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.
September 6, 2016
|Criticism of journalism by media consumers is often dismissed as either “political,” “subjective” or as coming from those who know nothing about the profession. That journalists can be extremely political themselves, or have no real training, is generally avoided.
The New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg has described the standard for media ethics as follows: “It is journalism’s job to be true to the readers and viewers, and true to the facts, in a way that will stand up to history’s judgment.” But who makes those judgment calls, and are they as liable to be critical as the politicians and public figures they scrutinize? Consider Israel’s latest media scandals in its coverage of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
As we have written previously, we viewed quite negatively the willingness of Netanyahu to allow Channel 10 to continue to literally steal money from the public while at the same time providing its viewers with tainted and unethical programming content and slanted ideological commentary.
Not only was the channel economically unsound, but we also documented its biased content.
Channel 10 has a different view of “fairness,” permitting Assaf Harel, one of its late-night satirists, to rip into Netanyahu mercilessly.
On his July 19 program, Harel, upset that Netanyahu as communications minister postponed the launch of the new public broadcasting company, accused him of acting so because of investigations he is embroiled in. “You wish the media to deal with this [delay] rather than your personal corruption… running the country without integrity, fraudulently, without values and 100% opportunism… you are a monster,” said Harel.
This monologue came after the July 5 show when Harel criticized the 40-year memorial ceremony for the Entebbe raid, which was combined with Netanyahu’s meeting with seven African heads of state, as all “because Yoni [Netanyahu’s brother] died.”
This week, one of Harel’s scriptwriters, Ruth Elbaz – who is not enamored of Netanyahu – posted to her Facebook page a picture of Hitler with Goering on a balcony, a Nazi flag in the background and the caption: “Many came to the briefing today.” We will return to the context, but first, if exploiting Nazi imagery is fair for an extreme left-winger, or anyone opposed to Netanyahu, why is everyone still upset about GSS-employed agent provocateur Avishai Raviv’s photoshop of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in an SS uniform, which he managed to get displayed live on camera back in 1995? And if that contributed to Rabin’s assassination, what is the culpability of Elbaz? When, within minutes, voices rose against such abuse of the freedom of expression, Elbaz responded: “If anyone felt slighted, it was just bad-taste humor.” Her FB page carries that caption under a scene from Orwell’s 1984 and other totalitarian figures.
As for the context, in the past few weeks Netanyahu has been conducting one-on-one meetings with members of the press. Multiple meetings and, it seems, intensive ones. This is the backdrop to Elbaz’s Nazi reference mentioned above. In the past, Netanyahu has been rapped for not conducting press conferences. Now he is holding them, if not in public. But it is not enough.
One meeting, a four-hour session with the editorial board of Haaretz (!), generated much discussion.
Haaretz columnists, being who and what they are, were troubled.
On August 18, Gideon Levy referred to the meeting two days earlier as a “performance, authentic theater, a one-man show by a character actor… [p]erhaps he is an effective Evangelist preacher….”
Levy added: “He’s a kid who’s never grown up.” At the same time, when Netanyahu used his Facebook page to snap back at journalists, a protest arose from media ranks; how dare he?. What the media permits itself is prohibited to those they attack.
In April, former editor-in-chief for The Observer in England and current Guardian columnist Will Hutton expressed fear of “a highly powerful rightwing press” for which “a cowed BBC” was no match. He spoke of “a new carelessness about truth… partisan, unforgivable nonsense, with uneasy tones…,” and warned that the public debate is in danger of being “largely framed by a media whose core purpose has transmuted from the dissemination of information, news and fact to the propagandizing of a worldview.”
Parallel to this perspective was Justin Raimondo’s, who wrote in The Los Angeles Times, “It has become almost impossible to separate coverage of the Trump campaign from attempts to tear it down.”
Indeed, the coverage of Netanyahu in the Israeli media seems to be driven not by objective, factbased reporting or even well-reasoned opinions but by an animosity almost pathological in nature.
It has been amply documented that in Israel, this very type of “personal opinion journalism” has been the dominant bon ton, especially in the public broadcasting networks. This includes the broadcast hosts who led the Get Out of Lebanon campaign and boasted of it; the suppressing of news regarding Yasser Arafat’s negating of the Oslo Accords commitments; the fawning over those who adopt an anti-occupation stance; the ignoring of cultural events, usually either religious or connected to the nationalist camp and more.
We have analyzed this and documented bias with factual data and, in many cases, actual admissions.
Returning to the present, has there been any investigative journalism as to what the elections in the Palestinian Authority mean? Is the Iran-US deal being reevaluated as Iranian ships bait American vessels (not to mention the ransom money the US admits it paid)? Have Israel’s new foreign policy outreaches been subjected to a fair and balanced review? Have anti-boycott successes been lauded? Have attacks vilifying American Jews trying to assist Israel in this matter been highlighted? Why has Jordan’s vicious antagonism over events on the Temple Mount and capitulation to extremist Islamism after it jettisoned its agreement with Netanyahu to affix surveillance cameras ignored? The fact is that in our media there is no proper analysis of the Islamism growing in the kingdom across the river.
In America, media critics on both sides of the spectrum are referring to a “complete collapse of American journalism” as the election campaign seems to spiral out of control, with one noting that the “shameful display of naked partisanship by the elite media is unlike anything seen in modern America.” We in Israel, sadly, have our own share of shameful displays.
August 17, 2016
|Two inter-related topics have been on our media agenda during the past two weeks. One is the attempt by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) to curtail the activities of Israel’s two public gambling institutions, Mifal Hapayis, owned by Israel’s municipalities, and the Toto, which runs sports betting. The second is the media coverage of the Olympics. Both create a serious conflict of interest for the media and both have an international flavor.
The Jewish attitude toward gambling is negative.
The Talmud notes that the testimony of someone who gambles with dice is not acceptable in court. Gambling has destroyed families and people. It is addictive. Large gambling losses have even led to murder. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has more than once tried to introduce legal casino gambling to Israel, claiming that it would bring with it huge profits for the tourism industry and especially Eilat, but was overruled even by his own party members.
Why then does Israel allow the Toto and Mifal Hapayis to operate? Some claim that gambling is simply an unsurmountable human weakness, and that if the country were to forbid gambling completely it would continue illegally and be dominated by criminal elements. Better to have government gambling operations which are limited in scope and regulated.
Both Mifal Hapayis and the Toto are public corporations. Mifal Hapayis pours its profits into the coffers of the municipal governments which use it to build classes, public centers and fund a variety of public interest activities. The Toto, run by the Council for Organization of Sports Gambling, with representatives of the Israel Olympic Committee (IOC) on its board, uses its profits to enhance sports activities in Israel, supporting sports clubs, sports education and Israel’s Olympic efforts. Both organizations are considered to be relatively clean by the media. Bribing of athletes is relatively rare and the known number of cases is small.
Yet, when one thinks of it, the media’s relationship to these organizations puts it in a serious conflict of interest. The Payis spends almost NIS 100 million per year on advertisements, making it one of the biggest supporters of the Israeli media. The Toto (whose yearly income of NIS 2.6 billion, compared to that of the Payis at NIS 6.5b.) spends NIS 30m. directly on advertising and much more indirectly through its support of the Israel Premier League’s monopoly on broadcasting its games.
Given these huge sums, it is clear that media outlets which carry advertising of the two organizations would be very hesitant to criticize them. Our three central TV channels were very supportive of the “cottage cheese” social upheaval of 2011. They consistently clamor that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies make the rich richer and the poor poorer. Yet, the Payis and the Toto do the same. Their combined NIS 10b. annual income is equivalent to an annual tax of NIS 5000 per Israeli household, if it were equally distributed. It is not. The rich hardly pay it at all; the poor pay most of it. Imagine the brouhaha the media would raise if Netanyahu were to suggest such a skewed taxation.
But the Payis and the Toto are not taken to task – at least not until Finance Minister Kahlon put his foot down. All he did was limit the operations of the Payis and stop its setting up of slot machines all over the country.
The reaction of the municipalities was a strike threat, and the media played along beautifully, giving the threatening mayors ample opportunity to “explain” why their threats are justified. This paid off for them: the Finance Ministry agreed to cover most of the “losses” incurred because of the curtailing of the Payis.
The media silence is deafening. When a doctor manages to top the income list of government officials, reaching NIS 1m. per year, the media goes berserk in pointing out the “injustice.” Yet the salary of the executive director of the Payis is almost the same. At least the salary of the physician comes from taxpayers’ money, which is mostly covered by the rich. The salary of the CEO of the Payis comes from the poor. But the media is mostly silent.
The Olympic Games are not very different.
Their coverage in Israel borders on the ridiculous. This Monday, Israel Hayom, Israel’s leading newspaper, ran on its front page the headline “The Night of Hanna,” referring to Hanna Knyazeva-Minenko, who was hopefully going to win an Olympic medal in the women’s triple jump. Let’s make this clear: the paper went to press before the results were known; Knyazeva-Minenko had not even won a medal yet made it onto page one.
It is interesting to compare Israel with its eight-million population to other countries, such as Switzerland, also with 8 million, or Denmark with 6 million. Swiss athletes have thus far collected five medals, two of them gold and two bronze. Danish athletes won three bronze, three silver and one gold. Israel’s performance by comparison is very weak.
Why? Not many countries send their sports ministers to spend a few weeks in Rio to “oversee” the Olympics. Our media, which rushes to criticize the prime minister for expenses incurred in his travels abroad, have in this case, even though they generally abhor Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, kept mum about the unnecessary expense.
Israeli athletes garnered two bronze medals.
They were publicly congratulated by President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Haven’t our politicians overdone this? Why aren’t they brought to task for mixing sports with politics? The IOC clearly failed, Israel’s results are miserable – why doesn’t the media demand its resignation and the infusion of new blood into it? Could it be because the media is afraid of the IOC members who control the advertising budget of the Toto? The TV channels make extra income from their coverage of the Olympic Games, as do other stations all over the world. The world coverage of the games is fueled by advertising income. Are they really so popular, or are they made popular by an industry which has much to gain from the “excitement”? The public has limited knowledge of the rules governing judo, or sailing. If it weren’t for the Olympic aura, these activities would garner very little attention. Consider the Paralympics, where Israel is a world leader.
Games with disabled people, who might have missing limbs and other disfigurements, do not attract huge audiences. In Israel, where too many people have been hurt by war and acts of terrorism, the Paralympics should be much more important than the Olympics.
Yet they are not. The income from advertisement is not sufficient.
These maladies are not limited to Israel.
Money is all too important when it comes to media coverage of any issue. This in itself may be legitimate, but what is wrong is the media’s simultaneous self-aggrandizement as “the conscience of the people.”
August 3, 2016
|The New York Times did it again. It took a nonstarter of a topic and used it to chip at Israel’s democratic image. On July 30, it published an op-ed by Ruth Margalit entitled, “How Benjamin Netanyahu Is Crushing Israel’s Free Press.”
Netanyahu, in Margalit’s glossary of terms, does not “criticize,” he “attacks,” as in his “broader attack… on Israel’s democratic institutions, including the Supreme Court and nongovernmental organizations.” To back this claim she quotes Nahum Barnea, “a pre-eminent Israeli columnist,” but does not inform her readers that Barnea, who began his career in the Labor Party’s now defunct newspaper Davar, is eminently anti-Netanyahu.
She accuses Netanyahu of using his influence to assure that the Walla website will serve his interests. Referring to the appointment of Shlomo Filber as director-general of the Communications Ministry, she notes: “Since the appointment of its new director general, the ministry has ruled on a series of decisions that have been highly advantageous to Bezeq, Israel’s largest telecommunications group. Bezeq also operates Walla News, one of the most popular news sites in the country, and a close associate of Mr. Netanyahu’s, Shaul Elovitch, owns a controlling stake.”
As an example of Netanyahu’s newfound control, she cites the case of journalist Amir Tibon, Walla’s political correspondent, “who wrote an article critical of Mr. Netanyahu’s response to the latest wave of Palestinian violence under the headline ‘Netanyahu’s Promises of Calm Replaced by Cheerleading.’”
Soon after the piece was published, Tibon was told that the Prime Minister’s Office was pressuring editors to remove it from the website. Not only has the article remained in place, Tibon felt free enough to publish on the American Politico website that Netanyahu was “successful [in his] purging of the Israeli national-security establishment.”
Her imagination runs wild, claiming that “In broadcast journalism, Mr. Netanyahu has installed associates in positions of authority where he can, and has cast doubt on the financial future of places he can’t. All three of Israel’s main television news channels – Channel 2, Channel 10 and the Israel Broadcasting Authority – are now in danger of being fragmented, shut down or overhauled, respectively.”
Of course, this is utter nonsense. All three channels daily bash Netanyahu and his government.
The Israel Broadcasting Authority is run by people appointed by former communication minister Gilad Erdan, not Netanyahu, as was the chairperson of the Second TV and Radio Authority, which oversees Channel 2 and Channel 10.
She raises the bogey of “an atmosphere of intimidation” whereas the reality is that several times daily, Israel’s media is free to loudly bash Netanyahu, his policies and his government and even create an atmosphere of presumed criminality without any proof.
When this happened in England, even The Guardian permitted a critique of the new (sub) standard of journalism to appear in its pages on July 12 which read, in part, “it seemed that journalists were no longer required to believe their own stories to be true, nor, apparently, did they need to provide evidence. Instead it was up to the reader – who does not even know the identity of the source – to make up their own mind… Does the truth matter anymore?” Last October in The New Yorker, Margalit decided to play at prophecy, writing, “Netanyahu…may be serious about wanting to maintain the [Temple Mount] status quo, but… it’s a status quo that is inching closer and closer to the extremist camp.” Well, here we are, nine months later, and the status quo is in place. The “extremist camp” – that is, those who want a law that guarantees free access to a holy site to be upheld, similar to demands of the Reform Movement at the Western Wall – are still without any actual accomplishment.
Margalit is no babe in the woods. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, and is a political commentator.
In a recent article in the New Yorker, she “innocently” characterized the extreme left-wing Peace and Security Association as “non-partisan.” As the daughter of Prof.
The record needs be set straight. To borrow a phrase from Ruth Margalit, despite her assault on Netanyahu he remains the democratically chosen leader of democratic Israel and no matter how critical, aggressive and full of chutzpah Margalit and her associates are, their attacks only highlight the latent totalitarian tendency of the Left. The only blatant attack on a free press in recent years was the left-wing legislative campaign to ban the Israel Hayom newspaper through legal subterfuge combined with support from its competitor Yediot Aharonot.
That paper was described by Margalit as “widely believed to promote the views of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.” That is actually true, but it is not a crime. The paper makes no secret that it supports the prime minister. So, incidentally, does the public.
Only recently, statistics have shown again that Israel Hayom is Israel’s most popular newspaper.
All newspapers have agendas. The New York Times certainly does. It supports President Barack Obama and has never made secret its support for the Democratic Party candidates.
Is this an attack on democracy in the USA? Haaretz promotes the views of the Palestinian Authority, is virulently anti-Netanyahu and anti-religious. Yediot Aharonot is left-ofcenter and does not like the prime minister.
Ma’ariv is somewhere in the center. Makor Rishon and Besheva are Israel’s right-wing-oriented papers. This is Israel’s democracy, a bastion of free speech.
Haaretz, by the way, opened its columns to suggestions that the army stage a putsch.
The New York Times hosted Ronen Bergman, editorial board member of anti-Netanyahu Yediot Aharonot, ruled by Arnon Mozes, who wrote that he heard from “high-ranking officers” that “the possibility of a military coup had been raised” when Avigdor Liberman’s appointment as defense minister was announced. Since as far as we know he did not report the “high-ranking officers” to the police, we may assume that yet another “liberal” Israeli journalist views a violent overthrow of a democratically elected government as a desirable outcome.
Such anti-democratic views did not upset Margalit. The fact that Mozes makes sure that his paper follows his ideological line, as does Haaretz’s publisher Amos Shocken, does not risk Israel’s democracy. No, only Israel Hayom owner Sheldon Adelson threatens it.
The opponents of Netanyahu’s ideological outlook, and that of Likud prime ministers before him, have embarked on a dangerous path. For them, and their cheerleaders in the media, his policies aren’t only wrong but anti-democratic and proto-fascist. The more his opponents lose the popular vote in election after election, their voice, like Margalit’s, becomes more shrill, more damaging, more disconnected from the truth, more distanced from the facts and less rational. We would have expected that the New York Times find more serious journalists to criticize Israel.
July 20, 2016
|One of the issues often used to discredit Israel is the question of water in Judea and Samaria. For example, on June 23, The New York Times published an article by Diaa Hadid headlined, “[Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas claims Rabbis urged Israel to Poison Palestinians’ Water.”
To be fair, Hadid made it quite clear in the article that the allegations were unsubstantiated. But Abbas received a standing ovation in the EU Parliament for a speech which included these remarks: “A number of rabbis in Israel announced…demanding that their government poison the water to kill the Palestinians.
Isn’t that clear incitement to commit mass killings against the Palestinian people?” As also reported in the New York Times, the response from the Prime Minister’s Office was, “Abu Mazen [Abbas] showed his true face in Brussels…someone who spreads a blood libel before the European Parliament is falsely claiming that his hand is extended for peace.”
With this as background, we might have expected that The Jewish Chronicle, which describes itself as the “world’s oldest and most influential Jewish newspaper,” would be sensitive to spreading lies about the water problem in Judea and Samaria. In fact, it was the exact opposite.
When Abbas made the allegation, the Chronicle kept mum. The Times, by contrast, immediately informed readers that Abbas was “echoing anti-Semitic claims that led to the mass killings of European Jews in medieval times.”
Only on June 30, a week after the blood libel, did Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer, a regular analyst for the Chronicle, write that the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Abbas had retracted the accusation. He added that Abbas “has affirmed that he did not intend to do harm to Judaism or to offend Jewish People around the world.” A search of the Chronicle’s website reveals no other item on Abbas’s libel.
Was this a one-time “slip”? No.
On May 2, 2014, the Chronicle published an article by Simon Rocker, the paper’s Judaism editor, headlined, “Board of Deputies treasurer ‘shocked’ by visit to West Bank.”
What shocked the treasurer, who has since resigned? We quote: “Mr. Brass added that the abiding memory of his visit would be ‘the sight of an old rusty car being dumped down the village well, thus preventing the locals from having fresh water.’” His trip to Judea and Samaria had been sponsored by Yachad, an extreme-left anti-occupation group.
His one-day trip to Sussiya was led by a guide from NGO Breaking the Silence, whose campaign to libel Israel has been documented by NGO Monitor and now exposed as unreliable by Channel 10’s Hamakor program.
Brass was shocked by the fact that “just 48 hours after we left, a six-year-old girl from the neighboring village of Atuwani was admitted to hospital with head wounds after being stoned on her way to school.”
Brass bemoaned that this type of behavior goes unchecked by the IDF.
Brass can think what he likes, libel Israel and support Breaking the Silence, although, as a Board of Deputies official he was roundly condemned.
But the Chronicle? Where are its basic ethics? Did it check his “facts”? Did it investigate his claims? Did it seek to balance the story? Or is it a blind supporter of anti-Israel propaganda? The Israeli NGO Mattot Arim thought that perhaps in the aftermath of the Abbas “blood libel” the Chronicle would set the record straight and retract the damning 2014 article. Mattot Arim’s spokesperson, Susie Dym, wrote to Orlando Radice, foreign news editor of the Chronicle, on June 26: “You seem to have run an early version of the well poisoning ‘reports’ that made headlines around the world this past week before being retracted, even by the Palestinians… Would you please consider printing a retraction of the article above, even if belated, in the printed edition of the [Chronicle] and adding the retraction to the linked page?” The response came on June 27.
They only agreed to put a link in the article to a response by Assaf Fassy, the spokesperson of the South Hebron Hills Regional Council.
Fassy’s response was not sought out by the Chronicle; he wrote it on his own initiative when shocked pro-Israel Chronicle readers made him aware of Rocker’s “report.”
Why do Brass’s allegations merit a vetted news report whereas Fassy’s refutations do not? Dym, not satisfied with the answer, went on to ask: “Did the paper ever make any effort at the time, to interview any of the dozen Anglo-Jewish participants other than Mr. Brass, all of whom were present, hence doubtless witnessed the claimed intentional disabling of the village well? …Did anyone file a complaint with the authorities? Was this followed up? Did Mr Brass or anyone in his entourage snap a photo… it does, after all, take some time for a car to be dumped down the village well – ample time in order to capture the event on film or at least in a still? …Did the paper verify the name of the six-year-old girl… were hospital records obtained to verify that this actually happened? Did Israel Police or the IDF Spokesperson confirm to the [Chronicle] that the perpetrators of either of the above were ‘settlers’?” Radice’s answer was brief: “My response is as per the previous response – we added a linked line to the original story.”
In other words, the Chronicle seemingly performed not even the most elementary fact-checking before dignifying anti-Israel allegations with news report status.
These two instances are part of a pattern. The Chronicle claims that its “news and opinion pages reflect the wide diversity of Jewish religious, social and political thought from left to right.” Really? Consider the Chronicle’s analysts.
Rocker cannot be identified with the Right. For example, in an article on May 26 this year, he pushed for the idea that it is not sufficient to teach young children to be cheerleaders for Israel. We already mentioned Anshel Pfeffer. Another “analyst” is Gershon Baskin, well known to readers of The Jerusalem Post for his leftwing columns. Uri Dromi, director general of the Jerusalem Press club, a supporter of the two-state “solution,” is also an analyst for the Chronicle.
Another regular columnist is Jonathan Freedland, who in the Chronicle penned a sexist denigration of Israel’s justice minister: “Ayelet Shaked is… simultaneously gorgeous and a racist; she is a stunning bigot. She has a beautiful face, but her soul is ugly.” Melanie Phillips is presumably used in the comments section for the sake of “balance,” but we all know the subtle or perhaps not-so-subtle difference between analysis, which is supposedly objective, and opinion articles, which are not expected to be objective.
Sadly, it would seem that the answer to the question posed in our title is “yes.”