April 16, 2015
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 04/15/2015
The names of the programs changed, governments changed, and even sometimes the actors changed, but the messages and the writers remained the same: Israeli satire originated from the far Left.
Rogel Alpher made some insightful observations in his Haartez column of March 27. He clarified the local Israeli left-wing mindset as to who is permitted to broadcast satire. He bemoaned the lack of American-style satire shows in Israel, such as those hosted by Jon Stewart or John Oliver. He was not looking for mere entertainment, but for the presentation of “an opinionated, reasoned, unapologetic view, whose liberal agenda is obvious.” He is very much bothered that “Israeli television deliberately excludes” such programs.
For Alpher, Oliver and Stewart “are journalists with comic skills…to convey a researched, well-argued message.”
They expose their audiences to “satirical research” which “influences…[and] changes opinions.”
Satire has long been a staple of our television programming. Older folk will recall Nikui Rosh (Head Cleaning) and Zehu Zeh (That’s That) broadcast on TV Channel 1 in the 1970s and 1980s. Then, in the late nineties, influenced by the British Spitting Image program, TV Channel 2 gave us the Hebrew version, called the Chartzufim.
These were followed later by Eretz Nehederet (A Wonderful Country) and Matzav HaUmmah (The State of the Nation) programs, among others.
The names of the programs changed, governments changed, and even sometimes the actors changed, but the messages and the writers remained the same: Israeli satire originated from the far Left. It was pro-secular, anti-religious, pro-cosmopolitan and anti-settler. It took satire to the extreme. Chartzufim for example included two outrageous skits, one portraying the Shas rabbinical council as a group of dancing ayatollahs and another with two Ashkenazi haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) sitting at an outdoor café being served the dismembered head of a secular Israeli on a plate of lettuce.
On February 17, 2009, Eretz Nehederet presented a clip portraying a “settler family.”
While the mother ironed clothes on the back of an Arab, the grandfather took out a gun and shoots another Arab (or an IDF soldier) and a daughter shouts “Nazi” and “Hitler” at anyone she does not like.
Complaints aplenty were made, but were all rebuffed by Giora Rozen who, at the time, was complaints commissioner for the Second Authority of TV and Radio (SATR).
His response was: “The materials used were brought to the forefront of the public discourse by the minority group who used them. This group is now surprised about the language and reality which the satire uses to present the lightheadedness, the price of extremism and their own strong language.”
The commissioner was not worried about the fact that such a clip could create hatred between Israelis and depicted Jews with Nazi-like imagery. Worse, he permitted a situation whereby all “settlers” are put under one roof as crazy Arab-hating Jews.
This type of pandering, racist satire is characteristic.
On June 4, 2012, Eretz Nehederet related to the support Likud MKs Miri Regev and Danny Danon gave to south Tel Aviv residents in their struggle against the illegal residents in their neighborhood. Both MKs were depicted as Nazis deporting innocent civilians. Danon was presented as Hitler.
Complaints were answered by Yehudit Levit from TV Channel 2, who responded: “The…program is satirical. The purpose of the clip was to present the public discourse over the issue of the infiltrators. Satirical programs are naturally characterized by going to the limit in the presentation of issues and deal with them so as to bring about criticism and thought. This can sometimes also sometimes hurt the feelings of viewers,” concluding, “The value of freedom of speech supersedes any feelings which are hurt by the program.”
This year, for the first time in the more than four decades of Israel’s broadcasting history, a satirical program which presented itself as Zionist and not extreme Left was permitted to be aired over the IBA’s Channel 1. It took over four years of negotiations before the director general of the IBA, Yona Wiesenthal, was brave enough to declare that satire is legitimate independent of which part of the political spectrum it comes from.
To be sure, the Hakol Shafit (We’ll Be the Judge) program was balanced by another show, HaYehudim Ba’im (The Jews Are Coming), which preceded it. This latter program’s main message was to make fun of anything and everything holy and honorable in our Jewish heritage. Of course, Hayehudim Ba’im hurt people’s feelings but, as already explained, this is what satire does and freedom of expression is a higher good.
Or is it? On April 2, Hakol Shafit’s show included a segment in which a young woman named Chloe relates how she fell in love with a Muslim boy named Amir. This eventually led to tragedy, as Amir forces her to convert to Islam and then murders her when she refuses to allow him to take a second wife.
The reactions from the Left and Arabs were sharp; the principle of freedom of speech was forgotten. MK Zuhair Bahloul (Labor) said that this was “horrifying and shocking…one must ask whether this is not the freedom of incitement. I demand from the IBA to exercise discretion and forbid the transmission of this skit. Otherwise we might lose our elementary sensitivity to a whole segment of the population.”
The same Bahloul, when presenting a radio program on the A-Shams radio station, did not hesitate to explain why he visited Mohammed Bakri, the producer of Jenin, the “documentary” that libeled IDF soldiers, saying: “I showed solidarity with a great artist and actor, in order to pour some cold water on the racist campaign against a personality who can only be admired.”
Bahloul had no sensitivity for the IDF soldiers. He did not consider that such libel only leads to further hatred and even provide justification for some hotheads to take the law into their own hands. In this case, freedom of speech was much more important.
MK Michal Rozin from Meretz described the clip as racist, misogynistic and inciting.
Channel 1 then censored it. Why is it that our self-proclaimed liberals know how to be liberal with other people’s feelings but not their own? Adam Gopnik, reviewing on January 26 in The New Yorker Michel Houellebecq’s new novel, Submission, whose theme is an Islamic takeover of France, wrote about the essence of satire: “He likes to take what’s happening now and imagine what would happen if it kept on happening. That’s what satirists do.” A “sincere satirist” is one who is “genuinely saddened by the absurdities of history and the madnesses of mankind. He doesn’t ‘delight in depicting our follies.’” What is good for Europe suddenly is unacceptable for our cultural elite here in Israel? Indeed, the response of Avishai Ivri, one of the writers of the We’ll Be The Judge program, to the Walla news site was along the same lines: “The skit deals with an English girl from London whose name is Chloe and the topic is the radical Islam in Europe, not necessarily in Israel.”
But he who laughs last laughs best. The act of censorship was the best advertising that the Hakol Shafit program could ask for.
April 8, 2015
by ELI POLLAK,YISRAEL MEDAD, 04/08/2015
Israel’s media is driven and guided by American and European culture.
A central challenge our forefathers faced upon their exodus from Egypt was adapting to a new culture, one which no longer emulated the practices of the center of the civilization of that age, Egypt. The people of Israel succeeded and the ethics and morality they accepted strove for justice, empathy with the downtrodden, care for the poor and for the orphan. This was very different from their Egyptian experience and it is not surprising that along the journey to the Promised Land there were those that expressed their desire to return to the “old ways.”
Given the time of year, it is appropriate to apply that ancient model to today’s problem of Israel’s media identity.
Israel’s media is driven and guided by American and European culture. The reality shows, even with their high ratings, represent low culture. Other symptoms of sickness include the growing practice of replacing hard news with infotainment and creating media icons who are employed for their good looks and quick tongues. Our newspapers no longer separate between news and views, as the last election campaign amply demonstrated.
It does not have to be this way. The time has come for our media to make its own “exodus from Egypt,” from the superficiality and the emptiness too often purveyed abroad.
Israeli science is excellent because it does not emulate the United States. Basic science is valued in Israel. Our scientific community understands that fundamentals drive scientific progress. Our colleagues abroad look at us with envy. Increasingly, they are forced to turn toward applied science, otherwise they do not get funding.
Our Israeli media could also become a light unto the nations, if only the powers that run it were driven by Jewish culture and heritage, if only they were proud of their background.
Israeli television can and should reflect our national values. We have a rich, 3,000-year history which could be a limitless source of inspiration for historically based entertainment and education.
Jewish humor and especially the Yiddish and Sefardi humor of the past few centuries enabled our people to survive with a smile even under very difficult circumstances. It is very different from the slapstick humor of American sitcoms. Typically, it is biting, makes a point but at the same time is hilarious.
Oddly enough, Jewish comedians in the US seem to be very successful. Why has this genre disappeared here? Only last week, we were at the premiere of The Little Dictator, a 27-minute film created by Nurith and Emanuel Cohn. The Jerusalem Cinematheque hall was packed and the crowd was enthralled. Jewish humor at its best. Why can’t we have more of this on our screens? Are the biographies of people such as Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman or Baruch Spinoza boring? It is not difficult to think of a documentary series describing the rise of Jewry in the United States.
Colleagues our age bemoan the fact that their children and grandchildren are quite ignorant of their Jewish heritage. Too many of our youngsters no longer understand the Bible. The Jewish prayer book, which has helped generations of Jews, is a stranger to them. Religion should not be a “four-letter word.” High-quality TV programming could go a long way in educating us. Who among us knows the history of our prophets Elijah, Elisha or Jeremiah, to name a few? Bruriah, the wife of Rabbi Meir, is an amazing example of female leadership in our history. Queen Shlomzion is not less an outstanding personality.
The Rabbinical Court, with all of its drawbacks, is a unique Jewish institution. How about a TV series depicting the dilemmas of people appearing before it? One would suspect that if the Jewish Israeli population had a better understanding of the deliberations of this court, it would also know how to stand on its rights and get more out of this court system. One film in 50 years (“Gett”) is just insufficient.
But not only history and Jewish culture should be at heart of our media. We live in a globally based business environment. Most of our parents had no knowledge about the financial markets, derivatives meant nothing to them, and they also had no money to worry about. The situation today is very different. Yet too many Israelis are not well educated in financial matters. The only reason that our pension system is so complex is that no one in the media has taken the political leadership to task and demanded a thorough revision, simplification and end to profit of financial institutions on account of the pension funds. These issues could be dealt with and even be entertaining.
One of the problems many of us face as we grow older is taking care of our aging parents.
Most do not have a clue how to face the various dilemmas arising from debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia or Parkinson’s disease, to name a few. Do we or don’t we urge our parents to enter old age homes? The same is true when taking care of children with disabilities. A media interested in helping could go a long way in providing answers. Our newspapers, instead of harping on murder and drugs, could send their reporters to provide information on these and many other issues which we face on a daily basis.
We pride ourselves as being a high-tech society and rightly so. But is this sustainable? Only if we create enthusiasm for science and technology in our younger generations. Our media should play here a central role. We grew up on the space race, in the aftermath of the immense success of science in World War II to help eliminate the German and Japanese dictatorships. As children, science was the “in” thing. Today, our best and brightest become lawyers and accountants. We do not denigrate these occupations, but wouldn’t it be better if more of our bright youngsters were excited by the inspiration and creativity to be found in the sciences? Where there is a will ,there’s a way. Admittedly, presenting original, inspirational and informative programming and newspapers is expensive. Much more expensive than the low-quality material we receive now. But, just as good science in the long run is a worthwhile investment, the same goes for the media. Original films can be sold all over the world. Not only do they lead to good economics, they also would go a long way in presenting Israel in a positive light to the world, something we are sorely lacking.
The Jewish community is not limited to Israel. The evangelical Christian community is huge and would be very interested in Jewish and Israeli documentaries. The Chinese interest in Israel and the Bible is huge. In South Korea, schools have adopted the Talmudic pilpul model whereas in Israel, secular state school pupils have no knowledge of the Talmud at all.
The Israeli media should exit Egypt. With leadership – we do need a Moses – and determination, it could be a light onto the nations.
April 1, 2015
by YISRAEL MEDAD, ELI POLLAK, 04/01/2015
Much has been written concerning the required reckoning in the aftermath of the media’s fiasco during the four-month election campaign.
Much has been written concerning the required reckoning in the aftermath of the media’s fiasco during the four-month election campaign. The real question, though, is not what needs to be said, but what must be done. Our media needs to clean itself up thoroughly for there is too much chametz (leavened foods forbidden during Passover) lying around.
What could be done by government, the media itself and by media consumers? Let’s start with Channel 10 TV. This channel, as we have often written, has sullied Israel’s TV scene. It has cost the taxpayer over a billion shekels since its first broadcasts in January 2002. On March 22 it requested a broadcasting license for the next 15 years.
This request is now under deliberation by the Second Authority for TV and Radio (SATR).
But allow us to remind ourselves that prior to these elections, the channel was, as usual, in arrears in its payments, at that time to the tune of NIS 36 million. The government and the Knesset decided that this was not the appropriate time to close down the channel. The attorney general saved the day, allowing the channel to continue broadcasting until June 30, even though the law stipulated that under the circumstances the channel should be closed down.
The request to continue operating for the next 15 years under license, instead of the present concession system, came at the last moment. The law has set several conditions for granting a license. Among them are presenting guarantees for paying a NIS 67m. annual license fee. Another demand is to spend at least NIS 130m. annually on local programming. Thirdly, there is a NIS 3m. fee just to submit a license request. In addition, anyone who wants a license must convince the SATR that they are financially stable.
It is no wonder that Israel lacks good TV programming.
The government obviously considers the media a cow, to be milked at will, with the government controlling the milking schedule. If it so happens that the cow is sick, as Channel 10 is, the cowhand decides to forgo the milking for that day. When this repeats itself too many times and the cow stops giving milk altogether, it is sent out for slaughter.
Channel 10 has continued to pay its debts, albeit only after receiving generous reductions which were then promptly applied to the other channels.
Thus, last week, the SATR decided to reduce the license fee to NIS 45m. and to forgo the license request fee of NIS 3m. to anyone already owning a concession. This last step was clearly meant to enable Channel 10 to submit its request without paying the fee. Why should Channel 10 have any advantage over new players? The logic is beyond us.
The present socialist law is ridiculous. In a free economy, anyone should be allowed to request a broadcasting license.
Technology is such that the airwaves are essentially limitless.
There is no reason to impose unnecessary draconian rules and regulations on broadcasters.
There is an analogy between restaurants and the media. A restaurant has to prove that it can uphold minimal sanitation standards. A TV station must do the same. It must prove that it has the ability to uphold minimal broadcasting standards, both technological and content-wise. But that is all that it should be obliged by law to do. A profitable TV station pays the salaries of its employees and taxes on profits.
The government should content itself with the resulting income.
We have often demanded in this column that Channel 10 be closed down. Being realistic, we expect the government to be too weak to do the right thing, which is to stop violating its own laws by continuing to make concessions to the channel. Nevertheless, even our politicians could show some leadership and thoroughly revamp the law, allowing anyone to broadcast and stopping government meddling in the broadcasting business. This would lead to true pluralism, and would end the Channel 10 saga, since it would be only one of many and would have to stand on its own two feet or cease existing.
But let us not assume that this would heal all of Israel’s media woes. Part of the problem, which also appears in the Channel 10 saga, lies in the superiority complex of the media. Too many in the media feel that they are above the law. Consider our national broadcaster IBA’s TV Channel 1, which should be a model of good citizenship. It decided, on Election Day, that the present law forbidding any Israeli TV channel from broadcasting statements of politicians is archaic and promptly violated it. At Israel’s Media Watch, we submitted a formal complaint to Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran, chairman of the Central Elections Committee, but do not expect any action to be taken.
There are other laws on the books that should be upheld.
One of them demands that all voices in Israeli society be heard. It has never been enforced, or to phrase it differently, people such as Ari Shavit of Channel 1’s Friday night Yoman show or Moshe Negbi, the IBA’s sole legal pundit, seemingly consider themselves to be the voice of everyone and so are not willing to allow themselves to be balanced by someone else sharing the studio with them on the same program.
This ridiculous state of affairs has been summarized aptly by Yaron Dekel, the present head of the army radio station Galatz, in a March 23 op-ed published in Globes: “The late minister Uri Orbach was a ground-breaker of the entry of right-wingers in to the mainstream media…there are not enough successors to Orbach.
Only a significant entry into the established mainstream media of journalists with kippot, residents from the periphery and those holding a rightwing line will change the situation and free it from its ‘in-a-bubble’ reality.”
In contrast to pundits such as ourselves, Dekel does not need to write; he can actually do. He can clean up the chametz in the Army Radio station.
The production of Hakol Shafit, a decidedly right-ofcenter satire series on Channel 1, shows that it is possible to provide good media content while remaining pluralistic.
Why cannot Dekel create real pluralism? We do not accept his claim that there are not enough successors to Orbach.
We can think of a half-dozen people at least who could be anchors of the news programs on the channel and do the job at least as well as people such as Yael Dan and Razi Barkai.
Public mass media should neither be dominated by an interfering government bureaucracy or by politicians who are members of various Knesset committees that seek their own airtime. It should not be the fiefdom of an elitist ideological and cultural clique behind the microphones and in front of the cameras. It is high time to discard the chametz.
March 26, 2015
by YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK, 03/25/2015
Ominously, the opinion polls seemed to reflect more the opinions of media personalities, executives and editors as well as the owners of media outlets than those of the man in the street.
In the wake of the collapse of the election- day exit polls, and the subsequent piranha-like mutual frenzy of media rivals following the Likud victory, James Taranto, writing in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, provided a bit of consolation, if not encouragement. He noted that American experts also flopped. For example, Sam Wang of the Princeton Election Consortium had tweeted on Monday that “Netanyahu staying PM seems hard. I’ll stay w/ 3-1 odds against.” Paul Waldman of The Washington Post wrote, “There is a real possibility that Benjamin Netanyahu will lose.”
That American professionals are no better than their Israeli counterparts is nice to know, but the real problem is that those polls, ordered and paid for by central media outlets, developed a Golem-like aspect and, for all intents and purposes, took over the reporting platform. They were the story rather than being commentary. Almost all coverage began to revolve around the numbers and percentages.
Ominously, the opinion polls seemed to reflect more the opinions of media personalities, executives and editors as well as the owners of media outlets than those of the man in the street. Too many in the media were dancing around themselves in a closed circle. As Raviv Drucker of Channel 10, who did all he could to bring about the downfall of Netanyahu, freely admitted, “Maybe we live in la-la land.”
Amir Teig, writing in Haaretz on March 23, was even more critical, claiming that the country’s media outlets “have now come to understand the extent to which the public is hostile to them…the campaign revealed the one-dimensional character of the media and a sense that the media believe they know what’s best for their own audiences.”
The important issues facing the public, such as the local and international situation, analysis of economics and of defense matters, the relationship with the Palestinian Authority and more were shuffled to the background. Even some of the background of members of the new 20th Knesset, such as the Bulgarian hotel manager job held by the Likud’s Oren Hazan, a resort that also had a casino, was ignored. The media not only reflected its own biases but was shallow as well. It simply did not provide the information the public needed to make an informed decision on whom to vote for.
As Sir Alan Moses, chairman of England’s Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), declared three weeks ago, examples of media “abuse, intrusion, distortion, lies, cruelty and brutality” need to be addressed and regulatory rules need be fine-tuned.
Most importantly, wherever there is bias, the media cannot judge itself; oversight must include external partners.
In the week since the elections, Israel’s media, to its credit, is asking itself how it got the election results so wrong. As Nati Tucker described in The Marker, “Journalists misread the political landscape, newspapers were blatantly biased and polls proved to be utterly mistaken.” They engaged, he asserted, “in unethical and often ugly journalism.”
Drucker went even further: “There was a torrent of one-sided, biased reality. Netanyahu was smart enough to translate this revulsion into votes.”
But this preference for one-sidedness also carried over to the media’s introspection this week. For the most part, the discussions, interview panels and columns carried by the various networks, print, electronic and online, were staffed by media personnel.
The Tik Tikshoret program, which is supposed to deal with media infractions, brought to its panel discussions journalists Yaakov Ahimeir, Baruch Kra and Barak Ravid. Kalman Liebeskind, who dared to suggest in Maariv that journalists with a proven left-wing bias should be fired, drew sharp attacks from Channel 10 staff.
Drucker slugged it out with Channel 2 TV’s Amit Segal via tweets and Facebook posts following an op-ed Drucker published in Haaretz. Drucker asked in his op-ed, full of self-importance and unrepentant for his behavior: “Which model is better for the viewer: a reporter who wants the Right to win but conceals his views, or a reporter who acknowledges his preference and then reports on the facts?” Segal responded that the problem with journalists like Drucker was not mistakes in analyzing forecast data but in their total mobilization on behalf of the political Left.
Yediot Aharonot owner Arnon Mozes hasn’t apologized for the unprofessional behavior of his newspaper, nor has Amos Schocken, publisher of Haaretz. On the other side, Benjamin Netanyahu already has expressed contrition for his remarks regarding the busing of Arabs to the voting booths.
Yet, despite the across-the-spectrum admissions, and the clear evidence, we expect that nothing will change. Those responsible at the management and editorial levels in the Israeli media organs for overt media bias are unwilling to admit their professional errors, are not willing to reach personal conclusions and will not permit outsiders to participate in the post-performance debriefing.
This criticism should not detract from the value of the voices heard from within the media. To strengthen the charges of institutionalized bias, Arianna Melamed, herself a left-winger and a long-time member of the inner media elite who worked at Maariv and then moved to Ynet before resigning last year, published on her Facebook page this past Saturday that Yediot’s Mozes had personally spiked a column she penned critical of the Zionist Union’s Tzipi Livni.
“Mozes,” she wrote, “turned journalists into circus dogs. Yediot is the exact mirror- image of Israel Hayom. In one, Bibi is a dog and in the other, he’s a king.” She added, “Yes, I can relate much about the anti-Bibi media.” Her harsh remarks were then also reported on Channel 10’s Mako news site.
Another aspect of the biased media is evidenced in the coverage of US President Barack Obama’s unprecedented dressing- down of Prime Minister Netanyahu for saying that “Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them in buses.” Kol Yisrael’s Arieh Golan broadcast his personal disgust with Netanyahu’s “racist” remarks.
Never mind that Netanyahu was merely stating the truth or that the money for these activities came, in part, from funds whose connection to Obama’s State Department is currently being investigated.
Haaretz’s Benny Ziffer wrote on March 19 that the “‘Arabs on buses’ comment was not racist.”
Not a single Israeli media commentator pointed out that there were other disparaging and even racist expressions directed at sections of Israel’s populace, that were not addressed by Obama. The divisive words, of course, came from left-wingers and we mentioned them in our column last week. Somehow, the White House was quite selective in the media sources that were passed on to the president.
Yair Garboz and Yehoshua Sobol, Meretz supporters, targeted traditional religious people who identify with the Right. Tzipi Livni had referred to Netanyahu as “garbage” to be taken out to the bin. Last Wednesday, columnist Yonatan Geffen told a club audience that those who voted for Netanyahu shouldn’t “cry when your kids die in the next military operation.” Truthfully, it is Obama that has opened himself to charges of racism; he only complained about comments referring to Arabs, but the words shaming Jews were considered by him to be kosher.
To improve, the media must realize that it is a servant of the public rather than its master.
March 22, 2015
From the new issue of Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, Volume 9, Issue 1, 2015:
On Yehuda Bauer’s Letter to the Editor
While I may or may not have read Prof. Yehuda Bauer’s article “very carefully” as he surmises, I certainly perused his reply to my letter very studiously. Allow me to begin with his stupefying ending.
My mention of Bauer’s Palmach membership was not meant to label him as “terrible,” but rather to point to the major fault line in his polemical writings, as opposed to his scholarship: I am referring to his ideological mindset, which is hard left. Bauer’s anti-Bergson group stance, as exemplified by his writings in this journal, is one expression of this. His letter provides additional insight into his political thinking. Oddly, Bauer notes my domicile in Shiloh, which, I might point out, is not located in, as he calls it, the “West Bank,” which is an artificial geopolitical term that did not exist prior to April 1950, but in Samaria, as it was called by the United Nations in outlining the borders delineated in the 1947 Partition Plan. While graciously allowing me my views, Bauer then, irrationally, and for no possible purpose except to paint me politically outside the pale, identifies me in an intentional slur as being equivalent to a Jew in Brooklyn or Paris, in other words, in the Diaspora, except that I do not require a plane to reach my home. Why is that? Simply because the State of Israel has not applied its sovereignty to the area in which I reside. For the record, I was born in the Bronx and grew up in Queens, New York.
Bauer’s astounding implication is that I am in chutz la-aretz [outside the borders of the Jewish homeland], as if Shiloh—the location of the Tabernacle, where Joshua divided up the Land of Israel, where Samuel first ministered and where the Prophet Achiyah spoke the truly terrifying words about dogs and vultures—is not somehow fully Jewish and/or part of Eretz-Yisrael—the Land of Israel. This reveals an empty and detached approach to Jewish history and heritage. Given that Bauer came from Prague to this country in 1939, when it was not a state with any sovereign power, I hope he did not consider himself still in the Diaspora simply because the British ruled the land. That is, unless belonging to the Labor/Socialist faction of Zionism somehow bestowed upon him and his comrades a mantle of belonging that he now claims does not apply to me in Shiloh.
To return to the rest of Bauer’s letter, let me respond quite briefly to his complaints. No, he was not guilty of misdeeds in belonging to the Palmach unless he personally tortured Irgun members and handed them over to the British Criminal Investigation Department. Yes, prior to the October 1944 Saison sponsored by the official Yishuv [pre-State Jewish community] bodies, Lehi [Stern group] members were obliquely identified by Irgun intelligence officers to the British. However, Bauer absents conveniently the Palmach’s own pre-Saison operations against the Lehi in early 1942. And yes, and to his credit, he was the first historian to shed light on this episode.
As for Bauer’s supposing that I somehow attacked his Holocaust scholarship, I should have used the word “previous” rather than “past,” although I would characterize some of his conclusions, which I first heard in his lectures at Hebrew University during my 1978–79 academic year, as arguable. Regarding another semantic matter, I will admit to being unable to fathom the precise difference at least as far as the end result is concerned, between his suggestion that a coalition of Islamic states should mediate the Arab–Israeli conflict, as I described it, and his correction that his suggestion was actually that the major powers should act in that fashion.
The final point I wish to make is that Bauer insists that the 230-page Torat HaMelech tract (and I will not engage in a dispute over whether or not and to what extent it is “unabashedly racist and even potentially genocidal”) has had an impact. He is a scholar and, therefore, we can presume that he will eventually academically and empirically prove his charge of a direct link between disgusting acts of anti-Arab/Islam vandalism and that book, published in 2010. However, surely he realizes that violent acts against Arabs, justified or not, do not require esoteric Halachic, Midrashic, or Kabbalistic deliberations of the sort found in that book.
In the summer of 1943, the Palmach punished an Arab rapist of Jewish women in the Beit Shean Valley by surgically castrating him (although none of them was a surgeon or even a physician) and then celebrated the event for years with the campfire song “Sirasnucha Ya Muhammed.” That was not an isolated incident of retribution against Arab rapists. Moreover, there were the Palmachniks who killed some eighty Arabs, reportedly shot while their hands were rope-bound, at Ein Zeitoun on May 1, 1948, and who, in the attack at Sassa on February 15, 1948, blew up houses, killing over sixty Arabs, the majority of whom were women, children, and the aged. Another dozen civilians were killed when the Palmach’s Third Brigade blew up dwellings in Al-Khisas on December 18, 1947. Other Palmachniks had operated even prior to the November 30, 1947 beginning of Israel’s War of Independence against Arab forces at Yaquq and near Kfar Syrkin.
None of them, we can surmise, was a wild-eyed “hilltop youth” who delved into tomes of ancient Jewish literature. They were, rather, “the handsome young men with the forelock,” who, unlike the “terrorists” of the Irgun and “Stern Gang,” mythically behaved according to the principle of “purity of arms.”
March 19, 2015
by YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 03/18/2015
“The bottom line is that even with the considerable improvement in the media’s performance, the ‘old guard’ of post-Zionist media people is still entrenched in central positions.”
The media was a central player in these elections, for good and for bad. Some journalists, such as Yonit Levi, Amnon Abramovitch and Rina Mazliach of Channel 2 TV, truly believed the “Bibi must go” mantra; otherwise they would not have sacrificed their professionalism on the altar of propaganda.
It was only on Monday night that Abramovitch went overboard in citing the greatness of the Livni and Herzog in being able to agree to cancel the rotation between them.
Even after the results came out, Mazliach’s response was, “Well will Bibi now stop his vicious attacks on us?” A colleague of theirs, Amit Segal, tweeted: “elections 2015: The public against the elites and the media: that’s the whole story.” Erel Segal (no relation) wrote at the NRG website Tuesday, “These past three months we’ve witnessed a ‘Saison’ campaign of incitement and hunting, of unparalleled reviling… and my colleagues in the media preferred to close their eyes.”
An important element in the campaign was the reliance on pollsters. Their errors, however, were far beyond the accepted norm.
It would seem that the polling system has crashed and it can no longer be considered reliable. Too many people refuse to answer, and the polls get skewed by those who have an axe to grind. The media’s devout following of the polls should have been stopped years ago. But the polls this time around reflected the desire of the media to replace Netanyahu, so care and criticism were thrown to the wind.
In the past few months, we have documented time and again the various ethical breaches of our media, and undoubtedly, media bias typically favored the leftist, post-Zionist viewpoint. However, these past months have also witnessed some of the best of Israel’s media. All through the campaign, our radio and TV broadcasters made a noticeable effort to bring all views to the public. The morning radio shows were relatively balanced. Someone from the Right would be balanced from the Left and vice versa. The smaller parties, ranging from Meretz to Bayit Yehudi, Yesh Atid and the Joint Arab List, received ample representative air time.
The print media also fared well. On the one side there was Yediot Aharonot with its anti-Netanyahu bias, but it was balanced by Israel Hayom, which supported the prime minister. Haaretz was partially balanced by Makor Rishon.
The situation was vastly different 20 years ago. Back in 1996, the media, with one voice, supported Shimon Peres. Some TV shows were skewed 90 percent in his favor. The anchors were openly rooting for him. Israel Hayom did not exist and Yediot Aharonot had a monopoly on the Israeli media. The same occurred in the 1999 elections.
Something has happened during the past 20 years. Most notably, the call of the late journalist and Bayit Yehudi minister Uri Orbach, urging young people with a Zionist bent to join the media, has created a movement. Professional journalists such as Kalman Libeskind, Erel Segal, Amit Segal, Sivan Rahav-Meir and Emily Amrousy, all with kippot or scarves on their heads, do not hide their ideology. They do their jobs but do not bend over backwards to kowtow to the post-Zionist bon ton. Twenty years ago, Channel 2 TV proudly boasted that they had a national religious figurehead in Nissim Mishal, whose left-wing bias was well documented.
The media’s performance cannot be disassociated from the politicians. Some of them were very dissatisfied with the media. As reported by Globes, already back in July 2014, Netanyahu claimed that some television commentators “do not represent the people” and that “there is a monopoly on opinion.”
He also complained in January about the media’s coverage of his participation in the Paris gathering in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo and kosher deli terrorist attacks.
This continued throughout the campaign, reaching perhaps a crescendo with Netanyahu’s personal attack on Noni Mozes, publisher of Yediot, and the prime minister’s refusal to be interviewed by Channel 10’s Raviv Drucker, who has been pursuing the prime minister and his wife for quite some time.
Minister Naftali Bennett also joined the fray. Only a week ago, he commented on Channel 10 about the media’s strong desire to replace Netanyahu. When Makor Rishon was saved by American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, Bennett, who at that time was a subject of adulation by Yediot for his stand against Israel Hayom, was troubled, worrying that this would turn also Makor Rishon against him. On January 24, on Channel 10’s Hamate Hamerkazi TV program, Bennett responded to moderator Nadav Peri, saying: “You have crossed all borders, the media in general, and this channel… systematically only highlights my candidate in the 94th slot… show me once when you broadcast or attacked someone from the Left.”
It is easy to attack the media but much more difficult to do something about it. Consider the Bayit Yehudi Party and its predecessor the Mafdal – the National Religious Party.
Not once in these past years has it demanded the Communications Ministry portfolio as part of a coalition agreement. Last summer, Likud minister Gilad Erdan steamrolled a law through the Knesset which turns the Israel Broadcasting Authority into the “Public Broadcasting Corporation.” We tried to prevent his law from turning the authority into a post-Zionist one but only Minister Orbach assisted. The other Bayit Yehudi Knesset representatives were hardly present during the committee deliberations and attempts to convince them to take a more active role were not successful.
Both Bennett and the Likud complain about bias on Channel 10, but they had ample time to change Israel’s media map.
Channel 10 should have been closed down years ago due to its hefty debt of over a billion shekels to the Israeli public. But time and time again, it was the Likud that saved the channel. There are at least two TV channels that would jump at the chance to broadcast nationally in Israel: Channel I24 and Channel 20. The Second TV and Radio Authority was appointed by the Likud during these past six years.
Why hasn’t the authority increased pluralism in Israel and provided us with a few more channels? Channel 2’s News Corporation is public, supervised by a public commission. The open bias which leaves a political pundit such as Amnon Abramovitch on the job for years without end, without balancing him, should have been eliminated and could have been eliminated. The only thing missing was leadership and will. But neither the Likud nor Bennett and Bayit Yehudi would have anything to do with this.
The bottom line is that even with the considerable improvement in the media’s performance, specifically in allowing greater pluralism of voices to be heard, the “old guard” of post-Zionist media people is still entrenched in central positions. They create havoc with Israeli public opinion and the perception of Israel abroad. The Likud, and especially the Bayit Yehudi, should realize that defending Israel from its enemies starts at home. Use your empowerment to do away with the current unprofessional and damaging parts of the media.
March 11, 2015
by YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 03/11/2015
The media is constantly bucking the laws of the land which seek to assure fair and objective coverage of the ultimate political process.
A 1924 journalism ethics handbook edited by Kansas academic Nelson Crawford quotes the Detroit News press code, according to which the Friday prior to a Tuesday election day is the last time a “candidate or party should be permitted to print new charges or statements.” The principle behind this is that “no paper should print anything about anybody without allowing ample time for an answer.”
Almost a century later, here in Israel it would appear that any ethically- imposed restriction is ancient history.
The media is constantly bucking the laws of the land which seek to assure fair and objective coverage of the ultimate political process.
This 20th Knesset campaign was highlighted by many media stories which ignored Israel’s current Electioneering Law. This past Sunday, for example, Channel 1 television’s HaMusaf program hostess Geula Even had Avigdor Liberman, Aryeh Deri and Ofir Akunis in the studio for interviews that, for the most part, were election propaganda.
This format was repeated many times on the other two main television channels as well as the two national radio networks and over a dozen regional ones. The only thing lacking was a “vote for me” proclamation accompanied by party jingles.
Undoubtedly, though, it was Ari Shavit who, in a March 9 interview with Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog published in Haaretz, summed up this year’s election campaigns: “But the array of powers that work in Herzog’s favor is often reminiscent of the one that brought Netanyahu down in 1999… The anti-Sheldon Adelsons are generous in their financial support. The media is doing all it can to smear Netanyahu.”
A stark example of this anti-Netanyahu effort by the media in the service of a political ideology was the press conference conducted by the Likud’s Benny Begin and Yuli Edelstein last Sunday. This came in the wake of what was perceived as a devastating piece of investigative journalism by Israel Prize winner Nahum Barnea, senior columnist for the Yediot Aharonot media empire. Begin and Edelstein, known for their integrity, flatly claimed that Barnea was a liar.
In the Yediot weekend edition, Barnea, under a front-page headline, revealed a supposed August 2013 “document of concessions” to which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he asserted, had agreed. It included basing talks with the Palestinians on pre-1967 lines with land swaps, and leaving Jewish communities under Palestinian Authority control. This was headlined with the trope “Netanyahu’s lack of credibility.” Barnea’s integrity, as noted many times in this column, is questionable. This was not a news item but a blunt attempt to convince the public that a certain political contender should not receive their vote.
The Likud spokesmen were also blunt, indeed scathing, in their response. Begin related how 20 years ago Barnea, presented with facts in connection to diplomatic issues, refused to publish them since they served the camp to which he did not belong. Barnea’s current piece, Begin said, as reported in this paper, served those who “want to blacken the name of and cause damage to the prime minister and Likud.” Barnea “fathered a lie,” he added. Edelstein also proclaimed that “the document is a lie.”
They further pointed out that Dennis Ross, a former adviser to three US presidents engaged in the American peace initiative, had declared that Netanyahu never agreed to pre-‘67 lines, dividing Jerusalem or giving the right of return to Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
Why didn’t Barnea check his story with Ross? In a March 8 interview with i24 TV, Barnea offered this explanation: not everyone is aware of all the documents. In a second column, published on the Ynet website, Barnea wrote that Netanyahu’s reaction “was a panicked response in which he, unfortunately, did not tell the truth.”
Could this be just another case of Barnea suppressing information which does not fit his worldview? The media vs. Netanyahu has always been a subtext in Israel, but the eruption this year of spiteful attacks, most of them simply irrelevant to the political, security and social issues facing the electorate, has been astounding in breadth and depth of animosity. In this context, it is also illuminating that Channel 2’s election-evening program will be a normal, open-studio news show – but will also star the station’s left-wing satirical ensemble, Eretz Nehederet (It’s A Wonderful Country). In the eyes of Channel 2, the elections are entertainment. But only when colored appropriately.
No less pervasive is the ignorance of some of our reporters and interviewers.
On the afternoon of March 4, Yossi Sarid was interviewed by Benny Bashan on the Army radio station. This was a very interesting type of interview; Sarid not only answered but also asked most of the questions, while Bashan merely chuckled.
Sarid declared at one point that one reason he was critical Netanyahu’s speech before the US Congress in Washington was that “the word ‘peace’ was not mentioned once.” However, as we all heard, during the speech the prime minister said: “The difficult path [that]…will make all the difference for the future of my country, the security of the Middle East and the peace of the world, the peace we all desire”; and that we cannot “ignore aggression in the hopes of gaining an illusory peace.” Bashan did not call Sarid to order. Was he too mesmerized by a fellow comrade in ideology? Was the program’s editor asleep? Was a correction offered the media consumers? Even when some of the media’s own icons are honest enough to note that the attack on Netanyahu is not always justified, they do not relent. Author David Grossman, who not only opposes Netanyahu’s reelection but also lambasted him for interfering with the process of awarding the Israel Prize, told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica’s Fabio Scuto that, “The points raised in [Netanyahu’s speech]…are important and must be heard…Iran threatens the entire world; this time Netanyahu is right.”
He also characterized the American position as “clumsy” and one of “criminal naivete.” Is it surprising that these comments of Grossman were not the first item on the news? At times, one felt that they were a well-kept secret. After all, hadn’t Tzipi Livni clarified that the prime minister was sacrificing the future of Israel for his personal political gain? It was just not “right” to allow Grossman to spoil the party.
One speech that Central Elections Committee chairman Justice Salim Jubran did not subject to a delay was that of Yair Garboz, who appeared at last Saturday night’s anti-Netanyahu rally. He railed not only against the prime minister but against all those who supported the right-of-center political agenda in terms recalling Dudu Topaz’s 1981 “riff raff” speech that denied Shimon Peres an election victory.
The surreal aspect of his words, calling right-wingers ignorant, racist, piggish pleasure-seekers and destroyers of democracy, were in his summary: “So how is it that the handful rules us? How is it that… the handful has turned into a majority?” In truth, Garboz was just describing, and rather accurately, the reality of our media.
March 4, 2015
by YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 03/04/2015
Bias is unfair to the media consumer who by nature has limited sources of information.
In a normative reality, the media would be reporting on and following news stories, and columnists and pundits analyzing and commented on them from a variety of political and economic outlooks.
If the editors or publishers of a private or commercial media outlet have a specific policy they wish to promote or a candidate they seek to support, they are free to print or broadcast editorials. There is the news and there are the views. To mix them creates bias.
Bias is unfair to the media consumer who by nature has limited sources of information.
The consumer usually has no direct link to events, and thus blurring the line between news and opinion denies him or her the ability to make a reasoned judgment.
The responsibility of state-sponsored media networks to provide objective reporting as well as a plurality of opinion is even greater since, in essence, the public is the editorial board. The directors and editors have no right to unfairly influence the consumer through their broadcasts.
Two weeks ago, this critical observation was made regarding the media: “Nobody wants to associate with anybody who doesn’t agree with them politically… You can’t have a conversation, people won’t listen to each other, they listen to different media, and those different media [outlets] tell different stories about the very same thing… You cannot run a great country like that.”
Sound familiar? Probably it does. But this wasn’t said by an Israeli; those were the words of former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, spoken during the Conference for Women gathering in California last month. They do most certainly, however, touch on the problems media consumers here face in trying to be informed and to make their own decisions on what to do, how to vote and how to forge their own lives.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Washington to speak at the AIPAC convention and, at the invitation of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, to address a joint session of Congress has been one of the main media narratives of these Knesset elections. Is our media reporting the story objectively, with full background and with no agenda but to provide news and balanced commentary? In the fallout from the NBC news anchor Brian “I was there” Williams debacle, Nicole Hemmer, a visiting assistant professor at the universities of Miami and Sydney, wrote in a recent issue of The New Republic of an “evolution in the media bias argument” promoted by the Right. She claims that according to conservatives, mistakes made by journalists and which editors fail to correct are due to a “liberal worldview” that “kept them from questioning assumptions and double-checking information.”
But is that not true? For example, one of the main arguments against the Netanyahu speech is the supposed damage it will do to American-Israeli relations. But the annual Gallup World Affairs poll, conducted February 8-11, indicates this may not be the case. As reported, Netanyahu’s favorable rating has improved in the US, and nearly twice as many Americans view Israel’s leader favorably (45 percent) as unfavorably (24%). Moreover, his favorable score is up from 35% in 2012.
In other words, the stories based on a threat that Netanyahu is doing damage are inadequately reflecting an issue considerably more complex and quite undecided. The support could potentially affect how Americans vote for their representatives in Congress and therefore affect how those politicians, seeking reelection, will be reacting to Netanyahu’s arguments.
A different media line is: “Netanyahu has a credible case to make. Any nuclear agreement that allows Iran to maintain a native uranium enrichment capability… an empire-building, Assad-sponsoring, Yemen-conquering, Israel-loathing, theocratic terror regime is a dicey proposition. The deal that seems to be taking shape right now does not fill me – or many others who support a diplomatic solution to this crisis – with confidence.”
Those lines were from pundit Jeffrey Goldberg, and appeared in The Atlantic this past Sunday. Goldberg is the columnist that first reported the “chickensh**” slander of Netanyahu by a high Obama administration official. Goldberg himself is not favorably inclined to Israel’s prime minister. Indeed, he has not suddenly become a Netanyahu devotee, and still does not approve the prime minister appearing before the joint session of Congress.
But he does attempt, as a professional, to include multiple angles in his writing.
Unfortunately, that cannot be said of too many Israeli journos and pundits, who allow their “anyone but Bibi” ideology to override their professional responsibilities.
Last October, Gershom Gorenberg, quite an opponent of Netanyahu’s, upset about a lack of fact-checking in the media wrote in The American Prospect about his concern over the commitment of journalism to pursue truth. For him, “Putting the truth inside the news report, right after the quote, is the only way to be unbiased.” But that requires an intelligent reporter, a wise editor and a system which assures that lies or misrepresentations are caught before publication. If a news outlet is already prejudiced against its subject, no system can be effective.
Netanyahu’s speech to Congress is a litmus test case for the professionalism of Israel’s media. Sad to say, the result is not heartwarming.
The radio broadcasts (whether the IBA or Army Radio) were interspersed with comments by the anchors. Yonit Levy of TV Channel 2 News, as usual, could not let Netanyahu talk without contributing her two bits of personal opinion. The idea that the consumer should be allowed to first hear the speech, free of any outside influence, did not even occur to the editors of these outlets.
As usual, too much of the ensuing discussion revolved around the silly questions, such as counting ovations, who sat and who stood, how does this influence elections in Israel. The really tough questions, on all sides, just did not come to the fore. Netanyahu has been talking about the Iranian problem for the past six years, but can he show any positive results? The Iranians are amassing on the Golan Heights, what is Israel’s reaction to this? Is Israel prepared for an Iranian-supported attack from the Golan? How does the Iranian threat impact Israel’s budget? Will the various politicians from all parties be able to responsibly divert funds from the defense budget to important social issues? One might argue in their favor that the TV stations have all put pressure on the prime minister to participate in a televised debate with his opponent, Isaac Herzog. But instead of just calling upon them to debate, they should present the public with the questions they intend to ask. But it would seem that the main aim of the networks is not really providing the electorate with important information, but rather with gaining a few more shekels from advertising.
Our recommendation to the electorate is to ignore the commentaries, and try to get the news only. The rest is not worth the effort.
February 19, 2015
|Stymied, frustrated but seeking to campaign forcefully against the media’s bias and unethical practices, Israel’s Media Watch (IMW) was launched 20 years ago, in March 1995.
Two fundamentals guided the monitoring of the media from the outset. The first, to assure objectivity, was that precise quantitative analysis would be employed. Programs were recorded, names of politicians and personalities noted, transcripts were prepared, comparisons were analyzed and broadcast durations registered.
Day after day, program after program, the evidence was collected and reports were issued. The second aspect of IMW’s work was that the criteria used to ascertain the level of fairness and professionalism would be based on Knesset legislation and the professional codes of journalism ethics. These two principles would guarantee that the review would be objective and non-partisan.
Examples abound. One of the easiest aspects to review was gender balance. Twenty years ago, the main radio programs interviewed males 90 percent of the time, and females were usually asked questions about cooking or sexual abuse.
A woman expert in foreign affairs or security or economics was a rare event. The response of radio program host Dalia Yairi was not friendly. IMW was attacked, with Yairi claiming that she was a woman and that was sufficient. But times change, and today we note that gender balance is much improved, though not yet perfect.
A second example is political. In those early years, Israel had only two TV broadcast channels and the broadcasters felt they could do whatever they wanted.
The absolute majority of hosts and panelists of Channel 1 TV’s main talk show, Popolitica, sided with the Oslo accords.
Even a decision of Supreme Court Justice Theodore Or who was chairman of the Central Elections Committee ordering the program not to deal with political issues during the week prior to elections was publicly treated with disdain by the show’s Dan Margalit and Tommy Lapid.
Here, too, one notes today a much more pluralistic approach on talk shows, thanks to the increase of platforms and to the public’s awareness.
Perhaps the most frightening experience of those early years had to do with the events which led to the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. The Eyal organization run by Avishai Raviv was “allowed” to receive exhaustive TV reports on its activities, in which the group explicitly incited to violence. IMW complained, a month before the assassination, but the IBA responded with disdain. This was a clear example of hand washing hand.
Raviv, as we now know, was an agent of Israel’s Internal Security Agency, or Shin Bet. The program portraying a swearing-in ceremony in a cemetery was most certainly organized by Raviv’s manipulators, all in an attempt to discredit the substantial part of the population that were against the Oslo accords and used democratic means to express their misgivings. Such dictatorial manipulations would be much more difficult nowadays.
With time and experience, IMW’s activities branched out. The need for a media review organization became very clear when the ombudsman of the IBA, Victor Grayevsky, requested IMW’s help in assuring that Knesset legislation would not undermine his authority. IMW demanded in the Knesset education committee that the ombudsman’s mandate at the IBA would be no less than that of the public complaints commissioner in the Second TV and Radio Authority. This was accepted fully by the committee and its chairman, MK Immanuel Zisman.
This legislative experience was the first of many. IMW can take credit for quite a few laws and regulations which came into effect during these 20 years. Commercials directed at children were banned during the day. A law was passed by then Education Committee chairman MK Zevulun Orlev which imposed a content rating on TV programs. The Knesset finance committee forced the IBA to submit a full annual budget proposal and report. The Army Radio station was forced to follow the law and submit a report on its advertising. It was also coerced into appointing an ombudsman.
We reported quite a few times in the past few years about IMW’s successes in influencing the new public broadcasting law. IMW’s demand that the TV tax be abolished and be replaced by the annual car license tax was fully enacted. For the first time, everyone will participate in the tax, including the Arab sector and the haredim (ultra-Orthodox). The law-abiding citizen of yesteryear will be paying much less.
Arguably, the most important contribution of IMW is its complaints form page on its website. In the early years, complaints were treated very leisurely. The rules of the game changed the minute that the various authorities became aware that the complaints would be public and that attempting to ignore them would lead to further steps. Now, the answers are published and treated with much greater seriousness.
These complaints have led sometimes to dramatic changes. The regional Arab radio station “Shams” no longer runs a program of greeting to terrorists serving time in prison. Gender discrimination has been all but abolished at the Kol Barama haredi radio station.
As reported only last week, IMW has for the past 15 years awarded the Abramowitz Israeli Media Criticism Prize. The award ceremony has often led to headlines. Only this last Sunday, IMW presidium member Erez Bitton testified at the ceremony how as a member of the Israel Prize committee for literature he had to struggle against political intervention. Former IMW president Minister Yuval Steinitz reminded the audience that prime minister Rabin took away the Israel Prize from Professor Yeshayahu Leibovitz and no one at the time thought that this was “political intervention.”
Israel’s Media Watch broke the ground and in its wake, numerous other media review organizations were created. The extreme Left created the Keshev organization whose mandate was to show that the Israeli press is right-wing. The Israel Democracy Institute created the Internet-based Seventh Eye media review journal. Israel’s Education TV has a media review program, Tik Tikshoret, which incidentally has never found it necessary to interview IMW representatives (so much for the professional standards of that program). Israel’s Right created the Tazpit organization whose mandate was to expose left-wing bias in the media. Foreign media review organizations such Honest Reporting and CAMERA have also created daughter organizations in Israel.
IMW has not only worked from the outside. Its members often themselves became regulators, whether in the IBA plenum or the Second TV and Radio Authority.
IMW reps were members of national review boards, and have testified and presented numerous position papers to governmental committees on a wide spectrum of issues. The main theme has always been to increase pluralism, reduce governmental involvement and foremost, have an open ear for the needs and desires of the public, instead of dictating content to it.
Where will IMW be 20 years from now? Will it still be needed? The answer is yes, because without diligence, the old habits will return. Media bias must be balanced by the media consumers.
February 11, 2015
|The politician’s criticism of the press was harsh, biting and even threatening. As reported, he said: “Some of our national newspapers had sunk to depths of unethical and illegal behavior that disgraced the name of journalism… these weren’t just isolated incidents. They were habitual, and sometimes even matters of policy… a small group of media moguls, executives and senior journalists…enjoyed extraordinary power… They themselves, in my view, have become the power in this country. They have operated like a mafia, intimidating here, bribing there, terminating careers when it suits them and rewarding their most loyal toadies….
“For years, they could ‘fix’ any legislation that affected them, in a way that no other industry could. But it didn’t stop there. Their influence was so great that it became impossible to know who was really running the country… [media publishers are a] little group of greedy, cruel men. They don’t want fairness, they don’t want change. No catalogue of the wrongdoing they have overseen would be long enough to shame them….”
No, those were not the words of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They were spoken by Tom Watson, a Labour MP in Great Britain, during his speech at the second annual Leveson lecture on December 3, 2014.
Watson is the author of Dial M for Murdoch: News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain, and in 2004 won the New Statesman New Media Award under the category of the use of an elected representative using his weblog to further the democratic process.
Here in Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu this past Monday launched an all-out and direct attack on Arnon (Noni) Mozes, the publisher of the Yediot Aharonot newspaper and its affiliated news website Ynet. As reported in this newspaper, he published his thoughts on his Facebook page, writing: “In recent weeks, the attacks on me do not just appear once a day, in the morning, when Yediot Aharonot is distributed. They are published almost every hour and sometimes every half hour on Ynet. These two platforms initiate time and again ridiculous, false and biased slanders against me and my wife as part of a media campaign to replace the Likud government by a left-wing one and allow Noni Moses to take over the media market again.”
Many pundits claimed that this was the first time ever that the prime minister, in the midst of an election campaign, identified someone not running for office as his major target. In the past Netanyahu has attacked the media (as have many others), but did not name anyone specifically. This, according to people like IBA’s political commentator Yoav Krakowsky, was crossing a red line.
The post immediately received a response from Yediot’s most celebrated columnist, Nachum Barnea, an Israel Prize recipient. Defending his paper and place of employment, he was interviewed on IBA’s Reshet Bet 8 a.m. morning program and said, “I don’t understand the style, nor the tone nor why the prime minister has to trouble himself with this type of paranoia… he needs to be hospitalized… he is full of it… he has the ability to decide everything but is full of fears. This war is so strange; it belongs in the psychological ward.”
One notes that Barnea, as is usual for him, did not even attempt to answer Netanyahu’s accusations.
Facts are not important; he preferred to attack the prime minister, using language which certainly does not befit an Israel Prize recipient. Another irrational media view was Sefi Rachlevsky’s writing in Tuesday’sHaaretz that Netanyahu “took control of nearly all Israeli media outlets.”
Netanyahu’s post is part of a much deeper struggle, one between two media moguls, Arnon Mozes and Sheldon Adelson. Later in the day, a lawyer named Shachar Ben-Meir petitioned Judge Salim Jubran, who chairs the Central Elections Committee, demanding that the Israel Hayom newspaper be instructed “to refrain from and to stop publishing election propaganda.” The brief bases itself among other things on the opinion of Anat Balint, a former media reporter for Haaretz and a contributor to the Israel Democracy Institute’s Seventh Eye website.
Her message was that Israel Hayom’s “coverage of the prime minister is aimed foremost to glorify the politician Netanyahu, his family and his surroundings and to eliminate and blur any criticism of him.
As such, it is preferable to consider it as propaganda rather than journalistic reporting.”
She also appeared on Channel 1 TV’s HaMussaf program this past Monday and stated that Netanyahu is hostile to the media, does not defend freedom of the press and incites against the media, which is, to her mind, the basis for democracy. The next day she was interviewed by Ben Caspit on Channel 2, repeating her views. Former Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner, president of Israel’s Journalists Association, noted that any newspaper has a right to take a position and that this is part of the democratic process.
However, we cannot fathom what makes Justice Jubran tick. He did not hesitate to stop foreign minister Avigdor Liberman and his Yisrael Beytenu party from handing out free copies of the Charlie Hebdo magazine, as this he deemed to constitute bribing the electorate, which is prohibited by law.
In previous election campaigns, the standard practice was the free distribution of propaganda material under the guise of a newspaper. Liberman has taken the case to the Supreme Court, which will consider it next week.
The truth is that Yisrael Hayom does support the prime minister. It is also true that Yediot Aharonot is out to get him, and there is nothing wrong with this per se. A privately-owned newspaper has the right to have a political line. For example, it is very clear that Haaretz is a post-Zionist newspaper while Makor Rishon, its main competitor, is Zionist in orientation.
Some claim that Israel Hayom is “different” because it is distributed freely. But so are many newspapers all over the world. Moreover, Ynet is also distributed freely. Does this make it any less newsworthy? The real issue is not the pulling of the wool over the eyes of the public. Yediot Aharonot has the audacity to call itself the “state’s newspaper.” 20 years ago it was a monopoly and could formally claim this.
Today, not only is it no longer a monopoly, Israel Hayom beats its circulation. Yediot is in truth a left-wing paper. It is not neutral; it is not “the state’s” newspaper. Its pretensions, however, tell us all that is wrong about it. The paper is not really interested in purveying the truth, least of all about itself. One thing positive which might result from all this brouhaha is that the public has been made more aware that Yediot does not live up to its self-made and false image.