July 20, 2016
|One of the issues often used to discredit Israel is the question of water in Judea and Samaria. For example, on June 23, The New York Times published an article by Diaa Hadid headlined, “[Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas claims Rabbis urged Israel to Poison Palestinians’ Water.”
To be fair, Hadid made it quite clear in the article that the allegations were unsubstantiated. But Abbas received a standing ovation in the EU Parliament for a speech which included these remarks: “A number of rabbis in Israel announced…demanding that their government poison the water to kill the Palestinians.
Isn’t that clear incitement to commit mass killings against the Palestinian people?” As also reported in the New York Times, the response from the Prime Minister’s Office was, “Abu Mazen [Abbas] showed his true face in Brussels…someone who spreads a blood libel before the European Parliament is falsely claiming that his hand is extended for peace.”
With this as background, we might have expected that The Jewish Chronicle, which describes itself as the “world’s oldest and most influential Jewish newspaper,” would be sensitive to spreading lies about the water problem in Judea and Samaria. In fact, it was the exact opposite.
When Abbas made the allegation, the Chronicle kept mum. The Times, by contrast, immediately informed readers that Abbas was “echoing anti-Semitic claims that led to the mass killings of European Jews in medieval times.”
Only on June 30, a week after the blood libel, did Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer, a regular analyst for the Chronicle, write that the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Abbas had retracted the accusation. He added that Abbas “has affirmed that he did not intend to do harm to Judaism or to offend Jewish People around the world.” A search of the Chronicle’s website reveals no other item on Abbas’s libel.
Was this a one-time “slip”? No.
On May 2, 2014, the Chronicle published an article by Simon Rocker, the paper’s Judaism editor, headlined, “Board of Deputies treasurer ‘shocked’ by visit to West Bank.”
What shocked the treasurer, who has since resigned? We quote: “Mr. Brass added that the abiding memory of his visit would be ‘the sight of an old rusty car being dumped down the village well, thus preventing the locals from having fresh water.’” His trip to Judea and Samaria had been sponsored by Yachad, an extreme-left anti-occupation group.
His one-day trip to Sussiya was led by a guide from NGO Breaking the Silence, whose campaign to libel Israel has been documented by NGO Monitor and now exposed as unreliable by Channel 10’s Hamakor program.
Brass was shocked by the fact that “just 48 hours after we left, a six-year-old girl from the neighboring village of Atuwani was admitted to hospital with head wounds after being stoned on her way to school.”
Brass bemoaned that this type of behavior goes unchecked by the IDF.
Brass can think what he likes, libel Israel and support Breaking the Silence, although, as a Board of Deputies official he was roundly condemned.
But the Chronicle? Where are its basic ethics? Did it check his “facts”? Did it investigate his claims? Did it seek to balance the story? Or is it a blind supporter of anti-Israel propaganda? The Israeli NGO Mattot Arim thought that perhaps in the aftermath of the Abbas “blood libel” the Chronicle would set the record straight and retract the damning 2014 article. Mattot Arim’s spokesperson, Susie Dym, wrote to Orlando Radice, foreign news editor of the Chronicle, on June 26: “You seem to have run an early version of the well poisoning ‘reports’ that made headlines around the world this past week before being retracted, even by the Palestinians… Would you please consider printing a retraction of the article above, even if belated, in the printed edition of the [Chronicle] and adding the retraction to the linked page?” The response came on June 27.
They only agreed to put a link in the article to a response by Assaf Fassy, the spokesperson of the South Hebron Hills Regional Council.
Fassy’s response was not sought out by the Chronicle; he wrote it on his own initiative when shocked pro-Israel Chronicle readers made him aware of Rocker’s “report.”
Why do Brass’s allegations merit a vetted news report whereas Fassy’s refutations do not? Dym, not satisfied with the answer, went on to ask: “Did the paper ever make any effort at the time, to interview any of the dozen Anglo-Jewish participants other than Mr. Brass, all of whom were present, hence doubtless witnessed the claimed intentional disabling of the village well? …Did anyone file a complaint with the authorities? Was this followed up? Did Mr Brass or anyone in his entourage snap a photo… it does, after all, take some time for a car to be dumped down the village well – ample time in order to capture the event on film or at least in a still? …Did the paper verify the name of the six-year-old girl… were hospital records obtained to verify that this actually happened? Did Israel Police or the IDF Spokesperson confirm to the [Chronicle] that the perpetrators of either of the above were ‘settlers’?” Radice’s answer was brief: “My response is as per the previous response – we added a linked line to the original story.”
In other words, the Chronicle seemingly performed not even the most elementary fact-checking before dignifying anti-Israel allegations with news report status.
These two instances are part of a pattern. The Chronicle claims that its “news and opinion pages reflect the wide diversity of Jewish religious, social and political thought from left to right.” Really? Consider the Chronicle’s analysts.
Rocker cannot be identified with the Right. For example, in an article on May 26 this year, he pushed for the idea that it is not sufficient to teach young children to be cheerleaders for Israel. We already mentioned Anshel Pfeffer. Another “analyst” is Gershon Baskin, well known to readers of The Jerusalem Post for his leftwing columns. Uri Dromi, director general of the Jerusalem Press club, a supporter of the two-state “solution,” is also an analyst for the Chronicle.
Another regular columnist is Jonathan Freedland, who in the Chronicle penned a sexist denigration of Israel’s justice minister: “Ayelet Shaked is… simultaneously gorgeous and a racist; she is a stunning bigot. She has a beautiful face, but her soul is ugly.” Melanie Phillips is presumably used in the comments section for the sake of “balance,” but we all know the subtle or perhaps not-so-subtle difference between analysis, which is supposedly objective, and opinion articles, which are not expected to be objective.
Sadly, it would seem that the answer to the question posed in our title is “yes.”
July 8, 2016
|Shlomo Filber is the director-general of the Communications Ministry, responsible to the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also the communications minister. Filber is an experienced executive, having served previously as director general of the Yesha Council and as the Netanyahu’s chief of staff. From 2003-2009 he was the secretary of the board of directors as well as the assets manager of Israel Railways. In the last election campaign, he was head of the Likud Party’s elections headquarters.
Having entered the job at the Communications Ministry, he was faced with two major challenges: the organization of and the responsibility for the new Israeli Broadcasting Corporation (IBC), and reorganizing the broadcasting industry in Israel.
For the latter purpose, the prime minister appointed a committee headed by Filber whose task was to provide recommendations regarding the regulatory process of the industry. The other members of Filber’s committee were Eva Meziboz, chairperson of the Second Authority for TV and Radio; Advocate Dana Neufeld, the ministry’s legal adviser, whose record includes serving under communications minister Gilad Erdan and being part of the sad, post-Zionist legislation underlying the IBC; Haran Lav’ut, the ministry’s deputy director, responsible for finances; Assaf Wasserzug; Dr. Yifat Ben-Chai Segev, chairperson of the Cable and Satellite Authority; Advocate Eli’or Balitner from the Justice Ministry; and Yair Hakak, head of planning at the ministry.
There is an inherent conflict of interest in this committee as two of its members are heads of powerful regulatory bodies in Israel, while the task of the committee was to find ways to reduce government involvement in the industry, including unifying the two authorities into one. This should suggest that at least one of the two heads stands to lose her job.
Yet the cover letter Filber sent to Prime Minister Netanyahu sounded very positive, stating that Filber believes the recommendations of his commission would lead to “a reduction in government involvement in content, creation of a broader range of opinion and content to Israel’s citizenship and strengthening pluralism in Israel’s broadcasting market.”
Indeed, in the practical steps outlined in the Filber report there are some important recommendations, which if implemented would do just that. For example, today, TV channel 20 is not permitted to broadcast independently produced news and news-related programming. The committee recommends allowing any content provider to provide news broadcasting, provided that it conforms to accepted ethical codes.
One of the difficulties facing any broadcasting company in Israel today is that the satellite and cable companies Hot and Yes are able, and in practice do, prevent any serious competition by imposing ridiculous fees on content providers. This will stop. Hot and Yes will be allowed to take a set fee, which will be equal for all content providers. If they exaggerate, the minister responsible would set the price.
The committee also set out to make it easier for the consumer to receive sports broadcasts. The sports channels would no longer be permitted to ask an exorbitant price for their content but it would be on the basis of the number of subscribers to the channel.
Another positive recommendation is to gradually reduce any limitations on the number of advertisements allowed. In practice this leaves it to the consumer to decide whether she or he wants to view a channel which constantly disrupts its programming with ads.
However, there are many pitfalls in the recommendations. First and foremost, as expected the regulatory commission will still have much too much power. Even the recommendations outlined above are predicated on the idea that the regulatory body is the czar of the broadcasting industry.
This clinging to power by the bureaucracy is especially evident when considering the recommendations concerning content.
The Filber report notes that at present, Israel spends NIS 740 million on original local content. The commission recommends steps that will assure that this level of spending will remain. It distinguishes between different content providers. The very small ones, with less than 10 percent of the total market share of broadcasting advertising in Israel, would be free to provide whatever content they choose.
The committee expressly notes that market rules of supply and demand would regulate their content. But then companies whose income over a period of three years is more than 10% of the advertising market would be considered owners of an “established” commercial license, which would have to provide news programming. A provider with more than 20% of the advertising market share would have to invest in local programming in addition to news.
These draconian measures conflict with the idea that Israel should have a free market.
Instead of the lengthy deliberations and complex measures which the commission presents, it should have made a clear and unequivocal statement that anyone can broadcast provided that they conform to minimal standards of ethics and the broadcasting laws, such as safeguarding against the exploitation of minors.
The commission itself was aware of some of the limitations. It acknowledged that its recommendations should be considered an interim, five-year measure. After all, no one can foresee how the Internet market will continue to develop.
We can only hope that five years from now all this will be moot, as the Internet, cellphone and WiFi markets will make any attempt at draconian regulatory measures obsolete.
June 29, 2016
|C-SPAN, the Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network, was established by the cable television industry in the USA in 1979, providing the public with live coverage of a variety of governmental proceedings and congressional debates, historical programming as well as soft news. As reported on Wikipedia, it is a nonprofit organization, funded by a six-cent fee paid by the cable and satellite affiliates.
Emulating the US, Israel established the Knesset TV channel in 1995. Eight years later, the Knesset enacted a new law – “TV Broadcasts from the Knesset” – which firmly established the concept that there would be live broadcasts of Knesset deliberations. The funding for the channel comes from the Knesset budget, that is, we the taxpayers. TV Channel 2 won a 10-year contract to operate the channel starting November 2006.
In comparison to other TV channels in Israel, the Knesset channel is the most pluralistic.
Its presenters include people with diverse opinions, representing Right, Left, secular, religious and others. Notably though, the Arab minority is quite absent. The channel maintains a culture of fairness and equality. The other media channels have much to learn from it in this regard.
With the 10 years contract of channel 2 almost over, Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein has started the process of searching for a new carrier for the next decade. Wisely, he decided that after 13 years since the law was enacted, it is time not only to renew the contract, but first to review the operations of the channel, see what is positive and what needs to be changed. For this purpose he appointed a committee headed by former judge Sara Frisch.
The other members were Prof. Amit Shechter, a former legal adviser of the IBA; Prof. Alean al-Krenawi, president of Achva College and a sociologist whose expertise is the Beduin communities; Dr. Dina Shkolnik who lectures on behavioral science; Dr. Revital Amiran, a political scientist; Mr. Haim Zisovitch, the spokesman of Bar-Ilan University and a former radio host and correspondent at the IBA; Mr. Zvika Brot, the Knesset correspondent of Yediot Aharonot; former Likud MK Yossi Achimeir; and journalist and Likud member Naftali Ben-Simon.
The Frisch Committee submitted its recommendations to Edelstein in February. The latter decided to adopt most of them, and they certainly include some sweeping changes.
Perhaps the most important relates to improvements in communication technology; the report recommended that all Knesset deliberations be shown live via the Internet. It also recommended rephrasing the law’s title to “Law of Knesset TV Broadcasts” which would limit the broadcasts’ content. Issues which have nothing to do with the Knesset and its deliberations would be avoided.
The committee further noted that the purpose of the channel is to serve the Knesset and so suggested the law should include a paragraph disallowing degradation of the Knesset.
As might be expected, these suggestions (and others) raised a brouhaha. People like journalist Amit Segal, who has a weekly program on the Knesset channel and is also the political correspondent of TV Channel 2, obviously have to worry about their future in the channel.
The present recommendations might imply that there is no space for soft news programs such as his. Unsurprisingly, Segal promptly and severely criticized the committee’s findings. As reported in Globes, his ire was especially directed toward Dr. Amiran, accusing her of allowing the Knesset speaker to use her as an academic fig leaf. Amiran did not agree with all the committee’s recommendations and added minority opinions. For example, she thought that the legislation should not deal at all with the means of recording, considering these to be professional concerns regarding which any interference would be a sort of cewnsorship.
At the same time, she defended the “degradation paragraph” which has been the central target of criticism by, for example, Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich, who accused Knesset speaker Edelstein of attempting to exploit the channel for political purposes.
Last week, the Knesset initiated deliberations on the proposed legislation. The “degradation paragraph” was roundly criticized by the opposition.
Not less important, though, was the sharp criticism of Avi Weiss, CEO and czar of TV Channel 2’s news company.
With tongue in cheek, he noted: “We are very concerned about the Frisch Committee recommendations, independent of the question of who will get the contract. I have a difference of opinion as to the depth of the work of the committee.”
The “concern” of people like Weiss and of Amit Segal, whose blatant conflict of interest should have led to a total rejection of their comments, is but another reflection of the dominance of TV Channel 2.
Let us hope that at least the Knesset channel will no longer be under the hegemony of Channel 2 in the next decade.
June 22, 2016
|Last October, in our weekly column entitled “Managing the news,” we described how Oshrat Kotler, a two-decade veteran of Galei Tzahal and Channel 2, and currently Channel 10’s news presenter, manages the news. We complained about her ethics infractions in 2014, but her bosses wrote back that they allowed her to be “opinionated in places where required.”
On October 3 last year, Kotler asked, “Why are Jews still permitted to enter the Temple Mount?” and called Temple Mount activists a “bunch of crazies.” Neutrality isn’t her style.
Nor is proportionality; four out of five people who appeared on her panel at the time opposed the right of Jews to benefit from the Law for the Protection of the Holy Places.
Back in January 2008, Kotler called for Israel’s government to negotiate with Hamas “before we sacrifice hundreds of victims on the altar of Israeli masculinity.”
Earlier, on Remembrance Day 2003, Kotler asked her viewers to “count 365 days of death, violence, government stupidity, poverty, ignorance, corruption, brutal warfare, suicide bombings.” She then broke down and cried, live on TV.
This past Saturday evening, hosting the week’s magazine news round-up, which included an item on the Samarian community of Yitzhar whose spokesperson also sang, Kotler informed her viewers that “he knows how to sing, to compose and direct – there is no doubt that he is a sane settler. It seems that those types do exist, even in Yitzhar.”
Channel 10, realizing that a storm of criticism was brewing on social media, quickly announced that its CEO had spoken with Kotler and that she would formally clarify her comments during the next program.
However, as the comments, overwhelmingly negative, increased, Kotler used the program’s Facebook page to inform readers that, “At the end of the report I decided to compliment Ezri Tovi, who sings well in my opinion, and I mentioned that it is good to know that there are sane settlers, in quotes, even in settlements such as Yitzhar.”
“My intention was obviously to commend Tovi’s moderation,” Kotler wrote, adding, “I certainly do not think that the settler community is insane, period.”
The real point of this latest episode is simple: if a media person violates the law or the professional ethical code the network has adopted, and is not punished or reprimanded, why should infractions or misbehavior not continue? Israel’s mainstream media elite, the guild of left-leaning liberals known as the “branja,” cares for ethics only if violations come from “the other side.”
To be fair, Kotler has been criticized from the far Left. Here is Gideon Levy in a column published in Haaretz on July 14, 2006: “There was always something didactic and teacher- like about her… For years, Oshrat Kotler was a newscaster on Channel 2. She came across as relatively intelligent, but with a sanctimonious streak.” It is amusing to note what bothers the extreme Left.
Given the fact that Kotler and others who have been the subjects of our media critique in this column have gotten away scot-free, is it any wonder that the spokesperson of opposition leader Isaac Herzog, Ofer Newman, felt it was quite acceptable to post his opinion that “The settlers built swimming pools on the blood of children they murdered… They blatantly abused our chances of not dying here. They violently took our hopes. They trampled Jewish ethics under their coarse feet… What kind of a twisted moral basis enables these people to stride along on a path toward the deaths of thousands of Israelis without anyone saying to them: ‘You have gone too far! You are lowly murderers. You belong in prison!’”
Newman obviously has been hearing too much from other “dignitaries” such as Amos Oz, David Grossman, Yair Garboz and a slew of politicians, many from the Labor Party, who over the decades used far worse language in their attempt to degrade the “settlers.”
True to form, Newman also apologized, with his excuse being his viewing that evening Shimon Dotan’s film, “The Settlers”. As it happens, one of us (YM) posted a blog back in July 2013 detailing, from an application Dotan made for funds for his film, the extreme negative views Dotan held and his agenda to paint the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria in the worst possible light.
Herzog realized his spokesperson was a potential albatross around his neck and said, “The post by my spokesperson, was… very wrong, because it creates a generalization that I am unwilling to accept and uses imagery that we mustn’t use under any circumstances…even in the middle of the debate, we will uphold their honor and do so respectfully.”
But as if from a script from one of our satirical programs, Newman himself sought a unique defense. He pointed to Oshrat Kotler’s own apology that Saturday night.
At least her diatribe was useful for someone.
June 16, 2016
|Israel’s media knows that it can flex its might, especially with a right-of-center government.
Conservative politicians have an incomprehensible fear of negative reporting. The Rami Sadan brouhaha, over supposed remarks made by the new Channel 10 news oversight committee chair, is but one of many. It should be clear that Sadan did nothing illegal. His job is that of a regulator and his powers are limited.
Even so, some of the people at Channel 10 are afraid of a regulator who lived many years in Gush Etzion, has a kippa on his head and in the distant past worked for the prime minister.
Since Sadan is one of the founders of Israel’s Media Watch, we will not say more about his case, except that we believe that his detractors will be surprised at how well he carries out his job.
Ran Baratz was nominated in November 2015 by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be the director of communications in the Prime Minister’s Office, a job held previously by former editor of The Jerusalem Post David Bar-Ilan. True to form, the media searched, found a Facebook comment by Baratz relating to President Reuven Rivlin: “He is a peripheral person. One can send him with a paraglider to the Syrian Golan controlled by ISIS [Islamic State]. Just take him.”
Baratz did not violate any law. He made a negative comment, which one may or may not disagree with.
The damage, though, was done. To this day, no one has filled the job.
The prime minister is very sensitive to such criticism.
From 2000-2010, Danny Seaman was the director of the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO). From there he went on to become the deputy director general for information at the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs. Seaman was a veteran official, but his vast experience did not help him when in August 2013, he made the following Facebook comment about the Japanese: “I am sick of the Japanese…. holding their annual self-righteous commemorations for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims… instead they should be commemorating the estimated 50 million Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Malay, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Indonesian, Burmese and other victims of Japanese imperial aggression and genocide.”
True to form, Haaretz not only publicized his comments, it made sure that there would be international trouble for Israel by requesting the official response of the Japanese government to the criticism. This created a crisis in Israel-Japanese relations and the result was that in January 2014 Seaman resigned. Since then he is retired, no longer contributing his expertise for the sake and good of Israel as a government official.
Another example is the failed appointment of Danny Dayan, former executive director of the Yesha council, as Israel’s ambassador to Brazil. Extreme left-winger and Israel basher Alon Liel, a former Foreign Ministry director general, took it upon himself to block the appointment. He went to Brazil to convince the corrupt government of Dilma Roussef to veto the appointment. Liel is a private citizen, and can do what he wants, although we think his actions were treasonous. But the Israeli media just went ahead and publicized the issue.
It did not roundly criticize Liel for his actions, making it impossible for him to further show his face here in public. Quite the contrary, he is still considered an expert for example on relations with Turkey, due to his stint as Israeli charge d’affairs there from 1981-1983 and his PhD thesis, “The Dependence on Imported Energy and its Impact on Turkey’s Foreign Policy.”
He is sufficiently “respectable” that the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya is proud to have him mentioned on its website as a faculty member of the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy. Consider what would have happened had Ariel University employed Baruch Marzel as a lecturer on Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Haaretz would be the first to go on a McCarthyist binge against the university, calling for its closure. The rest of the media would then follow suit. But Liel? He’s untouchable as he is an extreme leftist.
Consider a more recent case, that of Gen. Yair Golan, the IDF deputy chief of staff since 2014. On May 4, 2016, Golan infamously compared Israel to Nazi Germany, saying: “Revolting processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then – 70, 80 and 90 years ago – [are] among us today.”
Were his words at all comparable to the comments of Seaman or those attributed to Sadan? Of course not.
Yet there were those of the media who praised him.
When in response to the expulsion from Gaza in 2006 some people wore yellow stars of David they were severely criticized for daring to equate the expulsion with the Nazi era. But Golan not only continues in his job, he is hailed for his courage to speak out. Religious high-ranking officers, who dared pray publicly to the Almighty that he should help them out in their combat mission, were in contrast tied to the stake and burned alive.
Truly, McCarthyism is alive and kicking in the Israeli media. Sadly, Israel’s majority is not capable of putting it in the wastebin.
June 2, 2016
|It was almost 20 years ago that the Peled Commission, appointed by then communication minister Limor Livnat, recommended to the government that it create an Israeli version of America’s Federal Communications Commission. Regulating the media is a necessity, just as regulating restaurants is needed to ensure that the public does not come to harm. Yet, the regulation of the media in Israel is ridiculously complex.
There are separate regulators for the commercial radio and television, for cable and satellite TV, and for the new Israel Broadcasting Corporation.
This situation is very convenient for many people. The politicians profit for they can appoint their friends to the various oversight bodies, and for the employees of the commissions this is a source of livelihood.
It is thus very surprising that finally, the Netanyahu government seems to be getting around to actually implementing the unification of the Second TV and Radio Authority (SATR) and the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Authority (CSBA).
In fact, an in-depth discussion of the proposed legislation took place on Tuesday of this week in the Knesset Economics Committee.
Especially in view of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s capitalist ideology, which looks toward reducing the involvement of the government in our lives, one would have expected that the new regulator would operate under conditions that minimize its interference in the daily operations of the broadcasters. Competition would be encouraged. The regulator would only step in when really needed. This would be especially important for the upkeep of a minimal code of ethics, which would ensure clean programming and upholding basic norms, such as the right of retort.
In practice, the proposed law will lead to the opposite. It will strengthen the involvement of the new regulator in the various media organs. Consider the following example which was raised in committee by the representative of the YES cable company.
She complained that the communications company Cellcom, by broadcasting Internet TV, is unfairly competing with her company. YES is regulated by the SCBA while Cellcom, being defined as a communications company, is not. So far, so good. But then she demanded to have Cellcom regulated by the new authority. Neither she nor anyone else who participated in the deliberations, apart from Ziv Maor, the CEO of Israel’s Media Watch, apparently had the thought that the solution is not to regulate Cellcom, but to deregulate YES.
Indeed, the committee accepted as fact that the regulator would be involved in the programming of the private media stations, or that new players would have to live up to the present norms, which include hefty royalties to the government and intrusions into content. No one present even tried to stop this ludicrous and destructive involvement.
Ludicrous? Yes. Modern technology has made it possible for almost anyone with reasonable means to broadcast through the Internet, whether radio or TV. There is no way that the Israeli regulator would be able to control these broadcasts. There is also no need, for example, for the regulator to limit advertising minutes. If there is sufficient competition, the public would simple turn away from a broadcaster that advertises too much.
The real challenge of the regulator is thus to encourage competition as the best means of assuring quality TV.
Yet it is precisely this goal which SATR for one has consistently and successfully fought against.
TV Channel 20 is still limited in its ability to provide news. Why? Because the CSBA is more interested in defending the rights of the major players, such as TV channels 10 and 2, instead of representing the interest of the public.
It should be noted that the MKs who participated in the deliberations of the economics committee were from the opposition. The Likud and Bayit Yehudi factions are simply not interested and do not partake in the legislative process. If Israel’s conservatives show no interest, it is not surprising that the socialist point of view, which calls for excessive government involvement in almost everything, becomes dominant.
Israel, the “start-up nation,” is unfortunately also well known for its heavy-handed bureaucracy. Opening a business in Israel is no trifling matter.
It is for this reason that Prime Minister Netanyahu has formed a new department in the Prime Minister’s Office whose task is to streamline Israel’s regulatory practices, making them more efficient and user friendly. Seemingly a positive step forward, alas, not one representative of this new department took part in the Knesset discussions. Could it be that someone really believes that the SATR and CSBA are doing a good job? Has anyone in government actually reviewed these regulators? For many years, we have been advocating for an Israeli FCC, modeled after the American FCC. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. In the United States, the FCC does not involve itself in programming, but when there are serious issues having to do with indecent programming the FCC is there to set things right.
In Israel, the situation is exactly the opposite. There is over-involvement in the daily operations and lack of power to enforce the minimally needed ethics code.
The message of the new Israeli FCC comes from Ecclesiastes: “What was is what shall be and there is nothing new under the sun.”
May 25, 2016
|The Ya’alon-Liberman drama dominated the airwaves this past week. Much ink was spilled and airtime filled with the comments of senior pundits, most of whom were full of praise for outgoing defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and extreme fear of his incoming replacement Avigdor Liberman.
The appointment of Liberman is indeed a serious matter; defense touches on the very essence of our existence in the Middle East. Still, the media did a poor job. It missed the really important issues and doted on the trivial ones.
We all are aware of the content of Ya’alon’s recent declarations defending deputy chief of staff Maj.-Gen.
Yair Golan and his incendiary remarks, or his immediate condemnation of the soldier Elor Azaria for his shooting of a terrorist in Hebron, or defending the chief of staff for his remarks that IDF soldiers should not shoot to kill 14-year-old girls armed with scissors.
These remarks were at the center of an ideological struggle between applauding liberals and critical hardliners.
The liberal media went out of its way to support Ya’alon, describing him as the last sane voice in the Netanyahu government. What the media did not do is ask itself and the experts what Ya’alon’s record as defense minister really was. What does he leave as his legacy and imprint on the IDF? After all, he was defense minister for the past three years, not a short time in Israeli politics. His tenure included Operation Protective Edge during the summer of 2014.
Yaakov Amidror, former national security adviser, summarized what he believed Ya’alon’s three major achievements were. One was arranging for a longterm budget for the IDF. Second was maintaining good working relations with the IDF’s top brass, and third was bringing about relative quiet around the Gaza Strip and lowering the flames of the recent terrorist acts against Israelis.
At the same time though, we know today that Ya’alon did not understand or at least did not prepare the IDF for the tunnel threat. When Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett repeatedly questioned Ya’alon and the IDF in the cabinet as to what he was doing to contain the threat of the tunnels he was ignored or worse, castigated for having the gall to question the judgment of the defense establishment.
As the transcripts reveal and as the ombudsman’s report indicated, Bennett was right, while Ya’alon and the top brass realized only belatedly the strategic threat of the tunnels.
Channel 2 TV’s military correspondent Roni Daniel used the top-rated Friday night news roundup to categorically state that: “After this week, I’m not sure I want my children to remain here.” This made quick headlines, but was not serious journalism.
The fact is that he did not even consider the idea that Ya’alon’s preference of a “quiet for quiet” policy is leading to the continued rearmament of both Hezbollah and Hamas and might just be much more dangerous than Ya’alon’s replacement by Liberman.
But even on the question of the army’s morality and Ya’alon’s defense of army officers’ freedom of speech the media did not get it right. Army officers are government employees who by law do not have the freedom to criticize the government publicly. Setting the legal issue aside, if an IDF general had publicly stated during the Gaza disengagement (which was planned by then chief of staff Ya’alon) that the mass expulsion reminded him of the actions of Nazi Germany, would Ya’alon have defended his freedom of speech? Would this same media been supportive of that general? Of course not.
Let us recall the letter sent by Col. Ofer Winter to his soldiers during the 2014 war, in which he wrote: “I raise my eyes to heaven and read together with you ‘Hear O Israel, our God is One, God of Israel, please make sure that we are successful in our endeavor.’” Winter was roundly criticized, especially by Haaretz, and did not receive the same support from Ya’alon that Golan did. Has Ya’alon been called out for his lack of consistency? The media went to great lengths to remind everyone about Liberman’s various pronouncements concerning the need to retake the Gaza Strip and end Hamas rule there. But it did not even try to consider Liberman’s record as foreign minister. Did he prove himself an able administrator? Did he create any change? Did he leave any legacy as foreign minister? As readers of this column know, we have expressed criticism of foreign minister Liberman, noting that he did not create change in Israel’s image abroad.
Just as Ya’alon did not foresee the strategic threat of the Gaza tunnels, so Liberman did not foresee the anti-Israel sentiment abroad, especially in Europe, and did not do anything about it. There was no review of how our ambassadors are preparing for this issue, how they cope with it, whether they defend the government’s policies on the settlements or support those who consider them as illegal.
These questions and many others should be asked, and answers should be given. But a lazy, one-sided media that cannot think out of the box missed it.
May 18, 2016
|Do you ever question whether the media is really doing its job as a watchdog of the powerful government and private sectors, providing an objective picture and verifiable facts? Or do you think media monitoring groups are too aggressive?
As we now know, during the negotiations with the Iranians, Benjamin Rhodes, US President Barack Obama’s adviser for strategic communications and speechwriting, and his team created a media “echo chamber.” The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen termed Rhodes a “master manipulator of the moronic media.” Politico’s Jack Shafer wrote that “the Obama administration’s propaganda machine… [has a] cold, casual style.”
Rhodes attempted to take back his words but the reality was that most of the media actually did not adequately analyze the Iran deal and most importantly, the media’s liberal bias provided the White House with an advantage.
In Israel, reporters play an important role in presenting the government’s positions, but here, the more they criticize the government and its institutions the more famous and honored they become. Their colleagues heap praise on them, award them prizes and they become celebrities. Certain standards, usually those the media criticizes when government or tycoons fail to meet them, are, however, not applicable to themselves.
Let us recall: it is the media that sets the agenda of how the news is reported, how it is framed and, through repetition and multiple presentation forms (interviews, films, studio discussions) how important we media consumers should think an item is.
The media hullaballoo over the indiscreet words of IDF deputy chief of staff Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan – that “the Holocaust should bring us to ponder our public lives and… if there is one thing that is scary in remembering the Holocaust, it is noticing horrific processes which developed in Europe – particularly in Germany – 70, 80 and 90 years ago, and finding remnants of that here among us in the year 2016” – conveniently ignored the fact that significant sections of the media are responsible for twisting the terminology used to describe the IDF’s behavior to fit a post-Zionist perception.
Only Ma’ariv’s Kalman Libeskind had the honesty to point a finger at the media itself.
It is the Haaretz newspaper in particular which, for the past few years, has used the Nazi analogy to describe processes within Israeli society with which it disagrees. Yediot Aharonot’s Yigal Sarna is another “Israel is akin to Nazi Germany” proponent, as we have pointed out in our columns. We could even go back to the radical Left’s darling Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz’s description of IDF soldiers as “Judeo-Nazis,” first made in the early 1980s. Only Israel’s media could aid and abet Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who called on army officers to comment on civilian affairs, in violation of one of the basic tenets of democracy: army officers do not participate in politics while in uniform.
Incidentally, Sarna is currently involved in a lawsuit with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, concerning a post on his Facebook page. His line of defense includes the statement that “social media allow less meticulousness… than the traditional media… the post [is] not necessarily an accurate reflection of actual reality, but a possible reality.”
In our opinion, as well as according to normative professional journalism guidelines, that standard of ethics should get him fired immediately. Who would trust a journalist with those views about his profession? Which editor would continue to employ him? To earn the trust of consumers, media outlets cannot assume they will always be above criticism and able to hide their faults. Take, for example, our complaint that the IDF’s Galatz Radio network, in employing many civilians, does not reveal their salaries as well as much of its operating budget.
Now, in England, for example, a group of BBC stars may be forced to declare how much they are paid as part of plans unveiled in a white paper on the future of the corporation. In Israel this does not seem likely to happen.
In Israel, any overhaul of public broadcasting is treated as a fascist onslaught on the country’s democracy.
In the UK the BBC’s future is a matter of major disagreement and anxiety, but also a subject of healthy discussion. There, a former chairman of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons, spoke forthrightly on a BBC radio program and declared: “I can understand why people are worried about whether some of the most senior editorial voices in the BBC have lost their impartiality….”
There, the bias, it is claimed, is against the Labour Party. Its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has even told supporters that the party needed to use social media to communicate with the public. When our own prime minister makes a similar claim, the media ridicules and reviles him. When was the last time any senior Israel media executive admitted that perhaps his staff could be biased and unfair? The BBC also compels producers of natural history shows to sit through a fakery prevention course, after shows were found to have broken editorial guidelines.
Do diplomatic/political/military journos here in Israel undergo similar courses in their own fields?
Can we trust our media? Is it indeed reliable?
Isn’t it high time that it was improved?
May 6, 2016
|On Thursday next week, Israel will celebrate its 68th birthday.
A birthday, yes, but not yet really an independence day.
Over 2,000 years ago, the prophet Jeremiah admonished Judea: “And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? Or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river?” (Jeremiah 2:18). Too often our media, with its exaggerated bragging, considers itself to be the modern prophet of the people of Israel. But in fact it is a far cry from the honesty, and the political incorrectness, of our prophets of old, and kowtows mainly to money and power.
Our electronic and written media will be full of praise and adulation for the immense achievements of our country next week. The media will as usual criticize our political leaders for not doing enough to prevent the next war. Already this week, the media went out of its way to publicize the “scoop” of Der Spiegel, namely that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is upset with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his statements concerning Merkel’s “understanding” the Israeli point of view. Netanyahu was roundly criticized this past year also by our self-appointed prophets for his public disagreement with US President Barack Obama’s Iran policies.
The general tenor is that Israel is losing international support both in Europe and the US, due to the government’s policies.
A similar fate was met by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who dared to suggest that Israeli law should also be implemented in Judea and Samaria. The false prophet Moshe Negbi immediately went on air to warn of the international outcry which this would raise.
This is the precise opposite of Jeremiah’s admonitions. The prophetic testament is that for Israel to survive it must go in the righteous way, it must maintain its morals instead of following or becoming subservient to the world powers of the time. Indeed, Netanyahu, in his first speech to the US Congress, on July 10, 1996, initially followed this sage advice. Among many other topics, he also had this to say: “We are deeply grateful for all we have received from the United States….
But I believe there can be no greater tribute to America’s long-standing economic aid to Israel than for us to be able to say: We are going to achieve economic independence.
We are going to do it. In the next four years, we will begin the longterm process of gradually reducing the level of your generous economic assistance to Israel. I am convinced that our economic policies will lay the foundation for total self-reliance and great economic strength.”
Will any one in our media raise this issue and publicly ask the prime minister why, after 20 years and especially today, when Israel has indeed become an economic powerhouse, doesn’t he celebrate this Independence Day by announcing our true independence from American funding? Will he be asked why he doesn’t pre-empt the criticism coming from US presidential candidate Donald Trump and announce a five-year plan for ending Israel’s debilitating addiction to US aid? Perhaps some negotiations with the next US president could barter our US aid in exchange for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem? This would be a step toward real independence.
Our media, instead of endlessly repeating the dire predictions that if Israel does not implement the so-called two-state solution and enter talks with the Palestinians its good relationship with the Western world will come to harm could for once act like the prophets of old and urge our government to bring about true independence.
Our media totally ignores the fact that the European Union has de facto divided Jerusalem, with the acquiescence of the Israeli government.
All official EU representatives are not permitted to enter so-called “east Jerusalem” from the Israeli side. They need to receive the blessing of the Palestinian Authority. If the Israeli media would take this issue and put it on the agenda the next time that the prime minister or any other government official announces that Jerusalem will remain unified for eternity, then perhaps it would truly contribute to our independence.
Independence is not only about politics. Our society is dependent on money. Ecclesiastes claimed that “money is the answer for everything” (10:19). But independence means also understanding that there are issues that are sometimes more important than money. Israeli society is becoming increasingly Americanized and this is also part of Jeremiah’s call not to follow the powers that be.
In the US, Independence Day is a shopping holiday. Israel is unhappily emulating this trend. Our media plays an essential role in this. If an ultra-Orthodox person does not respect the day, the media will pounce upon him or her with glee. But if a greedy merchant takes advantage of the crowds on the street and illegally opens up the store, nothing happens.
Although commerce is illegal on Independence Day, advertising is not only permitted but reaches dizzy heights. Even the public media outlets such as the IBA and Galei Tzahal have not voluntarily ceased to carry advertisements on Independence Day.
A major indication of independence is language. One of the miracles of the Zionist revival is the rebirth of the Hebrew language, a rebirth which experts predicted was impossible. For 100 years the experts were proven wrong, but during the past decade it has been becoming evident that they were actually right. Hebrew is no longer the dominating feature of our culture.
It is slowly but surely being replaced by English.
This happens first and foremost in our advertisements and business names. Some ignoramuses in advertising have decided it is easier to sell a product or a business if it has an English, or even better, American name. The media plays along. Israeli sportscasters seem to get their job on condition that they emulate Americanisms. The result is obvious.
Our youth especially are exposed daily to this mixed-up jargon and do not remember at all that our language is Hebrew. We would guess that nine out of 10 youths do not know how to count correctly in Hebrew. A proud Israeli media, which truly believes in independence, not only in the freedom to make money at any cost, would take Independence Day and turn it into a festival of preservation of the Hebrew language.
Independence Day also is a celebration of tradition and a cultural legacy. One outstanding element of the day is the broadcasting of songs of “old Eretz Yisrael.” Why cannot more of these songs be heard in proportion to the rest of the music our youngsters are exposed to? There is no need to eliminate music from abroad but on the other hand, the music of the pre-state days, oriental or Mizrachi music or the genius of Naomi Shemer and Moshe Vilensky, for example, should not be shunted off to a corner of broadcast time.
Independence is not just a shopping list for media directors and editors but must be nurtured.
April 20, 2016
|In this week of removing the leaven from our homes as part of the pre-Passover preparations, paying attention to the specks and crumbs of media misbehavior is quite appropriate.
As hassidic rebbes stressed, there is more than the physical chametz (leaven) to which we are obliged to pay attention. There is the chametz that drives attitudes of people.
In our columns we have noted that too often, media personnel, those who not only inform us of the news from the field but those at the news desks who send reporters out to collect the story, or who provide direction for their investigations; those who write up the texts for the broadcasters; those who edit; those who select the panels; the columnists and editorial writers and more assume they may intervene and even interfere in the reporting and interpret it for us. In doing so, they can insert elements of their own personal bias or political inclinations.
Even a small distortion is just like that little bit of chametz that can ruin one’s kitchen or prepared food.
Too often, too many people in the media presume that they are in some ways superior, different and above the criticism of the consumers who watch, listen and read their output. It is proper to recall what the outstanding journalist Gay Telese observed in his The Kingdom and the Power on The New York Times: “Most journalists are restless voyeurs who see the warts on the world, the imperfections in people and places.” Telese, by the way, worked for the Times and a good few newspapers before and after.
Being engaged in such a profession, too many can adopt disdain for their subjects which then evolves into unfair treatment of the subject. At the same time, too much adoration for your subject can also lead to bad journalism. It was Swedish professor Hans Rosling, and not a “right wing” Israeli, who, on Danish television last September, criticized the media for being “arrogant,” adding, “You can’t trust the news outlets if you want to understand the world.”
This past year, our campaign to amend elements of the new Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation Law, specifically the obligation that news broadcasts “avoid one-sidedness, prejudice, expressing personal opinions, giving grades and affixing labels, ignoring facts or selectively emphasizing them not according to their newsworthiness,” failed. Those in the studios and behind the microphones deem themselves, too often, as being above the rules.
A Kol Yisrael radio host can call a soldier under investigation for shooting an Arab terrorist a “terrorist” without worrying about the consequences.
Rino Tzror, a Galatz radio host, pontificated last week about the origins of this last half-year’s wave of terrorism. To his mind, “the ‘intifada of the individuals’…
began after a series of ascents by Jews to the Temple Mount. That was the match. It was ignited in September 2015… the flame consumed all… due to this Temple Mount festival….”
One would think, as Ma’ariv’s Kalman Liebskind noted, that a liberal and democrat like Tzror would at least blame those who actually committed the killings for their lack of tolerance and acceptance of the “other.”
But Tzror went one step further and blamed the Makor Rishon newspaper, and its weekly Temple Mount column penned by Arnon Segal, as a contributing factor to the Muslim violence. Tzror justified Islamist fanaticism and recourse to knifings and car-rammings by pointing to what, supposedly, causes it: the Jews. And Tzror is a “distinguished” and “admired” media person. And, in our opinion, full of chametz.
Yonit Levy is a prime-time news anchor on Channel 2 who regularly uses her position to further her own agenda. As pointed out by Shimon Riklin on Facebook, on April 17, after reporter Guy Peleg broke the news that there would be a rally in support of Sg. Elor Azaria who will be tried for manslaughter, Levy had this to say about entertainers who originally agreed to appear: “A bunch of artists who follow the public sentiment to understand what they should be doing for themselves.” Or, in plain words, the artists who were to go, Eyal Golan, David D’or and Subliminal, were doing so to curry favor with the public, not because they truly support Sgt. Azaria.
Now, one wonders who heard Levy say the same about the artists who participate in Meretz-organized rallies. Indeed, Levy’s job is to report the news, not to be the psychoanalyst of performers. We the public should stop listening to her; that would be the correct way to destroy this source of chametz.
Another media professional, Roy Baharir Perl, whom most of us had never heard of before, is another example. As reported on the INN website, in response to the planned rally in support of Sgt. Azaria, Perl wrote the following on his Facebook: “Dear Terrorists, On Tuesday there will be a large rally at Rabin Square. You are invited to carry out a terror act.”
Perl is an editor on the Walla news site.
He later retracted the offensive note, but consider what would have happened had a right-wing journalist made a comment like that with regard to a left-wing rally. The media would have ostracized her or him, and the person would been quickly out of a job. Not so at Walla. They do not believe in getting rid of the chametz.
Last week we all witnessed a non-story.
Heinz-Christian Strache has been chairman of the Austrian Freedom Party since 2005. As a reminder, the Freedom Party was headed by Joerg Haider from 1986 until then. Haider was a vocal anti-Semite, but Strache has disavowed anti-Semitism and disposed of many members of his party who harbored such prejudice. In the latest elections in Vienna, his party garnered over 40 percent of the vote and many are predicting that he could become the next chancellor of Austria. Strache is the leader of a right-wing party, so our foreign ministry, headed by someone who claims also to be the leader of a right-wing party, the Likud, decided not to grant Strache “official visit” status. Instead, he was invited by the Likud Party and secretly met with Likud ministers and MKs, as reported in Makor Rishon.
Was this story newsworthy? Should it have been up for public discussion of the pro and cons of such a visit? Should the media have asked the Foreign Ministry some tough questions, such as why Strache cannot be an official visitor of Israel while Western leaders such as Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom are worthy of official recognition? Strache is supportive of Israeli settlements.
Is this the reason he was considered chametz by our media?
We wish you our dedicated readers a very happy and chametz-free Passover.