September 1, 2015
הבלון מתעופף לו מעל שבות רחל.
-בשבת לפני שבוע הייתה תקרית בשטח שבין אש
קודש לבין הכפר הערבי השכן קוצרא.
אבנים התעופפו, שדות של יהודים הועלו באש והצבא התערב.
הבלון הנ”ל הוא רכוש צה”ל והוא שם כדי, מניחים, לפקוח עין על אירועי ‘תג מחיר’ .
עד כאן בסדר. אבל אולי צה”ל יכול לספר לנו מי באמת פתח באלימות – הערבים שפלשו או היהודים הדתיים שביום השבת יצאו סתם לתקוף ערבים על לא עוול בכפם? הרי אולי הבלון ראה את האירועים?
האם צה”ל יכול לספק את המידע הבלתי-מסווג הזה? בשביל גם זה הבלון באוויר, נכון?
August 27, 2015
|The crisis in the financial markets made headlines this past week. The pundits discussed why it came about, and how it affects Israel and Israelis. There was a consensus on a few issues.
One is that no one knows to predict how serious the meltdown is. It is not clear whether it is a “short term correction” or whether we are in for a prolonged decline which may seriously affect the world economy and Israel. The second is that the decline affects the pockets of almost all Israelis. The average citizen can no longer afford to ignore the markets for all of our savings are linked to them. Fifty years ago, the careful citizen would put savings into a government-backed and cost-of-living-indexed savings account and sleep well. This is today nigh impossible.
We are a rich society, and as the saying of our sages goes, one who has lots of possessions has many worries.
Listening to our radio or viewing our TV sets however, one would think that nothing has changed. Economics reportage on Israel’s mainstream electronic media is rather poor and does not provide good service to the responsible citizen. At face value, one might wrongly perceive that there is broad coverage. Kol Yisrael’s Reshet Bet has a daily hourly economics program at 4:05 p.m., usually presented by Anat Davidov. Galatz has such a program at 7:05 p.m., presented by Oded Levinson, who has a law degree. Both stations have permanent economic reporters, Ran Binyamini at Kol Yisrael and Yuna Leibson at Galatz.
A similar situation is found on TV. Oded Schachar is the economics czar of TV channel 1. He is a graduate of Hebrew University, with a B.A. in economics and an M.A. in business administration. Keren Marciano is his counterpart in Channel 2. Her B.A. is in law, her M.A. is in business administration. She runs a daily program at 7:30 p.m., The Savings Program, which provides the average citizen with financially related advice. Channel 10 has Matan Chodorov, who also served as head of the channel’s labor union.
Chodorov’s professional education is in law. Is it only by chance that the formal education of most of these “stars” is law, not economics or finance? Or is this a poor professional choice which seriously impacts quality? One may safely say that many of the reporters are socialist in their outlook, and this reflects itself in their reportage.
The question of employment is very important. If any Israeli company fires employees or is on the verge of bankruptcy, these reporters will immediately pick up the story, even though usually it affects only a very small minority. Messrs.
But perhaps most problematic is that their reportage has very little to do with the financial markets.
A simple example is the bond market.
Anyone who listens to the news programs with the intent of understanding how the bond market fared is naïve. At most, the reports will refer to TA 25, Israel’s analog of the Dow Jones Industrials index, which provides a very partial reflection of the market. The bond market is huge. Most of our savings are in the bond market, not in stocks. Why is it ignored? Is it because the reporters are just not sufficiently conversant with bonds? The rule of thumb is that bonds, provided they are not junk bonds, are the more conservative investment.
Why then did our bonds lose enormous value at the same time that the stock market failed? An Israeli invention is the “Keren Hishtalmut” which can be translated as “education furtherance fund.” The fundamental idea was a good one: any employee should have the opportunity to further her or his education. This is good for the employer, for the state and the employee. The government thus decided that any funds deposited in such a fund would not be taxed for profits. Today, the fund is just another source of income – even the best deal in town. Not only are the profits exempt from taxation, most of the financial companies that service these funds are willing to give out loans at sub-prime rates using them as collateral, thus even further increasing their value.
Different funds have different policies.
Does the public know this at all? Do our diligent reporters keep an eye on them or are the funds in the news only when someone in the Finance Ministry suggests taxing them? But there is even more to it. The managers of the funds are quite negligent in their financial reports. The customer receives one only once a month and even then the report is 20 days outdated. Given the volatility of the markets, it becomes very difficult for the concerned owner to decide when to sell the holdings. We once pointed this out to a senior economic correspondent, who was completely unaware of it. When asked if anything would be done about it the answer was evasive, and to this day nothing has changed.
It is much easier to feed the consumer the facts the major financial companies give out, rather than delve in-depth into their operations. Most companies offer financial management programs and even advertise them in the media. Their fees are high and their performance is nothing to be very proud of. When was the last time that Oded Shachar provided his public with an in-depth analysis of these companies? Why is it that their actual fees are a well-kept secret? Israel radio had an ongoing advertisement from a real estate company indicating a 20 percent return on investment in US properties. This reminded us about a famous story attributed to Professor Moshe Kaveh, the former president of Bar-Ilan University. Someone tried to convince him to invest the university’s endowment funds with Bernie Madoff, noting the assured 10% annual return.
Kaveh’s supposed retort was that this was the very reason why one should keep away, since no one could provide such high returns on a year to year basis. Bar- Ilan University saved a lot of money. Has anyone investigated this real estate company? Or is it sufficient that it pays for advertising to keep them immune from a serious study? We are not economists nor are we trained in finances. However, the lack of professionalism of economic reporting in Israel’s electronic media is just another symptom of the prevailing attitude – we know everything better, the consumer should just appreciate us and not ask questions. In truth, Israel does have very serious economic reporting in the written media, but somehow, this information, vital for a “start-up nation,” has not yet diffused into the electronic media. Sports are covered much more thoroughly than finances! It should not take a financial crisis to bring the markets to the forefront.
August 20, 2015
|Summer vacation is upon us, the High Holiday Days are still a month away and it is quite hot. Our media, however, remains as active as ever. Too much of it is colored by the political persuasions of the personnel who bring us our news, leading to avoidable errors.
As we have highlighted previously, when even the supervisory systems of the regulatory bodies lack the will to set things right, correct what’s wrong and punish malfeasants, Israel’s media consumers bear the brunt and our society’s democratic fiber suffers.
A few vignettes from the past week or two are instructive.
Torching at Duma vs. Eli’s Gas Station
The horrific crime in the Arab village of Duma on the evening of July 30 was “naturally” assumed to be the work of “Jewish extremists” and/ or “price tag youth.” Official government and police spokespersons didn’t even take the trouble to make the usual, if laconic, announcement we have heard dozens of times in the past that “police are investigating all possible avenues.” From our review, no reporter pressed the police or politicians on this at question time.
Of course, ever since the Rabin assassination many fear being tarred as promoting conspiracy theories.
Nevertheless, no one thought the fact that the father, who has since died, was transported to Beersheba, bypassing three Jerusalem hospitals, while the rest of the family were flown to Sheba Hospital in Ramat Gan, was worthy of a query. There could be very good medical reasons for such a decision but it does seem odd that no question was asked.
On the other hand, this past Friday night, the gas station near the Binyamin region community of Eli was torched. Given the fact that it was Shabbat and the station was Jewish-owned, one might suspect the perpetrators were not Jews. But while the media had no problem establishing a specific ethnic identification for the Duma crime, in the case of the Eli gas station most mainstream news sites did not suggest that Arabs could have been involved.
Emily Amrousi writes a column in Israel Hayom and has appeared in the recent past as a regular panelist on Channel 10 and more recently Channel 20 television. After posting on her Facebook account that she had introduced her nine-year old son to elements of the subject of sex, she discovered that Haaretz’s Chaim Levinson had not only disparagingly parodied her post but had done so in an obnoxious, pornographic and misogynist fashion. She felt, she responded, verbally sexually abused.
She was also astonished to learn that many of Levinson’s friends, some highly placed, after learning of her intention to file a complaint with police contacted her to persuade her no to do so.
Here was a classic case of a woman being victimized for her gender in a very public place – but Amrousi is religious and resides in the Samaria community of Talmon. The incident was treated more as a situation to be observed rather than one in which the media actually becomes involved. Haaretz did not even report it while NRG/Ma’ariv and Makor Rishon did. The media was divided along clear ideological lines.
As it happens, over in England this week, Mark Latham, a former Labor Party leader who became a regular columnist for the Australian Financial Review resigned. The behindthe- scenes buzz is that he was forced to do so. The suspected reason, as reported by The Guardian, was that he maintained a parody account on Twitter which contained not infrequent “derogatory remarks [aimed] at numerous prominent women.”
Among those targeted, the Guardian mentioned journalists Anne Summers, Leigh Sales, Lisa Pryor, Mia Freedman and Annabel Crabb.
Latham’s punishment was swift.
The liberal press knows how to deal with men who attack women – unless the victim is an Amrousi: quick-tongued and sharp, with a political orientation the media doesn’t share.
The Temple Mount
One of the activities associated with the struggle for Jewish rights on the Temple Mount is the monthly “Walk Around the Gates.” The several thousand participants do not enter the Temple Mount but very much demonstrate their desire for Jewish rights to be protected within.
The “walk” is described by the mainstream press as just another one of those fanatical episodes, endangering the “peace” on the Temple Mount. The fact that the walk is legal, is a defiant call against the trampling of human rights, is at best ignored.
This week, though, an announcement sponsored by the Jerusalem Municipality appeared informing all and sundry that between the dates August 25 and August 28 a new public artistic “festival” will be held, in the shadow “of the Temple Mount/Haram E-Sharif.” The festival’s organizers specifically note that instead of the normal discourse relating to the Mount which is “political and religious,” a “new voice” will be heard, one that is a “square of creativity and art.” The festival will spotlight not only the site’s sacredness but also issues such as “occupation.” It remains to be seen whether it receives fair treatment by the media.
The supporters of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club, notably the “Familia” gang, are notorious for their violent behavior. The team has often been penalized; fans were barred from games, translating into a significant financial loss. Epithets of a racist nature are sometimes heard in the stands and although they are noisy, they still are not the majority.
The media has devoted documentaries to the phenomenon. Political figures make comments, prompted by reporters, and the condemnations are part of the folklore.
This past Sunday, at a game between the local Hapoel Tel Aviv club and its guests from Maccabi Petah Tikva, several signs were seen in the stands aimed at foes of the old Ussishkin stadium, now dismantled, who are members of the municipal Tel Aviv council. The letters “aleph” in their names were written in a distinct font, one that resembled a swastika as well as the SS insignias worn on the lapels of the Nazi uniforms.
The police were called in but “accepted” the explanation of the fans that the Hebrew letter was not written to echo any Nazi symbols.
Oddly, the aleph in the name “Ussishkin” appeared quite normal.
In this case, the fans were not tarred and feathered by the press.
The incident was simply reported in a straightforward manner. Would Beitar, the darling of Jerusalem’s Mizrachi and nationalist camps, have been treated with such understanding? We haven’t even touched upon the general attack on the appointment of Danny Danon as our new ambassador to the United Nations.
All these examples and many others lead inexorably to the day when the public will simply shun those whose journalism is not professional.
August 12, 2015
|Much has been written lately about the gas monopoly and how the state should or should not deal with it. No matter from which angle the issue is discussed, all admit that monopolies are not desirable. The state has an obligation to do its utmost to end such economic anomalies.
There is also no reason to permit outrageous private profits from a national resource. There is, though, one monopoly that is hardly ever raised in the public discourse, namely the monopoly of the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) as well as that of the Army Radio Station (Galatz) over our radio airwaves.
For historical reasons, only these two stations are permitted to broadcast nationally. The regional radio stations are what their name implies; they are limited to certain geographically defined regions. The local Jerusalem radio station cannot be heard in Tel Aviv through the regular FM transmission. The commuter from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or vice versa, who wants to listen to a regional station has to switch somewhere along the middle of the route. This is unpleasant, and so the average driver and passenger opt to listen to the IBA or Galatz, whose broadcasts are uninterrupted.
The result is that the reported audience listening to the two public stations is almost tenfold that of the regional ones. This has immense implications.
It is much better to advertise on a national station and so these two get the majority of the advertising market, even though they are publicly funded. Their competitive power to get advertising, which is based on their monopoly, is unfair to other networks, yet neither the government nor the press care. The immediate victim of this unfair practice is the quality of programming on the regional radio stations.
The smaller income perforce implies smaller budgets for programming.
The monopoly has, however, some additional aspects which are troubling.
It is no secret that both stations are dominated by left-wing liberals. One can just imagine how large segments of the population who have no choice but to get their information from the IBA and Galatz are seething about the media attack on Israel’s right wing and the residents of Judea and Samaria following the criminal attack which led to the murder of the infant Ali Dawabsha in the northern Samaria village of Duma. Even though to this day no one knows who the perpetrators are, the fingers are pointed immediately and consistently at Israel’s Right. Is the Druse population similarly castigated for the murderous attack on Syrians wounded just over a month ago? The anchors of the IBA and Galatz simply do not understand, nor do they want to understand, a position which differs with their own.
There is an added aspect concerning the programming of the IBA and Galatz: they don’t care at all about what the public thinks. Consider the “Kol Hamusika” channel of the IBA, which is supposed to broadcast classical music. It has never even occurred to the IBA management to ask the public whether they like the programming, or whether the musical content should be changed.
The monopoly can be changed and it only depends on you and me.
In past years, listening to radio broadcasts meant owning an FM receiver. This is no longer so. Anyone of us can tune in to their favorite radio station on the Internet. Even though this technology is available for over 10 years, it could not compete with the monopoly. It was still impossible (except for the very rich) to receive high-quality radio programming via the Internet.
But the technological revolution has arrived and now almost everyone, for a pittance, may listen to Internet radio through their smartphone, 24 hours a day. The third-generation cellular phone technology has allowed this to happen. The monthly cost is negligible, the bandwidth used is much less than the typical five-gigabyte listening package provided by the cell phone operators. Yet, one problem remains: how can one connect the smartphone to the car radio? In fact, this is really very easy. Almost all cars have in their radios the “AUX” option, which allows connecting an auxiliary apparatus to the radio. All one needs to connect the smartphone is a cable with two “male” ends. One is inserted into the phone, the other into the AUX jack. One sets the radio receiver to AUX and the monopoly is broken. There are dozens of apps which allow a smartphone user to surf any radio station she or he desires. Pick your favorite one and you can listen to it anywhere in Israel, indeed from anywhere in the world, including the US, Europe or even China.
Is the quality good enough even for classical music? From personal experience the answer is yes, and in many ways even better. In most road tunnels in Israel, FM reception is poor, but phone reception is maintained. In other words, using the AUX option, one will have better reception than on the FM radio.
This technology has an additional advantage. The owner of a website knows how many people are logged in at any given moment. In other words, instead of the “standard” rating procedure, which depends on inaccurate polls, here there is no question how many people are listening. The station’s managers can then use these precise statistics with the advertisers. A good station will profit and may become even better. A bad station will eventually disappear.
This technology, whose cost is negligible as the necessary cable can be bought for less than NIS 30, brings another revolution. The Second Authority for TV and Radio can now become the Second Authority for TV Only. There is no need for anyone interested in radio broadcasting to go through the hellish administrative demands of the Authority to open, at most, a regional radio station. Just go online, spend some money on advertising to let the public know you exist and you’re in business.
The upshot of all of this is that technology allows us to get rid of the monopoly of the IBA and Galatz over our airwaves. Don’t get angry at them, just do the right thing: stop listening to them. Go to your favorite radio station through your smartphone and start enjoying your daily trip to and from work.
August 6, 2015
|One of the more intriguing, as well as potentially explosive issues when it comes to media ethics is the question of in-built bias among journalists. Is there a newsroom atmosphere? Is there a herd instinct that influences how the reporters and editors do their jobs, thereby creating a dominating discourse that all too often may punish those in the media who do not toe the line? Let’s look at the BBC, where there seems to be a problem.
A fortnight ago, we learned that members of the BBC Newsnight program were pressured to leave due to their actions in the Savile expose. This claim was made by Meirion Jones, the former head of the program’s investigations unit, who also had to leave. (Jimmy Savile, a top BBC star, was exposed as a serial child abuser.) Jones was quoted as saying, “We were told at the time that you won’t be sacked but over a year or two years you’ll realize you are being treated as an outsider, that you will never be trusted because you blew the whistle, and you will find yourself leaving.” He insisted that those who tried to expose the BBC’s handling of the case were seen as “traitors” while executives who tried to suppress the scandal had continued their careers unhindered.
The problems with modern-day TV in England are not limited to news but also to programming. Tim Hincks is president of the UK Endemol Shine Group, and is considered a leading British TV executive. His company is one of the world’s largest independent production companies. He produces low-quality but highly popular shows such as Big Brother and Master-Chef . In a lecture last week, he described England’s television industry as “hideously middle class” and even called for forced diversity in broadcasting and production. He further noted that “It’s not moral, it’s not political…There’s a weak spot that we have that hampers the program-makers and the broadcasters. It’s an industry-wide problem….”
On June 27, Christopher Booker published an op-ed in The UK Telegraph on the BBC. He was blunt, writing, “BBC’s senior executives are so lost in their corporate groupthink that they have no real idea just how biased it is” and provided examples of “how mindlessly the BBC falls into its party line.”
The BBC took another hit that same week when Brendan O’Neill, editor of the Spiked website, who describes himself as an atheistic libertarian, published this indictment: “For an institution that loves sneering at politicians, the BBC is remarkably thin-skinned when a politician fires back.” The BBC’s “irritation…shows how sacralised the Beeb has become, how much it fancies itself…a worship-worthy institution that none may blaspheme against.”
Here in Israel, many media people, feeling pressure from complaints, often defend themselves by comparing their standards to those of other countries. The employees of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, especially those in the news division, always point to the BBC as the paradigm of public broadcasting. We would suggest, especially in view of the evidence, that it is high time that the BBC no longer be considered an example and role model which should be emulated or revered.
Is mediocracy a characteristic only of British media? Is the failure of professional standards limited to England? In America they think not.
The 2015 State of the First Amendment Survey released two weeks ago indicated that nearly three-quarters of Americans believe the news media report with an intentional bias. Only 24% of American adults agree that “the news media tries to report the news without bias.” That is a drop of 17 points from the previous year.
Investigative reporting should be the media’s bread and butter, but it is most difficult to maintain. Typically, one reporter is insufficient. Even with leaks from within, as in the Watergate affair, a team is required. Money needs to be invested, while results are usually months away. A good and reliable investigative reporter must be of higher quality than the standard journalist who parrots press releases of interested parties.
In Scotland, for example, there has been a steady and substantial decline in investigative reporting by the country’s established media. As published last month in The Scotsman , it has been accompanied by sharp cuts in staffing, pagination and funding in many daily papers. In parallel though, a group of freelance journalists has launched a new subscription-based, crowd-funded investigations unit to make up for the failure of the traditional Scottish news media. The Ferret, as the web- based project has named itself, parallels investigative journalism collectives such as De Correspondent in the Netherlands and the Belfast-based The Detail.
Here in Israel, we have a large assortment of writers or programmers who consider themselves investigative reporters. These include TV star Dr. Ilana Dayan, whose program may be characterized more by sensationalism and money making than with the need to supply the consumer with well investigated facts. The same malaise may be found in the major news-papers; the investigative weekly page of Israel Hayom may be considered more of a gossip column.
The only truly independent and influential investigative reporting in Israel which is also unbiased, willing to deal with any topic irrespective of its ideological or personal implications, is the News1 website of Yoav Yitzchak. Yet Yitzchak is ostracized by the mainstream media, who all too often “steal” his scoops, belittle them or even worse, ignore them.
Claiming that the media is over-ponderously slanted to the Left and that editorial and newsrooms are staffed by those who consider themselves liberal is pooh-poohed by media insiders, at best. More typically such a charge will result in the critic being besmirched, lambasted and other – wise pilloried. We should know. Israel’s Media Watch is invariably described as “right wing” while other NGOs, markedly leftist, usually merit the description “working for peace and/or democracy.”
When right-wingers suggest that the media should be more pluralistic in terms of content and editorial personnel, that, too, is not encouraged in the name of liberalism and democracy, but roundly denounced. This was never more obvious than in a session of a Knesset committee’s deliberations this week on amendments to the new public broadcasting authority.
Minister Ofir Akunis, who adopted IMW’s suggestion to name the new body the Israel Public Broadcasting Authority, had to vigorously defend himself instead of being acclaimed for his Zionist stance.
It is high time that our media stops copying the worst in the media abroad and instead become a “light onto the nations” as befits our start-up Jewish state.
August 2, 2015
By DANIEL K. EISENBUD, 07/30/2015
The most practical solution is for police to enforce a policy that restricts Muslim mobs from coming within 20 meters of Jewish visitors to the Mount, one activist claims.
The problem of intimidation of Jews at the holiest site to Jews has reached a critical stage in the last several years, Yisrael Medad, secretary of the Temple Mount Group, said on Wednesday.
“Over the past two to three years, we saw men first sitting in circles studying the Koran, and then, sooner than later, they sat on pathways designated for Jewish visitors, so they couldn’t walk,” he said.
“Then the women got up and followed us around, screaming and yelling ‘Allahu akbar!’ The police will not push and shove them like they will the men, which is why women frequently lead the mobs.”
The Jordanian government pays between 300 and 500 Muslim women and unemployed men to harass Jews, Medad claimed.
The Islamic Movement’s northern branch, based in Umm el-Fahm, compensates 150 additional provocateurs, he said.
While Medad acknowledged that several Muslims with long histories of stirring trouble on the Mount have been barred from entering it for up to three months, he said that harassment of Jews there has continued to grow.
“What happens now is that when we exit the Chain Gate, they follow us out, screaming and yelling,” he said.
“Last Thursday’s yelling at the woman who was later arrested for saying ‘Muhammad is a pig’ was not on the Temple Mount, but in the Muslim Quarter. So, not only are they on the Temple Mount, but they are following Jews outside to the Muslim Quarter as well,” he said.
Medad said the most practical solution, an idea he raised nine months ago at a meeting with the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, is for police to enforce a policy that restricts Muslim mobs from coming within 20 meters of Jewish visitors to the Mount.
“You want to protest against Jews?” he asked. “Fine, [but] do so at a safe distance.”
The central problem, Medad asserted, is that while Jews are told by Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu that there is a status quo – and that it cannot be altered – facts on the ground tell a different story.
“The Arabs are altering that status quo from month to month, and year to year,” he said. “More and more, Jewish visitation is being limited during Ramadan, as well as additional closings due to security threats.”
Medad said that wait times for Jews to ascend via Mugrabi Gate have grown exponentially, while non-Jewish visitors enjoy speedy service.
“The best solution is to give them [non- Jews] 90 percent of the place for visits. I’d be satisfied with 90 minutes to two hours a day in a far corner to pray and be a Jew,” he said.
“You cannot be a Jew at Judaism’s holiest site. You must be an unidentified tourist,” he said.
Although Medad acknowledged that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) has cracked down on the extremists who fund those who harass Jews on the Temple Mount, he said much more needs to be done.
According to Jerusalem City Councilman Dr. Meir Margalit (Meretz), who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio in the municipality, the root of the violence and harassment is far more deep-seated than provocateurs on an extremist organization’s payroll.
“The question whether these people are paid is irrelevant,” he said on Wednesday.
“It’s not just another small group of Palestinians who hate Israelis. No. This is the main feeling of Palestinians in east Jerusalem, and especially religious ones. They are convinced that the Israelis want to expel Palestinians from the Mount, that they want to destroy al-Aksa Mosque.”
“Of course they hate Israelis,” he continued.
“If [Jews] were in the position the Palestinians are in, we’d have exactly the same feeling. When it comes to religious issues, Muslims, Christians and Jews, all of them, they don’t know what the meaning of compromise is. They are absolute. So, there are people they hate when they think the people are trying to expel them,” he said.
Margalit said that there is no imminent solution to the decades-long conflict.
“In the near future, there is no possibility of coexistence on the Temple Mount,” he said, adding that only the establishment of a Palestinian state and withdrawal of Jewish settlers in the occupied territories will effectively address the issues there.
“Once we come to a compromise with the PLO on the future of the occupied territories, then we will come to a compromise on the Temple Mount,” he said.
“Under these [present] conditions, there is no chance of a compromise.”
Margalit asserted that Muslims at the holy site do not object to Jewish visitors, but rather to right-wing Jews, “who come up with a political agenda.
“When I was there, I was treated respectfully,” the Jewish councilman said of his numerous visits at the invitation of the Wakf Islamic religious trust, which oversees the compound for the Jordanian government. “They gave me coffee and sweets.”
The problem the Muslim extremists have, he said, is not with Israelis or Jews in general, but with Jews who go up to make “provocations” and “political statements.”
Asked why three Jews have been arrested for slandering Muhammad while there have been no Muslim arrests for slandering Judaism and chanting “Death to Jews” at Jewish visitors, police spokeswoman Luba Samri claimed that the law is enforced equally.
“Police operate under transparent and clear procedures, which include the obligation to respect the law and rights of others unilaterally, wherever they are, and will continue to take action against religious offenders who violate the public space,” she said. “Such enforcement is impartial.”
July 29, 2015
|The expulsion of over 8,000 Jews from the Gaza district, and the destruction of all they had achieved and accomplished, took place 10 years ago. In February 2005, Channel 2’s left-wing ideologue Amnon Abramowitz called upon his colleagues to safeguard then prime minister Ariel Sharon.
He used the etrog, which is wrapped to protect it from damage but discarded after Succot, as an example for how Sharon should be treated.
The media blindly followed their “Rebbe Abramowitz” and outdid itself in serving the government.
As Caroline Glick characterized it in her Friday column, the media was in “lockstep” with the government. It was uncritical, mobilized and unprofessional. We would add that it was doubly unethical.
The media at all levels identified with and supported the government’s decision to remove all traces of Jewish life from the three areas of renewed Jewish residency in the Gaza district – Gush Katif, the center and the northern areas as well as four northern Samaria communities. Secondly, most of the media promoted the government line which portrayed the opposition to its plan in a carefully-crafted negative and untruthful fashion.
Were all involved in reporting the process of disengagement kowtowing to the government? No. But those who weren’t faced either peer pressure or government heavy-handedness. At a conference organized by the left-wing Israel Democracy Institute on July 13, three instances of such interference were revealed. Avi Benayahu, then head of the Galatz Army radio station, related that he was ordered by Dan Halutz, the IDF commander-in-chief, to fire Amit Segal, now a Channel 2 TV star. Asked for a reason, Halutz replied, “Every morning he needles me.”
Mordecai Shaklar admitted that his appointment as director of the Israel Broadcasting Authority was canceled after he publicly criticized the media for being more interested in how the settlers would react rather than whether the disengagement was good or bad.
Panelist MK Yinon Magal, then a Channel 10 reporter, posted on his Facebook page that the station’s director sought to keep him off the air as he had expressed sympathy for the Jewish Gaza residents in his broadcasts. He was the only reporter on the roof of the Kfar Darom synagogue yet he was informed that he would be cut off as according to the IDF spokesperson (now Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev) it was prohibited to broadcast from that location.
Channel 2 television’s military correspondent, Roni Daniel, who was unopposed to the disengagement, was quite forthright in a July 17 Makor Rishon interview, describing the media’s overwhelmingly left-wing slant as a “junta of thought police.”
These few observations, it could be claimed, are not necessarily representative.
But the PhD thesis of Anat Roth is.
Roth, is a former field observer for Peace Now who has worked for Labor politicians Ehud Barak, Amram Mitzna and Matan Vilnai and who became a researcher with the Israel Democracy Institute, originally supported the disengagement. The book, Lo Bechol Machir (“Not at any price”), is over 600 pages long and copiously annotated.
It demonstrates that the media ignored collection of behind-the-scenes information, portrayed unfolding events in a demonic manner and worse, too often did so with no factual basis. Roth, now a recent Knesset candidate on the Bayit Yehudi Party list, highlights all this with a multitude of examples quoted directly from the press.
At the Kfar Maimon showdown, on the eve of the disengagement’s final stage, Haaretz was reporting there would surely be a violent confrontation. Ma’ariv’s Ben Caspit termed it “a clash of civilizations.” Others described the protesters in Kfar Darom as using language from the Second Temple period. Moshe Gorali, also with Ma’ariv, called the Gaza residents “the direct continuation of the Jewish zealots… ready, in the name of their faith, to destroy the Jewish commonwealth and bring it down on top of all our heads.”
To the IDI’s Uzi Benziman, then at Haaretz, they were “armed militias [who] pose a challenge to the government’s capability to exercise its authority.”
Dror Eydar, writing in Israel Hayom last Friday, pointed to the early stages leading to the expulsion, describing the media’s behavior as “shameless.”
He notes that in early May 2004 Sharon, buoyed by media polls that predicted a victory for his plan, decided to put the issue up for a referendum among the Likud members, promising that he would abide by the result.
The polls were wrong; Sharon received a resounding “no.” On the day of the vote, Yediot Aharonot, in an op-ed composed by columnist Sever Plocker, tried to sway Likud members to vote in favor of the disengagement.
The next day, Sima Kadmon, in true communist fashion, had it that the Likud was “against the people.” The paper’s Nechama Dueck noted that “the Likud Party has disengaged from Sharon… the rightist, extremist, religious Likud.”
Last week, Emily Amrousi also recounted her experiences as Yesha Council spokeswoman at the time. After a 250,000-strong rally in front of the Knesset demanding a referendum, all the Army Radio interviewer was interested in was a sign that one protester had waved comparing Sharon to Pharaoh.
“The interviewer wouldn’t move past the silly sign,” she fumed. “Not a single listener knew what a quarter-million people had been demanding.”
Amrousi, like Eydar, notes that the dominant media discourse ignored serious discussion of the security implications of the disengagement. “No one asked why,” she said. “Not one of the smart journalists, the thousands of people who work in the field. No one.”
One of her anecdotes is especially illuminating.
In a closed cabinet meeting, then-Israel Police commissioner Insp. Gen. Moshe Karadi asked for additional manpower and justified the request by noting that perhaps some rabbi might rule that his students could shoot at a Druse soldier during the evacuation. The next day, a page two headline in Ma’ariv read, “New halachic ruling: Druse may be shot during evacuation.”
Despite the Yesha Council’s press release that an investigation had revealed that there was no such halachic ruling, the response was not broadcast. “All the TV and radio current events programs dwelt on that made-up nonsense,” she said.
A press conference convened to announce that “Yesha leaders and protest groups say ‘no’ to violence” was a failure. A sticker had been supposedly distributed in the settlements reading: “Sharon, Lily [his late wife] is waiting for you.” Amrousi informed us that the sticker was not “distributed in the settlements” but handed to three TV reporters.
Only months later was there an indictment against the person responsible for printing it – a police officer whose job it was to locate extremists.
This past fortnight we have monitored the media and noticed an increase of items devoted to the failures of the media a decade ago, which is an improvement. But sadly many of those whose conduct was unprofessional then, such as Abramowitz, Kadmon, Dueck and Plocker, continue to pollute our public discourse. A truly free, professional and ethical Israeli press is still far from reach.
July 22, 2015
|Media coverage of the Temple Mount has increased dramatically over the past three years. In the more distant past, only if something extraordinary occurred would there be a media report. For example, if someone in power wished to divert attention from a problem and leaked a hint about an attempt to blow up the Dome of the Rock, the media would splash it across front pages or at the top of the evening news.
As we have shown multiple times in our columns, the battles over the site are portrayed almost exclusively in a frame which, on the one hand, highlights extremism, political recklessness, religious fanaticism and imminent danger and violence – almost all the fault of Jews – while on the other hand those very same themes, when Muslims are involved, are downplayed or ignored. Even worse, often times their responsibility, it is suggested, falls on Jewish shoulders that, it is claimed, shouldn’t have been in the esplanade in the first place.
When the paschal sacrifice exercises are conducted in some faraway Jerusalem neighborhood, with the priests dressed in white and a goat prepared for the slaughter, many media outlets cover the event, but with a smirk.
One major recent exception to this frame resulted from the attempted assassination of Rabbi Yehuda Glick. That story, due both to Glick’s personality and links to the political establishment, was unavoidable. He almost died for the cause.
It was thus a welcome development when Channel 10 news programs, on two separate occasions, devoted many minutes of air time to concerns that usually are not allowed to appear on the screen. The first was aired on Friday night, July 10. Entitled “Cultural Intifada,” it was hosted by senior security affairs correspondent Alon Ben-David and focused on the destruction of archaeological artifacts and historical remains of the Jewish presence on the Temple Mount.
The program reviewed almost 20 years of systematic efforts by the Wakf Muslim religious trust authorities to erase and hide anything which preceded the arrival of Islamic invaders and their subsequent 12 centuries of occupation and foreign rule. The program mostly avoided the regular hot political potatoes and asked a simple twopart question: who is ineffectually supervising the holy site and is there truly a policy status quo in place? A professor of archaeology was interviewed, rather than a shlumpy, wild-eyed and ear-lock-crowned youngster.
The correspondent walked about the compound, talked to Muslims and presented a fair reflection of the reality.
Problematic issues were shown and not just referred to.
The shouting of the paid female agents of the Islamic Movement and Wakf were clearly heard and their menacing behavior shown.
The second broadcast, a 20-minute prime-time segment, “Incitement in the Mosques,” was shown on Wednesday, July 15. It followed Zvi Yehezkeli, the network’s highly regarded Arab affairs reporter, as he visited 15 different mosques around the country during this past Ramadan.
He found increasing levels of incitement, against the state of Israel and in particular against Jews, which reached a literal crescendo in the sermons within the Temple Mount compound.
Of course, all this is not new. The various Jewish Temple Mount groups have been publishing pictures of posters, banners, assemblies, rallies and more on social media sites and in the sectoral press but the mainstream media virtually ignored the issue, or worse, attacked the messengers.
Yehezkeli’s report was criticized by Anat Saragusti in the now-independent left-wing-oriented Seventh Eye media criticism website. Saragusti is, nominally, a “journalist.”
She was also a member of the Israeli Black Panthers movement, a photographer and reporter for Uri Avneri’s Ha’olam Hazeh weekly and director of B’Tselem USA. In a word, a neutral and unbiased professional.
Saragusti saw the documentary as a “campaign” with dramatic “teasers” and promo trailers. Her central point, which is well-taken and even Yehezkeli admitted, is that only 15 mosques were presented, and not even all of these were shown to be inciting – although the incitement that was heard was murderous and quite criminal. One might take Saragusti more seriously, though, if she had published a similar piece, say, in relation to the way the media covers “price tag” incidents as being representative of the entire “settler camp,” or the way the media relates to Jewish Temple Mount activists and their activities.
To be fair, we did a Google search. As expected, it turned up nothing in this regard. However, we did locate an op-ed of Saragusti’s from January 12, 2015 on the Saloona website, which criticized death threats made on Facebook against Haaretz journalists. We can recommend to Saragusti several other Facebook accounts, all run by Muslims, as well as a small number of left-wing extremists, which have been threatening to murder Jews for their Temple Mount activity. One of those threatened is a journalist: Arnon Segal of Makor Rishon. Fairness and objectivity should be ingrained in professional journalists – as opposed to professional ideologues masquerading as journalists.
Temple Mount reportage is the antithesis of professional media coverage, which is replaced by a media defense of a status quo policy with respect to the Jews.
As we have noted in our previous articles on the subject, the status quo works only in one direction. It is discriminatory against Jews. Weekly pro-Hamas and pro-Islamic State assemblies, with flags and banners, are held on the Mount.
Terrorists are praised. A fourth, underground mosque was fashioned under the Mughrabi Gate. Last November, following Glick’s shooting, there was an item by Channel 2’s Ohad Hammo interviewing those Muslim ladies who said “[the Jews] have no Temple according to us.” But regular and ongoing coverage is lacking.
Sunday will be marked as the solemn fast of Tisha Be’av, commemorating the destruction of two temples. The media need not adopt an architect’s plan for its rebuilding or champion a new status quo. On the other hand, it should not lend a hand to those who seek to further keep from our consciousness the ongoing destruction, physical and legal, that exists there.
The ever-increasing number of days the site is closed to non-Muslims is another change in the status quo. Why does the media accept that Arabs/Muslims are permitted constantly to create a new “status quo”?
July 8, 2015
|Fifteen years ago, Israel’s Media Watch honored journalist Yoav Yitzchak with the Israeli Prize for Media Criticism. Yitzchak is one of Israel’s most responsible and successful investigative journalists.
Yitzchak was the journalist who revealed that president Ezer Weizmann, while he was a member of Knesset and minister in the Israeli government, received large sums of money from businessman Edward Sarussy and did not report them. After an investigation by the attorney general, Weizmann resigned.
Perhaps his most successful investigative effort concerned former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
Yitzchak was the first to expose, in July 2008, that Olmert had received a bribe from the developers of the Holyland project in Jerusalem. His first exposes regarding Olmert came in 2005. In their wake he had to leave his job as a reporter for the daily newspaper Ma’ariv, and the Israeli government stopped advertising on his online news site, “News 1.” The end of the story is known: Olmert was found guilty and it is only the Supreme Court, which is delaying its decision on Olmert’s appeal, which is keeping him out of jail.
Yitzchak is also the journalist who accused the late deputy police commissioner and chief detective Ephraim Bracha of criminal conduct. Yitzchak’s headlines and news columns on his News 1 website regarding Bracha were harsh.
For example, on May 30, Yitzchak’s headline screamed: “Bracha aided in obstructing a criminal process against Galili while both Bracha and Galili were represented by Fisher.”
The subtitle let us know that “a complaint to the police against Menachem Galili and sons accusing him of attempting to blackmail the mayor of Ashdod was denied under the guise of lack of guilt. The lawyer of the complainants demanded to receive the investigative materials in order to appeal. Bracha became involved, even though this was not his formal duty, and prevented the handing out of the records of the investigation. Galili’s lawyer was Fisher. Bracha was also represented by Fisher. An accident? Oh no, conflict of interest, corruption and bribes.”
Fisher in this case is Ronel Fisher, who has been formally prosecuted on 12 counts and is in detention until the end of the judicial process against him. Another lawyer who was representing Bracha is Ruth David, the former head prosecutor of the Tel Aviv district and later Fisher’s partner in his law firm.
David herself is now under investigation for criminal activity while serving as a justice department prosecutor. Bracha, whose job it was to investigate criminals, had a knack for consorting with shady people.
For many years, his rabbi was Yoshiyahu Pinto, sentenced to jail for bribery. Pinto tried to bribe Bracha in 2012 and nine days later, the latter exposed him to the police.
On July 3, Yitzchak’s headline was “Bracha is a danger to the public.”
The subtitle was: “Attorney-general Yehuda Weinstein, who has defended Bracha for a long time, will have to decide in a few days whether to open a criminal investigation against Bracha for obstruction of justice, bribery and fraud and remove him as head of the police fraud squad. If found guilty, Bracha might be sent to prison for many years. The big drama is still ahead of us – the results of the quiet investigation which was opened as a result of the exposés of News 1 will shock the public.”
On July 5, Ephraim Bracha committed suicide.
The shock was indeed large, and the recriminations started flying.
Everyone in the police was full of praise for Bracha, his modesty and honesty. Perhaps naturally, Yoav Yitzchak was accused, either directly or indirectly, of responsibility for Bracha’s death. Gidi Weitz wrote in Haaretz: “The News 1 website held a wild, violent and uninhibited crusade against Bracha.”
The Justice Ministry also joined the chorus by releasing a special communique noting that there was no decision to open up a criminal investigation against Bracha. Specifically, the ministry wrote: “In continuation to the claims of Yoav Yitzchak as though there had been a decision to open a criminal investigation against Officer Bracha, we would like to make it crystal clear that this is an obscene lie, a continuation of Yitzchak’s false reports on this topic.” Yitzchak himself noted, and we were very careful in translating his article, that he never claimed that a decision had been made. He only claimed that a decision would be made soon.
Oded Ben-Ami, in his Channel 2 evening news round-up on Sunday, interviewed Yitzchak. Channel 2’s police correspondent Moshe Nussbaum questioned Yitzchak about Yitzchak’s alleged report that a decision had been made to investigate Bracha. Yitzchak interrupted Nussbaum and did not let him finish his question, noting that he would not allow lies to be further spread about him. Ben-Ami wanted Nussbaum to continue, but Yitzchak, publicly calling Nussbaum a liar, refused, and Ben-Ami took Yitzchak off the air.
In an interview we conducted with Yitzchak on Tuesday, he reiterated his accusation that Nussbaum was a liar. The Channel 2 TV correspondent, he said, had posed a question to the Justice Ministry based on the false premise that Yitzchak had claimed the ministry had decided to investigate Bracha. The ministry, without requesting proof from Nussbaum, then responded as quoted above.
Yitzchak demanded a retraction from the ministry, which has yet to materialize.
The campaign against Yitzchak is fierce and dirty. Mati Golan in a Globes article claimed that the News1 website “was always for Pinto and against Bracha.” The subtitle of Golan’s article was: “There is no escaping the impression that in this case you did not do your work, but that of Pinto.” Unfortunately for Golan, the facts are not on his side. For example, on May 5, the headline in the News 1 website was: “Pinto tried to conquer the judicial system,” with the subtitle: “He used his influence on Bracha, a religious man; bribes were part of a series of actions aimed to obstruct the investigations and the judicial process.”
What Golan kept from the public was that he had been sued in the past by Yitzchak, and forced by the court to apologize publicly to him. Golan, Yitzchak claims, is simply trying to get even with him now.
In the aftermath of Bracha’s suicide, Yitzchak expressed his dismay and sorrow. However, he did not retract any articles nor was he apologetic regarding his journalism. He claimed that he was only carrying out his duty as an investigative journalist.
Yitzchak is not only upset by the personal vendetta against him, but more so by the fact that the investigation against Bracha has stopped and that Bracha is being now touted as a role model by the Israel Police.
We would have expected that the media, which demands freedom of the press, would defend Yitzchak for having done his job, and would call upon the police and the Justice Ministry to pursue the investigation. If Yitzchak’s allegations are true, then there are other people involved. Is the Justice Ministry trying to cover up for someone?
July 2, 2015
|This past Monday, the Knesset’s Economic Affairs Committee passed a government- proposed amendment to defer the implementation of the new Public Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) law. The law, adopted just last year, stipulated that by June 30 the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) would be dissolved and the new PBC would immediately begin operating. The necessary bureaucratic steps needed to implement the June 30 deadline were already in place, including the recommendations of the newly formed nominations committee, headed by judge (ret.) Ezra Kama, for the people who would lead the PBC.
But, as happens so many times, especially in a democracy, in the meantime we had elections.
The previous communications minister, Gilad Erdan, who barreled the law through the Knesset in record time, is now the minister of public security and strategic affairs. The communications minister is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and he appointed Minister-without- portfolio Ofir Akunis to implement communications policy.
The prime minister decided to temporarily freeze the recommendations of the Kama Committee and give himself time before having to take action.
It is this step which led to Monday’s deferment, giving the prime minister 90 days to decide. As might further be expected, the opposition as well as parts of the media roundly criticized the prime minister, accusing him of wanting to control Israel’s media and make it subservient to him. As Nati Tucker published at The Marker website: “The fear is that now, in order to appoint his people, Netanyahu will bring back the previous law where the appointment of the council and the CEO was in the hands of the politicians. Such interference would violate the independence of the broadcasting authority.”
Is this really the case, or are there some fatal flaws in the present PBC law? In the Economic Affairs Committee discussion, Minister Akunis noted repeatedly that even the name “Public Broadcasting Corporation” is problematic. Just as there is a British Broadcasting Corporation, he said, there should an Israel Broadcasting Corporation. This is not mere quibbling about a name. The law as it now stands raises a number of serious questions, which should be considered very carefully.
The IBA costs the Israeli taxpayer close to a billion shekels per year. As the motto goes, “no taxation without representation.” The taxpayer has a right to determine how her or his money will be spent. In democracies this process is well understood.
We go to the polls, elect our government and give it the power to implement policy. It is the government’s responsibility to see to it that our taxes are well spent. If our representatives do a bad job, they are sent home and someone else comes in their stead.
But this is not the case with the PBC law. In seeming deference to pressure from the media, who always demand that the media be separated from politics, Minister Erdan initiated the formation of the nominations committee. The communications minister appoints the head of the committee, who then appoints two further members and decides together with them who would lead the PBC. The minister can either approve their whole slate or nix all of them. He cannot decide that one or the other nominee is not fit for the job. On the face of it, the minister surrenders his power and subverts democracy.
The law fails those who pay for this service, we the taxpayers, and hands over a state institution to yet another clique. Only this time, one which by law is non-Zionist, marginally Israeli and almost void of any Jewish character.
Why did Erdan propose it? Perhaps it was a political scheme. The minister gives the power of nomination to a respected judge. If the judge makes mistakes, the minister can claim it’s not his fault. At the same time, behind the scenes, the minister can continue with the political appointments. It just so happens that the legal adviser of the Communications Ministry, Dana Neufeld, was present during the deliberations of the nominations committee. If one really wanted to disassociate the nomination from politics, why was she present at committee deliberations? After all, she is beholden to the minister who appointed her his legal adviser.
From personal experience, we know that the committee was mainly interested in finding people that fit the legislative framework dictated by Minister Erdan. This framework assures that the PBC is controlled by managers, not by visionaries.
It is at best meant to assure the financial viability of the PBC, but not much more.
The media and Israel’s Left demand separation of the PBC from political intervention, claiming that political control impedes the freedom of speech and obstructs the ability of journalists to do their job as the watchdog of democracy.
This is why they supported Minister Erdan’s nominations committee. We claim that the nominations committee is a travesty of democracy as it empowers the unelected elites to run a public corporation without being responsible to the taxpayer.
Is there a better system? We would claim that there is. Indeed, the 2012 IBA law which preceded Erdan’s PBC law was based on compromise.
It gave the minister the power to appoint half of the directorate. Is this a good compromise? The answers are not obvious, but the question is certainly weighty enough to justify a decision by the prime minister to give himself some time to study the issue carefully.
The flaws of the PBC law do not end with the nominations process. As indicated by Minister Akunis, the actual goals of the PBC are far from being consensus ones. Why does Israel need a PBC? Why should the public have to shell out close to a billion shekels annually for it? There must be some really good arguments justifying spending so much public money on a public broadcaster. The present PBC law presents nothing of the sort. The word “Zionism” does not appear in the PBC law, just as the word “Israeli” is not mentioned in the title of the PBC. One might think that in view of the international onslaught on Israel and Jews all over the world, an important part of the PBC’s mandate would be to broadcast and maintain an important public dialogue with world Jewry.
The 2012 IBA law stated among other things that the roles of the authority were to “present and document the lives and culture of the citizens of Israel and the Jewish people in the Diaspora” and “to broadcast the Israeli experience to the Diaspora.” Yet the PBC law does not mention the Diaspora even once.
The flaws of the PBC law are sufficient to fill the graduate thesis of an advanced media student.
In this column we just touched the tip of an iceberg. We would recommend that the present PBC law be abolished and replaced by its 2012 predecessor which, though far from perfect, would go a long way toward justifying the required public expenditure for its operation.