June 6, 2019

MEDIA COMMENT: Informing less but influencing more

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:42 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Informing less but influencing more
WHY DID the media need to wait for last Thursday evening’s press appearance by Netanyahu for Liberman’s record vis-à-vis the haredim to be set out before the public?
Robin Blom published her study, “Believing false political headlines and discrediting truthful political headlines” in the September issue of Journalism. It dealt with news and media literacy. The Indiana Ball State University academic found that there is a need to “improve much needed critical thinking skills” on the part of the media consumer. Our columns have always sought to push them to fulfill their own personal responsibilities as concerned citizens.

Blom drew an additional conclusion: that headlines are essential signals for news audiences who usually skim them to select the stories that truly interest them. Moreover, headlines are “even more important on social media, as there is usually no space for additional information.”
There is a paradox here. News outlets in Israel have multiplied over the last two decades, supposedly increasing pluralism. Reporters, readers and presenters of previously marginalized sub-groups are now front-and-center, and with the tools of Twitter and such, mainstream media is significantly challenged. Nevertheless, the old problems do not disappear.
For example, after the failure of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to form a government coalition, he lashed out at who he perceived was his main stumbling block: Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman, calling him a “leftist.” Stung, Liberman replied: “How can he call a resident of Nokdim [a community in Gush Etzion] that?” A few reporters pushed his message to highlight Netanyahu’s lack of credibility when it comes to facts.
Thanks to Aaron Lerner of Independent Media Review and Analysis (IMRA), we were able to locate a statement of Liberman reported in this newspaper on February 28, 2009. In an interview for The Washington Post he declared that he is “willing to evacuate his home in the settlement of Nokdim if a peace deal involving a two-state solution is reached with the Palestinians” – even if he personally did not believe in the possibility of that occurring.
Many residents of Judea and Samaria may be of similar opinion. Willingness to leave Yesha areas may not be a clear dividing line between Left and Right in Israeli politics, yet the least that would have been expected from the media is to remind the public that Liberman did proclaim a willingness to vacate Judea and Samaria.
Arguably, this position does justify to some extent Netanyahu’s accusation. It would seem that the clash between Liberman and Netanyahu is too good a news development to be considered factual. It sells papers. The plethora of news sources did not force the mainstream media to actually consider the veracity of the comments of either side. Information is not the strong side of our media nowadays.
WHY DID the media need to wait for last Thursday evening’s press appearance by Netanyahu (and yes, it is a shame that he doesn’t take questions) for Liberman’s record vis-à-vis the haredim (ultra-Orthodox) to be set out before the public? Where was the media to remind the public of his promises to eliminate Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh of Gaza, which went unfulfilled; of his demand for the death penalty that was not actualized? The mainstream media used Liberman to attack Netanyahu, to question his veracity. This was a clear case of manipulation and agenda-setting replacing decent reporting and commentary.
That the media can make or break a story is a well-known truth, but the opposite is less evident: how many stories have been killed – spiked in journalese jargon – that we never learn about?
The situation of Christians living in territories governed by the Palestinian Authority, for example, is an important issue. In the first place, Christians could, and should, be Israel’s allies. Given the attacks on Christians across the Middle East, as well as most recently in Sri Lanka, Israel’s media should by paying close attention to what is happening to this other non-Muslim minority in the Middle East. The disproportionate assistance for Israel of America’s Evangelical Christians – as well as those in Europe, South America and Southeast Asia – is a fact. One might then think that Middle Eastern Christians would be a natural topic for editors to assign to reporters.
Indeed, what has been happening recently that could be newsworthy?
In Dr. Edy Cohen’s report, issued on May 27 by the BESA Center, we learn that he fears there is a real possibility that Christianity could disappear in the place where it emerged. He notes three events either underreported or ignored by the Israeli media.
ON APRIL 25, residents of the Christian village of Jifna near Ramallah sought protection from the PA after being attacked by Muslim gunmen. In response, dozens of Fatah gunmen came to the village, fired hundreds of bullets in the air, threw petrol bombs and caused damage to public property. On May 13, the Maronite church in Bethlehem was desecrated and vandalized, and expensive equipment, including the security cameras, was stolen. Days later, the Anglican Church in Abud village, west of Ramallah, had its fence cut, windows broken and equipment stolen.
All three of Israel’s main television networks employ a full-time “territories” correspondent, or alternatively, an “Arab affairs” reporter. They enter Areas A and B. They usually have no compunction in asking about “delicate” issues of those they interview. They even infiltrate Jewish Hebron and hilltop youth communities. Should not this issue be attractive enough for an in-depth story?
Another “missing from the media” aspect is the voice of the Arab community in Israel.
The “Seventh Eye,” self-described as an “investigative magazine devoted entirely to Journalism [and] the Media” – and since 2015, independent from its former left-wing sponsor, the Israel Democracy Institute – published on June 1 Oren Persico’s report about the appearance of Arab Israelis in the media. His findings for May 19-25 showed that out of 3,100 “speaking individuals” on the main current affairs TV and radio programs, only 94, or 3%, were Arabs. Arab residents of Jerusalem’s eastern neighborhoods and the areas of Judea and Samaria were not included.
As he points out, Arabs make up some 20% of Israel’s citizenry. The ongoing survey is sponsored by the Sikkuy NGO, which “advanc[es] civic equality,” together with the Ifat business information company. Persico notes that out of the 23 programs in mainstream media surveyed, Arabs were missing completely from 12. The networks reviewed are Kan, channels 12 and 13 television news, and Gal Galatz radio. The previous week, May 12-18, only 1.4% were Arabs interviewed or participating in talk shows.
If Israel’s media is to serve the public, to inform and to act as an agent for the promotion of inter-communal discourse, this level of representation is inexcusable. It would be interesting to know if a similar survey is being conducted regarding the haredi population and that of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. This becomes especially important in view of the forthcoming election.
We do not expect the media to “repent,” certainly not prior to an election campaign in which, we predict, they will do their utmost to bring down the prime minister for all the wrong reasons. But the least we can do is proclaim: media consumer beware – the headline you are reading is not innocent.

May 22, 2019

MEDIA COMMENT:A tale of three journalists

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:12 pm by yisraelmedad

A tale of three journalists
The media – even a state-sponsored public broadcasting authority – can make value judgments and decide when an employee has crossed a line.
On Shabbat, May 11, Lihi Lapid, the wife of Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid, wrote that she had been fired as a columnist by the Yediot Aharonot newspaper chain. In a post on Facebook, she claimed her firing was a result of her husband being a political figure whose politics were not to the owners’ or editors’ liking. On Saturday evening, Walla News responded by publishing a denial from a Yediot source that simply said, “A decision has not yet been taken.” Later in the week, we learned that Ms. Lapid would be invited to a hearing prior to any termination of employment. As of the writing of this article, as far as we know, her employment at Yediot has been terminated.

Some sources, trying to impugn her, claimed her salary was out of proportion. In response, Ms. Lapid publicized two salary stubs from the past two years showing that her salary was NIS 10,000 per month. Ms Lapid did not deny that she took a leave of absence during the three-month period prior to the elections, adding that she was proud of using this time to campaign on behalf of her husband. But once the three months were over, she thought it appropriate to return and write.

Lihi Lapid studied photography at Camera Obscura and Tel Aviv University, although without obtaining a bachelor’s degree. She was a photographer for the IDF weekly Bamahane during her army service. From 2003-2019, she had a column in the Yediot Tikshoret subsidiary of local weeklies. She also authored over 10 books, the latest one in 2018 titled Being a Mother of a Soldier.

Ms. Lapid was quite upset, not only because the notice came in a phone call. She raised a fundamental issue: “I see no problem in writing a personal women’s column in a newspaper even if my husband is a politician… I do not think that in the year 2019, in the State of Israel, it is possible to fire someone due to the profession of his spouse… I gave my soul when writing and was true only to my readership.”

A different media personality married to a senior politician is Ms. Geula Even-Sa’ar. Her IDF service was in Army Radio beginning in 1990. Since 1993, she worked for Israel’s public broadcaster. In 1997, she replaced Haim Yavin as the anchor of TV Channel 1’s central evening news program. In 2008, she left that position, continuing as an interviewer for the Israel Broadcasting Authority, later supplanted by KAN, the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation, or IBC.

In May 2013, she married Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar, who was then interior minister. Only early in September 2014, seemingly as a result of a run-in she had with Ms. Ayala Hasson, her boss at that time, her programs were put on hold. But she returned quickly due to the fact that on September 17 of that year, Gideon Sa’ar took a leave of absence from politics. Even-Sa’ar continued working for the new IBC, but resigned as the evening news anchor on December 24, 2018, due to her husband’s decision to reenter politics. After the elections, she renewed her work at the IBC.

Even-Sa’ar and Lapid ceased their journalistic jobs during the election campaign, but there are differences between them. Lapid actively campaigned for her husband, while Even-Sa’ar did not. Even-Sa’ar’s job at the IBA and the IBC was senior to that of Lapid at Yediot. Both Even-Sa’ar and Lapid are identifiably left of center, so their political inclinations do not underlie the different attitude toward them in the IBC and Yediot respectively.

OUR THIRD media figure is Matti Golan, a 25-year veteran journalist at Globes and its former editor. He was fired at the age of 82 from Globes this past January. He is suing the paper for NIS 1.2 million, claiming the newspaper’s decision was frivolous and that he was not given a fair hearing. He, too, was notified by phone.

These three cases lead to the central question: When may a media organization fire someone? Is it right to dismiss a person due to the profession of his or her spouse? Or age? Is this outrageous?

Media employees can be disciplined or fired. Just two weeks ago, BBC radio host Danny Baker was fired. He tweeted a picture of a well-dressed couple next to a suited chimpanzee that was captioned, “Royal baby leaves hospital.” A BBC spokesperson announced, “This was a serious error of judgment and goes against the values we as a station aim to embody.” Baker was also fired in 1997 by the BBC for crossing “the line between being humorous and controversial and being insulting.”

Obviously, then, the media – even a state-sponsored public broadcasting authority – can make value judgments and decide when an employee has crossed a line. But this is not acceptable to some. MK Yair Lapid declared, “It is still difficult for me to believe that Yediot Aharonot fired Lihi just because she is my wife…. This is part of the attack on all the values that once appeared so clear to us… this is what happens when a newspaper starts being afraid of the government.” Other MKs from the Blue and White Party also entered the fray, attacking Yediot for its actions. Are these reactions justified?

Intellectual honesty seems to be a rare commodity. It is standard practice in academia to shy away from dual-career appointments, as they might conflict with the need of assuring a diverse faculty. Ethical problems arise when both members of a couple are employed. There are conflicts of interest, especially when one is senior to the other. In other words, Ms. Lapid, yes, even in the 21st century, unfortunately, the job of one part of a couple is affected by the actions of the other. Go ask Mr. and Mrs. Netanyahu about this.

While there are few people who remain employed until the age of 82, Golan was privileged. Due to legal considerations, it is dangerous to admit that a person is being sent home because of his age. Golan was a loyal servant of Globes, but like anyone else, there comes a day when it all ends. The termination of his work should have been amicable, but not necessarily unethical.

Firing need not be the immediate response to a conflict of interest or unethical actions. What is needed is that every media outlet should have a clear code of ethics and a detailed scale of retributions for various infractions, from warning to suspension to a fine or more.

At this point, we in Israel come to a problem. The media here have such codes. But in practice, there are no clear guidelines. Worse, the media ignore their obligation to punish malfeasance.

Why is it then that Yediot fired Ms. Lapid, Globes fired Golan, but KAN does not touch Ms. Even-Sa’ar? Is it political? Is KAN as a public broadcaster afraid to touch the spouses of politicians? Or is it that Ms. Even-Sa’ar is at this point much more valuable to the IBC than Ms. Lapid is to Yediot or Golan to Globes?


May 9, 2019

MEDIA COMMENT: Seeking genuine media independence

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:11 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Seeking genuine media independence
After 71 years, we deserve independence from biased, strident, expensive and failed media purveyors who also engage in negative misrepresentation.
George Orwell, writing on September 1, 1944, in the Tribune, a left-wing British magazine dominated by Communist Party officials, had “a message” for his fellow left-wing journalists and intellectuals: “Do remember that dishonesty and cowardice always have to be paid for. Don’t imagine that for years on end you can make yourself the boot-licking propagandist of the Soviet regime, or any other regime, and then suddenly return to mental decency. Once a whore, always a whore.”

That came to mind while reading Gideon Levy’s op-ed column this past Sunday in Haaretz. In between Passover – the Jewish holiday of freedom – Holocaust Remembrance Day, Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars, and Israel’s Independence Day, Levy, always the provocateur, wrote of the “Gaza Ghetto Uprising.” This is a phrase he first uttered the previous evening in a debate with Likud MK Yoav Kisch while on a panel of Channel 12’s Meet the Press program. He repeated it the following day on Kan TV 11.

Levy didn’t ignore the violence originating from Gaza but simply spun it this way: “You can make claims against Hamas but you can’t make any claims against Gaza. It’s fighting for its freedom and no struggle is more just than its struggle, and Hamas is its leader.” Israel, “with its own hands,” has built a large “ghetto.”

Levy is not just a columnist for Haaretz; he is a member of the newspaper’s editorial board, a former deputy editor, and sets out its editorial line.

In the Israel of 2019, assuredly there is a free press, and freedom of opinion is a staple of our democracy. Yet part of this freedom is the right and even the duty of the public to castigate those who exploit outrageous comparisons with Nazi-linked phraseology. Just as Meir Kahane was disinvited from the various media channels, so should Levy and his cohorts be. Levy can continue to make his self-hatred known but why do our television or radio consider it acceptable to provide him a stage for his extremism? Why not free our media from all extremism, from the Right and the Left.

In the United States, the media itself have raised the banner of a major pushback against a culture of rhetoric weaponized by politicians that they perceive is causing a rift in American society. Likewise, here in Israel, we should protest what has become an increasing effort by certain media sources to corrupt public discourse. These “media stars” seek to become extremists with a license, pushing the language and the themes not for their content value but for the “noise” they generate.

Levy is not alone. We have often noted in this column the Nazi rhetoric of Haaretz related to Education Minister Naftali Bennett. But it is not only such rhetoric which is bothersome. On Sunday, at 5:45 p.m. on the Kan TV Channel 11, Dov Gil-Har interviewed seven-year old Lihi Shenfaff and her mother. Lihi had written a letter to Gaza hoping to interest people there to halt their rocket fire and consider a more peaceful approach. Lihi was asked by Gil-Har if she knew what Hamas wanted. Without hesitation, Lihi replied, “They want from us the Land of Israel.”

QUITE POSSIBLY Gil-Har was taken aback by Lihi’s forthrightness but his reaction exposed his bias. “That could very well be,” he retorted. He found it necessary to reformulate the remark of a seven-year-old as if to suggest doubt that she could be right. Gil-Har knows that Lihi’s assertion is exactly what is written in the Hamas Covenant: All of “Palestine” must be emptied of its Jews. Gil-Har is not ignorant but he is rather prejudiced, finding it necessary to cast doubt on a child’s remark only to protect his liberal, anti-national agenda. His thoughts are his right, but why do we need to suffer them on a publicly-funded TV station?

During this past week many in the media took advantage of the last round of fighting against Hamas to emphasize how important it is for the government to realize the huge damage inflicted if, heaven forbid, the Eurovision were to be canceled as a result of the security situation. The state-owned Kan TV is not an innocent party, as it produces the Eurovision, and made sure that a special correspondent based at the Eurovision rehearsal hall, Shani Nahshoni, would ask everyone she could if they were frightened to be in Israel.

Somehow, though, the scare tactics did not work. Ya’akov Bardugo, for example, on last Sunday’s Army Radio 5 p.m. news program, excoriated this vile attempt to scare Israel from defending itself only for the purpose of holding the Eurovision contest. So Kan TV changed its strategy. Instead of calling for consideration of the Eurovision, they made sure on Sunday at 11 p.m., with the help of their European correspondent, to emphasize that no one in Europe was even mentioning the Eurovision in connection with the Gaza fighting. Perhaps they were hoping that by continuing to mention the contest in the context of the ongoing war that someone would “wake up.” For the state-run TV, the Eurovision Song Contest is more important than the safety and security of Israel’s citizens.

We also should note that no one has mentioned that the Eurovision is being held during Sefirat Ha’omer. The historical mourning period recalls the Bar-Kochba fighters who died in the revolt against Rome, as well as those Jews slaughtered in Western Europe due to the Crusades. Jews who preserve the tradition will not be able to “enjoy” this spectacle.

The truth is that the Eurovision is very expensive and is not bringing in the expected results. As we know, ticket sales have been rather slow and hotel room reservations mediocre. Had the Kan conglomerate been forced to finance the song contest, it would not have taken place as it is not a financially viable operation.

Let’s make this a bit clearer: The cost of Eurovision is expected to come to more than 100 million shekels. Consider the income that Kan makes from advertisements on Saturdays, the Jewish festivals and Independence Day. It is not more than 10 million shekels per annum. It is high time for Kan’s management and for us, the public, to be asked what is a better investment of public funds – a one-time Eurovision contest or a festive atmosphere every Shabbat and festival without advertisement income?

As part of its demands for entering the coalition, the National Union religious party has put up for negotiation the dissolution of Army Radio. We would like to see this as part of a process in which the Israeli public receives our independence from the media’s anti-democratic hold on our airwaves. Even better would be the disbanding of the failed Kan conglomerate.

After 71 years, we deserve independence from biased, strident, expensive and failed media purveyors who also engage in negative misrepresentation. 


April 25, 2019

MEDIA COMMENT: Where is the media’s introspection?

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:03 am by yisraelmedad

MEDIA COMMENT: Where is the media’s introspection?
We might just shrug our shoulders and consider this as just another attempt by Ynet to “generate traffic.” Much worse is the conclusion that Ynet cannot be trusted.
Last Tuesday, within minutes of a Ynet report claiming the police initiated a probe into a decade-old stock deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cousin Nathan Milikowsky, the Israel Police issued a denial. Despite a policy of not confirming or denying news reports, the police statement explained that in this case a denial was necessary due to the “sensitivity and public significance” of the allegation.

Ynet reporter Eli Senior’s subsequent update was that police investigators were given information which “raised questions” regarding Netanyahu’s stock purchases. Yet, the headline still read “Police probing Netanyahu stock transaction,” when it should have been “Police deny new Netanyahu stock investigation.” The Calcalist website which, like Ynet, is part of the Yediot Ahronot media empire, was not much better, reporting on March 20 that elements within the State Prosecutor’s Office were “deliberating whether to open a criminal investigation.”

Introspection? Not in this case. We might just shrug our shoulders and consider this as just another attempt by Ynet to “generate traffic.” Much worse is the conclusion that Ynet cannot be trusted. The end justifies the means, it seems, with the end in this case being to get rid of Netanyahu. Damning headlines, whether truthful or not, create the noise needed to impress upon someone in the Justice Ministry that it is their duty to leak to the media that there will be an investigation.

Ynet is not alone. There are those that are seeking to prod Justice Ministry employees to find ways to scuttle the appointment of Yariv Levin – an attorney, and the Likud’s current tourism minister – to the post of justice minister. Using Channel 12’s April 13 evening news show, political commissar Amnon Abramovich “jokingly” warned the PM that such an appointment would add another year to his expected jail sentence. This was not an innocent statement. Abramovich and reporter Guy Peleg, who filed the item, know that Levin at the Justice Ministry would probably lead to continuation of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s judicial reform, which could severely curtail their powers and those of their friends.

In the next day’s Ma’ariv, even former Labor Party minister and MK Haim Ramon roundly criticized the pair for their “humor.” He noted the history of successful attempts by the Justice Ministry to derail the appointment of political figures, citing several cases such as former justice minister Yaakov Ne’eman’s dismissal, which was based on false allegations. Ramon demanded that the ministry respond, and it did the next day. Attorney-General Amichai Mandelblit found it necessary to deny any involvement of ministry officials in the appointment of the next justice minister, and Abramovich, confronted on screen by reporter Amit Segal, stressed that he was only “joking.”

Despite such lack of introspection, there is good news. In the past, almost any serious criticism came only from outsiders, such as the writers of this column, who founded and directed Israel’s Media Watch back in 1995, or an occasional but short-lived media critique show. Nowadays, the dam has burst. An increasing number of mainstream media personalities find it necessary to at times voice scathing opinions on the media’s performance. Due in large part to modern social media, the mainstream press has no choice but to become sufficiently pluralistic to allow airing of “other” opinions.

On April 10, Avri Gilad, himself a central media figure who hosts Channel 2’s The World This Morning program, posted his observations on his media peers on Facebook: “Bibi’s victory… is registered in your name… You caused enough damage. You demand that all who fail should pack up and go home… that’s not an option with you, so at least switch channels, and accept the majority’s decision”.

A SECOND EXAMPLE is Channel 2’s Amit Segal. In our February 28 column, we noted a calculated attack on him in Haaretz, where he was pilloried for appearing to espouse pro-Likud commentary.

In contrast to past practices, Segal was given an opportunity to respond in an interview conducted by Ilana Dayan, on her high-profile Uvda (“Fact”) program on April 8. Dayan pressed him on commentators expressing personal viewpoints. Segal’s response was: “When you pronounce your so-called non-objective opinion, you contribute to the overall objectivity of the Israeli media.”

Dayan replied, “Doesn’t this opinion create a lack of journalistic integrity?”

Segal countered, “And is the opinion of all the other commentators supposed to create a lack of journalistic integrity? Why is it that when you [Ms. Dayan] express your opinion about the Supreme Court, about a special legal approach in that court, it is alright?”

Segal continued, “Why is it that no one ever sat opposite Ilana Dayan and asked her ‘How do you live in peace with yourself being an objective journalist but you also express your opinion on the Court?’ And you know why? It’s because you express the ‘proper’ view, that of 95% of Israel’s media. And to them, that view is not strange. Deep in all your hearts, you think that to be a journalist with your opinions is to be completely objective, and to be a journalist like me is illegitimate.”

Dayan noted that Oshrat Kotler was strongly criticized and had to take a leave of absence after she referred to a group of IDF soldiers as “wild beasts.” Segal did not flinch and responded, “If I had called soldiers of the IDF ‘beasts,’ I would have lost my job that very evening.”

There was more introspection. We have noted time and again that pollster Mina Zemach’s predictions are not reliable. But in the aftermath of the failure of the pollsters on election night, the media did not simply relegate itself to the usual “nu-nu?” attitude. On April 11, The Jerusalem Post’s Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman noted, “[Reviewing] the dozens of polls released throughout the campaign, one can see that Channel 12 and Yediot Ahronot pollsters were wrong most of the entire 100 days. They always had Blue and White too high.”

The polling firm was Ms. Zemach’s Midgam. It was not a coincidence that the Zemach polls were invariably in favor of the Blue and White Party whose central goal was to replace Netanyahu.  The identification of polling bias is good news. Perhaps Yediot will have no choice but to employ a more objective outfit.

The change in the media scene has been dramatic. So much so, that Rogel Alpher, in an April 21 Haaretz column, complained that the media are dominated by supporters of a right-wing agenda. He drew up a list of more than a dozen personalities with some surprising names, including Doria Lampel, the KAN evening news anchor. The column was a defense of Amnon Abramovich, who was attacked during the campaign by a Likud TV ad.

Israel Hayom’s Dr. Dror Eydar wrote in a post-election column, “There is no possibility of introspection for people who are convinced with every fiber of their being that they are simply a conduit for the strict reporting of reality as it is, while in fact, they are political activists like everyone else.”

But introspection is becoming legitimate, especially since we have the option to select whose opinions we view, listen to and read.


April 10, 2019

MEDIA COMMENT: The battered person syndrome

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:56 pm by yisraelmedad

The battered person syndrome
In the aftermath of the current election campaign, we think it quite appropriate to apply this description to those things, among others, from which Israel’s media are suffering.
‘Battered person syndrome” is defined as a psychological condition that can result when a person experiences abuse, usually at the hands of an intimate partner. In the aftermath of the current election campaign, we think it quite appropriate to apply this description to those things, among others, from which Israel’s media are suffering.

It was in early January that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu usurped the 8 p.m. news shows. Instead of the pre-announced “important” message he promised – which was later upgraded to a “dramatic announcement” – he exploited the airwaves to inform the public that although he was suspected of bribery and unethical behavior in three separate cases, he was being treated unfairly, as he had demanded a confrontation with the state’s witnesses, and his request was denied. Many viewed that as injecting political propaganda into the campaign. But only one of the three television channels broadcasting his remarks live, Channel 10, decided to halt the live feed.

Pundits from all sides of the spectrum were incensed. But, like the battered person, they did little to change the situation, other than to write an op-ed column here or there and, of course, tweet their outrage.

That incident was indicative of a serious problem, and just the tip of an iceberg. Israel’s democratic process is in crisis, and it is not improving. Ever since prime minister Ariel Sharon was elected in 2001, Israel has not had any serious face-to-face debates between candidates. This is not a mere trifle. Such debates are very high profile, and as Netanyahu knows from the 1996 and 1999 election campaigns, they can make all the difference. In the first instance, he outclassed Shimon Peres. In the second instance, however, Yitzhak Mordechai, of the late Center Party, came out the victor.

Admittedly, debates are also show business, and as with Nixon and Kennedy, can create unexpected catastrophes for one of the candidates. Yet at the end of the day, serious reporters can pose questions to the candidates, and the candidates themselves can pose questions to each other. Such give-and-take is essential for the democratic process. The actual act of voting itself, as has always been stressed by political scientists, does not assure the democratic process. There needs also to be a culture of fairness within government, and a certain sense of dedication to principles which such a debate can highlight.

Holding debates is not easy, especially when there are nearly 40 parties vying for votes. The media cannot and should not decide on their own who has a chance to be elected and who does not. Just as in the Eurovision Song Contest – in which the final act comes after a process in which only the “best” are chosen by the public – so it could be for debates. The media channels could hold open debates, which are not necessarily given prime time, but rather first viewed only on the Internet. These debates would have a randomly chosen audience that could then decide which parties should go on to the next phase, ultimately leading to the final show, where only the leading candidates appear. One may think of other processes, such as independent public opinion polls carried out by the Central Elections Committee.

But this election campaign had very little of this. The media channels, time and time again, were used by the politicians as a venue to which to promulgate their messages, even on the polling day itself. The media not only had little influence on the quality of the messages, but indeed, played along with the candidates. Complicated and complex issues that required explanation ended up as one-liners.

FOR THE Left and center-left, the slogan was “Only Not Bibi,” and the Right played on the rhyme “Bibi or Tibi.” The messages on both sides were largely negative, some nasty and vicious, guided by “strategic experts,” students of advertising campaigns rather than democracy. The media failed in bringing to the public the information needed to make an educated and ideological decision.

Could it have been different? Yes!

The media, which know very well to use its weight when it comes to demanding money citizens’ taxes to support it (remember the Channel 10 debacle which cost us many millions?) turned out to be docile. With a bit of joint efforts, the major media channels could have made it clear to the candidates that any party which did not accept an invitation to participate in a debate would not be invited during the campaign to the studios, and its messages and slogans would not be available to the public.

The battered person can overcome the syndrome only if, little by little, they realize they are battered and can prevent this from happening again. But this is not what happened. The battered person typically needs a psychologist to help overcome fears and difficulties. The media need the same. But the various NGOs from Right and Left, such as Kohelet or the Israel Democracy Institute, remained mum, without criticism or attempts at help the media overcome their malady.

And a malady it is. Much has been spoken about the volumes of fake news emanating from various sources, especially from social networks. We do not want to prevent private citizens from using these outlets to express themselves, quite the contrary. But, here too, the media should have controlled themselves rather than being accomplices. The bot affair, publicized by no less than The New York Times in collusion with Yediot Ahronot, was classic. An NGO, clearly identified politically, came out with “research” that was, as it was presented, fake. Indeed, Walla News exposed the fake aspects of the story, and Guy Zohar, on his Channel 11 From the Other Side program, highlighted the media failures in their false presentation of the report. But that did not prevent the story from becoming a hot item on all the major news channels for more than 24 hours.

Election Day is behind us. Not much has changed. The right wing has retained its power, give or take a couple of seats. There will be surprises in store as far as the makeup of the new coalition government is concerned. But the lack of overall movement in any direction indicates that the election campaign was not about ideas or essential issues.

There were a few media highlights, such as Kan’s providing the Arab population with a microphone through its Kol Yisrael program. But overall, the result, as well as the discourse after the polls were closed, was shallow.

The issue here is not between Right and Left, or liberal vs. conservative, or party A vs. party B. It is a question of whether we have a vibrant functioning democracy with a government committed to the ideals and needs of its electorate, or whether our elected politicians are smiling attractive models in a beauty contest. We should all be worried and do our utmost to stop this vicious downhill process. Our national health depends on it.


March 27, 2019

MEDIA COMMENT: Fangs bared, claws unsheathed

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:52 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Fangs bared, claws unsheathed
Netanyahu has made the media a target of withering criticism, and that is not new. He and they are now approaching a quarter-century of antagonism and mutual recriminations.
With the election campaign for the 20th Knesset entering its last two weeks, it appears that things are getting out of control. Not in the political arena but among the media branja, who supposedly are carefully researching issues, collecting facts, analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates and their parties, informing us of concerns of which we need to be aware, and at the most elementary level, allowing us to use the facts to reach our own decisions for whom to vote.

This process, called reporting, seems to be in a pitch-and-roll maneuver, usually linked to a ship floundering in a storm. The media’s agenda and focus are less on the elections per se as they are on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They are less on his achievements and failures than on his personality, and that of his son.

Netanyahu has made the media a target of withering criticism, and that is not new. He and they are now approaching a quarter-century of antagonism and mutual recriminations. The more Netanyahu succeeds, the more intense the hostility. It permeates the commentary – and unfortunately, encourages the media consumer to make choices at the ballot box less dependent on facts than on feelings. This process has led Israel’s democracy to become less a rational system of government and civic action and more one of emotional involvement. Anyone listening, watching and reading Israel’s media is being drawn into a battlefield rather than being handed a scorecard. Whereas in the past much of the visceral hostility was beyond the reach of the public – discussed and pumped up largely in editorial offices, cafes along Dizengoff Avenue, or in TV and radio studios between breaks – today we have Twitter, and all is revealed.

A case in point: Saturday night, Dana Weiss, chief political analyst and anchor of Saturday Night with Dana Weiss on News Channel 12, was filming the prime minister and his entourage as they were boarding the his flight to Washington, where Netanyahu was to appear before AIPAC and meet US President Donald Trump at the White House. Netanyahu’s son Yair’s lateness delayed the flight briefly. Audible for all was Weiss’s over-the-tape comment describing Yair as “this complete zero… this crap.” And despite her denial, we also heard “the auti kid.”

She did apologize – but in February, when Likud MK David Amsalem used the word “autistic” in a pejorative fashion, he was raked over the coals by the media, which then treated his apology that followed with disdain. Either there is a double standard at work or some media people have short memories. And both options are non-professional.

Another example is the usage by Moshe Ya’alon, Blue and White’s #3, of the dreaded and denounced “traitor” term, banned by the media since 1995, and applied solely to right-wingers. Ya’alon commented on what he perceives as Netanyahu’s role in the so-called “Submarines Affair.” A week ago, on KAN’s Reshet Bet radio station, he claimed that, “the ‘Submarines Affair’ could reach a level of treason by Netanyahu.” Later, Ya’alon even denied having used the “banned” treason word. However, in this case, there was no outpouring of rage and no across-the-board denunciations by the media. The public is not stupid, and again the media reduced their self-assigned role as guardian of decency in public life.

WEISS’S REMARKS gave Netanyahu the opportunity to again hang out the media to dry when he tweeted: “Imagine if a right-wing journalist had spoken so of Gantz’s or Lapid’s child. The mask is off, and it is clear that the ‘objective media’ is nothing more than left-wing propaganda.” Here, too, the media allowed themselves to become the ball on the field, being kicked around, rather than sitting in the stands and observing.

To be clear, all is not negative in the media. That same evening, Channel 13 News had a scoop. And it wasn’t based on assumptions or presumptions. There was an audio tape that revealed that Blue and White party head Benny Gantz – who is to be prime minister for two-and-a-half years if that party forms the coalition – was heard informing a group of the faithful that Prime Minister Netanyahu would harm him physically. His exact words were: “If he had a way to have me hurt, to have me killed, he would have done so.” Gantz, perhaps borrowing a tactic from the American Democratic Party – the failed charge of “collusion” – was heard saying that the prime minister might have gotten Russia to hack Gantz’s cellphone in order to interfere in the election. And did the media demand his apology or just an explanation?

Yet, when another commentator, Amit Segal of Channel 12 News, displayed an independent line of thinking, his colleagues all but drew and quartered him. As we noted in our February 28 column, he was pilloried by Haaretz and other papers which devoted critical and nasty op-ed articles against him.

On Saturday night, on his way to the airport, Netanyahu dropped in to Channel 12’s studio for an interview. It was the first time in years that he had done so, and all appeared surprised. The interview was taut, tense and confrontational, on both sides. At times, Netanyahu had difficulty speaking, due to constant interruptions by host Keren Marciano. But indicative of the media’s attitude was that afterward, all her colleagues tweeted their congratulations on her performance. It was as if all had been caught up in some gladiatorial contest, and the cheering was deafening on the social media platforms.

Another recent media outburst of congratulations was directed at fashion model Rotem Sela, who wrote on Instagram that the government needs to be told “that Israel is a state of all its citizens and that all human beings are born equal, including the Arabs.” The Twitter accounts of media personalities went into overdrive, but when Sarah Zoabi, a Muslim Arab resident of Nazareth, declared: “I believe in the right of the Jewish people to have their own state… a Jewish nation-state,” and “with all due respect to Rotem Sela, I think she lives in a Tel Aviv bubble without being aware of what is happening [outside of it],” her words were shunted off to YouTube. She wasn’t pretty enough?

In an Olam-Katan interview on December 14, Amir Ivgi, formerly of IBA/KAN’s Channel 1 and now at Channel 20, noted that he has no problem with journalists holding personal and political beliefs, but “that the final product for the people at home needs be diversified, balanced and representative of Israeli society in a true fashion.” In other words, editors and producers are not doing their job. Without proper supervision or a modicum of regulation – without an insistence that rules and regulations be followed, especially those legislated by law – anarchy will reign.

If the media’s holier-than-thou spirit is not controlled – and if the incessant expressions of personal opinion which invade our news and interviews, whether directly or by indirect means, continues – the public’s trust in the media will continue to deteriorate, and it is our democratic values that will be hurt.


March 14, 2019

MEDIA COMMENT: Is it the media’s fault?

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:48 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Is it the media’s fault?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu often blames the media for treating him differently.
The present election campaign is one of the most complex that Israel ever experienced. The political scene has undergone dramatic and major changes. If one trusts the polls, the Labor Party – the inheritor of the state-building Mapai hegemonic movement – is no longer a dominant force. Close to half of the electorate will be voting for parties that did not exist in recent elections. Splits and breakaways abound. In this situation, it is no wonder that the media, whose job it is to report events, play a central role.
We do not know, and there are no reliable research results that can assure us what the media’s influence on the election results really is. For example, let us assume that the media are pro-left wing and actively support the left-wing parties. Does that help the Left wing?
Perhaps yes, perhaps no. The Israeli electorate is typically involved and discerning. Clear bias in one direction can boomerang and cause many to vote for the other side.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu often blames the media for treating him differently. He is held under the microscope. His actions, whether true or only perceived, have received negative treatment when compared to those of other prime ministers like Ariel Sharon, Shimon Peres or Ehud Barak. We all can recall the request of commentator Amnon Abramovitz that the media wrap Sharon as if he were a vulnerable-to-damage etrog. In contrast, it is claimed that the actions of his competitor Benny Gantz receive little or no attention. Even if his notable lack of success in the one civilian job he held is mentioned, there is no in-depth follow-up. The upshot of all this would seem to be a warning to the electorate: Beware! The left-wing media are once again taking sides.
But are they really?
There is no question that Gantz and his Blue and White Party are less than open about their future actions. Mr. Gantz does not allow reporters to question him freely. His scripts are carefully prepared. Does the media accept this? Not exactly. It is general consensus that Gantz and his party are hiding their personal views and objectives, and this has been mentioned by almost all political commentators many times.
Chaim Levinson wrote on March 7 in Haaretz after the publication of Blue and White’s platform: “Whether deliberate or not, the Blue-White platform… confirms the party as an eclectic collection of good people without a real direction.”
Galatz’s Efi Trigger, on the morning news, repeatedly points out that Gantz does not answer questions from reporters. The media would love to question him, if for no other reason than that questioning him would enhance ratings.
At the same time and for the same reason, the media are also unhappy with Netanyahu. For the past 10 years, Netanyahu has rarely given interviews. Yet, the stress is more on Gantz’s refusal rather than Netanyahu, and perhaps justifiably so. Netanyahu’s views are well known. Those of Gantz are not and need clarification, or better, propagation. But it would not be justified on this issue to claim the media are anti-Netanyahu.
It is perhaps surprising that one of the most important sources of criticism against Gantz comes from the radical left-wing newspaper Haaretz. As reported by Dr. Aaron Lerner on March 6 on the Israel National News website: “Haaretz pulled no punches, starting with details of how Gantz screwed up on his year-long assignment to prepare for then-PM Ehud Barak’s chaotic retreat for Lebanon and concluding with his fiasco in failing to prepare the IDF, as chief of staff, to deal with the Hamas assault tunnels reaching across from the Gaza Strip.”
OF COURSE, Haaretz supports anyone who could threaten Netanyahu’s reelection, just as the Israel Hayom newspaper supports Netanyahu. There is nothing wrong with that. The point is that even Haaretz could voice criticism of Gantz. This is not unique. Amiram Barkat wrotes in Globes on February 25: “Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz’s party abounds in promises, but is unclear on how to implement and pay for them.” He then adds: “So far, no representative of Blue and White has put forward any serious suggestion how even a fraction of the welter of promises can be financed without busting the budget framework.”
And now back to Netanyahu. In many ways, he gets off the hook rather easily on certain issues. Hardly anyone in the mainstream media is attacking him for not removing the illegal Bedouin settlement of Khan al-Ahmar. His actions, or rather his lack thereof, concerning the forceful occupation of the Mercy Gate on the Temple Mount by the Wakf Islamic religious trust are mainly reported but not criticized. The facts are that the Wakf has illegally occupied the place, violated the status quo, created a new mosque, and the government is trying to “solve the problem by peaceful means.”
Again, they are giving the Jordanians a veto against Israel upholding the law by throwing out the Wakf. The situation is similar to the collapse of Netanyahu’s 2015 plan to place surveillance cameras at the Temple Mount compound.
Another complaint coming from the Likud has to do with Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and the State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan. Here, too, the media are easy on the prime minister. He had 10 years in which to legislate a separation of powers that would safeguard against excesses of the Justice Ministry and the Supreme Court. He was presented a plan by the Kohelet think tank, and he had a right-wing minister of justice in place, but has done nothing.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has been roundly criticized for the latest budget deficits, which clearly will impact the next government. But Netanyahu is prime minister, and in the words of Harry Truman, “The buck stops here.” The excesses are partially a result of the present government decision to update the pensions of police officers. They are related to the unsuccessful and expensive Kahlon initiatives meant to significantly reduce apartment prices. Netanyahu, who understands economics, could have stopped the fiscal recklessness but did not. None of this comes through clearly in the media. One could argue, in all fairness, that the media are derelict in their job of criticizing the prime minister.
One problem the media have created for itself, which contributes to their lack of acceptance by major sections of the population, is its visceral and quite personal hatred of Netanyahu as a person. We have made this point in previous columns. Once the media’s approach is seen and perceived as hostile to Netanyahu for what he is rather than for what he does, as indeed it is, the public is easily, and mostly rightfully, persuaded, that the media are biased and unfair in their coverage of him and his government.
But the bottom line is that many of the complaints voiced by the prime minister are double-edged swords. If the media would really doing its job, he might have to pay a hefty price.

February 28, 2019

MEDIA COMMENT: Who should be called an ‘extremist?’

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:48 am by yisraelmedad

Who should be called an ‘extremist?’
It is a basic part of media theory that news and views should be separate.
‘Extremism” is the political buzzword of the current election campaign. Meretz chairwoman MK Tamar Zandberg repeatedly accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud for joining up with Kahanists, racists and what not. Zandberg’s headline after the union of the religious parties as a technical bloc, including the Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) Party, was: “Netanyahu is bringing representatives of terror into the Knesset.”

That Zandberg’s intellectual honesty is questionable is obvious. Her party was part and parcel of the second Rabin government whose majority was based on, among others, the outside support of Azmi Bishara, then a pan-Arab nationalist and, it turned out later, a Hezbollah spy. In 2015, the Meretz list included Prof. Naomi Chazan who, as head of the New Israel Fund, funded the “We are all Haneen Zoabi” advertisement published in Haaretz in the wake of Zoabi’s participation in the MV Marmara attack on IDF soldiers.

Moreover, any coalition of the Left today cannot survive without support of the Arab parties. Some, like Ahmed Tibi, have actually worked for Israel’s enemies, and whom some could call traitors. Has Zandberg called upon her left-wing camp to disavow any relation with them? No. Arabs are not “extreme.”

Our column, however, deals with the media, not with politics per se. Our media, which always assert that they speak for justice, is found to be reporting in a very one-sided fashion on the use of the expression “extremism.” We have documented time and again in this column how Haaretz used Nazi discourse in its attacks on Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

Is Bennett an extremist? Yes, according to Haaretz, but Otzma is worse. How does one characterize something more extreme than extreme? You call it “Kahanist.” Haaretz’s caricaturist parroted Zandberg’s accusations on February 23, displaying a picture of the entrance to the Knesset decorated by flags of the “Kahana Party,” with Netanyahu leading members of the Otzma Party by the hand into it.

A caricature is legitimate in itself. The problem is that such caricatures should be exposed as what they really are by a responsible media: nothing but part of a campaign whose main goal is to delegitimize the prime minister. Otzma is just a pawn in this struggle between Left and Right in Israel.

HAVE WE ever seen similar venom in the past 20 years, even in the right-wing media in Israel, in a concerted effort against left-wing parties that aid, defend and take pains to make sure that Arab parties under Palestinian Authority dictator Mahmoud Abbas’s influence? Are any left-of-center MKs acknowledged by the media as “extremist”? Is that term ever used?

As media observers, we note that it is not surprising that the Gantz-Lapid coalition party Blue and White keeps its distance from Meretz and the Labor Party. They know that the Israeli public does not want to be part of extremism, from either side. So their tactic is not to be part of this discourse. And in an aside, how would the media describe a right-wing party composed of three former IDF commanders-in-chief? Would the term “junta” perhaps be used? Or even “putsch”? But a center-left party gets a break.

Even Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay refused to form a coalition party with Meretz, realizing that he should distance himself from Zandberg and her friends. He does not want to have the “extremist” label attached to the Labor Party. But the media does not present people such as Zandberg with a challenge to the character of her politics.

THE MEDIA’S one-sided relation to the concept of extremism is but one part of how it colors our election campaigns. Another side is its flagrant contempt for ethics. It was back in 1918 that Henry Ford purchased a newspaper, renamed it the Dearborn Independent and had it make its first appearance in January 1919. With circulation lagging and Ford losing millions of dollar, Journalist Joseph J. O’Neil suggested to the editor, “Find an evil to attack” and added in caps “LET’S FIND SOME SENSATIONALISM” (caps in original).

At that time, the Jews were seen as “evil” in Ford’s eyes. Today, within the media clique, the “evil” includes Netanyahu, right-wing nationalists, the religious and almost everyone who doesn’t follow their agenda, including attacks on fellow journalist Amit Segal.

Recently, Oshrat Kotler ended her Channel 13 Magazine report on the Netzah Yehuda Brigade soldiers accused of improper conduct toward prisoners, with a denunciation including the phrase “human beasts.”

Of course, her language could be considered intemperate, but not actually out of order in today’s political discourse. Personal opinion statements such as hers are prohibited by the ethics codes.

It is a basic part of media theory that news and views should be separate. Views are important but should not mix with news. The historical Nakdi Document, the old Israel Broadcasting Authority’s ethics guide, long ago phrased it as: “The Authority has no voice, policy and outlook of its own. It does not broadcast op-eds. The task of the Authority and its employees is to allow the various voices to speak for themselves.”

THE PUBLIC longs for the old order. The Second Authority’s complaints officer issued a press release shortly after that by Saturday evening, after Kotler’s denunciation, receiving over 1,400 complaints. Moreover, Kotler’s “explanation,” broadcast later, was still problematic professionally. She said at the end of her clip: “We are sending them [the soldiers] to this impossible reality. Okay for you? We will meet next week and I will continue to express my opinion on this program and you will not succeed to shut me up.”

Israel’s Media Watch struggled for many years to prevent the slippery downhill road. On the positive side, we do note that KAN’s Arieh Golan no longer opens his 7 a.m. Reshet Bet news program with his personal rantings. Yet people such as Kotler and her editors abuse the public by supporting her venom under the guise of free speech. The truth is probably closer to the “Let’s find sensationalism” slogan aimed at increasing advertising revenue.

In this context, consider Lara Logan, foreign correspondent for CBS’s 60 Minutes, and her comments in an interview with independent podcaster Mike Ritland on February 15. Logan, who suffered that horrific mass crowd rape in Egypt in 2011, agreed with the right-winger that US news media are “absurdly left-leaning,” adding that “most journalists are left… the media everywhere is mostly liberal, not just [in] the US.”

She continued, stating that, “One ideological perspective on everything never leads to an open, free, diverse, tolerant society. The more opinions and views… of everything that you have, the better off we all are… we’ve abandoned our pretense – or at least the effort – to be objective… We’ve become political activists, and some could argue propagandists – and there’s some merit to that.”

It is time to stop using divisive slogans. Otzma Yehudit can and should be questioned as to its policies and actions. The same is true for Meretz, and actually, for all political parties. The democratic process is predicated on an informed public. This is what we need – not more, not less.


February 14, 2019

MEDIA COMMENT: A potent mix – Elections and the media

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:46 am by yisraelmedad

A potent mix: Elections and the media
How important is the media factor in an election campaign? One explanation can be found in Bernard Avishai’s article published in the latest issue of a liberal publication The New Yorker. [this is a correction]

Noting that “Now the only hope to mobilize a united opposition appears to be [Resilience Party head Benny] Gantz”, Avishai, author of The Tragedy of Zionism and the 2005 article “Saving Israel from Itself,” fears that Israel has succumbed to “religious-inflected nationalism”, and added, “alone among the leaders in the center, he looks like a head of state.”

If, indeed, Gantz makes an impressive showing in the elections on April 4, we can recall the words of Shakespeare’s Othello: “For she had eyes and chose me.” Our “seeing” the candidates and parties is facilitated by the media. Are we able to meet the challenge of the filtered view that is presented to us? Are our faculties of listening and viewing critical enough to be able to catch biases and distortions of the truth?

Let’s review an example from the United States, where the media can and did get a story very, very wrong, such as in the now infamous Covington Catholic schoolboys story last month. Andrew Sullivan, though unsympathetic to President Donald Trump’s assault on the media, nevertheless wrote in the New York Weekly on January 25:

“How did this grotesque inversion of the truth become the central narrative for what seemed to be the entire class of elite journalists on Twitter? That’s the somewhat terrifying question…This is the orthodoxy of elite media… increasingly the job of journalists [is] to fit the facts to the narrative and to avoid any facts that undermine it… Our mainstream press has been poisoned by tribalism,” he said.

Sullivan continued: “There’s a threat to liberal democracy and it is deepening, largely because its racial animus and rank tribalism… the raw imposition of power by one tribe over another.”

In Israel, is there a new tribalism promoting mutual hostility assisted by the media? Is the media seeking pure power? Is this period of elections being exploited in order to highlight and aggravate the gaps that exist between the various social and political camps?

Let us look at some examples.

Haaretz published an op-ed on February 10 under the headline, “The High Court of Justice’s Treason.” Ever since the onslaught on the national camp in 1995, where it was accused of being responsible for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s murder since in demonstrations it employed the word “traitor,” that term has been a red cape permitting the user to be pilloried to the utmost.

In this case, however, the writer is David Zonshine, who happens to be the B’Tselem board chairman, formerly a leader of the Courage to Refuse group that foments conscientious objectors in the IDF. In other words, someone from the heart of the hard Left progressive camp.

But the main problem is the judgment of whoever authorized publishing his column. Was the editor ideologically color-blind? Are only right-wingers using that term considered inciters? In this election campaign, words will fly. If only one side is held to a standard of ethics by the media – that is bias and interference in the democratic process.

Moshe Nussbaum, Channel 12’s police reporter, provided background on the horrendous murder of Ori Ansbacher, stated that the murderer left his home in Hebron with a knife, adding that this “does not necessarily mean it was a nationalist crime, perhaps every day he leaves his home with a knife.”

THE 1992 elections were decided, to a great extent, by the reactions of the public to the horrific stabbing of Helena Rapp by an Arab terrorist in Bat Yam. Rabin portrayed himself as Mr. Security. Mr. Nussbaum is supplying the public with commentary, which downplays the security concerns of Israelis. Is he doing this to prevent sympathy with the settlers, sympathy which might later translate into votes? Or is he trying to say that a certain party has a better approach to protecting the population? Not only is this subjective reporting, it reeks of interference in the elections.

A major playground of the media during the election campaign is public opinion polls. A multitude of polls appear, some that contradict each other within a period of a day or two. The electorate appears to be merely a crowd of onlookers at a tennis game, with the ball being hit back and forth at high speed. In the worst case scenario, it becomes the ball.

Polls are a media gimmick used to draw readers and viewers. In every election that we have been commenting on since 1996 in our columns, the vast majority of polls have been wrong and unreliable. We, in fact, pushed for legislation to halt the publishing of polls in the last few days of the election campaign. But the media is stronger than a few idealistic citizens and the polls continue to pile up. The least the media could do is educate the public and itself as to how polls work. The way things are now, they leave the public as the victims of complex statistics.

On February 5, Haaretz published a poll, headlined as “worrisome” for Benjamin Netanyahu. It indicated that only 47% of the public saw him as the next Prime Minister. However, in Israel since candidates are not chosen, rather political lists, Israel’s parliament has never seen a party gain 51% of the votes, even in David Ben-Gurion’s day. Actually, a level of 47% doesn’t seem so bad.

Former IDF Chief Benny Gantz, now head of the Israel Resilience Party, hardly said a word until last week but showed impressive numbers in the polls. Early this week, a poll conducted for the “Meet the Press” TV show found that if the elections were held on that day and Gantz’s party joined up with Yair Lapid’s party, and former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi joins too, then they will win 36 Knesset seats, the most of any party. Besides the many “ifs,” as well as the element of “today,” the poll’s value is meaningless if not misleading. The least that the pollsters could do is compare the three “ifs” with another: if the Likud, Bayit Yehudi and the National Union parties joined forces, for example.

There is more to be said about the polls. A 4% margin of error for the polls is a much larger error when considering small parties. The various predictions of disappearing or reappearing parties should be taken with a grain of salt. The most meaningful statistic, namely the number of people polled and the number of people who actually participated remains a secret. Why? Because if the public knew the answer, it would realize how speculative the polls actually are.

For the media, however, elections are all about business and power. Truth, education, and supplying information without giving it a slant are not part of the game. Wouldn’t it be great to have elections every two years instead of four?


January 31, 2019

MEDIA COMMENT: The end does not justify the means

Posted in Media tagged , , at 11:24 am by yisraelmedad

MEDIA COMMENT: The end does not justify the means
We can only presume that for Haaretz, Shaked is to be pilloried, shamed and despised in its pages, or what Galtung calls negative journalism.
Johan Galtung wrote the seminal 1965 paper, together with M.H. Ruge, about the way news media filtered events of the day, and the standards which determined what coverage was given to which stories in the news. He now thinks the media have become far too negative, sensational and adversarial. In a January 18 interview published in The Guardian, Galtung claimed, “If news continued to reflect the world in this antagonistic way, it would generate extreme negativity.”
Of course, negativity, raw emotions, confrontational situations and even violence are very often efficient ways to publicize the news. But is this positive? Not according to a recent academic study by Denise Baden of the University of Southampton titled “The Impact of Constructive News on Affective and Behavioral Responses.” Baden found that framing a story negatively “evoked [among media consumers] negative emotions, reduced intentions to take positive action to address issues, and resulted in negative affect.” In other words, audiences receiving sensational negative news feel helpless and less likely to engage in solving problems.
On January 17, a female politician appeared on a televised interview program. Her experience, she claimed, was one in which “a hostile atmosphere was whipped up, propped up by reports of inappropriate and sexist commentary in the audience warm-up session.” She then complained that “a public broadcaster… should be expected to be a model of impartiality and equality,” and that “the media must stop legitimizing mistreatment, bias and abuse against… a… woman in public life.” She was, she added, “jeered at and interrupted more times than any other panelist, including by the chair herself.”
The incident happened not in Israel but in Britain. And the aggrieved party was not Ayelet Shaked or Miri Regev, but Diane Abbott, a black woman and MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, the shadow home secretary for Labour. One need not be an Israeli right-winger to recognize media bias and complain about it. Not every media outlet or employee is a paragon of professional and ethical journalistic behavior.
These last two weeks in Israel, in the wake of the Effie Naveh story, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has been happily targeted by the media and portrayed as aiding and abetting criminal actions or, at the very least, facilitating unethical judicial appointments. The fact that sex was involved only seemed to drive some journalists’ emotions harder than their brains.
HAARETZ ONCE published an art work that portrayed Ms. Shaked naked. And on January 17, Amos Biderman’s caricature positioned her in her office, dressed, waiting for Naveh’s latest candidate. Only this time, it was the candidate who was drawn naked, wrapped in a sheet, arriving straight from Naveh’s bed to be appointed as a judge by Shaked, who smilingly approves of her. Why the other female member of the appointments committee, Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut, was not selected remains a mystery. We can only presume that for Haaretz, Shaked is to be pilloried, shamed and despised in its pages, or what Galtung calls negative journalism.
There is another female who most likely did commit a crime in this matter, but she is not an object of derision. That is Army Radio correspondent Hadas Shtaif. Her history is colored. She has been involved quite often in stories where sex was the central motif. In a Yediot Ahronot report dated November 18, 2017, she claimed not only that former prime minister Ehud Olmert sexually harassed her, but that during her career she was molested by 40 different men. However, it appears that despite her journalistic power, she did nothing to halt these unnamed persons. How many women could she have saved if she had used her position then to complain and prevent that molestation from happening again?
This time, she received stolen property – a cellphone. It belongs, still, to the above-mentioned Effie Naveh, who was the head of the Israel Bar Association. Ms. Shtaif’s retrievals from his phone’s memory led to his arrest. The entire system for appointing of judges in Israel is in greater disarray than the bedsheets at the locations for some of Naveh’s alleged interviews.
Whatever the political outcome of this affair, what particularly drew our attention was the simple fact that the cell phone was stolen property. In law, tainted evidence is information obtained by illegal means and is called “fruit of the poisonous tree.” Such evidence is not admissible in court. Shtaif could have handed over the phone to the police immediately, expressing suspicions. Indeed, her editors covered themselves by telling her to do just that, but they did not have the moral fortitude to prevent her from broadcasting the contents over the Army Radio network.
True, the police stated that their investigative work had followed proper procedures, and that “every step taken during the investigation was done so lawfully.” We will only really know after Naveh’s complaint is adjudicated. In a letter to Army Radio, Naveh threatened to sue its criminal affairs reporter and the station for the alleged invasion of his privacy. He also is demanding that Shtaif and the station apologize for their actions and compensate him in the amount of NIS 5 million, or he will consider filing a claim. On January 24, Shtaif tweeted, “Instead of Effie Naveh dealing with his truth, he should make an accounting and a mea culpa [but] he’s searching for other guilty parties.”
THERE IS another troubling aspect to this story. Allegedly, the Justice Department promised Shtaif immunity. This is the same department that day in and day out prevents people from putting themselves in situations involving conflicts of interest, real or imagined. But in this story there is no greater conflict of interest. The number of senior Justice Department officials who sit today on the bench of the Supreme Court is much too large. The officials there had an intense interest in getting rid of Naveh and smearing Shaked. They were clearly in a situation that involved a conflict of interest.
Another item that stirred up the media recently was a Likud election sign. Displaying the photographs of four anti-Netanyahu journalists – Amnon Abramovich, Ben Caspit, Raviv Drucker and Guy Peleg – the caption reads, “They won’t decide.” The cry of “incitement” was hurled at the Likud and its head by the Israel Press Council and opposition Knesset members. The message was, “This will end in murder.” Why incitement? Again, we can only presume it is because they are anti-Netanyahu. Indeed, it is true that only the voters decide.
In fact, Israel Prize winner Nahum Barnea agrees. In his Yediot Ahronot column on January 21, he wrote, “The text is not offensive or inciting. It sets a fact: It won’t be [they] who decide who will be the prime minister of Israel. It won’t be the media outlets they work for, either. That is the truth, and that is the desired and proper situation in a democracy.” In fact, he opined, “I imagine the four journalists who appear on the billboard are secretly pleased by the honor bestowed upon them.”
Thank you, Nahum Barnea. Indeed, the end does not justify the means.

Next page