March 15, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: Netanyahu and the press

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:00 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Netanyahu and the press
It is this one-sidedness and lack of truth that is helping Netanyahu. Israel, though, is losing.
As more reports originate from the Israel Police appear, some leaked, regarding the investigation into several alleged cases of embezzlement, bribery and government corruption, the contest for the public’s trust between the media and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is both accelerating and increasing in pitch.

Yardena Schwartz, a freelance journalist and Emmy-nominated producer based in Tel Aviv, formerly with NBC News, called Netanyahu a “media puppeteer” in the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review (February 21).

In his public appearances during his visit this month to the United States, Netanyahu avoided any reference to the legal situation he is embroiled in. It was only mentioned through impromptu remarks to the press, such as “we are attacked all the time – every hour, every minute… I won’t keep silent, I will tell the truth.”

It was but a year ago that he declared, “There is no country in the world where the press is freer [than Israel]. There is no country in the world that attacks its leader more than the Israeli press attacks me. That’s fine. It’s their choice. They are free press and they can say anything they want.” It would seem that even Netanyahu is feeling the pressure.

Some pundits have sought to compare his media wars with those of US President Donald Trump, doing so in a negative, even sneering fashion. But there is more to that comparison.

Andrew Klavan, an award winning mystery novelist whose books have been made into films, wrote on February 4 in New York’s City Journal, an urban-policy magazine, that “a press that has shown itself willing to publish anonymous anti-Trump leaks that sometimes turned out to be false – has made it clear that they do not want you to know what they do not want to know themselves.”

Taking a similar position, The Wall Street Journal editorialized on February 7 that “Some of our media friends are so invested in the Steele dossier, or in protecting their Fusion pals, or in Donald Trump’s perfidy, that they want to ignore all this [the FBI’s wiretap application based on a source working at the direction of the Clinton campaign]. But journalists ought to tell the complete story.”

In quality journalism, a good story is a balanced one, with input from all sides and a “fair” representation of facts and opinions. Are we in Israel receiving professional, impartial, objective, ethical journalism? Or does our press attempt to use its power to forbid us to even think that our editors, reporters and analysts could be, like their American counterparts, less than fair, objective and even knowledgeable?

Robert Lacey is one person whose approach should put television viewers on the alert. He is the historical consultant for The Crown, the Netflix television period drama, and author of many popular histories and biographies. In her December 18, 2017 Town & Country interview with him, Caroline Hallerman observed, “For Lacey, there can be truth without fact.”

In his own words, Lacey said, “I say, ‘I don’t like the word “false.”’ I’d rather say is it true or is it invented? …History is a truth, but there are other truths that are conveyed in the drama.”

While the specific context is docudrama, this type of thinking has infiltrated “straight” journalism. It is standard practice for “expert analysts” who appear on hard news programs. The framework setting attempts to convince the viewer or listener that the speaker is objective and disengaged from the subject she or he is spouting off on. Moreover, these observers always seem to tell us media consumers what the future will be. Not only are the results unimpressive, but the media never seems to check up on how good their “experts” really are. Never has there been a case of a commentator being laid off as a result of false perceptions or predictions.

There is another problematic aspect to modern media, related to how the public engages with the news.

According to the UK Trinity Mirror’s digital editor-in-chief at its regional titles, Alison Gow, many online readers scan headlines and then go to the comments thread without bothering to read the copy (the facts). “People,” she said, “will actively not read a story because they will have a view… If the news pages are full of the personal opinion of reporters, why are they any better than my opinion?”

The Netanyahu case is a classic example. The Israeli press is stumped: after two years of Netanyahu bashing, with one story after another, public opinion polls show, consistently, that the public is not impressed. If one believes the polls, Netanyahu is electorally stronger than ever. Why?

One answer has to do with the perception that too many people in the media have an agenda and therefore cannot be trusted.
In Israel, the public knows there are certain politicians who are protected by the media. Israelis know that MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) did not divulge his information about the 1999 election campaign funding (the “Amutot” affair), yet the media did not attack the police nor the attorney general for not following through. Herzog went on to become the chairman of the Zionist Union.

Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, has been caught repeatedly “misrepresenting” facts. In the latest case, Lapid appeared in front of a camera with a person disguised as a haredi (ultra-Orthodox). Lapid did not divulge this information. True, nothing illegal, but has the media asked itself whether this is a person who can be trusted?

The media after but a scant few days closed the story about the possible criminal implications of the behavior of judges Esther Hayut and Hila Gerstel. Gerstel claimed she had been asked by a Netanyahu crony whether she would be willing to assure, if she became attorney general, that she would work in favor of the Netanyahu family. She also claimed she had mentioned the matter to Hayut who did not even report the matter to the police. Are justices immune from press criticism? Or are only certain judges, with certain political opinions, liable to be victims of a press onslaught?

Former president and prime minister Shimon Peres was the crony of many millionaires, aggrandized himself while still alive, yet no one clamored for his relationships with financial moguls to be investigated. Many Israeli politicians worked hard to get the daily newspaper Israel Hayom removed from our newsstands, pushing legislation and receiving positive coverage in Yediot Aharanot, yet hardly any of them were called to task.

The Israeli public is wise enough to understand that even if Netanyahu has broken the law, what is demanded from him is unique. Others under these circumstances would go scot-free, especially if, like prime minister Ariel Sharon, they bribe the press with an expulsion of Jews from Gaza and northern Samaria.

It is this one-sidedness and lack of truth that is helping Netanyahu. Israel, though, is losing.



March 1, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: To film or not to film?

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:53 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: To film or not to film?
Israel is on the receiving end of too many negative portrayals.
An important part of the media scene in Israel is the weekend brochures distributed freely in the synagogues. Originally, they were supposed to be a source of commentary on the weekly Torah portion, but rapidly became a money-making machine, attracting advertising as well as providing political news to synagogue goers. Various organizations use this medium to give their viewpoint on current events.

One of these leaflets is titled “Yesha Shelanu” (“Our Judea, Samaria and Gaza”). It is funded and distributed by the Yesha Council. This past week’s brochure was dedicated in part to the issue of social media and the immediate broadcasting of terrorist attacks.

There had been a meeting of the Yesha Council with the IDF Brig.-Gen. Eran Niv, commander of the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division, and leaks of security camera footage of terrorist attacks on social media were discussed. According to the report, Niv claimed such clips harm the families of the victim, who are exposed to them before the tragic information can be provided through official channels. Moreover, he said, the clips are a source of inspiration and even instruction for potential terrorists. The recommendation the council accepted was to call for a halt in spreading these clips.

But there is another side to this issue.

As we well know, Israel is on the receiving end of too many negative portrayals. Our enemies do not hesitate to providing negative pictures of events as soon as they happen. Sometimes their clips are fabricated, in the best “Pallywood” tradition, sometimes they are truthful – but only ever half truthful. Rarely do they provide reasonably objective documentation of events. When such clips go viral, Israel is immediately attacked and our armed forces more often than not blamed for wanton murder of innocents. The world is not sufficiently aware of what our enemies really carry out.

Partly in response to the fake news emanating from Israel, Amotz Eyal founded TPS, Tazpit News Services, which has been providing news in real time to major media outlets about what’s really happening in the field. This has not stopped the flow of fake news but at least it has given our friends and supporters a basis on which to refute the false allegations of our enemies.

But this is not enough. Too often, the IDF itself has reacted too slowly to events, allowing the foreign media much leeway to give Israel a black eye. By the time the IDF gives its official version, it is too late. Lately, the IDF has seemingly understood the potential for damage and is making efforts to provide real-time coverage. The case of the downing of the Iranian drone a few weeks ago is one example.

It is true that often, the information in amateur video footage can be harmful and terribly hurtful to the loved ones of the victim. We also accept that some terrorists might be inspired by or learn from these clips, though especially in the case of the murder of Rabbi Ben-Gal there is not much to learn. We also note that many clips from the period of car-ramming terrorist attacks in Jerusalem were released to the public by the police relatively shortly after the events happened.

But one should also think about the victim and potential future victims. One may guess that if anything, the victim would want his or her tragedy to be the last and so would do everything possible to use it to defend others against the terrorists. Such defense is also part of these clips. For example, the very fact that these clips exist carries with it a lesson that not only should one always be alert to one’s surroundings, but also serves as a warning to terrorists – you are being observed. Such videos could be crucial in preventing a future tragedy. Additionally, by showing the world what actually happened, one undermines the very effect that these terrorists seek to achieve.

Indeed, such clips also lead to negative situations, such as in the Elor Azaria case, where video footage showed the death of a terrorist after he had been arrested by IDF forces. On the other hand, if a crime is committed by a soldier, that fact should emerge – a crime is a crime, and should not be left unpunished.

If Brig.-Gen. Niv is correct, that video clips can motivate future acts of terrorism, one might question why there were no copycat extra-judicial killings of wounded Arabs after the Azaria footage was aired. Is it possible that it’s not the videos that are the problem, but the mindset of our enemies?

In most cases it is the IDF which is on the receiving end. Organizations such as B’Tselem have provided the media with clips that they edited, manipulating thereby IDF actions, showing them in the worst possible light.

The cellphone and its built-in camera is a weapon. It can be – and is – used for offensive purposes by interested parties who wish us ill. It should also be used as a defensive weapon.

Yes, people do get hurt, but that always happens in war. The defense of Israel is more important than the harm along the way. We urge everyone: always have your cellphones ready. Use them – if you don’t, someone else, seeking our harm, will. Use them responsibly, of course. You, the person on the spot, are all too often our best defense.


February 14, 2018

Media Comment: Breaking the silence

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:33 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Breaking the silence
The past few weeks have demonstrated the wisdom of our Sages.
Silence was venerated by our sages. Proverbs 17:28 teaches us: “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” The Talmud elaborates on this in Tractate Pesachim, concluding that “silence is becoming for the wise.” A deep connection exists in rabbinic literature between wisdom and the ability to hold one’s tongue. Thus the sage Avtalion warned in the Mishna of Avot 1:11: “Wise people, be careful with your words.” He especially was concerned that lack of care would result in misinterpretation which would cause the desecration of the name of the Lord.

The past few weeks have not only demonstrated the wisdom of our Sages, but perhaps also raised the possibility that, in reality, those some of us think are wise, or rather who want us to think they are wise, are not precisely so.

Let us begin with Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich. He started his tenure two years ago on the right foot. He announced that there would be no more leaks from the Police and for a year actually succeeded in keeping his deputies, and especially the most senior police officers, rather quiet. The media was very angry. So much so that veteran journalist Matti Golan, recipient of the Israeli Prize for Media Criticism, praised Alsheich in the Globes newspaper on January 4, 2016: “Alsheich is bad for the media since it needs talk. Not necessarily information, but talk. It needs people who manage to pass the time between advertisements. Talk which enables journalists to express their thoughts, to give the impression that they are wise and knowledgeable.”

Alsheich at that time did not deliver. The police during that first year managed to keep themselves out of the limelight.

But at some point, for an unknown reason, Alsheich decided to switch gears. He appointed a strategic media adviser, Lior Horev, known as a political adviser to party candidates, especially during elections. Past clients included Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert, Nir Barkat and Shaul Mofaz. Horev started working for the police in February 2016, and the change came soon after.

During the past year we, that is the public, have been fed outrageous information directly from police investigations. This has included transcripts, rumors and what have you. Reporters tell us when the police next expect to interview a suspect, usually a high-profile figure, and how many more interviews are required.

Horev was doing his job: the Israel Police was almost daily in the news. The media was ecstatic, the public perhaps less so.

Horev left his job in November 2017, due to harsh criticism from Likud circles over his appointment. The Israel Police, it was felt, does not need an adviser with political connections, not to mention to politicians suspected of crimes.

Seemingly, though, Horev was eventually very influential. During his tenure, Alsheich himself largely kept mum. This changed, drastically, during the past few months. So much so that Alsheich, in perhaps a frivolous decision, allowed himself to be interviewed by Ilana Dayan, Channel 2 television celebrity. Dayan, a highly experienced interviewer and often too easygoing with regard to ethics, was not a good choice.

Dayan admitted in a radio interview that she was quite well aware that this was a critical time, given the imminent recommendations of the police regarding the suspicions against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She purposely aired the interview now since her selfish goal was to maximize her own ratings.

The viewing audience heard Alsheich criticizing those in power, who were, according to him, using their power to pursue senior police officers. The prime minister and his people happily pounced on this, demanding that Alsheich, instead of talking post facto, should have initiated an investigation into such severe allegations immediately.

Of course, this would imply at best a bias in the police investigation of the prime minister – they have recommended he be indicted – and at worst, false accusation by Alsheich against the prime minister. There is no question that the police, the public and everyone involved would have been better off had Alsheich known to bite his tongue and keep quiet, all the more so if he has no proof.

He is not alone. For many years, the unwritten code of ethics of the Supreme Court was that justices do not express their opinion on political issues in public. This includes both those on the bench and those retired. Former justice Menachem Elon, for example, who was very concerned in 2000 about the dangers of having Jerusalem divided by then prime minister Ehud Barak, refused a request from one of us to make his opinion known publicly.

This unwritten code is wise. Justices are supposed to be impartial and sufficiently ethical to be able to disassociate their personal opinion from their decisions. By making their personal opinions public they call into question their legal rulings and diminish the public trust in the court. Former chief justice Aharon Barak was extremely controversial during his tenure. Many have criticized him for usurping power from the Knesset and the government and turning the Supreme Court into the center of power in Israel. For many years, Barak kept mum.

But either age or a need for publicity have finally caught up with him. As reported in Makor Rishon on January 6 by Yehuda Yifrach and as widely reported in the media, Barak spoke at an event honoring the late IDF chief of staff and minister Amnon Lipkin-Shahak. Barak considered limitations on the Knesset even when it legislates fundamental laws. His conclusion was that the Knesset is restricted by the Declaration of Independence.

In other words, not only are some of the recent laws of the Knesset not legal, since they do not abide by Barak’s version of democracy, but in the future, for example, a law annexing Judea and Samaria would be annulled by the Supreme Court since some people, including Supreme Court justices, may presume it violates the human rights of the Palestinians. Did Barak increase the public’s trust of the court?

A final case is that of Rabbi Yosef Kalner from the Eli pre-military yeshiva. His words of wisdom concerning women were: “they [women] would sit and crochet, until their brains were poisoned… They are weak-minded. They just babble… Yes, there are some CEOs here and there, ‘girlillas.’” Of course, his rantings were recorded, came out in the media and Avtalion’s fears materialized. The media furor against the Eli Yeshiva was not pleasant. One can only wonder why none of the boys who heard Kalner stood up to him on the spot and put him in his place.

There is a fine thread that connects Alsheich, Barak and Kalner. All three men did not heed the wisdom of our sages. Are there no wise men among us? Breaking silence is not good strategy.


January 31, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: A bastion of democracy?

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:07 pm by yisraelmedad

A bastion of democracy?
They are the ones who are not aware of the important role of the media as a bastion of democracy. Sadly, too often the media itself does not really understand what this concept implies.
The media, in Israel and the world over, portrays itself as a bastion of democracy, preserving freedoms, standing up to power and corruption and revealing the failings of those who hold high office. The new Hollywood film on The Washington Post’s Katherine Graham is a recent example of how media personalities, deservedly so but sometimes not quite, are cast as cultural icons.

In the name of preserving democracy, more often than not the media provide special care for those ranks of the elites of society who extend protection to the media. At the same time, those who dare to find professional faults and unethical conduct in the media will be the butts of fierce attacks. After all they are attacking the bastion of democracy.

Consider the case of Kevin Bleyer, fired as head writer of the Megyn Kelly Today program in mid-January earlier this year. His description of the administrative workings of a media outlet even if only partially true, is shocking. He wrote, “the executive incompetence continues – as does the dysfunctional management, abusive treatment, maddening hypocrisy, staggering inefficiencies, acidic and deficient communication, and relentless scapegoating.”

That, we remind our readers, came from the belly of the beast. Bleyer had also previously worked for Jon Stewart, Bill Maher and president Barack Obama, and had all the correct ideological credentials.

But he dared criticize the holy industry. Worse, it was an insider’s criticism. The two producers who were Bleyer’s targets were defended by an NBC News spokesperson who said they “are being attacked unfairly. They are both excellent and experienced producers.” Blyer lost his battle. There was no change, only he was out of a job.

Here in Israel, a cultural icon, Yonatan Geffen, found time to write a short poem dedicated to Ahed Tamimi. Tamimi is nicknamed “Shirley Temper” for her years of rambunctious, even violent, behavior in confronting IDF soldiers when they were attempting to quell stone-throwing actions and worse, by residents of her home village, Nabi Salih. The village was vividly described as a hotbed of foreign-promoted NGO “resistance” by German journalist Tuvia Tenenbom in his book Catch the Jew.

Geffen’s “artistic work” ended in a comparison of Tamimi to Joan of Arc, Hannah Szenes and Anne Frank. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman thought that the logical consequence would be Geffen no longer being invited to Galatz Army Radio studios. Liberman, the outsider, attacked Geffen, the darling, the insider. Geffen, however, was defended by media personalities across the spectrum, including those identified with the political Right. No one thought it outrageous that the Holocaust was exploited to aid Ahed’s struggle, who was quoted in interviews expressing support for suicide bombings.

No one raised the point that all three of Geffen’s heroines had been executed and asked him if he was suggesting Tamimi should be “martyred.” One can only imagine what would happen if right-wing columnist Kalman Libskind wrote an article comparing Baruch Goldstein to Jews who paid with their life for defending the state. Geffen, however, is “one of ours” so he must be defended at all cost.

American Vice President Mike Pence’s Knesset speech, a paean of love and appreciation for Zionism and Israel’s accomplishments, was criticized in certain media outlets as the rantings of a Christian Evangelist and therefore unacceptable. After all, he did not attack the “occupation” claiming it is illegal. He was not politically correct. And so the liberal media attacked him. The fact that he was extending assistance and recognition to Israel’s diplomatic standing in the world was irrelevant. Quoted in The New York Times on January 24, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya political communications Prof. Gadi Wolfsfeld, known for his rather extreme left-wing views, said in response to Pence’s visit, “The news cycle has become shorter and shorter. Today it’s Tuesday? By Sunday it will be a non-issue, if not before that. The overall impact on politics here will be next to zero, or zero.”

Was that his opinion when president Barack Obama also spoke to thousands at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center in March 2013, lashing out at Israel’s effort to resettle Judea and Samaria?

Another example is the career of Moshe Negbi. Negbi, who died last week, was a lecturer at the Hebrew University, a lawyer and for decades the sole legal commentator on legal matters for Radio Kol Yisrael, with frequent appearances on Channel 1 as well.

It took a campaign led by Israel’s Media Watch to force the executive producers of his weekly program to appoint an editor to supervise his broadcasts. Until then, against all ethical standards, Negbi was the sole voice on legal affairs, he selected the guests on his program (who overwhelmingly represented an echo chamber for his own opinion) and set the agenda. Little pluralism and less objectivity were his program’s characteristics. No one dared criticize his record, for that is the fate of those who “belong” and are considered to be pillars of the democratic process.

George Neumayr, former media fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, writing in the January 19 issue of The American Spectator, pointed to another aspect of the elites and their support for “democracy.” He claimed that America’s media engages in acts that facilitate the normalization of “the unruly Left.” “The media,” he writes, “is in a disruptive mood… The [same] media which refuses to ‘normalize’ the unconventional behavior of Trump indulge the unruly behavior of the [Left].”

That observation could be applied to the way the media covered Attorney General Avichai Mandlebit being harassed outside his synagogue on Saturday evening, January 20. Arriving at the synagogue to recite Kaddish for his mother, he was confronted by several demonstrators who demanded he prosecute Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for supposed crimes of corruption. The demonstrators gained favorable coverage with little critical comment in many media reports of the incident, and even more on reporters’ Twitter accounts.

Consider, too, a story by Yossi Verter in the January 20 edition of Haaretz. Verter informed us that the American pollster of the Zionist Union’s Avi Gabbay, Stephan Miller, had conducted a survey for Gabbay. One finding that “stunned” Gabbay dealt with “name recognition”: 17% of Zionist Union voters said that they didn’t know his name when asked to identify him. Among the general public, the situation was worse: 27% didn’t know who he was.

Most of those questioned by Miller, Verter continued, who said that Gabbay was not known to them, were young people who serve in the army or are about to be drafted. In short, first-time voters. Gabbay concluded that his problem was a media problem. We conclude the same. It is a media problem.

Those who do not watch the TV news and current events shows, and don’t read newspapers, are the ones unfamiliar with the Labor Party chairman and Zionist Union leader. They are the ones who are not aware of the important role of the media as a bastion of democracy. Sadly, too often the media itself does not really understand what this concept implies.

The authors are members of Israel’s Media Watch (


January 18, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: Suggestive Journalism

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:33 pm by yisraelmedad

Suggestive Journalism
Journalism can be simply a business, egging on its subjects so that it can make money, or fame, out of the resulting developments.
At last week’s Golden Globes Awards ceremony, Oprah Winfrey noted a phrase heard repeatedly this past year: “We know the press is under siege these days.” Of course, that should work both ways; politicians in multiple countries also feel besieged.

The real difference between the two groups is that the media a priori assume that it is only the siege they feel threatened by which is the evil one.

They claim that it’s the job of the press to be the “watchdog of the people,” so any criticism against them is illegitimate. The latent suggestion is that morality and ethics are possessed solely by journalists, editors and owners of newspapers, radio stations and broadcast studios. In contrast, the politician is considered guilty until the press declares otherwise.

Usually, the adjective “suggestive” implies more often than not something sexual and/ or indecent. We, however, wish to apply the term to a category of unethical journalism.

Suggestopedia is a holistic model of learning and teaching developed in 1978 by Bulgarian psychiatrist and educator Dr. Georgi Lozanov. He intended it in the sense that positive suggestion would make the learner more receptive and, in turn, stimulate learning.

A relaxed but focused state is the best learning environment. To create this relaxed state in the student and to promote positive suggestion, suggestopedia makes use of music, a comfortable and relaxing environment, almost a memorization séance.

In the media, music is replaced by noise.

Media noise is created in many different ways.

A prime example is the leaked-for-money audio tapes of the probably inebriated “me Rambo” ramblings of Yair Netanyahu, son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He offered to fix up his friend with his then-girlfriend to pay off his debts, threatened to murder the bodyguard and bragged that his dad had just arranged for his friend’s dad a $20 billion oil-field deal.

We need go no further than to Janet Aviad’s letter to the editor published Wednesday a week ago in Haaretz. Dr. Aviad, a founding member of Peace Now, who cannot be suspected of being a Netanyahu supporter, was appalled by the airing of the tape and the subsequent newspaper tom-tomming of its contents. This was “unfit to print,” she wrote, adding, “shame on the media… you are losing your credibility.”

Why was it that the media avoided the real news item in this affair? The media, which poses as in principle anti-government, or at least extremely suspicious of it, claims that it is the institution that is able to stand up to power and speak the truth, or report it. Any truly professional and ethical editor would have been interested more in the following questions: did a Shin Bet (Israeli Security Agency) agent record Yair? And if so, did he do it legally? Does the Shin Bet have other tapes? And more importantly, if yes, where are they and are they to be used as a future “deep government” blackmailing sting? This is the true story, not the silly ramblings of a drunken young man.

US President Donald Trump’s announcement that UNRWA, which funds Gaza’s “refugees”, might not be receiving American donations as it did previously made some news here. But where have the mainstream media been for the past decade and more? The careful research of especially David Bedein regarding educational materials from schoolbooks as well as video clips of UNRWA “teachers” who are poisoning the minds of Gazan children have not merited media coverage commensurate with its news value.

To be sure, pictures of Hamas-run summer camps which engage in military-style training of future terrorists have received broad exposure. The link, however, between UNRWA and the Gaza reality has remained at best in the background. The only exceptions came when UNRWA installations were damaged by Israel counter-terrorism strikes and even then, the issue of cessation of funding was not mentioned. This was but another example of the media suppressing an important issue.

On December 28, the media informed us that 63 teenagers, on the eve of their induction into the IDF, signed a letter in which they asserted that “the military carries out a racist government policy that violates basic human rights…We therefore have decided not to participate in the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.”

Many similar letters have been published over the years, starting with the 1970 “Shministim” (high school seniors) letter expressing the same ideological position.

This recent letter merited coverage in all the media. A letter signed by 1,500 youths and addressed to Prime Minister Netanyahu asking that he not permit the planned destruction of houses in the community of Netiv Ha’avot was also sent this past week. Did it garner publicity? Not really, and certainly not in any proportion to the left-wing letter.

In late November, reservist comrades of a soldier who lives in Netiv Ha’avot and whose carpentry was then to be destroyed signed a letter of support. That, to be fair, did make it into some news sites.

But the media’s selectivity in creating the agenda in these cases basically suggested to the media consumer that the opposition to “occupation” is more prevalent and important than support for Jews residing in Judea and Samaria. This is but another example of unethical, suggestive journalism.

George Monbiot, in his Guardian column of January 10, writes “that a healthy media organization, like a healthy university, should admit a diversity of opinion… should also seek opposing views and publish them too, however uncomfortable this might be…newspapers that claim to be so incensed about no-platforming are not above seeking to deny people a platform.”

This viewpoint is not prevalent within the Israeli media.

In an article we referred to at the time, titled “The unbearable smugness of the press” and published on November 10, 2016, on the CBS News site, Will Rahn, politics editor for CBS News Digital, lashed out at the media behavior we observe in Israel: “There’s a place for opinionated journalism; in fact, it’s vital. But our casual, profession-wide smugness and protestations of superiority are making us unable to do it well.”

We opened with Oprah Winfrey and we’ll conclude with her.

Last Wednesday, Dutch political scientist Cas Mudde, an associate professor at the University of Georgia, published his thoughts on Winfrey’s media-driven candidacy for office in the Guardian. He noted how it had “become the dominant narrative in the media, which function as the megaphone of the most radical politicians, while ignoring the fewer and fewer remaining moderates.”

He pointed a finger at journalists who “want loud and outspoken politicians of ‘opposite camps’ [and at] the same time, they will decry this [polarization], dismiss politicians, and fan the interest in political outsiders who can ‘save’ the system.”

That, too, is suggestive journalism at work.

And it resonates with the biblical story in 2 Samuel 2:14, when Avner says to Yoav, “Let the young men arise and compete before us.”

Journalism can also be simply a business, egging on its subjects so that it can make money, or fame, out of the resulting developments. It should not try to claim the moral high ground.


January 4, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: Still impotent

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:03 am by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Still impotent
Our sages always admonished us: “Wise people, be careful with your words.” But there is some distance between expressing yourself strongly and being suspended.
It is a government’s duty to rule for the benefit of its citizens. Elected officials should be making the important decisions that affect our everyday life.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in Israel. Our government in certain areas is impotent, or at least seems to be. Consider the saga of TV Channel 20, which we have commented on more than once in this column.

The channel received a license to broadcast only via cable and satellite TV. This means that the channel is subject to the whims of the regulator, the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Commission (CSBC). The original license limited its broadcasts to Jewish programming. To survive, the channel knew that it must provide a broader spectrum of programs. Subsequently, in 2014 it received in principle the right to broadcast news, but in limited form. This was re-certified in 2016, but not implemented formally by the regulator.

In fact, Dr. Yifat Ben-Chai Segev, the CSBC’s chairperson, seems to be having the time of her life bullying the channel and forcing it into a Kafkaesque existence. At least this seems to be the conclusion of a recent Ma’ariv article by Kalman Liebskind, who also has a job at Channel 20. He described how Segev uses almost every opportunity to fine the channel. For example, it was fined for broadcasting too many news programs. It was fined for not giving the Reform movement sufficient attention. It was fined for violating the ethics code in a satirical program.

And the list goes on.

We all know that there is nothing original here.

Such violations were and are bread and butter for channels 2, 10 and 11. Satire in Israel is a holy cow – all the ombudsmen always defend it, claiming that even the sharpest satire is sacred – hallowed by the principle of freedom of speech. Only when the satire comes from the Right does it become unethical and do the fines fly.

Given the unflinching, firm character of the regulator toward the channel, it is facing closure. It cannot make ends meet by broadcasting religious rituals from Reform temples or by allowing the head of the Conservative movement in Israel to make speeches to fill the quota of programs demanded of it as per CSBC requirements. To survive, it must broadcast content which interests viewers. This includes news programs, satire, sports, general culture and much more. But the regulator nixes it all.

Ergo, closure.

Left-wing journalist Uzi Benziman wrote a scathing piece against the channel on the 7th Eye Internet media review site. He compared it to the settlement movement. The latter, he asserted, used any means to further its goals. It would receive a permit for an archaeological dig and lo and behold! The dig turns into a new town. Similarly, according to his perverted thinking Channel 20 took a license for Jewish broadcasting but never really considered for a minute that this was its goal. It used the license to create facts on the ground, Benziman wrote, and become a right-wing broadcaster which would compete with channels 2, 10 and 11.

Benziman suffers from amnesia, it seems. It was TV Channel 10 that committed itself to financial terms which it never intended to fulfil. The channel owed the government a billion shekels. But everyone (except for us), including Benziman, defended that channel and declared that the government must prevent its closure.

There is only a small difference between channels 10 and 20. The former is left-oriented while the latter is right-wing. Right-wing media organs seemingly do not have a right to exist, they should be closed, as in the case of the Arutz 7 radio station.

Left-wing organs, on the other hand, are the essence of democracy and must be supported even when they blatantly violate their legal obligations.

There is a fine thread connecting the crisis at Channel 20 and the recent Irit Linor soap opera.

President Reuven Rivlin was in the eye of a storm over what was apparently his call to the public to protest publicly against the corruption which supposedly typifies the present government. In truth, as also testified to by Makor Rishon correspondent Orly Goldklang this past Friday, his statement was misinterpreted and taken out of context. Given the public protest, Rivlin reiterated that he was not calling upon the public to demonstrate against a specific agenda.

But Linor, who works for the army radio station Galatz, and also Channel 20, reacted to the story Wednesday a week ago by castigating Rivlin. She said on air: “I will tell you what is intolerable, Mr. President. You are not a political player and when you were in politics you were a failure. The best you could do is become a minor minister. As a president and a symbol of Israel you call upon the citizens to go to the streets? For what? You are an insolent piece of work. Who are you? There are elections. Ruby Rivlin did not succeed to see the successful side of elections since he is such a failure. You should be ashamed.”

The reaction was swift. Shimon Alkabetz, the new officer in charge of the army radio station, suspended her for a week without even giving her a chance to apologize or explain. There was a public outcry.

Even the left-wing Citizens Rights Movement called upon Alkabetz to rethink the suspension, to no avail.

For sure, Linor’s words were sharp. Our sages always admonished us: “Wise people, be careful with your words.” But there is some distance between expressing yourself strongly and being suspended.

Linor, the recipient of the Israeli Media Criticism Prize in 2002, admitted that she should not have used such strong words, but so what? She attacked Rivlin from the Right, and the Right, as we know, does not have freedom of expression. After all, when it attempts to exercise that right it is invariably portrayed as obstructing the liberal left-wing democracy which is, the media tells us, so essential for this country.

Is this the first time a high official in Israel was publicly and fiercely criticized? Of course not. The prime minister is daily ostracized. On January 12, 2016, for example, TV Channel 2 “celeb” Amnon Abramovitch equated Netanyahu to North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un. Relating to primaries within the Likud which had only one candidate for prime minister, he noted: “You know this does not exist in any country, except maybe North Korea. This is Kim Jong Bibi, very strange.”

Did any official even dare say a word to Abramovitch? Of course not, for he belongs to the “enlightened” camp, along with Yair “mezuzah kissers” Garboz and others.

The conclusion? Democracy is but a one-way liberal street. Israel’s conservative camp remains unable to counter the unelected demagogues of the Left. If it could, Channel 20 would be the most popular TV channel in Israel and Abramovitch and his followers would be has-beens.


December 23, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: Trump, Jerusalem and ‘hidden news’

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:02 pm by yisraelmedad

Trump, Jerusalem and ‘hidden news’
European responses to Trump’s Jerusalem announcement have not been taken in kind.
US President Donald Trump’s policy announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was and is a milestone in the history of Jerusalem. With two weeks’ hindsight it is evident that the city has not only been recognized as a capital but that its deep link to the Jewish people has also been acknowledged. The US veto in the United Nations this week was not only a resounding reconfirmation of the policy, but evidence of the strong antipathy toward not only Israel but also the United States at the UN. As US United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley reiterated, no other country would tolerate a dictate concerning where it puts its embassies.

That the Arab nations, including Egypt, would try to roll back the American position is a given. Islam cannot accept that Jerusalem is ruled by infidels. But what about Europe? Why are countries like France, Germany and Great Britain going so far as to demand and vote for retraction? The easy answer is that the “old” Europe is rearing its head, but that is too easy.

Most of us know and are friends with many Europeans who we know are not antisemites, yet they too believe that the US has gone too far by creating unilateral facts rather than allowing the two sides to negotiate a result.

The irrational European opinion that the only solution to the Middle East problem is the so-called two-state solution underlies Europe’s actions.

Not only the leaders of those countries, but also the citizens of those countries believe that the Palestinian people have a right to exist as an independent nation. The ongoing Israeli occupation is in their eyes immoral and this includes the city of Jerusalem, where Israel has unilaterally created facts on the ground.

There are many good, rational and convincing answers to this ill-informed and unrealistic attitude, but they do not come to the forefront. A major player in this struggle is the media, which in Europe sides clearly with the Palestinian Authority. This attitude became apparent during the past two weeks.

For example, the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) outdid itself in bashing Trump and Israel. The following is a partial list of headlines: On December 7, Jochen Stahnke’s article was titled “The Right of the Mighty” and the subtitle was “Two states for two people? With his decision … Trump has only strengthened the radicals.”

On the same day an op-ed article by Atef Abu Saif was titled “We no longer believe in peace.” On December 8 Frauke Steffens writes “The Dealmaker does not have the political concept” and she continues, “Trump’s decision endangers America’s role in the region.”

We could find not one article on the website that provided a balancing opinion.

The Swiss Neue Zueriche Zeitung on December 15 had an article by Martin Zahringer with the lead: “The West Jordanland is a powder keg and the one-sided recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel is a political fuse. This conclusion must be reached also by a political layperson when reading 26 reports, essays and travel descriptions under the title ‘Olives and Ashes’ from authors from all over the world.”

It goes without saying that the rest of the article is written in this spirit with no attempt at all to be fair handed and consider that to any dispute there are two sides.

An editorial in Austria’s Die Presse was titled “Days of Folly.” It opened with: “The recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a statement of fact. But it also ignores a people’s right of self-determination and creates a completely unnecessary provocation.”

This style of unbalanced writing is not limited to the major newspapers. Smaller, more regional ones do the same.

Elisabeth Hausen’s review of the media in the PRO Christian Media Magazine on December 7 concluded that “German-language media against Trump’s Jerusalem decision.”

The situation in Britain is not much different.

The Guardian’s December 7 headline was “Defiant Donald Trump confirms US will recognize Jerusalem.” Why defiant? Who is he defying? The Guardian? But at least the Guardian did publish some defense of the decision on December 8, with an article headlined “Differing views on Jerusalem as a capital.”

It read in part, “Palestinian claims to Jerusalem as their capital have no basis in fact or history, says Joshua Rowe. Trump and [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu know the west’s response is all wind and fury, says Christopher Sterling. It’s hard to argue with Israel’s assertion that Trump is simply acknowledging the reality, says Leon Rosselson.”

But note that the Guardian took it for granted that the reader would understand that these responses differ from the mainstream.

The Telegraph was not better. Its headline on December 9 was “Trump’s decision on Jerusalem shatters the Palestinian old guard.”

On December 7 it was “Saudi Arabia blasts Donald Trump’s shift on Jerusalem.”

If one reads though the Israeli newspapers or listens to the Israeli media, one would not know about this at all. Our media does not make it a habit to round up international response to happenings in the Middle East.

Is it because this does not interest the average Israeli? We doubt it. Most Israelis are aware that the State of Israel is not accepted worldwide, but do not know or understand the extent. Not for lack of interest but lack of knowledge of languages and lack of time to browse through the various media outlets.

But more damning, if more Israelis were aware of the specifics, they would do something about it. We have Zionist journalists and they would respond with their op-ed articles which would reach the international papers and provide some balance. The foreign media in Israel is sensitive to professional criticism, but instead of providing the balance, at best, outlets such as Haaretz simply pour oil into the fire. Zvi Hauser, former Israeli government secretary, tweeted on December 7: “nine measures of character went into print last night in Haaretz. Not one spoke positively about Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

It is not only the media which is responsible for the disaster. As we wrote many times in this column, our Foreign Ministry is incompetent. It sends out ambassadors to countries even though they do not speak the local language. How can they defend Israel? They are too often not even aware as to what is written against us. But our media is also to blame.

We have many programs which purport to expose shortcomings of government. Nary a one of them has taken the Foreign Ministry to task. When deputy minister Tzipi Hotovely made a remark about American Jews, it was plastered all over. The meetings of Supreme Court justices with reporters filled our headlines this week, but no one asks how many reporters were wined and dined by Israel’s representatives in Europe.

To our mind the damage done to Israel by the inaction and incompetence of the Foreign Ministry is a strategic threat to Israel’s future. But our media is complacent and ignores this threat. All of us pay the price, even the president of the United States.


December 7, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: The Israeli media is unpopular because it is biased

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:33 am by yisraelmedad

Media comment: The Israeli media is unpopular because it is biased
The media in Israel is not very popular.
It has been suggested that the instinct to share information is matched by the instinct to prevent it from spreading. We would add that there is another instinct, which is to spin the information, shape it, frame it and present it in a way that benefits someone or something in that information chain. In a word, bias.

And an additional corollary is that the more the bias stems from the ideological and political sphere, knowingly and even sub-consciously, the more cunning, guileful, artful and devious that bias will be.

For example, an early tweet from Times of Israel journalist Dov Lieber on the incident last Thursday when Jewish children hiking were stoned, beaten and had possessions stolen near the Arab village of Kutzra near Shiloh, read, “48-year-old palestinian [SIC] shot dead by an Israeli… army said the Palestinians were throwing rocks at ‘hikers,’ and one responded with gunfire.” He was queried about the quotation marks and replied, “At the time it wasn’t clear who was there. Army said hikers. Simple.”

But is it? 

Of all the words he chose to bracket in scare quotes, why hikers? He could have selected others, such as shot, or throwing rocks, responded or even dead. Why the use of what’s known as scare quotes?

Scare, or sneer, quotes have become increasingly employed by journalists and bloggers, as Megan Garber wrote a year ago in The Atlantic, “to make clear that [the word bracketed] is not just a term of discussion, but a term of contention… indications of words that are doubted… They signal irony, and uncertainty. They suggest words that don’t quite mean what they claim to.”

If media people insist on inserting themselves into the news, or their own views and values, eliminating objectivity, it may come about that someday, journalists will find their own names bracketed in scare quotes.

An extreme form of bias is to pressure a friendly legislator to attempt to ban a rival publication.

As reported on November 27, MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union) was asked whether he was wrong to have attempted to pass the anti-Israel Hayom bill several years ago. His reply was that “today I know that I was wrong in how I led this effort… but the decisions were made on the move; in retrospect, it was wrong to engage this matter through legislation.”

Was the shutting down of Arutz 7 over a decade ago also the result of some MKs being “on the move”?

SATIRE IS a form of media comment which openly permits those participating to drop any sense of neutrality. Is this ethical? Not if the program is presented by a public broadcaster, without balance. If satire is one-sided, bias dominates.

The Kan network airs the Ad Kan! (No Farther) political satire program whose host, Michael Hanegbi, is afforded a special introductory slot to let the world share his wisdom, in addition to being able to shape and limit the other six panelists, who appear to be fairly representative voices.

Early last week, one of Hanegbi’s monologues touched on the very annoying Peleg group demonstrations. Representing a fraction of the general haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community, and forcefully reprimanded by leading rabbis, the group has been campaigning against any cooperation with the IDF, even to obtain draft deferments. But this allowed a swipe at all haredim. Here is how his remarks went: • On one thing we can all agree on: the haredim are kakot (turds).

• The haredim really aren’t kakot, they are simply different and took themselves out of democratic society and formed for themselves a society that contributes just to and for itself.

• Okay, they’re a bit crappy, but that’s okay.

Hanegbi zeroed in on a small group and then, pardon the pun, smeared all of the haredim.

Another spin tool is to redo history, the “old news” that few can recall.

We do not have the space to review in depth all the Haaretz coverage of this year’s centenary of the Balfour Declaration, but some of it exuded utter contempt for Zionism. One op-ed bemoaned “the racism of the British government 100 years ago, which disturbingly, continues to reverberate in the conflict to this day” and claimed that “the Cabinet had no intention of giving Judea to the Jews.”

Other articles this year were entitled “The Curse of the Balfour Declaration,” “Balfour Declaration Wasn’t About Israel,” “Balfour Declaration’s Legacy Is Toxic for Both Israelis and Palestinians,” “Balfour’s Original Sin” and “Britain Facilitated Palestine’s Ethnic Cleansing. Today, Britain’s Celebrating It.”

One, “Britain’s Broken Promises to the Palestinians From Balfour Onwards,” uncritically quotes a Gazan Arab saying: “The Jewish people took their rights after Hitler committed massacres against them.”

Returning to the stoning of the children hikers, a fierce Twitter battle erupted between Channel 2’s Amit Segal, son of Makor Rishon editor Haggai Segal who grew up in the Ofra community in the disputed territory of Binyamin, and Haaretz’s owner and publisher, Amos Schocken.

Angered at the way the English-language Haaretz headline reporting that incident was worded – “Palestinian Shot and Killed by Jewish Settler in the West Bank” – Segal tweeted: “journalistic garbage can.”

Schocken responded: “Liar and propagandist disguised as a journalist.”

Schocken explained there was a bug in the application (?) which translates the Hebrew to English, but Segal showed that the Hebrew version was identical and said, “perhaps the problem is not technical but psychological?” Schocken is active on Twitter. On Nov. 23 this year, he promoted an opinion column by Lior Birger, who is studying for her PhD in social work in the field of immigration and refugees. She asserted that in deporting illegal infiltrators to third-party countries, Israel is placing their lives at risk. She wrote that the “increased removal” policy adopted by the government is “another step in the abusive jailing and deportation of asylum seekers in Israel. For many of those deported it is a death sentence.”

Schocken added his own interpretation: “The murderers in suits: Eli Yishai, Gideon Sa’ar, Gilad Erdan, Aryeh Deri, Miri Regev, Ayelet Shaked, Benjamin Netanyahu.” Sa’ar, incidentally, is not a member of the government.

Besides his inciting words, given the rather outspoken nature of the publisher/owner of the newspaper, as documented in previous columns of ours, can there really be freedom of thought in Haaretz’s newsroom? Can a reporter truly feel free to follow up a story or, once entering the building at 9 Schocken Street in south Tel Aviv, must he assume the mindset of the editorial line?

The media in Israel is not very popular. It is regularly characterized as conceited, self-aggrandizing, shallow and not responsive to the public. It is also too often irresponsible.

The biases of our media are a root cause underlying its unpopularity.


November 22, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT:Ethics at Kan?

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:04 pm by yisraelmedad

MEDIA COMMENT:Ethics at Kan?
Why does a broadcaster need a code of ethics at all?
The legislation which created the Israel Broadcasting Corporation, which insists on calling itself Kan (which means “here” in English) authorized its board to create a new code of ethics for the public broadcaster. And indeed, quietly, without any public discourse, this is what the IBC did.

But, one might ask, why does a broadcaster need a code of ethics at all? The same question was hurled at Israel’s Council for Higher Education, of which one of us (EP) is a member. The claim in that case was that a code of ethics should not be imposed by the regulator as it encroaches upon the academic freedom of the colleges and universities.

But more seriously, the argument also noted that any university has a disciplinary code.

If it is violated, the university can punish the offender. If a law is violated, such as by sexual harassment, the police would become involved and they would take the necessary steps.

Likewise for the public broadcaster, if an employee does not carry out their job correctly, discipline may result. Although too many of the Kan employees are not considered to be government officials, an arrangement that releases them from the governmental disciplinary code, they still have to abide by the norms of the broadcaster, which are defined by law. Why then do they need a code of ethics? Consider the words uttered just last week in London by The Guardian’s editor Katharine Viner. In a speech on November 16 before staff, members and supporters, she declared, “journalists must work to earn the trust of those they aim to serve. And we must make ourselves more representative of the societies we aim to represent. Members of the media are increasingly drawn from the same, privileged sector of society. This problem has actually worsened in recent decades.”

All too often, however, such words are simply trotted out as a palliative, to calm media consumers who witness constant media bias and are upset at the product they are being served up. The media most rarely apologizes for its infractions and even more rarely punishes miscreants in any way. Perhaps then a code of ethics is useful if it can be enforced and thus increase public trust? Here in Israel, Kan recently ratified its new Code of Professional Ethics, something which in reality is a code of non-ethics.

Unfortunately, over the years the journalists’ code of ethics in Israel has become a joke. No one abides by it, no one takes it seriously and no one is ever punished for violating it.

This is the argument voiced by Dr. Tehilla Shwartz-Altshuler, director of the media reform program at the Israel Institute for Democracy, who was tasked to head the commission responsible for creating the new code of ethics.

Accordingly, as she explained last Friday in an article in Makor Rishon, the new code does not impose objectivity on Kan employees.

Rather, the “new objectivity” is “transparency.”

So any journalist at Kan can use her microphone or his camera to not only express their personal opinion but to try and convince the public they are right. As long as it is transparent that the opinion is a personal one, this would not only be allowed but encouraged.

Did Altshuler, who represents the “Democracy Institute,” ever consider that the journalist is usurping the public domain, or in more stark terms, stealing the public microphone, and being paid out of public funds to do so? Why should the journalists be allowed to use the resources of a public organization to spread their own opinions? In its forward, the new code states that one of the code’s fundamental demands is to prevent conflict of interest or the receipt of personal benefits. Didn’t the “wise people” see how ludicrous it is to allow the expression of private opinion and at the same time demand no conflict of interest? Arieh Golan, the veteran usurper of the public airways, is an excellent example. Consistently, he opens his news program with his personal opinion.

He then interviews someone on the same issue. Can that interview be fair? Altshuler is aware that public trust in the media in Israel is very low. She herself acknowledges it has dropped from 50% 10 years ago to 25% today. She also notes that one of the reasons for the increased public mistrust has to do with an increase in media review (something for which Israel’s Media Watch and the writers of this column take credit for). However, she did not even consider asking media review organizations to participate in formulation of the new code of ethics. Rather, she claims that “deep transparency” will do the job.

So, if a journalist does express a private opinion, it should be made clear it is private.

Kan’s code of ethics is the antithesis of transparency. Why didn’t they present their new code of ethics to the public for public discussion before ratifying it? What happened to transparency? This new code destroys any possibility of ensuring any media fairness.

The authors of this article were involved in making sure that people such as Gabi Gazit and Nathan Zehavi (both accused lately of sexual harassment) would not work for the public broadcaster. This was possible as long as it was clear that they had violated the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s code of ethics. Additionally, an IMW petition to the High Court was instrumental in removing Amnon Abramovitch from the IBA. With the new code of ethics this would no longer be possible.

The new code is based on false premises.

The public mistrust of the media is not due to increased public criticism, but due to the fact that that criticism is both justified and ignored by the media. Retractions at the public broadcaster are very rare. Impartiality and pluralism do not exist. As we have stressed in this column too often, information coming from the Right is ignored and questions are invariably posed from a post-Zionist point of view. The code does not even demand that journalists speak correct Hebrew, and too many don’t.

Why were the deliberations over the code secret? Why was the Kohelet organization excluded? Are only those with a left-liberal agendas permitted to engage in discussions of ethics? Why weren’t the general public and media NGOs invited to submit position papers? Transparency? Decency? Public trust? No, Dr. Altshuler. As long as people like you are not even aware of the true problems and do not try to cope with them, the public broadcaster will not garner public trust. The purpose of any code of ethics for journalists is to serve and protect the public, not journalists. There is no reason why an organization such as Kan should receive from the state coffers a sum which is even greater than that given to the Israel Science Foundation, which contributes much more to Israeli society.

We do not need a new ethics code. The previous one was quite adequate.

Communications Minister Ayoub Kara should intervene, and closing down Kan should also be on the agenda.



November 8, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: Words and Weapons

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:40 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Words and Weapons
The tunnel in question was not built to provide Shabbat flowers to the Israelis living on the Gaza border.
In a recent article published in the academic journal Current Sociology, “Words don’t come easy,” Christopher Kyriakides, professor of Sociology at York University, Canada, deals with Al Jazeera’s 2015 decision to substitute “refugee” for “economic migrant” in its coverage of “the Mediterranean Migration Crisis.”

In academese, he writes that what happened was a “distancing of ‘migrant’ from ‘refugee’ in news content.” In other words, a media outlet intervened in a political, economic and diplomatic issue to contest a negative media representation. The broadcaster decided to override the language being used and substituted its own language, justifying the act as giving “a voice” to the people involved.

Kyriakides notes other media terms which have been the subject of academic critique, such as “the Arab” and “the Muslim” in the post-2001 era and, in general, media depictions of migrants, refugees and ethnic minority citizens. A “broadcaster’s self-professed ‘deorientalizing’ decision to ‘give voice’ by ‘challenging racism,’” he wrote, “is discursively delimited by the dominant European migration policy narrative.”

The decision to alter the semantics was deliberate. Al Jazeera’s English director of news, Salah Negm, decided not to “use the word ‘migrant’ any longer in this context. We will instead, where appropriate, say ‘refugee.’” As Barry Malone, online editor with Al Jazeera English explained, “at this network, we try hard through our journalism to be the voice of those people in our world who, for whatever reason, find themselves without one.”

Altering language to change a reality is standard practice. A newly formed and EU-funded organization, RespectWords, seeks to prevent Islamophobia in the media. In semi-Orwellian terms, its report, “Respect Words: Ethical Journalism Against Hate Speech,” suggests how to “rethink.”

It fears a “context-dehumanization” and seeks “the construction of new imagery.”

For example, in dealing with violence committed by some recent arrivals, the causes of it, the report suggests, include “colonialism, racism, [and] general social inequality” and there is “no structural connection between migration and terrorism.”

This paradigm is familiar and touches on a problem we have dealt with previously.

We would suggest that a parallel effort to RespectWords should be undertaken to review our situation here in Israel.

Consider, for example, the international terminology concerning the Western Wall. It is a section of the retaining wall to Herod’s enlargement of the Temple Mount.

For centuries it has been used by Jews from all over the world, for prayers, rejoicing, mourning and socializing. In Hebrew it is called “Hakotel Hama’aravi,” the Western Wall. It was also known as “Kotel Hadmaot,” the Wall of Tears, but Jews never called it “The Wailing Wall.” The poet Uri Tzvi Greenberg once wrote in a poem that “the Wall roars.”

Consider then The New York Times. A search this week of its website for “Western Wall Jerusalem” gives 1,781 hits. For “Wailing Wall Jerusalem” one finds only 716. In The Wall Street Journal the search gives 11 for “Western Wall Jerusalem” and none for “Wailing Wall Jerusalem.”

Is it just a coincidence that in Germany and Switzerland the ratio changes dramatically? At the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung one finds 434 entries for “Klagemauer Jerusalem” (“klagemauer” is the German version of “wailing”) but only 36 for “Westliche Mauer Jerusalem.” Similarly, for the Swiss Neue Zuericher Zeitung, one finds respectively 81 and two entries. German speakers seemingly prefer to relate to our holy place of worship as a complaints department.

When one of us raised this issue with a German-speaking journalist, we were told that it is senseless to use “Westliche Mauer” since the editors will change it to “Klagemauer.”

Returning to Israel, a new complaint about “cruel employment practices” has been leveled against the prime minister’s wife Sarah Netanyahu. Yediot Aharonot, no friend of the Netanyahus, decided to highlight the issue by describing the former employee as a “shifcha,” literally, a slave girl.

This appears to us to be low-level pandering, a nasty form of yellow journalism, especially as the woman’s request was to be reinstated. Did not the paper’s editor consider it curious that a “slave” would wish to return to her master? Shouldn’t he have avoided the term, or was he giving a voice to “those people in our world who, for whatever reason, find themselves without one”? Who is a traitor? In the aftermath of the November 1995 assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, it became politically incorrect to use the term “traitor” when discussing politicians.

But on October 27, Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer published a piece titled, “How Netanyahu Has Betrayed the Jews,” asserting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had recently “betrayed” Austria’s and Hungary’s Jews since he did not display solidarity with their concerns regarding local antisemitism. That paper’s Chemi Shalev also unashamedly used the term when in January 2016 he accused American Jews of “abandoning… betraying Israel itself” in not protesting what he claimed was a loss of democracy here.

One way to delegitimize your political foes is by the use of damning language.

Consider coalition head MK David Bitan.

It is no secret that he is a staunch supporter of the prime minister. Although we might personally not support his tactics, there is nothing even morally wrong in supporting the head of your political party. But for some the goal in life is to remove Netanyahu from office. Chemi Shalev’s op-ed on October 30 described MK Bitan as Netanyahu’s “hired gun.”

On October 29, on TV Channel 10, the PR man representing the new plaintiff against Sara Netanyahu, Arik Rosenthal, referred to Netanyahu’s attorneys as “hired guns.”

The purpose is obvious: Netanyahu and family are implicitly described as mobsters, who use hired guns to carry out the necessary political assassinations. Repeated frequently, the negative image sticks, and who knows, might even lead to dethroning the “Papa.”

Or take how headlines are composed.

On the day following Israel’s October 30 bombing of a Gaza tunnel, Haaretz published two stories. One, an analysis, was headlined “Israel’s Strike on Gaza Attack Tunnel Could Break Fragile Palestinian Status Quo.” The other was headlined, “Israel Destroys a Gaza Tunnel, Killing Militants.”

Of course we all know that the true headline should have been: “Israel Destroys Gaza Tunnel, Saving Israeli Lives.”

The tunnel in question was not built to provide Shabbat flowers to the Israelis living on the Gaza border. But when the aim of a newspaper is to delegitimize the State of Israel, anything goes.

Moreover, if Haaretz runs such a headline, how can we complain about the Guardian’s headline, “Israel destroys tunnel from Gaza, killing seven Palestinians”? Or Al Jazeera’s “Seven Palestinians killed as Israel strikes Gaza tunnel”? The year 1984 is long gone, but Orwell’s lesson, that the “aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought,” is still relevant.


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