February 3, 2016
|These past weeks, the Im Tirtzu organization felt the heavy hand of the media which is simultaneously an arbiter, provider and judge of public discourse. Colliding head-on with the cultural icons and heroes of much of the mainstream media, Im Tirtzu ended up battered, vilified and impugned. Its director resigned.
This student group has engaged in many social and political battles since its founding, but always refused to cooperate with media review organizations such as Israel’s Media Watch, believing it more beneficial to work with the media. This week they learned the hard way that the end does not justify the means.
In mid-December, Im Tirtzu launched a social media campaign via Facebook to highlight the extent of foreign involvement in far-left groups opposing government policies and especially the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria. As we noted in our December 24 column, “Silencing the truth-sayers,” the media provided “judgment of Im Tirtzu’s actions” and “calm and rational discourse was a rare media commodity.”
The buzzword was “shtulim”. Taken from the Hebrew root meaning “to plant,” it was intended by Im Tirtzu to indicate a foreign agent, a mole, as well as those who subvert by working for an outside body/idea within another body, implanted and nurtured with outside funds.
The new poster uploaded last week, reading “The NIF [New Israel Fund] presents: Implanted in Culture,” highlighted the fact that four cultural icons – actress Gila Almagor, playwright Joshua Sobol, novelist Amos Oz and Sha’anan Street, lead singer of Hadag Nachash – not only expressed radical opinions but were actually members of public governing councils of various groups such as B’Tselem, Yesh Din and the NIF.
The purpose was to accentuate the fact that these icons are political activists. The media distorted the message and portrayed Im Tirtzu as an organization seeking to frame them as traitors who should be violently punished. The NIF assisted this interpretation by launching its own counter-campaign. Its poster showed Yitzhak Rabin with the message “they already took care of this Shatul.”
What the media “overlooked” is that Im Tirtzu did not invent the term “shtulim” – the NIF did. It created and funds an organization called Shatil, whose full name is The NIF Initiative for Social Change. This is just Orwellian doublespeak for a program aimed at training Israelis to implement the far-left policies of the NIF. As the name Shatil implies, the goal is to “implant” activists within Israeli society who will create a New Israel, a more “progressive civil society” dominated by “humanist” values.
Anyone with a basic knowledge of the Hebrew language can grasp that a graduate of Shatil should be called a “shatul,” someone who has been implanted.
The Israeli media totally ignored this. They related to the word “shtulim” as fascist terminology, preferring to view it as a throwback to John La Carre’s novels on the Cold War period and his descriptions of a deeply implanted double agent.
The media went so far as to imply that the Im Tirtzu campaign was just a natural outgrowth of the assassination of prime minister Rabin. Im Tirtzu’s accusations, it was implied, were intended to bring about a similar fate for the icons mentioned in their campaign.
Im Tirtzu chose a frontal attack on what The New York Times defined as “beloved leftist literary icons…who have been considered the voice – and conscience – of the state.” That adulatory judgment was voiced by Rina Matsliah on Saturday night presenting Channel 2’s Meet the Press program. Instead of taking neutral ground as media ethics would dictate, she referred to “this baseless campaign” that has “poison flowing in the streets.” She then continued her unprofessional conduct by interviewing actress Sara von Schwarze with no right of reply given to Im Tirtzu, and followed that with an interview on Monday while hosting, “Shesh” (Six) the evening news program. Talking with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, she stated, not as a question, that there is an “evil wind” blowing from the Right. To Shaked’s credit, she called out Matsliah for ignoring the negative left-wing campaign.
The simple but quite effective tactic of not giving Im Tirtzu the right of reply was also implemented on Channel 1 TV’s “Friday at Five”, when Uri Levy and Kinneret Barashi interviewed Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich regarding Im Tirtzu’s campaign. The same tactic was used by left-wing media icon Rino Tzror on Sunday when he interviewed Alex Livak and Ronny Someck, targets of the campaign. He also used the loaded term “great fear” to unethically influence his listening audience. On his Twitter account, he tweeted out Someck’s line “my pain is that of the State.”
Last Thursday, Yoav Krakovsky with Nechama Duek on their Kol Yisrael Reshet Bet “Dining Room” show interviewed only Yacimovich. She spoke of a “very dangerous attack on the freedom of expression and the rule of law.” Im Tirtzu was denied the opportunity to respond. That same day, Attila Somfalvi, Ynet’s chief political correspondent, described the campaign as “provocative.”
At the Walla! news site, again on Thursday, Dov Gilhar interviewed Sarit Vino-Elad, the sole discussant.
His question to her was: “Can you find it possible to say to these despised, fascist and contemptible people who composed these posters: ‘gentlemen, I am no less patriotic than you and perhaps even more so’?” Her reaction was to say, “Blood may be spilled over this.”
No one in the mainstream media recalled language employed in the past by these same cultural icons attacked by Im Tirtzu. In his 1989 speech in Tel Aviv’s (now) Rabin Square, Amos Oz declared that Gush Emunim is a “messianic sect, autistic and cruel, a band of armed gangsters, criminals against humanity, sadistic, pogromists, and murderers…[which] emerged…from the cellars of beastiality and filth…to force upon us a blood-thirsty and insane cult.”
The media did not remind us that right-of-center artists continue to be regularly shunted off our public stage, demeaned and even boycotted. It was Benny Ziffer in Haaretz on February 2 who noted “the left’s obscene contest over Israeli culture.” President Reuven Rivlin disinvited Amir Benayoun from an appearance at his residence a year ago in November. Ariel Zilber was prevented from receiving an award due to Dalia Rabin’s political opposition and Haifa University reneged on its decision to award Nobel Prize laureate Robert Aumann an honorary doctorate.
The meek and weak politicians from the Right collapsed, preferring to attack Im Tirtzu. The Likud’s Benny Begin, in a Kol Yisrael interview, stated, “Singling out so-called traitors is an old-fashioned fascist technique that is both ugly and dangerous.”
Bayit Yehudi’s Naftali Bennett opined: “The campaign against the artists is embarrassing, pointless and degrading.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu added, “I object to the use of the term ‘traitor’ for those who don’t agree with me” – a term Im Tirtzu did not use and which was falsely implanted in the discourse by the media.
In the end, Matan Peleg, Im Tirtzu’s executive director suspended himself and took full responsibility for the firestorm the poster created. The media won out.
January 27, 2016
|Jennifer Rubin, a prominent pundit who blogs at The Washington Post, recently commented on “the dangerous homogeneity of the media” which “is increasingly liberal, college-educated and urban.”
Her comment would seem to resonate with the media consumer in Israel. In particular, the army radio station, Galatz, has come under harsh criticism recently, notably from Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev (Likud). Her target: the playlist of Galgalatz, the station’s secondary channel which broadcasts primarily pop music and traffic reports (hence the station’s name; “galgal” means wheel in Hebrew).
Last July, she criticized Galgalatz’s programming.
She complained that most of the songs aired are not in Hebrew. Regev thought Galgalatz isn’t permitting “enough space for the variety of musical styles in Israel.”
This is not a new dispute. The station’s playlist has been attacked in the past, especially by the Mizrachi/ Oriental element among the country’s composers and performers.
In November, at a session of the Knesset’s Education Committee, Regev’s attack was sharper: “The defense minister seems to have forgotten that the IDF is the army of the people,” she said in the wake of reports that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had decided to forbid meetings on the issue between the minister and Yaron Dekel, Galatz’s commander. Regev was quoted in this paper saying, “Galatz is an elitist station, it is no secret.”
At the same time an attempt to move Galatz from the administrative responsibility of the IDF to that of the Defense Ministry was stymied, due to “budgetary difficulties.”
Last week, head of the IDF Personnel Directorate Gen. Chagi Topolanski informed the station’s employees that they would remain within the IDF even as he told the civilian workers “what other country besides North Korea runs a radio station?” Technically he is wrong, as, for example the United States armed forces also have a radio and television network, but his point is well taken. The massive left-wing support the station receives is an indication of its unique status in Israel as a definer of cultural, artistic and political trends which are convenient for Israel’s liberals.
Music played a part in another incident which highlighted Galatz’s role in Israel’s social and political agenda.
A soldier and yeshiva graduate, Niv Wrobel, serving at the station, published an article in Haaretz without permission, the paper colluding with him by not identifying him as an employee of Galatz. Wrobel commented on the song that was played at the now infamous “stabthe- Arab wedding dance” video clip, the lyrics of which are taken from Samson’s last words, “God, that I may be this once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes” (Judges 16:28). He opined that Samson was “the first terrorist” and that the dancers were the “nice fruit of the education they received” in “the elite furrows of religious Zionism” and not just hilltop youth. Having violated standing orders, he was removed from the station’s staff.
The question that should be asked is whether the atmosphere at the station led him to assume that his action would be ignored. Did he think that he had a privilege, one that democracy awarded him, to express his personal opinion? As for Samson, we all ‘know’, if we can be sarcastic, that Ehud, son of Gera, preceded Samson when he assassinated Moab’s King Eglon, thrusting his dagger into the King’s belly so far in that “the haft went in after the blade” as recorded in Judges 3:21-22. Wrobel’s decision to publish his silly remarks in Haaretz is another indicator of the existing political/ cultural nexus the station’s employees presuppose.
Yehuda Glick of Temple Mount fame, who resides in Othniel and was himself a recent victim of an unsuccessful terrorist attack, brought to light another aspect of Galatz’s agenda. Glick claimed via Facebook on January 20 that in the aftermath of the murderous attack on Dafna Meir in Othniel he had been scheduled to be interviewed on Galatz. However, in the pre-show preparatory talk, he made it clear that he had no intention to attack the prime minister, so he was dropped. Instead, Daniella Weiss, an outsider from Kedumim and a fierce critic of Netanyahu, replaced him. The subject was Netanyahu’s directive to construct for defense purposes a perimeter fence despite opposition from within the community.
ON ISRAEL Media Watch’s a complaint appeared which was then addressed by Eran Elyakim, Galatz’s ombudsman.
The complaint asked whether the object was to discuss the pros and cons of a fence surrounding the community from within or to create a drama of “Yesha vs. the Prime Minister.” Elyakim wrote back that there was no intention to find someone a priori that would attack Netanyahu but rather “a wish to assure journalistic balance” and present a position that opposed the stand that wished to erect a fence.
While that may sound quite reasonable, Glick clarified that he wasn’t for or against a fence but informed his caller that whatever the community decided on by voting would be his position. Netanyahu wasn’t the issue, but rather the village’s security. True, a radio program should be interesting and lively as well as informative, nevertheless, it need not create crises.
Not all, of course, is bad. It never is. Our concern, though, is why is there any bad at all? The basic rules of ethics are not complicated. Here is one instance of a Galatz journalist and news presenter intervening in a Twitter battle between journalists outside his own station.
Shortly after the fire at the B’tselem offices this month, Omri Maniv of Channel 10 tweeted, “The building containing the B’tselem offices torched.” Channel 2’s Yair Sherki, a former Galatz reporter, responded, “torched?” With tongue in cheek he added: “I understand that the fire investigators ended their on-site work quickly.”
Maniv’s reaction? “Are you a journalist or a right-wing activist? Your empathy is odd, always from the same political side.”
The dialogue escalated with Haaretz’s Chaim Levinson, Peace Now’s Yariv Oppenheimer and former Yesha head Dani Dayan joining in. Oppenheimer retorted to Sherki: “A fire at B’tselem’s offices at this time is probably not coincidental.” Assaf Lieberman of Galatz then interjected, “Have you lost your minds? Sherki just noted that the situation is unclear. Why are you turning this into a battle of [political] camps?” Maniv eventually apologized, albeit with a bit of cynicism, but it required prodding from Dayan that he apologize to the Channel 2 reporter who correctly had relied on the police rather than the emergency services.
All this, and much more, has happened on the watch of Yaron Dekel, who has just finished a four-year term as head of Galatz. He was informed this week that his term has been extended by a year. On February 4, Dekel will preside over a ceremony to name Galatz’s main studio, Studio Five, in the memory of Uri Orbach, a former program host at the station, author and minister and icon of the National Religious Zionists.
Pluralism may be developing at Galatz. Political and cultural objectivity, it appears, is still to be achieved.
January 21, 2016
|In Israel, the accepted wisdom is that the media must be protected, at all costs. Any government initiative for regulation or supervision is to be rejected. Investments by tycoons are suspect. Critiques from disgruntled and aggrieved media consumers, whether organized as in the case of Israel’s Media Watch or by columnists or individuals, are but part of a rightwing plot to undermine the country’s main pillar of support for democracy.
In fact, it is as if only the Left/liberal camp is allowed to operate NGOs that deal with civil society.
The media, as the absolute-truthers would have it, is the preserve of the political, cultural and ideological elite, to be used to further this elite’s causes and to champion the agenda of a very specific group of citizens.
It cannot be touched for otherwise “democracy will collapse.”
The media scene has, indeed, altered over the past two decades and there have been many changes in the personnel who direct, edit, broadcast and interview. Nevertheless, the media’s fulcrum is still way off-center, and the results of its framing and agenda-setting capabilities are overwhelmingly left-leaning.
The media arsenal is vast, and when used in concert can be quite powerful in the hands of a dedicated media elite. Examples are bias by commission as well as omission; selective reporting; placement in the news lineup; filtering of sources, subtly or otherwise; and promoting endorsements or condemnations.
Loaded political phrases are another tool. The power to label politicians, activists and groups and their activities is one of the media’s most subtle and potent powers. In a new academic study, the concept of “media endarkenment” has been suggested by Olga Lazitski of the University of California San Diego’s Department of Communication. This she defines as a “process of media influence that ultimately shrinks the potential for a vibrant public sphere where informed citizens debate crucial issues…[a] media influence…[whereby] both the intellectual level of the viewers and the number of informed citizens decrease.”
David Colquhoun wrote in The Guardian on October 5, 2007 that, “Enlightenment was beautiful…People cast aside dogma and authority. They started to think for themselves…[but] Endarkenment is ugly…it matters when cultural endarkenment corrupts the highest reaches of media, government and universities….” The media has gotten very much darker here in Israel.
Here’s an episodic commentary on how things work in Israel. In 2010, Adi Arbel, then a Makor Rishon journalist, while researching an article on former Foreign Ministry director-general and ambassador to South Africa Alon Liel, discovered that he was married to Rachel Liel, who was and remains the New Israel Fund’s (NIF) executive director. Thinking that this was a scoop, he passed it along to a colleague at Yediot Aharonot, the newspaper which at that time had the largest circulation in Israel. The finding was not published, the Yediot reporter explaining that “everyone knew this”; it was defined as a “non-item.”
Did it ever occur to Yediot’s Council of Wise Men and Women that the general public was unaware of this connection and that it could possibly affect perceptions of both the NIF and the Foreign Ministry? Probably yes – that is likely why the item was nixed, Yediot being a left-leaning newspaper.
Last week, the chicken coop of Israel’s hard-core Left went into a tizzy.
Ilana Dayan broadcast a segment on her Uvda (Fact) investigative program, produced by Omri Ossenheim and Matan Gez, which highlighted problematic activity, both moral and criminal, of radical left-wingers with NGO B’tselem. Dayan, a darling of the Left for her media output, all of a sudden discovered that she had crossed a line.
Like Ariel Sharon, left-wing NGOs are protected “etrogs.” This was not only the position taken by the pro-Palestine pack over at Haaretz (Gideon Levy was invited to appear in the studio at the end of the Uvda program!) – others joined in, too.
Dayan came face-to-face with a factor that generations of centrist or non-involved media people have had to reckon with: why should a journalist endanger their professional standing or social status by furthering issues frowned upon by the “progressive” Left, who are well-entrenched not only in the media but the arts and academia? They dominate the scene when prizes are awarded, praise is heaped and fame shines. Will a journalist risk losing the chance to be profiled in magazines, appear in the gossip or society pages or eat at fancy restaurants when the “others” are present? Risk having the lucrative invitations dry up? To her credit, Dayan fired back in a column at Globes.
“We have news for you: we don’t work for you, not for Lehava nor Ta’ayush, not for the Hilltop Youth and not for B’tselem…our work is clear: to get the story, make sure it is truthful and fresh and important…without fear or partiality.”
As Einav Schiff wrote in Yediot on January 15, the Left reacted as if “the Bastille had fallen.” Avner Hofstein, a Galatz news editor, termed it a “panic” on January 14. Alon Idan wrote the same day that Dayan was “clinically ill with ‘symmetritis.’” What most disturbed them was that the source for almost all the filmed material was a right-wing group, Ad Kan (We’ve Had It).
Quickly forgotten were the many times left-wing videos and other photographic “evidence” had been shown on television. Their material was broadcast not only on investigative shows but as hard news. Gone were the claims that their material had been edited or was suspect. As the saying goes, the hat burns on the head of the thief. They were familiar with all the dirty tricks and so, with alacrity, accused Dayan of doing the same.
The very idea that perhaps Dayan, knowing that she was going to face harsh criticism, actually checked her sources did not even occur to them.
Hofstein rightly called such double standards “hypocrisy.”
Doyen of the far Left Uri Avnery wrote on January 16 that Dayan, one of “Israel’s 100 most important women,” “in general…has always been considered as mildly ‘leftist.’” But this had now changed, said Avnery, since Dayan’s program granted a mantle of respectability to an Arab middleman for land purchases, and because a Jewish “fascist” group had recorded a death threat against him from a leftist. Dayan had contributed to making Israeli politics “uglier,” wrote Avnery, since “the right wing uses methods that remind me of what I saw as a child in 1933 Germany.”
Is it then surprising that the media does not often bring to the forefront news emanating from NGOs such as Palestinian Media Watch, NGO Monitor, Regavim and other organizations who have made it their business to protect Israel from the slanderous Left? Israel’s democracy deserves better.
January 13, 2016
|The Israeli media has been having a ball these past years. Leaks from within the Israel Police became a virtual flood. Many of the stories were lush, full of details, often sexually related. For lazy reporters they were manna from heaven. For the people involved, it was probably all too often a reminder that hell does exist.
Consider some of the juicy stories we were exposed to in recent years. On December 28, 2009, Bat Yam Mayor Shlomi Lahiani was arrested in full view of the TV cameras. He was suspected of accepting bribes. Indeed, on December 27, 2015 he began to serve an eight-month sentence. But of course, six years ago he had not yet been indicted.
The law stipulates that a person is innocent until proven guilty. The law also defends the right of the individual to privacy. But the police could not care less. Arresting a mayor creates headlines – a PR coup for the officers involved, likely to lead to promotions later on. Morality and respect for the law? Not among our police, and not our media either.
No one asked who was responsible for inviting the media into this sordid affair, nor as far as we know has any police officer paid the price for such unprofessional activism.
Margalit Tzan’ani is a rather well known TV personality and singer. On August 16, 2011, she was arrested. She was suspected of blackmailing her former producer. Ultimately, she was sentenced to six months of public service. However, when she was still only a suspect somehow pictures of her in police custody reached the media. Were Tzan’ani’s rights upheld by the police and the prison authorities? No. Did Yediot Aharonot, which publicized the photos, respect her right to privacy? No. But who cares? The story was big and those who promoted it profited at the singer’s expense.
Police leaks were so voluminous that the Knesset comptroller committee held a special session to discuss them. This took place in May of 2014.
As reported on the INN website, Amnon Cohen of the Shas Party, who was then chairman of the committee, accused the Israel Police of “leak[ing] information against suspects to improve its public image instead of investing professional efforts to defend the citizens.” Advocate Pini Fishler claimed that “all the transcripts of the investigation of [Yisrael Beytenu head] Avigdor Liberman reached, week after week, the Internet site of journalist Yoav Yitzchak.” He also noted that not a single police investigator was investigated or prosecuted for leaking sensitive material.
The police used the same tactics when embarking upon the investigation of former Labor MK and leader Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. His advocate, Navot Tel-Tzur, complained bitterly that the investigation was leaked in real time. This pattern repeated itself in almost all cases involving well-known personalities, including the Holyland case.
It is no secret that the Israel Police is in trouble.
Too many of its highest officers had to resign following allegations of misconduct, especially sexual harassment. It was high time someone did something about it, and that someone was Minister Gilad Erdan. He was, perhaps, lucky – as was the public – in failing to appoint Gal Hirsch as police commissioner. Instead, he had the wisdom to appointing Roni Alsheikh, a religious person in his private life and former top official in the Shin Bet (Israeli Security Agency), to the post. It would seem that one of Alsheikh’s first orders was for a complete halt to the leaks. This became very evident during the past week, when police were busy tracking down terrorist Nashat Milhem. The lack of leaks infuriated many journalists.
As usual, they would not admit the truth, namely that the leaks drying up meant they actually had to do their jobs. Rather, some of them had the chutzpah to admonish Alsheikh. Yaniv Kubovitz reported in Haaretz that there was severe criticism within the Israel Police over the lack of public information.
He cited an anonymous police officer who claimed that “the need to provide the public with information these days is critical, operational and necessary for the daily lives of the citizens.”
Poppycock. Our lives were not affected by not knowing whether police had or had not found some new evidence concerning the murderer. It is only the lives of the journalists that were affected.
As noted by Yossi Melman of Ma’ariv on January 10: “The Police Commissioner… became aware of the cruelty of bloodthirsty journalists and an impatient public which demand instant gratification.
Reporters and pundits, especially police-related ones, pounced on him and the police without mercy.”
Rafi Mann, a noted academic who deals with media-related issues claimed on the Seventh Eye website that the police should have invested much more in PR during the week of the manhunt. He accused Alsheikh of not understanding that the police works under the public eye and therefore must provide – even on an hourly basis – briefings to the media. Similar criticism was voiced by journalist Dov Gilhar and police reporter Yossi Eli on the Walla website.
The bottom line, of course, is that the murderer was tracked down and the public was informed accordingly.
The police and Shin Bet did their job. Would more police PR have made any difference? Most likely not.
Moreover, such blabbering might also have provided Milhem with information which might have made it even more difficult to locate him.
What the public needs to know is that their law enforcement agencies are doing a professional job.
This is what is really important. The police need to provide the public with confidence in their ability to solve crimes and arrest suspects. The juicy stories, the embarrassing and even the defaming of innocent or even guilty people, are not a public service. Neither the media nor the police should engage in sensationalism for its own sake.
Perhaps Alsheikh’s religious background, which holds to the concept that gossip and slander are not to be tolerated and are detrimental to society, has influenced him in his decision to silence the police. It takes courage to keep silent. Too many of us have the urge to immediately tell all when we know something. This is fodder for the media but poisonous for the well-being of society.
Alsheikh’s silence is a welcome reprieve.
January 7, 2016
|Ha’aretz newspaper, together with the New Israel Fund organized a conference in New York on December 13 to “address the pressing questions facing Israel today”. As might be expected from these two left wing organizations, this conference was not a model of pluralism. The keynote speakers were Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, MK Tzipi Livni and Saeb Erekat of the PLO, known for his false accusations that in 2004 Israel massacred over 500 Palestinians in Jenin.
Erekat demanded and Haaretz acceded to removal of the Israeli flag from the dais during his talk.
Some of the “stars” appearing at this conference were Gideon Levy, Haaretz’s extreme left wing columnist; advocate Michael Sfard who has been very successful in preventing Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria; Ms. Talia Sasson, known for her report on the communities in Yesha which has led to an almost complete standstill in the legal ability to allow new construction there; and Avner Gvaryahu from Breaking the Silence, the organization whose task is to defame the Israel Defense Forces. Indeed, except for President Rivlin, there was not a single person there who could be identified as belonging to Israel’s right wing.
As reported in the “Times of Israel” Rivlin used the podium to defend our defense forces, claiming among others that “No other army in the world is as moral as the IDF”.
Not surprisingly though, Rivlin was criticized for his participation. Ben Dror Yemini, a left wing columnist known for his firm stand against the BDS movement, wrote in his facebook page: “It would seem that Rivlin is not capable of distinguishing between legitimate criticism of Israel’s government and some of the stars of the conference who orchestrate a campaign of propaganda terror against the State or negate the right of Israel to exist. When Rivlin participates in a meeting where the Israeli flag is removed in acquiescence to Erekat’s demand and people rub shoulders with Roger Waters from the BDS movement there is a problem.
One would hope that Rivlin will do some soul searching.
He owes this to himself, he owes this to the citizens of the State of Israel.”
Yemini also noted that this is the same Rivlin who canceled an appearance of performer Amir Benayoun, due to the latter’s strong words against the Arabs.
Arguably though, the most sharply worded criticism of Rivlin came from Israel’s TV channel 20. This channel, also known as the Jewish channel, is identified with Israel’s national religious community and is considered to be oriented towards the Israeli right wing.
In its official facebook page, the channel wrote the following: “It is time to say that our Presidency has lost its shame. It is time to proclaim the truth loudly: Rivlin is preoccupied in representing himself, not the people of Israel. The people of Israel trust the IDF; believes that the IDF risks its life for our sake day and night; and believes that it is the job of the President to support the IDF. The presence of President Rivlin today in a meeting together with the despicable organization Breaking the Silence is a crossing of a red line and a disgrace to our Presidential Institution. It is Rivlin’s right to act as he wishes as a private person but as President he does not have the privilege of spitting in the face of the IDF’s soldiers, it is disgraceful, it is sad”.
Israel’s politically correct media was incensed. How dare anyone attack Israel’s most respected political office, the Presidency? Doesn’t channel 20 understand that the Presidency represents all of Israel and so should be immune from any criticism? Walla’s title to an article by Maya Mena was “Channel 20 against President Rivlin”. The subtitle was that “channel 20 has opened a slander and smear campaign against the President”.
TV channel 2’s Ofer Haddad’s report on the incident was headlined with “Channel 20 has lost its sense of shame”. A similar title “Is channel 20 inciting against the President” headlined TV channel 2’s Leeor Friedman’s report on the strong exchange of words between channel 20’s Sharon Gal and left wing politician Eldad Yaniv who claimed “this (channel 20) is not the channel of the patriots, it is the channel of the maniacs”.
TV channel 10 also took the high road, bringing among others the following citation from MK Livni: “The incitement against President Rivlin is part of the process of shutting mouths, delegitimizing opinions and the public who believes in them”.
The Justice Minister, although not as sacred as the Presidency, is still considered to be a position which should be above petty politics since the Minister’s job is to uphold Israel’s democracy and law and order.
Bayit Yehudi’s Ayelet Shaked is quite an active Minister who lately has passed a transparency law which forces NGO’s who receive over half of their income from foreign government sources to report this in their official proceedings. This law should ensure that the public as well as the politicians, know that they are dealing with an entity which is funded by foreign governments and therefore cannot be considered as neutral.
The reaction was quick, fierce and severe. A Dr.
Ofer Kassif from the Hebrew University wrote in his facebook page: “She is filth, a partner in crime against humanity”. He also termed the Minister as “Neo Nazi filth”. The response of the Hebrew University was “the university is not responsible to the expressions of its lecturers and it is not its job to relate to them as long as the academic platform is not used to promulgate them. If anyone thinks that one or other expression is incitement or violation of the law, she or he should go the law enforcement authorities.”
These comments did not go without any response.
Professor Aviad Hacohen, writing in the Israel Hayom newspaper noted how dangerous such inciting proclamations are especially when they emanate from academics who should be role models for their students.
Didi Harari, well known Israeli TV and radio personality warned on his 103 FM radio program that such words could lead to physical acts. He noted that if someone would have used similar words against a woman identified with the Israeli left, it would have raised a media storm.
But these were the exceptions, by and large, Israel’s media did not relate to the issue nor to the academics, not to Hebrew University’s President Ben Sasson. They were not ostracized. The message was clear, maybe the words were not nice, but freedom of speech defends the right to express them.
So, what have we? When Israel’s right wing severely criticizes the President it is accused of slandering and setting up a campaign against the President, But when someone from the left side does indeed slander our Justice Minister, that is acceptable. This is political correctness in present day Israel. The price our society pays for this is high, among others it convinces too many youngsters that democracy as we know it is immoral and dishonest. Isn’t it about time that we learn the lesson?
|This column, and our work at Israel’s Media Watch since 1995, concerns monitoring Israel’s local media. Our objectives are among other things to uncover and analyze bias and unethical journalistic practices. Our work aims to strengthen Israel’s democracy.
Media bias is not a red herring.
It is not a tool in the bag of rightwing tricks. News media bias is real.
It exists, Left, Right and Center.
Is that so bad? Well, yes. Bias in reporting directly impacts voting patterns, for example.
The great difficulty with bias is that it is not restricted to one issue or one reporter. Bias does not remain at the lower levels of media production such as on-air reporting and news.
Eventually it ascends the hierarchy to become part of the analysis and commentary, and then reaches the offices of the editors and directors.
L. Brent Bozell, a fierce critic of liberal bias, noting that it can be elusive, remarked that “just as there is no such thing as purely objective news, there is no purely objective way to measure news bias.” Nevertheless, measurements can expose its existence.
Tim Groseclose, political science professor at UCLA, is the author of the book, Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind. Three of his models of bias are quite applicable to the Israeli experience. They are: newsrooms filled overwhelmingly with liberals; the liberal press assuring its continued existence through self-selection; and editors who even if they do want to support pluralism have a hard time finding conservatives who want to be journalists.
This past month, the BBC was subjected to an investigation by Ofcom.
Ofcom is the communications regulator in the UK, charged with protecting the public from “sharp practices.”
It operates under a number of Acts of Parliament, in particular the Communications Act 2003 which decrees that Ofcom’s principal duty is to further the interests of citizens and of consumers.
The finding was that while 62 percent of the population who watched BBC News rated it highly for being “accurate and reliable,” while just under half (48%) rated the BBC highly for being “impartial and unbiased.” The gap between the two findings points to a problem of trustworthiness as well as a media consumer society that is either naïve or confused. That framework exists in Israel no less than in any other country.
What is different in our Israeli experience is that no government agency, or for that matter any of the state-sponsored broadcasting networks, has engaged in any similar studies of their own output. The government takes our money but does not provide us an opportunity to get our money’s worth of fair supervision. Worse, the ombudsmen whose job is to receive complaints and investigate them are often, as our many studies have illustrated, either unwilling to take a principled stance, fall in line with the network or run up against a system that ignores their judgments.
Of course, there are those who perceive a strong right-wing bias in the media. In his December 24 Haaretz column, left-wing extremist Gideon Levy wrote that “religious ultranationalism… has won, big time” and pointed to a supposed “takeover of the debate,” claiming that the “inroads into the media have already been made.” A few days earlier, in the midst of the brouhaha over Channel 20’s criticism of President Reuven Rivlin’s participation at Haaretz’s New York Conference earlier in December, Erel Segal responded.
On the station’s The Patriots program, he sarcastically said, “Extremists are only to be found on the Right. The Left is always sane. Crazies are only on the Right, while maybe only one can be found on the Left. Right is incitement; Left is freedom of expression. Left has satire, art and consideration while on the right they’ve been assassinating a prime minister for the past 20 years.”
Syracuse University assistant professor at the School of Information Studies Jeffery Hemsley, co-author of Going Viral, highlights the trend of people tending to pick their own news. This reinforces their beliefs rather than challenging them. That is reflected in the news rooms. It is called the “filter bubble effect” whereby those on the various sides of an issue choose to be exposed to media that doesn’t challenge their views. Clustering left-of-center viewpoints in newsrooms leads to a cloistering effect, and even the tone of coverage becomes a problem.
Hemsley adds that the effect makes it “increasingly difficult to dislodge misinformation.” Truth must be “sexier than the lie” if it is to confront bad information, he writes. If the challenging is oriented to one side of the public debate, both sides eventually lose out.
Alternatively, the media becomes the enemy.
How does all this play out in Israel? Consider for example this past Saturday night. Rina Matsliach of Channel 2 News interviewed Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.
The main topic was the Duma torching incident and the accusations against the Israeli security services regarding brutal interrogation methods. In addition, there were a few questions on the killing of convicted terrorist Samir Kuntar, NGO Breaking the Silence and coalition politics. Using a stopwatch, we determined that during a total interview time of 1,127 seconds (almost 19 minutes), Ya’alon was asked 31 questions. Matsliach spoke a total of 272 seconds (24%) and Ya’alon spoke 732 seconds (64%).
That may seem a fair distribution of airtime, but Matsliach interrupted Ya’alon 19 times and this led to numerous periods when both of them were talking together. For the viewer, this became a nigh unintelligible and annoying conversation.
This data is, though, generous to Matsliach. The sad truth is that if one removes the topics not related to the Duma killings from the interview, which accounted for a quarter of the interview, one finds that Matsliach’s interference in the remaining 859 seconds in which the Duma issue was “discussed” became dominant. Ya’alon couldn’t finish more than half his sentences.
Matsliach was quite “successful” in keeping Ya’alon off-balance and breaking his train of thought.
In Israel, even when a politician is afforded airtime, for him/her to get their version of the truth out becomes a difficult task.
We stress here that Ya’alon’s views are immaterial. It is the message emanating from Matsliach that is the issue. Her conduct was, in a word, unprofessional.
The media acts as an agent whose task is to cover the gap between what happens and the consumer who needs to know what happened, and why. It is a process of information transfer, or should be. The sad state of affairs in Israel, though, is that journalists of Matsliach’s ilk are considered “stars,” and receive commensurate salaries. News and commentary is presented in an imbalanced and unfair way, unethical practices are rampant. The system responsible for correction and prevention is weak. The inexorable conclusion is that our media, instead of uniting society, disorients it.
December 24, 2015
|In 2010 the Zionist-oriented Im Tirtzu organization mounted an attack on the New Israel Fund, portraying a horned Naomi Chazan, then president of the NIF.
The attack drew responses such as “right-wing hooligans” with a “potential for murderous violence” attempting to “quell dissenting voices in Israeli society.” True to form, last week’s Im Tirtzu’s “Foreign Agents” video clip which dealt with the virulent anti-IDF Breaking The Silence (BTS) NGO again generated a media storm.
Just like five years ago, the Im Tirtzu campaign was not only reported on by Israel’s media but actively engaged with by it, with the media providing its judgment of Im Tirtzu’s actions.
An extreme example was Haaretz correspondent Chemi Shalev’s “Im Tirtzu and the Proto-fascist Plot to Destroy Israeli Democracy” column of December 16. The video, he wrote, was “a symptom of a rapidly spreading, potentially terminal disease.”
Calm and rational discourse was a rare media commodity this past week.
HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual demanded the opening of a criminal investigation against Im Tirtzu for incitement to murder. Hagai El-Ad, B’tselem’s director, told the UK Telegraph that the government was behind the extra-parliamentary group’s clip and was quoted saying that “the voice is Im Tirtzu but the hands are of the government.”
Israel’s biased media is then reflected also in the foreign media.
The AP’s December 20 headline “Dovish Israeli groups say they face harsh crackdown” was followed by the explanation: “hard-line Israeli politicians and activists” are accused “of a nationalist witch hunt that risks turning violent.”
December 17, 2015
|Balancing journalism’s twin goals of telling the public what it wants to know and what it needs to know is not only an ethical matter for journalists but a very real concern for the media consumers.
There is, though, another issue: when the media selects, under pressure or out of free choice, not to tell its reading and listening public what it should know. We have pointed out many times in our columns that the most powerful media influence lies in what is not revealed to its consumers.
Any university journalism course will teach that there are two forms of media censorship in the media: censorship and self-censorship. As one online article explains: “Censorship occurs when a state, political, religious or private party prohibits information from reaching citizens. Self-censorship occurs when journalists themselves prevent the publication of information… because they are fearful of what could happen if they publish certain information – they are fearful of injury to themselves or their families, fearful of a lawsuit or other economic consequence.”
A case could be that the newspaper’s owner is being investigated by authorities for corruption and bribery.
Another is that a major advertiser is suspected of corrupt employment practices or, worse, polluting a major water source.
December 9, 2015
|The late Yossi Sarid was a media icon for two reasons.
First, he was a media figure himself, having completed his army service as a correspondent for BaMachaneh Gadna and then the Histadrut’s daily, Davar, as well as broadcasting over Kol Yisrael and Galei Tzahal. He later became the spokesperson for the Mapai Party and prime minister Levi Eshkol, and was very successful in those positions. Second, he provided media personnel, the majority of whom were cut from the same ideological cloth, with a near-worshipful figure whose ideas, language and performance made them comfortable in their profession and even provided them with a purpose in their media activity.
From the reporters to the analysts and the editors who assured his media presence, he was a source of self-confidence.
Some of these people climbed the professional ladder and are today in the most central positions of media power. Sarid was one of them. He provided support for their core beliefs and they provided him with air-time and coverage that drove him to the top.
An insight into this relationship is given by the words of Arieh Golan, the Kol Yisrael stalwart who dominates the early morning airwaves as host of the two-hour Boker Tov (Good Morning) interview and news digest radio program. A seemingly unrelated issue – the demand of the IBA’s deputy director Ronit Braun-Kennis that even senior correspondents and program hosts clock in and out and obtain permission for work on Shabbat – bestirred Golan deeply. He was quoted by Haaretz’s Itai Stern Monday as saying: “Enough of this harassment…what does Braun-Kennis know of journalism work…let her come and open a broadcast on the weekend [he did not use the term Shabbat] in order to report on the death of Yossi Sarid.”
December 2, 2015
|American actress and comedian Roseanne Barr apparently reads the English-language edition of Haaretz and as a result, exploded against Rogel Alpher, a columnist and blogger at the paper, on November 23. She became a media critic after reading his piece calling upon the Jews of France not to make aliya but rather to stay in France.
He added, as this paper reported: “Don’t flee Muslim fascism into the arms of Jewish fascism. Nothing for you in Israel… To emigrate from France to Israel now is like emigrating from Palestine to Nazi Germany in 1933… Israel has stopped being the Jewish state. It is a bi-national apartheid state…
The Zionist enterprise is dead. Committed suicide.”
Barr’s answer to Alpher was a very blunt and insulting tweet: “Stfu [shut the f*** up] privileged fat skinhead.”
Alpher’s reaction was, “she’s been for several years already very much psycho.”
Read more here.