January 22, 2017
|For more than half a year, Eldad Yaniv has been publishing stories in his column on Walla’s website promising a spectacular revelation regarding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ethics as well as hinting at criminal actions. He was the pincer’s second jaw, along with Channel 10’s Raviv Drucker, in an attempt to cause the prime minister to resign.
Yaniv was previously an extremely close adviser to former prime minister Ehud Barak, of the Labor Party.
He coauthored the New Zionist Left political manifesto, and also ran in the 2013 elections as head of the Eretz Hadasha (New Land) Party, which failed to garner enough votes to pass the electoral threshold. He styles himself a social activist and journalist.
Yaniv and Drucker are not the only ones who have been promoting the doomsday scenario for Netanyahu.
The mainstream media, via Army Radio, Yediot Aharonot and Haaretz began to fall in line along with channels 2 and 10. Yaniv was extensively interviewed, commentators commented and predictions were made – all with a negative attitude toward Netanyahu. No one investigated how Yaniv “knew” what he knew or what his sources were. Details began to emerge only during these past two weeks, and even now, no one has bothered to inform the public who is doing the leaking.
There are two central stories. One has to do with expensive presents received by Netanyahu and his family from friendly moguls. The other has been portrayed as an attempt to bribe Netanyahu, through the vehicle of favorable press coverage by the Yediot Aharonot media empire, in return for the elimination of Israel Hayom.
We cannot judge the seriousness of the claims against Netanyahu. But we note that what started out as questions about how many cigars were gifted to Netanyahu and how many bottles of pink champagne Sara Netanyahu imbibed, has ended up as a major debacle for the local media. Whether Arnon “Noni” Mozes, owner and publisher of Yediot Aharonot, will be indicted for attempted bribery is meaningful, but not the real essence of the story. His attempted negotiations with Netanyahu, ostensibly to eradicate his competition, revealed the true face of the country’s self-proclaimed “most influential newspaper.” Mozes is motivated by crass commercial interests, rather than the champion of the free press he portrays himself as.
As MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) said: “On a public level, this is a very grave thing… there’s a risk here that the public will lose faith in the government and in the media.”
Based on the published transcripts of the negotiations between Mozes and Netanyahu, whose genuineness has so far not been denied, Mozes sought to trade with Netanyahu: favorable coverage for a law that would weaken Israel Hayom.
The proposed legislation, portrayed as “saving” the domestic press from the jaws of billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the owner of Israel Hayom, was, it turned out, a major element in Netanyahu’s decision to call early elections in 2015. This past Sunday Netanyahu freely admitted this consideration on his Facebook page.
The legislation was initiated by Eitan Cabel of the Zionist Union in 2014, passed its early reading in the Knesset, against the wishes of the prime minister who voted against it, and was halted only when the Knesset was dissolved. Cabel has been questioned by the police.
This sordid affair has set off an internal media war.
Haaretz is attacking Yediot, as is Israel Hayom. Nahum Barnea, Yediot’s Israel Prize-winning journalist, claimed in his January 12 column that “everyone is a suspect.”
He added, “The reports that are being published are hard to digest for the newspaper’s editors and writers, who are doing an excellent job fearlessly and [without bias]. They are difficult for me too.”
If indeed Mozes was promising a quid pro quo in the form of a more moderate portrayal of the prime minister, this means that self-promoting journalists such as Barnea, who are on Mozes’s payroll and who ferociously attacked the prime minister, are in fact far from what they would want their public image to be.
They are nothing more than pens for hire. Barnea, in writing “everyone,” really means “no one.”
Barnea, though, reserved a special barb for Haaretz.
Accusing it of possessing “a lot of influence on the legal system and on the regulators,” he noted that the fact that it’s printing of Israel Hayom in its printing house was a factor that “contributed to the repression [of the country’s press freedom].”
But the story does not end with the media. It might also have serious political repercussions. Various ministers and MKs have already been required to give testimony to police. One name that has not appeared is that of Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett. Will he be investigated? Let us recall that beginning in 2013 Bennett benefited from some rather flattering coverage in Yediot. The observation in the media was that he had managed to make it onto Yediot Aharonot’s prestigious list in record time.
Bennett, openly competing with Netanyahu as leader of the nationalist camp, was also one of the supporters of the short-lived anti-Israel Hayom bill. Bayit Yehudi Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked also supported the bill.
Did they agree to or were they offered a quid pro quo? Netanyahu claims that the negotiation with Mozes was a farce, or better, a sting operation. He purposely had his chief of staff Ari Harrow tape the meetings, so that if necessary he could use the material against Mozes. From his point of view, the tapes prove Mozes is hungry for power and money. Morals, or the media ethics code, were the last thing on his mind.
Was it a sting operation? Was Netanyahu trying to curry favor or was he trapping Mozes? We do not know, but just like Mozes, Netanyahu’s image has been sullied.
From the material published thus far, it turns out that Netanyahu’s emphasis was on the negative portrayal he was receiving from Mozes and his cronies. We would have expected that the prime minister would take the high road and blast Mozes for destroying the concept of a free press. Instead, like Mozes, it seems that his central interest was self-preservation and the public interest be damned.
We should not forget that a central issue on the agenda is the status of the public media. Netanyahu is also the communications minister. Thus far, he has used high terminology in his attempts to derail the establishment of the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation, which is supposed to replace the Israel Broadcasting Authority. But after this Mozes mess, can the public trust that the prime minister’s interests are pure?
The aftermath of the Mozes debacle is that in Israel, an independent media is a myth. It doesn’t exist in the private sector or in the public one. It is high time that public funding for the media be stopped, but not less so, the prime minister should not, if he wants to protect his image, continue to serve as communications minister.
January 4, 2017
|A central role of government is regulation and oversight. The regulation of restaurants, building standards, educational standards and such is necessary and, in principle, serves the population as a whole. At the same time, regulatory agencies often have too much power, power that stifles private initiative and competition.
And so the question is: who then regulates the regulators? Certainly not the government, especially not in a democracy where the professional regulatory staff outlives by years any elected politician.
In a democracy, the job falls to the media.
Despite criticism, the media very often is helpful in this regard. Radio and TV programs often bring up cases in which the rights of the individual have been trodden upon due to one governmental agency or the other. But there is one sector which for many years has been almost free to do what it wants without fear of the media: the media regulatory agencies.
Their power in Israel is much too great – and they do not hesitate to use it. It is the Second Authority for TV and Radio (SA TR) and the Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting (CCTSB) which for many years have prevented the development of a free competitive media atmosphere.
Well into the twenty-first century Israel’s radio broadcasts are deeply mired in the middle of the twentieth. National news on the airwaves is controlled by the publicly funded media organs – Galatz, the army radio station, and the Israel Broadcasting Authority. The SA TR has for years fought tooth and nail to prevent truly free radio broadcasting in Israel. The media itself has been silent on this matter.
The regional radio stations, organized in the Second Authority framework, are part of this deal. They do not let their journalists expose SA TR’s conflict of interest, which is to hold on to its regulatory power at the expense of the public’s right to free airwaves.
In return, SA TR safeguards the turf of the regional radio stations. It does not permit the opening of new ones, or puts in place impossible regulatory conditions.
The public pays the price by being cheated out of multiple voices, news and opinions as well as cultural diversity.
The situation was not any better on TV.
For many years only channels two and 10 were allowed to broadcast news. The result was boring, one-sided and all too often post-Zionist news programs. Of course, if the prime minister attacks the media this is immediately interpreted as an attempt to control it. A better alternative is, as we have done over the years, to point out to the prime minister, especially in view of the fact that he is also the communications minister, that if he really wanted to he could change the situation by reducing the powers of the regulatory agencies.
In fact, almost under the radar, this is precisely what he and his director general, Shlomo Filber, have been doing. Israel Channel 20 TV went on air on June 30, 2014. It was a cable station, operating under the watchful eyes of the CCTSB. Its mandate was to provide “Jewish” TV. That is, to assure that viewers would have the option of seeing more Jewish content than was available on other channels. It was considered an entertainment channel and specifically forbidden to broadcast news of any form.
The channel, true to its mandate, did the unthinkable: it displayed the Israeli flag on its broadcasts. Instead of welcoming the change, Haaretz was upset. On March 30, 2015, Rogel Alpher ran a piece headlined, “Channel 20: An Illegal Outpost on our Television Screens.” The subtitle was “by displaying an Israeli flag every second of every day, the cable station – which is supposed to broadcast Jewish content, not right-wing propaganda – looks more like the state-run channel in some dictatorial Arab regime.”
Worse, though, the channel very much wanted to broadcast news. The CCTSB forbade it. As summarized in a recent article on the INN website by Ofra Lax, the channel managed to get itself fined a total of NIS 400,000 for broadcasting news without permission. TV channels two and 10 were outraged. They rightly perceived that in time, Channel 20 would encroach upon their monopoly. Channel 10, the perennial thief of public funds and violator of written contracts, even went to the Supreme Court demanding that Channel 20 not be allowed to broadcast news.
After a lengthy process the CCTSB finally caved under the pressure. On December 22 it allowed Channel 20 to broadcast a one-hour news program at some point between eight and 11 p.m. Another 30 minutes of news were allotted for the rest of the day. One may rest assured that this permit did not come without political backing from the Prime Minister’s Office. Indeed, as reported on The Times of Israel website, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the channel adding: “I will continue to work for competition in the media industry in Israel so that you – the citizens of Israel – can choose who to watch and who to hear.”
This is real progress, but slow and limited.
Why does a regulatory agency find it necessary to limit news content? Its job is to assure that the content abides by the ethical code, no more and no less. Of course, we do not expect channels two and 10 to do their job and criticize the CCTSB for its draconian decision. But the least one would have expected is that our public broadcasting stations, especially the IBA which claims that “it’s yours and for you,” meaning the public, would pick up the cause and help the CCTSB open up much more.
But that is not the case. Our public broadcasting stations, in collusion with the commercial ones, will do everything to protect their turf. Democracy, free speech and all other nice slogans are conveniently forgotten.
But, the times, they are a’ changing, slowly but surely.
This past Tuesday, the Knesset took a first step to allow cable TV companies to also own TV news channels. This should allow the HOT TV, owned by Patrick Drahi, who also owns HOT, to broadcast the i24 News channel. To prevent unfair competition with its competitor YES, the cable company will have to allow YES to also broadcast i24 News. This is a double win: Israel will be getting another news station and it will hopefully appear on both cable companies.
The same day the Knesset also passed a law mandating the continued operation of the IBA and delaying implementing the law mandating the new and post-Zionist Israel Broadcasting Corporation. This, too, is a healthy step. Public broadcasting is justified only if it serves Israel, not if it attempts on a daily basis to undermine it and its institutions.
These recent steps, which limit and overrule the regulatory powers which deny us a pluralistic media, should be cheered by anyone who values freedom of speech and opinion.
December 21, 2016
|Last week, we were informed that President- elect Donald Trump will appoint David Friedman as the next US Ambassador to Israel. Friedman is an unabashed supporter of Israel, and a proud member of the Jewish People. He, like Trump, is not politically correct, supports Israel’s right to settle in Judea and Samaria, and “worst” of all, does not believe in the viability of the two-state solution. The self-proclaimed Israel lovers all over the world are really worried.
Something must be done to stop this insanity! President-elect Trump must be brought to his senses! The future of Israel as a liberal democracy is at stake! If God forbid the US Embassy would be returned to its proper place – the unified city of Jerusalem – as advocated by Friedman, Israel’s place among the nations would be jeopardized, and they warn it would become, in the words of J Street, an “apartheid” state. The impression this and other similar groups in the Jewish “progressive” camp wish to purvey is that the United States would be creating havoc within the Arab world, would lose its influence, and it is clearly against American interests to allow such a policy to become reality.
Much is at stake. It is unthinkable that our local media, as well as that of Europe and parts of the American media, who presume to know it all, would find out that in reality – as compared to their imaginary media world – the annexation of Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital would after 50 years be recognized as such, without ifs and without buts.
This is a war launched by the media, and it started with the New York Times’ mild headline of last Thursday: “Trump chooses hard-liner as ambassador to Israel.” But the column itself was far from mild. The Times made sure that its readers would know that in June Friedman wrote: “The kapos faced extraordinary cruelty … But J Street? They are just smug advocates of Israel’s destruction delivered from the comfort of their secure American sofas – it’s hard to imagine anyone worse.”
The sign was given, and the good and loyal soldier, in the form of Haaretz, immediately followed through. The next day, December 16, one might have thought that an international incident of the highest urgency had occurred. Their headline was “Trump taps David Friedman as US ambassador to Israel.” But in the article describing the atrocious act, we are informed “Friedman has been a columnist for two Israeli rightwing English-language media outlets: Arutz Sheva and The Jerusalem Post.” One wonders what some of the editorial writers in this paper think about their identification as being part of a “right-wing” newspaper. Personally, we are proud of it, but this is beside the point. Writing in a “right-wing newspaper” obviously identifies the author as belonging to an immoral camp. Friedman’s antipathy to J Street to whom he referred to in one of his articles as “worse than Kapos,” was similarly mentioned.
This, though, was just the beginning.
Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev, on the same day, had an article headlined: “Trump’s radical- right ambassador makes Netanyahu look like a J Street lefty.” True to form, the subtitle was: “It’s good thing ambassador-designate David Friedman will have diplomatic immunity; otherwise he might get arrested for incitement.” Shalev wrote that “from where Friedman stands, most Israelis … are more or less traitors.” Ridiculous, libelous, but who are we to dare and disagree with a Mr. Know-it-all? Indeed, in Shalev’s la-la land, Friedman’s ilk would “give rise to more extreme leaders who will try to spark a new intifada.”
Debra Nussbaum Cohen followed in the same direction, making sure to repeat Friedman’s crimes against J Street. Arieh Golan of Israel Radio, who had publicly sided with Hillary Clinton, was quick to pick up the implications. In his ramblings prior to the 7 a.m. news magazine on Friday morning, he made sure that all of Israel knows that Friedman dared to accuse those peace-loving J Street supporters. Actually, Friedman’s crime was of the worst kind: he dared to use World War 2 imagery with respect to the decent people of J Street.
Back at Haaretz, Allison Kaplan Sommer cited Friedman as saying “Palestinians seek ethnic cleansing of Jews.” The paper made sure to remind the world that on a September 11 interview, Friedman claimed that “Palestinians want ‘their so-called state’ to be, ‘as the Nazis said, Judenrein,’ or devoid of Jews.”
The battle intensified on that same Friday, with The New York Times, no less, describing the appointment as “a dangerous choice.”
In the words of the Times editorial board, Friedman “would be far more likely to provoke conflict in Israel and the occupied territories… and undermine American leadership.”
The New York Times also knows it all, noting that Friedman “hold(s) extremist views that are radically at odds with … the views of most Americans.” One wonders whether their source was the same reliable one that predicted the victory of Hillary Clinton.
But who cares about truth these days, when such catastrophic events are unfolding.
The onslaught continued Sunday with Barak Ravid, one of Haaretz’s senior correspondents, and true to form army radio station Galatz picked it up. Prior to the 7 a.m. news, Asaf Lieberman, the anchor – whom we pointed out some weeks ago was also a Clinton supporter – made sure to read out his column, and then have Ro’I Dan and Rotem Danon, two discussants with the same views, criticize the appointment.
The European media followed through.
The Swiss Neue Zuericher Zeitung had the headline: “Trump is sending more than Netanyahu would like,” as if the correspondent, Ulrich Schmidt, knows how to read the prime minister’s mind. The article clarifies to the Swiss public that Friedman is an unrealistic hardliner. The Frankfurter Allgemiene Zeitung stressed that Friedman is an Orthodox Jew who supports moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and has nothing against the construction of settlements on “Palestinian land.” Their political correspondent for Israel, Jochen Stahnke, knows that Friedman calls all those who think differently “antisemites.” And so the diatribe continues.
The British Guardian was not far off the mark. Correspondents Peter Beuamont in Jerusalem and Julian Borger in Washington open their report with: “Donald Trump has named as his ambassador to Israel a pro-settler lawyer who has described some US Jews as worse than concentration camp prisoner- guards.”
The French LeMonde had it that “Friedman is actively engaged with the extreme Israeli right wing.”
Even veteran Israeli presenter Ya’akov Achimier broadcast on his weekly Saturday night Ch. 1 program “Seeing the World” a CNN review of Friedman’s appointment, without finding it necessary to mention that CNN was an avid supporter of Clinton, that it had its facts wrong prior to the election, and in general, has a pro-left bias.
The bottom line is clear: the liberal leftwing media will do all that it can to stop this appointment, with no holds barred. We would only hope that President-elect Trump will continue to ignore these voices which belong to the past, and do what he believes in, support Israel wholeheartedly.
The authors are members of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imediaw.org.il).
December 8, 2016
|For almost a decade, since his 2008 story on the travel arrangements and expenses of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, investigative reporter Raviv Drucker, current star of Channel 10 television, host of its investigative reporting magazine Hamakor (“the Source”), has been trying to haul Netanyahu before criminal proceedings.
The history of their mutual animosity is long and complex but it has not only become a local story. It has also attracted foreign media attention especially those who seem to delight in portraying Israel as undemocratic or akin to dictatorships.
Ha’aretz’s Udi Segal recently told The Guardian’s Peter Beaumont that Netanyahu is in “a win-win situation because he manages to have a chilling effect on the media outlets while portraying himself as a victim.” Of course, it could be just the opposite: that the media, while portraying itself as a victim, is actually attempting to frighten or chill the prime minister with, so far, baseless reporting of his supposed crimes and illegalities.
Even Drucker himself, in that same December 1 Guardian interview, admitted, “I don’t think we’re on the slippery slope towards Erdogan and Putin. In Russia and Turkey people like me were already behind bars years ago.”
What is new is the extent to which Drucker and his fellow journalists, such as Ilana Dayan of Channel 2 television, are willing to bend ethics for the sake of their crusade to bring the “Bibi era” to an end, as well as distort Netanyahu’s personal responses on social media platforms.
At the beginning of November, Dayan, who hosts the investigative reporting Uvda program, after unsuccessfully attempting to smear Netanyahu through the actions of his wife, read out the response from the Prime Minister’s Office word-for-word for over six minutes. That response was sharp, biting, and it labeled her a “leftist.”
In Drucker’s case, Netanyahu took to Facebook and wrote, “by means of daily brainwashing the public and character assassination against me and my family, the [media] hope to distract the public’s attention from the core issues of the political debate in Israel.”
Some journalists, like Greer Fay Cashman, are wondering if Drucker is “carrying out a vendetta against Netanyahu and members of his family.” As she wrote last week, “when Drucker can’t find any real dirt to hurl at the prime minister, he starts on Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, and son Yair…
This week Drucker really went overboard [in reporting on the Netanyahu family’s relations with Australian James Packer].”
Yoav Yitzhak, an award-winning investigative journalist in his own right claimed in a November 21 Galatz radio interview that Drucker had been misleading the public when he “exposed” the “conflict of interest” in the purchase of German submarines, involving David Shimron, who also happens to be Netanyahu’s personal lawyer and confidant. Yitzhak used rather strong words with respect to Drucker: “He misled everyone; false information, simply a blood libel.”
The seeming vendetta against the prime minister even reached the Saban Conference in America last week where part of his video recorded message echoed a Facebook post Netanyahu published a week ago: “It is also amusing to hear the media’s cries of dismay and its double standards when I respond to their smears. They hold freedom of speech to be a preeminent value – as long as it is reserved only for them.”
Drucker’s crusades are not limited to the prime minister. This past Sunday, journalist Erel Segal interviewed Oded Svorai, a lawyer, on his Galatz radio program. Svorai is a personal friend of Brig.-Gen. Ofer Winter, formerly a commander of the Gaza Division’s Northern Brigade and currently the chief of staff to the GOC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Roni Numa. Svorai related that in 2012, Drucker sent a soldier with a concealed recording device to try and entrap Winter, by getting him to admit to giving an order to shoot an innocent Arab boy. Winter not only was not trapped, he offered to provide the soldier with psychological help.
To defend his actions, Drucker, on his Facebook page, insisted that the soldier had initiated the matter and that he (Drucker) was simply using normal methods of obtaining evidence. As reported in Walla, according to Svorai, the soldier, when caught with the recording device, claimed that Drucker sent him. “Drucker understood that you would be appointed to head the Givati brigade and we decided to prevent that from happening.” Winter, a religious soldier, drew criticism for his biblically phrased battle order to the Givati Division at the start of Operation Protective Edge, as well as his later Hannibal Order, aimed at preventing Israeli soldiers from falling into the hands of Hamas.
The prime minister himself was angered at the method Drucker employed. Using Facebook, a platform which nowadays is replacing newspapers, televisions and radios, he attacked Drucker, posting, “If this is true, it is just shocking.” He then launched a frontal assault, adding, “The people of Israel know full well that Channel 10 is taking part in the smear campaign led by [Yediot Aharonot publisher] Noni Mozes, Raviv Drucker and others… Channel 10 airs libelous propaganda against me and my family every night, with the goal of toppling a Likud prime minister, but apparently Channel 10 and Drucker think that is not enough. [Will] Drucker, the darling of the New Israel Fund… be investigated as well?” As we have noted previously, it was as though Netanyahu himself, who knuckled under media pressure and, despite Channel 10’s enormous debts of unpaid financial broadcasting license commitments to the state – to the tune of over NIS 60 million – permitted them to continue to broadcast.
For over ten years, Channel 10 created an ethos of unethical relations to the state.
This creates a lack of respect for law, order and ethics.
Netanyahu’s weakness as well as those of many other politicians in facing off against a media corporation has aided and abetted this atmosphere.
This lack of respect surfaced again on Drucker’s Hamakor program on Tuesday evening. Evidently, Winter’s ethical reaction to Drucker’s setup was strong enough to prevent Drucker from even attempting to use it directly. But this did not deter Drucker or his partner Baruch Kra from trying to give Winter and General Sami Turgeman (Winter’s boss) a black eye. The central accusation was that they dared to try and solve sexual problems that were disclosed over two years ago within the Givati Brigade on their own without going to the police. The program was a rehash of known stories, nothing really newsworthy in them except for muckraking, innuendos and unsubstantiated accusations.
We should add that Turgeman and Winter’s “guilt” is that they are excellent soldiers who continue to make significant contributions to the security of the State of Israel.
But this does not deter Kra and Drucker.
Kra used the summary at the end of the program to describe Winter’s behavior as “disgraceful.” Winter was not even asked to respond. We should pity Drucker. His legacy is the attempt to give people a black eye from the bully pulpit. Truth, ethics and honest journalism are beyond him.
November 23, 2016
|There is no question that the American media suffered a colossal and embarrassing double failure during the US presidential election campaign. It did not assess the possible outcomes nor did it provide fair coverage of the day-to-day developments. The failures should have been a déjà vu moment for those who have been following our columns these past years as well as our work at Israel’s Media Watch since 1995.
Israel’s elections in 1996 and 2015 as well as many intermediate events were treated by Israel’s mainstream media in an almost parallel fashion.
To their credit, American media figures admitted their errors. Will Rahn, political correspondent at CBS, wrote, “We were all tacitly or explicitly with Hillary Clinton” while “mocking the people who had a better sense of what was going on.” He admitted the press’ “assumption that Trump voters are backward, and that it’s our duty to catalogue and ultimately reverse that backwardness.” Journalists possess “smugness [and] meanness” toward the electorate, he wrote.
The New York Times’s Frank Bruni referred to “we geniuses in the news media” who were “telling… how the Republican Party was unraveling.”
He admitted that the media’s “political correctness has morphed into a moral… sanctimony, undermining its own goals.”
His is a fair description of the elitist character of too many media figures, editors, producers and reporters not only in the US but also here in Israel.
The rumblings from below were heard in America but during the campaign the media there ignored and rejected the valid criticism directed at it, refusing to take stock of its performance.
On August 22 this year, it was reported that nearly four in 10 American voters believe that the US media was biased toward the Democratic presidential nominee. Thirty-three percent said that the media’s fairness to each candidate was “poor.” A September 14 headline reads: “Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low” and an October 19 poll had it that “Majority of voters believe media biased against Trump.”
The findings of a post-election poll by the Media Research Center (MRC) claimed 69% of voters “do not believe the news media are honest and truthful” and that 78% of voters believe the news coverage of the presidential campaign was biased, with 59% of them believing Clinton was the media’s favorite.
Polls in Israel also indicate a growing disdain for the ability or even willingness of the media to preserve the values of professional objectivity and fairness. In light of the American experience, will our journos take time out to reconsider the way their own personal prejudices corrupt their reporting? We doubt it.
CBS’s Rahn, quoted above, could have been commenting on Israel’s media when he wrote, “Journalists, at our worst, see ourselves as a priestly caste. We believe we not only have access to the indisputable facts, but also a greater truth, a system of beliefs divined from an advanced understanding of justice.”
The damage done is not a simple matter of wrong facts or misunderstood trends but, as The Washington Post’s Kathleen Parker noted on November 18, “Of all the losers in this season of discontent, the mainstream media top the list…. and I sincerely fear that loss of faith in journalism ultimately will cause more harm to the nation than any outside enemy could hope to.”
Despite being witness to all this, and more, many of our own media people continue in their unethical, smug and sanctimonious ways.
The press here gleefully reported that only 24% of US Jewry voted for Trump. This was based on exit polls which we know were not accurate.
Who cares? The fact that Jewish voters played a crucial role in certain key states that swung to Trump, like Florida, was simply ignored by our media.
Consider Aryeh Golan, whose performance has been criticized by us many times in the past. He was sent to cover Election Day and its aftermath in the US and chose to cover the happenings at the Clinton base.
To his chagrin, in more ways than one, the center of attention turned to the Trump camp where Nathan Gutman was installed. The least that should have resulted from his professional debacle is that he would come to realize and internalize the errors of the media. But no, that would be asking too much. Political correctness cannot be discarded so quickly.
Just this past Sunday, Golan in his unethical personal opinion opening to Reshet Bet radio’s morning news magazine continued his Trump bashing.
Among other remarks, he said the following: “Now Trump is putting together his dream team. An attorney general who hates blacks and the Ku Klux Klan only disturbs him because the use marijuana; a national security adviser who tweets with respect to the possible election of Clinton – ‘no more you Jews, no more’; and Steve Bannon who according to testimony of his former wife thinks that the Jews educate their children as crybabies.”
Golan considers Trump and his aides to be antisemites. Golan is ridiculous and petty, but his editors and bosses do not even chastise him for debasing our publicly funded broadcasting, presumably they too have been infected with political correctness.
The story, however, is not only Trump, for here in Israel, it is also Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Too many in our media really despise the prime minister and are willing to clutch at any straw to try and remove him. The latest story is the decision to obtain submarines from Germany and the fact that Netanyahu’s adviser, advocate David Shimron, had as his client businessman Miki Ganor who was employed by the German submarine building company. Raviv Drucker of Channel 10 was the one who got the scoop, and the media jumped at it.
Sure enough, opposition leader Isaac Herzog fell into the trap and is now calling on the Knesset to appoint an official inquiry panel. In contrast to many Israelis and Americans who have stopped believing the media, Herzog did not study the issue deeply and took the populistic route.
Had he done his homework he would have realized that Netanyahu’s dealings were, as reported on the News One website by Yoav Yitzchak, government to government. Netanyahu could not have had any direct contact with the construction company, since this was a decision solely of the German government. In other words, Netanyahu certainly did not commit any breach of trust, let alone any legal violation. But, our media has been incessantly promoting the issue already for a whole week, and woe to the person who dares question it. Yitzchak was not interviewed on public radio; the powers there do not believe that his type of reporting is worthy of their listeners. Did we mention smugness and a “we know it all” attitude?
The bottom line is that Israel’s media does not understand the public, does not want to cater to it, is not willing to change its ways and like El Al, is digging its own grave.
November 10, 2016
|T he latest brouhaha surrounding the decision of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to stop the establishment of the new Israeli Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) and leave the old Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) as is, has been humongous. It did not come from the public, but from the media itself. The amount of harangues against the PM and coalition head MK David Bitan has been unprecedented. How dare these two rethink the process initiated by former Finance Minister and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Likud Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan? One might think that the decision really threatens Israeli democracy and moves Israel towards fascism.
The truth is far from it.
Let’s put things in perspective and proportion. In February 2016, England’s BBC came under criticism.
The Commons Media select committee had said the BBC’s Trust, its management body, has a culture that is considered “bureaucratic, arrogant and introspective” and called for the abolition of the public broadcaster’s governing body.
The committee’s 65-page report said the BBC’s “lack of transparency” about the pay of stars and senior executives “must be addressed.” It called for the BBC to have a unitary board with an independent chair. There are echoes here of criticism voiced in Israel, both in regard to inherent bias in a so-called public broadcaster (the “public” being a small elitist unrepresentative clique) and atrocious management style regarding personnel and the authority’s budget.
There is nothing outlandish in critically reviewing a public broadcaster’s performance. Democracy is not being threatened – at least no more than an unsupervised public media outlet that demands complete freedom from public control.
As readers of this column know, we were and continue to be highly critical of Erdan and his formation of the IBC.
His legislation suffered from major drawbacks. The IBC was formed on a post-Zionist basis. It disconnected the public corporation paid for by the taxpayers from any public influence on it. The facts speak for themselves. The new IBC, just like the old IBA, does not give a hoot about public opinion.
It makes the decisions for us, and in the old Bolshevik bosses-know-it-all style.
Bitan claims that the new IBC is left of center. The problem is that the old IBA is not exactly right of center. Why then does he support either one of them? The mantra is that Israel needs a public broadcaster. But why? For more than 20 years, Israel Media Watch’s monitoring of the IBA showed unequivocally that it was a fiefdom that abrogated power unto itself, avoiding oversight of its activities. It did not represent the public interest and worse, it sought to manage the news rather than report it.
According to the Landes commission set up by Erdan, the IBC does not need to broadcast to the Jewish Diaspora, is not committed to Jewish values, does not need to cater to minorities (for example to the Israeli English speaking public), there is no need for it to produce Jewish-oriented drama and Jewish values take a back seat. Landes’ center of attention was news. In this day and age do we really need to spend taxpayer money to get news? Many years ago, the old IBA provided an important service. It lived up to its mandate, as a Jewish Israeli broadcaster.
But during the past 20 years, it has moved away from its ethos. Even the Hebrew language is no longer respected by the IBA and its new cadre of hyperactive journalists. Advertisement is the name of the game, the more ads the more money for the personnel. The public suffers silently, but the IBA couldn’t care less.
It freely spends our money. Was it necessary to send Kol Yisrael’s Arye Golan to America to cover the elections, when the IBA already has a correspondent (Natan Gutman) there? Yes, if you ask Golan, he is having a great time there, on our account.
Do we really need a public broadcaster that competes unfairly with private stations? It receives public funding and so can afford to take less for advertising.
One can understand Netanyahu’s frustration with the media. In July, Haaretz attacked Netanyahu in defense of Yedioth Ahronot. “Netanyahu Declares War on Israel’s Media” was the title of Yossi Verter’s July 23 column in which he claimed that “the prime minister has shamelessly set out to annihilate free press”.
A week earlier, another rabble-rousing piece, an “analysis” no less, was titled “Netanyahu runs amok in his attack on freedom of the press.” Ilana Dayan, who has a weekly radio program on the publicly funded Galatz radio station, had the gall to warn that everything necessary must be done to prevent Netanyahu from closing the IBC.
True to her word, this past Monday, Dayan devoted her Channel 2 TV program Uvda (Fact) to a rehash of charges made against Netanyahu in the past, none of which have been proven in a court of law. Even Haaretz admitted that “the general gist of the report was already known to Israelis who have been following these affairs closely in recent years, but the package created by Dayan and her team was both compelling and disturbing.”
Dayan read out a six-minute long response from the Prime Minister’s office and then, added a droopy, if even snide smile, another silent-butdeadly tactic media people employ, similar to the infamous Haim Yavin raised eyebrow. They don’t even need to say anything biased. The PM’s office reaction which Dayan read out was a list of cases accusing Dayan of partiality and belonging to Israel’s left.
The media, instead of considering any of the points raised by the PM continued the attack. The “political correspondents forum” of Israel published a manifest signed by notable public broadcasting correspondents such as Ilil Shachar from Galatz and Shimon Aran and Yair Weinreb from the IBA. The letter noted that “in a democracy the government cannot threaten journalists. A situation in which the PM… paints journalists politically undermines Israeli democracy.”
The truth is that the PM’s critics, as well as those of MK Bitan, have one interest: to continue to control and undermine Israel’s public media.
Dayan does not understand that she has to make one of two choices, either to publicly defend the IBC, or to host a documentary program. Doing both puts her in a conflict of interest and the public loses its trust in her veracity.
For more than 20 years, we thought that the good outweighs the bad. Israel could benefit from public broadcasting, but only if it is truly public and caring of the public. Sadly, this is a pipe dream.
Israel’s public broadcasters are incapable of providing us with fair, pluralistic, Zionist and Jewish-oriented programming. They are not willing to internalize that they are public servants.
Who knows, perhaps Trump’s victory in the USA is a sign that also here the old elites should start counting their days of hegemony. It is high time to close down the public broadcasters – all of them, including Galatz.
October 13, 2016
On Wednesday morning last week, the day after Rosh Hashana, Aryeh Golan, anchor of Kol Yisrael radio’s morning news digest, opened the 8 a.m. broadcast with several minutes devoted to the Gaza flotilla and a march by a new NGO, Women Wage Peace.
The flotilla was an effort by 13 women. The march was supposedly by 2,000 women or, according to Haaretz, “roughly 2,000 women.” Golan awarded precious air time to a fairly insignificant number of people involved in political activity aimed at “achieving peace” or “furthering peace” or “contributing to peace.” Such phrases are favorites of a core group of media personalities who, as editors, directors, interviewers and commentators do not know how to or do not want to distinguish between their personal ideological outlook and their professional duties.
According to a news report, the march was to start from the Lebanese border at Rosh Hanikra and end in Jerusalem. Its aim was “pressuring the nation’s leaders to resume peace talks with the Palestinians.”
During each day of an expected two-week march there would be “5-10 kilometer walks.” Since the distance between those two locations is over 180 kilometers, it would seem that the marchers expected to enjoy the well-known Hassidic “contraction of the way.” Of course, the group’s self-description is “a non-partisan organization.”
Golan generously allowed the spokeswoman more than an uninterrupted minute to literally read out her group’s statement, but never asked her at that point, or informed his listening audience, just who this group was. Even the simple, but crucial element of who funds it was absent. A quick online search revealed these two charities: The Middle East Peace Dialogue Network and Ameinu – both radical and progressive entities.
At a March 5, 2015, demonstration by the group, the foreign press was informed, as Delphine Matthieussent of APF reported, that “Women Wage Peace has condemned the ‘militarization of society’ in Israel.” That is quite a different message than seeking peace, placing the group under the heading of “extremist.” That is, if Israel’s media could ever apply that adjective to any activist group other than those on the Right.
The evening television news round-up programs of the three major channels also devoted time to the flotilla effort, even, on Channel One, bringing us a short clip of Al-Jazeera’s report as “news.” However, no independent reporting was presented. Who are these women? What is their political background? Who is funding them? Their being “pro-peace” was enough to earn them friendly, non-informative coverage.
There is no real mystery here.
The death of former president and prime minister Shimon Peres, undoubtedly a towering figure even if only measured by the length of time spent in politics and government service, not to mention his Nobel Peace Prize, is an immense loss for those “peace loving” sections of Israel’s media, and was extensively covered. Peres carried the torch of “peace” at home and abroad in a way no other could. Peres was “Mr. Peace” – he even had a Peace Center named after him during his lifetime. He was the father of the “New Middle East.”
But he was also the prime mover of the Oslo Process.
There was no significant analysis of the secretive and illegal character of the talks which preceded the signing of the Oslo accords. Nor were the many hundreds of “victims of peace” in Peres’ words, who were killed as a direct result of his war for peace, afforded any mention.
Peres was such an asset to the pro-peace media that the negative aspects of his life were either downplayed, soft-sold or ignored. There was no need to recount the many descriptions and insults which Peres suffered, from Moshe Sharett, Yitzhak Rabin and many more. Would the press have done the same for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? As Haaretz’s Amira Hass reminded us last Thursday in her column, “Peres, who gave his blessing to a confidential channel of the Oslo talks, made it clear at the time that he was opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state.” In a Knesset debate, Peres shouted back at then MK Moshe Katsav on November 17, 1993: “Are you deaf? I am telling you: no state of Palestine will arise.” Very few recollections of his previous outlook were analyzed. Why did he alter his worldview from promotion of an Israel-Jordan confederation and absolute opposition to an independent Palestine state to support for a terrorist state in the midst of Israel? His concept of a “New Middle East” based on shared economic cooperation failed miserably but was glossed over as well.
In the late afternoon on the day of the funeral, an item began to gain traction which was mostly ignored by the core of Israel’s mainstream media: the White House had issued a “corrected” press release removing the word “Israel” from its description of where President Barack Obama delivered his eulogy.
Longstanding US policy sees all of Jerusalem, not just the post-’67 neighborhoods, as not being under Israeli sovereignty. Israel’s media glides over this; criticism of “construction in east Jerusalem” is news. The fact that the item was not even near headline status is but another as aspect of the “peace media” hiding newsworthy themes.
The US State Department’s October 5 harsh statement, claiming that “it is disheartening that while Israel and the world mourned the passing of President Shimon Peres, and [President Obama]… prepared to honor one of the great champions of peace, plans were advanced” to construct homes for Jews in the Shiloh Bloc, was almost celebrated in media circles. Many highlighted the “humiliation” of Netanyahu.
No one, however, informed Israel’s public that actually, Obama had double-crossed Israel by canceling the 2004 Bush-Sharon letter (which contradicted the Oslo Accords’ ARTICLE XI 1) which explicitly recognized the reality that “a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949” was not to be and that only “a small number of villages in Samaria” would need to be relocated even though “limitations on the growth of settlements” were included. Would Israel’s “peace media” embarrass Obama? The media is so “peace agenda” oriented that no one, at least in recent memory, has ever assigned an investigative reporter to find out how Peace Now obtains its information on upcoming construction plans in areas beyond the Green Line. We can recall the sharp slap the media elite awarded Channel 2’s Uvda program for exposing extreme left-wing activity in the disputed territories and the perhaps criminal behavior of Ezra Nawi back in January.
Control of language remains a powerful weapon for those promoting the “peace” agenda. In a recent lecture in Canada, Professor Richard Landes, a Bar-Ilan University Fellow, noted that the terms “right wing,” “left wing” or “moderate” are terms that are “just not descriptive of reality, it’s actually dysfunctional and makes it hard to understand the political realities we’re dealing with.”
Israel’s media still holds Israel’s citizens hostage to the perspective of a Peres “peace” and “new Middle East.”
The authors are members of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imediaw.org.il).
September 29, 2016
|Asaf Lieberman has been for the past two years the anchor of army radio station Galatz’s morning news program.
A few weeks ago, he was sent to the United States by the station to cover the presidential elections.
Last Friday, he wrote an op-ed for Makor Rishon describing candidate Trump: “Let’s be explicit, Donald Trump does not have a program for fighting terror and he has no idea how to approach the issue.
That is OK, why should he have such a program? He is a business man who understands real estate, TV and show business, there is no reason why he should understand anything on this topic.”
In his various appearances on Galatz news shows he consistently denigrates Trump. This would be fine if he did the same to Hillary Clinton, but he doesn’t. An objective bystander could be forgiven for assuming Lieberman is actually on the Clinton campaign payroll.
Haaretz, which published its English edition with The International New York Times, is, of course, rooting for Clinton, following the lead of The New York Times. In a classic example of manipulation, Haaretz on September 18 ran an almost full-page article titled “How Netanyahu is using YouTube to take over the world” with two pictures, one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and one of Trump.
Both are shown in an angry posture and the equation is clear: one is bad, the other is worse. In the same eight-page issue there are two more articles depicting Trump negatively.
One is entitled “For many blacks, including Republicans, Trump birther flip is too little, too late.” The second, on the first page, is “Trump adjusts call for Clinton bodyguards to disarm.”
On September 26, Barak Ravid’s article in Haaretz on the Netanyahu- Trump meeting was headlined with: “For Trump, Israel’s security is all business.” Is it? Could it possibly be also shared political, security and ideological interests? And even if it is only business, given Israel’s selling of itself, and let’s recall that Netanyahu’s central theme in his UN General Assembly speech last week was just that – that Israel can provide the world with goods and services – is that so terrible? Ravid further suggests that Netanyahu should not bask in Trump’s declarations on an undivided Jerusalem.
Why? Because “in any case [they] will disappear if he’s elected president.” Whether or not that happens – and a correspondent should not always be so confident of his prognostications – should not Ravid have tempered his words and reminded his readers of Clinton’s infamous browbeating of Netanyahu over construction in Jerusalem’s post-’67 neighborhoods back in March 2010? Then, as President Barack Obama’s “designated yeller” (her own description) she yelled at Prime Minister Netanyahu for 45 minutes after Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel.
But none of this appeared in the papers the day after the Clinton-Netanyahu meeting. The report by Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury was headlined: “Clinton tells Netanyahu she’s against UN imposing solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Does Ravid really believe that Clinton would hesitate to impose a UN solution if she thought that this would serve her best interests and those of the United States? Is there any difference between the campaign statements of Clinton and Trump? In this context we note that in contrast to Clinton, Trump extensively posted and pushed the details of his meeting with Netanyahu in New York. He even mentioned it in the debate the next day.
One might presume that the fact that Trump clearly doesn’t worry about his anti-Israel alt-right supporters while Clinton seems to know that praising Netanyahu would damage her with her extreme left-wing base would be newsworthy in Israel, but it isn’t.
The Trump-phobia goes much deeper than just Haaretz. Ynet, Israel’s most popular Internet site, ran this headline Monday, just before the Clinton-Trump debate: “…The candidates’ point of departure: The most experienced politician against the star of the gossip sections, the woman who weighs her every word carefully against the billionaire who shoots with hesitation.”
Not only is the headline silly, it is not factual. Clinton is not “the most experienced politician” nor does she weigh every word, for if so, why did she have to backtrack on her very public accusation that half of Trump’ s supporters are “deplorables”? If, indeed, our media were fair and unbiased, that remark of Clinton’s would have been cause to pillory her no less than was Netanyahu’s about “Arabs coming out in droves” to the voting booths last year.
Moreover, Haaretz journalists are the preferred “experts,” so right after the debate who is allowed to give an opinion piece on Galatz? Haaretz economics correspondent Nehemia Straessler, who was full of praise for Clinton and her “victory” in the debate. Both Galatz and Reshet Bet radio of the Israel Broadcasting Authority gave prominent space to the poll CNN publicized an hour after the debate. Reshet Bet had it as a major news item.
The CNN poll was devastating for Trump. According to the poll Clinton won by 62 percent to 27%. Yet anyone who spent a few minutes on this “poll” realized it was meaningless.
As CNN freely admitted the sample was skewed; 41% of the respondents were Democrats, 26% identified themselves as Republicans and the remaining 33% were unidentified. Add to this that CNN is pro-Clinton and you have Israel’s media falling for a US media station using its influence to support Clinton.
Why did Israeli media not give that headline a second look? A day after the debate, the impression one receives from reading the various media reports, from both sides of the political spectrum in the United States, is that Clinton made headway in the debate. It put her back on course in the presidential race, making up quite a bit for her previous errors, including false reporting about her health status.
It is valid to criticize any one of the candidates in the aftermath and we, for example, would consider Trump to be something of a crybaby in view of his accusations about a faulty microphone. Even if true, where were his people to check up on this prior to the debate? But such considerations are irrelevant when it comes to reporting the news. There is no space for personal views in such reports. They should be factual, leaving the listener or the viewer to reach their own conclusions.
The upshot of all of this is that in Israel, at least, one should beware of and distrust the media when it comes to reports and analysis of the US election campaign.
In addition to wishing our readers a good New Year, we also extend our condolences to the Peres family on the passing of a major figure in Israel’s history.
September 14, 2016
|Last Friday afternoon, on time for viewers especially in the United States, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu uploaded a video clip to YouTube that went viral.
In the clip the prime minister made the following observations in English: “I’m sure that many of you heard the claim that the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are an obstacle to peace. But no one would seriously claim that the nearly two million Arabs living inside Israel, that they are an obstacle to peace. That’s because they aren’t…
Yet the Palestinian leadership demands a Palestinian state with one precondition: no Jews. There is a phrase for that. It is called ethnic cleansing.”
Netanyahu’s criticism of countries who perceive the settlements as obstacles to peace received an immediate response from the Obama administration. US State Department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau noted: “We obviously strongly disagree with the characterization that those who oppose settlement activity or view it as an obstacle to peace are somehow calling for ethnic cleansing of Jews from the West Bank. …Using that type of terminology is inappropriate… We share the view… that ongoing settlement activity is an obstacle to peace.”
The clip raises many questions. Why in English? Why no subtitles in Hebrew? Why was it posted just before Shabbat? Why didn’t the prime minister broadcast his message through Israel’s TV channels? After all Friday evening is primetime TV in Israel. Why was this broadcast just now? What provoked it? Was this the first time the prime minister used the term “ethnic cleansing” in the context of Palestinian demands? Didn’t Netanyahu and his aides know that this would lead to a strong condemnation from the US? The clip was food for many pundits. Unfortunately, most of the commentary coming from left-wing media was not to the point but limited to Netanyahu-bashing.
Consider the comments of Israel Prize laureate for journalism Nahum Barnea, who wrote last Sunday: “Netanyahu is no fool, he knows that his speech presents him naked [referring to Hans Christian Anderson’s The Emperor’s New Clothes fable]. But the times are not simple. Any headline, only not the headlines on an unending police investigation, on an indictment in the saga of [the PM’s] homes, on flights, presents and goodies, therefore he is running from one medium to the next, from one photo op to the next.” To Barnea’s credit he then does explain why in his eyes removal of settlements would not be ethnic cleansing: we are occupiers and in addition, the residents of Judea and Samaria have never agreed to live under foreign sovereignty.
But can his comments be taken seriously? If Netanyahu wanted to deflect Israeli public opinion, why did he talk in English? Why on Friday afternoon? Does Barnea truly believe that Netanyahu, who “is no fool,” would risk the wrath of US President Barack Obama and the bad publicity it would cause him back home just for the purpose of deflecting stories? Obama can harm Netanyahu much more than momentary headlines on accusations that thus far have not amounted to anything and which have followed the prime minister for the past 20 years.
Meirav Batito, another Yediot Aharonot commentator, wrote: “The timing of the video… [was] when most Israelis are fatigued from the past week, relaxing and too weak to resist something which just might sound less logical during the traffic jams on Sunday, on the way to work.”
As for the content, her comments were: “Netanyahu put Arabs against Jews and this always works for him… he puts one public against the other, mixes issues, compares government policy to strengthen the settlements to the citizenship of Israel’s Arabs.” She ends by going below the belt: “Only he knows how to instill equations which make a parallel between ceasing settlement construction to the atrocities against the Jewish people, and the Americans from their part can continue to censure until tomorrow.”
At least Barnea does not take Netanyahu for a fool.
Arieh Golan, the left-wing ideologue of Reshet Bet radio, also had some words of wisdom Monday. His answer to Netanyahu was: “Israel will receive in the next decade $37 billion in aid from the United States, and this is truly important news… but there is some additional news, the ethnic cleansing… does not include in it the Jews living in the State of Israel, for them, the USA is helpful, really helpful.”
Haaretz could not resist bashing the prime minister. It took his clip, edited it and then immediately went on to provide excerpts of the statements of Trudeau from the State Department to make sure the viewer would not miss how damaging (in the eyes of Haaretz) the clip is. Its editorial on Monday was headlined “not cleansing and not ethnic.” It opened with: “The Israeli Palestinian peace is not threatening, sadly, to burst tomorrow… why then did Netanyahu initiate a public, political and diplomatic discussion of the issue by stating that removal of settlements equals ethnic cleansing? …Netanyahu wanted to create noise. Why? One possibility is that… two months prior to elections in the US, he wanted to draw a hard line for the next administration, and to irritate the outgoing Obama administration.”
These comments and many others did not answer why Netanyahu did not come out with his statement to Israel’s TV networks instead of YouTube. We would dare to say that Netanyahu, like other leading Israeli politicians such as Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid Party, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, chair of the Bayit Yehudi Party, tend to give their most important messages to the public, as well as their insight, via social media. In our minds the reason is obvious: a mistrust of the media and their capability to provide a politician with a fair stage from which to present her or his political and ideological position on any issue. One does not forget so quickly how Yonit Levy mistranslated the prime minister during his speech to the joint session of US Congress on the Iranian issue.
The silly response of the mainstream media to the clip is another reason. By going through YouTube, anyone can access the prime minister’s remarks, getting them from the horse itself rather than through the filter of the commentators.
The media could have considered that the prime minister was answering Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, preparing for the future meeting with him. It could have noted that by being sharp, the prime minister sought to preempt a unilateral step by Obama after the elections which could compromise Israel’s future. It could have asked why didn’t the prime minister mention the ethnic cleansing of Jews during the mandate period, when they were forcibly removed from Jerusalem neighborhoods, Gush Etzion, or Hebron and Gaza in 1929?
The shallowness and one-sided commentaries are first and foremost losses of the media itself. If only it would be a bit more open to other opinions.
September 7, 2016
|Forty years older, veterans of the campaign to establish a Jewish community in Samaria convened last week in a festive gathering to mark Kedumim’s success in receiving government permission to set up camp at the Kadum army base. Wisely, they chose a late summer day rather than the wintry, rainy days they camped out, on the eighth attempt, in December 1975 at Masudiah, the old Turkish railway station near the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Israel, now called Sebastia.
I was there just prior to Tisha Be’av 1974, when that site was first selected by Gush Emunim, mainly because it provided a natural “fort” for protection against the expected army and police evictions. We reached it by car and then on foot, avoiding roadblocks and being chased by security forces. It was the second attempt of the Elon Moreh resettlement group, which wanted a site as close to Nablus as possible. In fact, not too long after Kedumim was eventually set up, the group split, with about half going eastward of Nablus to the current location of Elon Moreh on Mount Kabir, near the original location they sought.
I am not an anthropologist but will admit that the sense of participating in a certain “rite of passage” was unmistakable in this and other marches toward a location to be redeemed and populated by Jews.
Living in Jerusalem’s Bayit Vegan neighborhood at the time, the word went out in synagogues, youth movement clubhouses and grocery stores to get ready. Almost as in a drill, those who mobilized prepared sleeping bags, a change of clothes, or at least underwear and socks, and some sandwiches. Good walking shoes were located deep in a closet and friends were contacted for rides. And then came the notice of the day, hour and destination.
Samaria was empty of Jews at that time. The family of Moshe Sharret had lived in the Arab village of Ein Sinya, north of Ramallah, but had left after two years. The ferocious Arab violence assured that the few Jews who had been living in Nablus could no longer do so. The JNF’s Yosef Weitz had purchased land around Tulkarm in the 1930s and 1940s and in the Jiftlik area in the Lower Jordan Valley. But it was in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem, in the heart of Judea, that modern Zionist settlement efforts were directed in the Mandate days, and where a Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz, Revadim, was established on former lands of Nahlin village, in addition to the two moshavim north of the city, Atarot and Neveh Yaakov. All were overrun in the 1948 war the Arabs launched in their attempt to eradicate the nascent State of Israel, as were the Shimon Hatzaddik neighborhood near the American Colony Hotel and the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The post-1967 resettlement efforts of Judea, Samaria and Gaza were assisted by a major realigning of Zionism’s left-of-center camp and not solely due some sort of a religious messianic enthusiasm. The Land of Israel Movement founding members, who signed its manifesto, included two sons of Yitzhak Tabenkin, Rachel Yanait Ben-Tzvi, Antek Zuckerman and Eliezer Livneh as well as Natan Alterman, Haim Guri, Yehuda Burla and Haim Hazaz, all luminaries of Mapai, Kibbutz Meuchad and the Palmach. If there was an “intoxication of the senses,” as Gadi Yatziv phrased it, the attachment to the regions of the Jewish homeland that fell outside Israel’s reach in 1948 bestirred deep if inchoate feelings that the State of Israel and the land of Israel were to become one.
Kfar Etzion was reestablished in September 1967 and Kiryat Arba, on Hebron’s outskirts, was inaugurated after the Passover 1968 renting of a downtown hotel by rabbis Moshe Levinger and Eliezer Waldman. Two of their yeshiva students, Benny Katzover and Menachem Felix, launched the Elon Moreh nucleus already in 1973. The grassroots movement of Gush Emunim only appeared in early 1974, following the nadir of national sentiment in the wake of the Yom Kippur political debacle.
I watched as Yitzhak Rabin flew over our encampment at the Sebastia railway station and read in the next day’s press that he had muttered “porshim,” the derogatory term meaning “dissidents” applied by the official Yishuv leadership to the Irgun and Lehi underground fighters. But it was Shimon Peres – who described in his autobiography how he slept close by David Ben-Gurion, with his rifle under the cot to protect Israel’s first prime minister during the Altalena arms ship episode when Ben-Gurion sought to quash the dissident camp once and for all – who, as defense minister in 1975, arranged the Kedumim compromise which allowed for the Elon Moreh group to stay at Kadum.
From several hundred “beyond the Green Line” residents, the past four decades have resulted in 460,000 Jews living, planting, constructing and producing throughout Judea and Samaria, despite the withdrawal from Sinai and the disengagement from Gaza. Since the UN, US President Barack Obama and several others view Jerusalem’s post-67 neighborhoods as “settlements,” another 210,000 Jews need be added to the population demographic. That represents some 15 percent of the total population of the area known as the Palestinian Authority.
Indeed, four decades ago, the men and the women of faith altered Israel’s political, social and cultural landscape. In the wake of the December 8, 1975, compromise signed by Peres, they became the men and women of fate, of Zionism’s future.
For the 19 years between the War of Independence and the Six Day War, Jews could not live in the areas where Jewish nationalism was fostered. Israelis were prohibited from visiting the Western Wall, where previous generations of Jews prayed. The land was occupied, illegally, by Jordan, but no one was disturbed by a breach of the armistice agreements the United Nations oversaw between Israel and the Arabs states which sought to destroy it. Those were also 19 years of Fedayeen and then PLO terrorist attacks.
All that was swept away in 1967, and in its wake, those of faith, and not solely those who were religiously observant, rallied to assure the future fate of Israel, the state, the land and the people.
The author resides in Shiloh and is a pro-Land of Israel Jewish residency activist.