servant of the public rather than its master.
March 22, 2015
From the new issue of Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, Volume 9, Issue 1, 2015:
On Yehuda Bauer’s Letter to the Editor
While I may or may not have read Prof. Yehuda Bauer’s article “very carefully” as he surmises, I certainly perused his reply to my letter very studiously. Allow me to begin with his stupefying ending.
My mention of Bauer’s Palmach membership was not meant to label him as “terrible,” but rather to point to the major fault line in his polemical writings, as opposed to his scholarship: I am referring to his ideological mindset, which is hard left. Bauer’s anti-Bergson group stance, as exemplified by his writings in this journal, is one expression of this. His letter provides additional insight into his political thinking. Oddly, Bauer notes my domicile in Shiloh, which, I might point out, is not located in, as he calls it, the “West Bank,” which is an artificial geopolitical term that did not exist prior to April 1950, but in Samaria, as it was called by the United Nations in outlining the borders delineated in the 1947 Partition Plan. While graciously allowing me my views, Bauer then, irrationally, and for no possible purpose except to paint me politically outside the pale, identifies me in an intentional slur as being equivalent to a Jew in Brooklyn or Paris, in other words, in the Diaspora, except that I do not require a plane to reach my home. Why is that? Simply because the State of Israel has not applied its sovereignty to the area in which I reside. For the record, I was born in the Bronx and grew up in Queens, New York.
Bauer’s astounding implication is that I am in chutz la-aretz [outside the borders of the Jewish homeland], as if Shiloh—the location of the Tabernacle, where Joshua divided up the Land of Israel, where Samuel first ministered and where the Prophet Achiyah spoke the truly terrifying words about dogs and vultures—is not somehow fully Jewish and/or part of Eretz-Yisrael—the Land of Israel. This reveals an empty and detached approach to Jewish history and heritage. Given that Bauer came from Prague to this country in 1939, when it was not a state with any sovereign power, I hope he did not consider himself still in the Diaspora simply because the British ruled the land. That is, unless belonging to the Labor/Socialist faction of Zionism somehow bestowed upon him and his comrades a mantle of belonging that he now claims does not apply to me in Shiloh.
To return to the rest of Bauer’s letter, let me respond quite briefly to his complaints. No, he was not guilty of misdeeds in belonging to the Palmach unless he personally tortured Irgun members and handed them over to the British Criminal Investigation Department. Yes, prior to the October 1944 Saison sponsored by the official Yishuv [pre-State Jewish community] bodies, Lehi [Stern group] members were obliquely identified by Irgun intelligence officers to the British. However, Bauer absents conveniently the Palmach’s own pre-Saison operations against the Lehi in early 1942. And yes, and to his credit, he was the first historian to shed light on this episode.
As for Bauer’s supposing that I somehow attacked his Holocaust scholarship, I should have used the word “previous” rather than “past,” although I would characterize some of his conclusions, which I first heard in his lectures at Hebrew University during my 1978–79 academic year, as arguable. Regarding another semantic matter, I will admit to being unable to fathom the precise difference at least as far as the end result is concerned, between his suggestion that a coalition of Islamic states should mediate the Arab–Israeli conflict, as I described it, and his correction that his suggestion was actually that the major powers should act in that fashion.
The final point I wish to make is that Bauer insists that the 230-page Torat HaMelech tract (and I will not engage in a dispute over whether or not and to what extent it is “unabashedly racist and even potentially genocidal”) has had an impact. He is a scholar and, therefore, we can presume that he will eventually academically and empirically prove his charge of a direct link between disgusting acts of anti-Arab/Islam vandalism and that book, published in 2010. However, surely he realizes that violent acts against Arabs, justified or not, do not require esoteric Halachic, Midrashic, or Kabbalistic deliberations of the sort found in that book.
In the summer of 1943, the Palmach punished an Arab rapist of Jewish women in the Beit Shean Valley by surgically castrating him (although none of them was a surgeon or even a physician) and then celebrated the event for years with the campfire song “Sirasnucha Ya Muhammed.” That was not an isolated incident of retribution against Arab rapists. Moreover, there were the Palmachniks who killed some eighty Arabs, reportedly shot while their hands were rope-bound, at Ein Zeitoun on May 1, 1948, and who, in the attack at Sassa on February 15, 1948, blew up houses, killing over sixty Arabs, the majority of whom were women, children, and the aged. Another dozen civilians were killed when the Palmach’s Third Brigade blew up dwellings in Al-Khisas on December 18, 1947. Other Palmachniks had operated even prior to the November 30, 1947 beginning of Israel’s War of Independence against Arab forces at Yaquq and near Kfar Syrkin.
None of them, we can surmise, was a wild-eyed “hilltop youth” who delved into tomes of ancient Jewish literature. They were, rather, “the handsome young men with the forelock,” who, unlike the “terrorists” of the Irgun and “Stern Gang,” mythically behaved according to the principle of “purity of arms.”