February 28, 2013

MEDIA COMMENT: Our media’s intifada

Posted in Media tagged , , , at 9:35 am by yisraelmedad

MEDIA COMMENT: Our media’s intifada

To many Israelis, the news coming out of Los Angeles at the beginning of this week that the two nominated Israeli films did not win Oscar awards was received with more than a sigh of relief.

The two Israeli-produced candidates in the Documentary Feature category, the films 5 Broken Cameras and The Gatekeepers are a prime example of how Israel successfully manages to subvert its national ethos and Zionist raison d’être; the two films were funded not only by left-wing sources but also by official state bodies. The question debated, and our local media did reflect it, was how is it that the Israeli candidates for the Oscar/Hollywood professional recognition in recent years all presented a one-sided, less-than-positive view of Israel, its life style and its politics? Or, as one observer noted, “Israel’s domestic films… have long been much more self-critical than those Hollywood has produced.”

Documentaries are the result of an extended period of filming and creative investment. They are directed, edited and produced and benefit from hindsight.

Funding usually comes from ideological sources, interested in promoting a message. These films are more opinion column than news. Yet they possess the potential to inflict immense damage, since they try to present themselves as “objective” truth. Newspapers, which are published day in and day out, are perceived by the public as having biases. Such bias is much tougher to discern in a one-time “documentary” production. Perhaps it is high time a rating agency for documentaries is created, which would provide the viewer with some indication as to the reliability of the content being presented.

But sometimes agenda-setting by the media is even more damaging. The media can create the material which is the basis for the documentary of tomorrow.

Perhaps the so-called third intifada is a prime example.

As this paper reported on December 15, purported members of various armed Arab factions announced in Hebron that a new group, the Brigades of National Unity, had been established and that a third intifada had begun. Did this group read Nathan Thrall of the International Crisis Group who, in the New York Times on June 22, 2012, claimed that a “third intifada is inevitable”? He based his dire prediction on what he described as “a private meeting” earlier that month during which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his security advisers were warned by a group of Middle East experts and former intelligence officers that “a third Palestinian intifada was imminent.”

The Brigades of National Unity may also have based themselves on an Iranian, Hamid Dabashi, who Al Jazeera carried on October 11, 2011, as touting that “The Third Intifada has already begun” (we discovered a deleted Wikipedia page from October 6, 2011 which mentioned the term “third intifada”).

They could also have been in touch with local Israeli correspondents such as Haaretz’s Gideon Levy, who, this past September 29, raised the “specter of a third intifada,” based on a conversation he had had at the Jenin refugee camp with a Jamal Zubeidi, who promised “an uprising even more violent than its predecessors.”

The “third intifada” is a headline which has been broadcast and printed numerous times for over half a year, if not longer, and has been just waiting for a write-up. This past week we witnessed the fruitful nucleation of this movement. It started with a page one Sunday headline in Yediot Aharonot: “The IDF is preparing for a third intifada.” It took only a few hours on that same morning for the broadcast media to latch on to the “story.” Arieh Golan, in his morning news show, took pains to ask Mr. Jibril Rajoub: “Will there be a third intifada?” Rajoub was introduced by Golan as one of the Fatah leaders, no more, no less.

Most of us tend to forget that Rajoub was sentenced to life in prison in September 1970 for throwing a grenade at an Israeli army bus near Hebron. He was released in 1985 as part of an exchange of 1,150 terrorists freed in exchange for three Israeli hostages held by the PFLP. He was shortly thereafter again arrested for his activities in the first intifada. Palestinian Media Watch notes that on November 5, 2012, Rajoub stated on Palestinian TV that “we still believe in all forms of the struggle. No one has removed the rifle from the equation.”

Yet, none of this was even hinted at in Golan’s interview. Perhaps Rajoub’s conclusion from the “interview” was that it was high time to start the third intifada.

The “third intifada” headline gave our media a chance to once again interview a plethora of Palestinian representatives. These included Qadura Fares, president of the Palestinian society’s prisoners club, who in an interview with Ma’ariv earlier this week said, “We are facing an intifada.” His pronouncement promptly made it to the New York Times. Another figure shown on Channel 1 TV was Abu-Mujahid, the spokesperson of the Popular Resistance Committees.

This character is cited as “blessing the operation” in which six Israelis were killed in Eilat on August 18, 2011. And there were more.

Our media also made sure to publicize the “hunger strike” of terrorist inmates of Israeli prisons. Ma’ariv’s headline on Sunday morning was: “3,000 Palestinian prisoners will go on a hunger strike today.” Was it necessary to advertise this “hunger strike” before it took place? The army radio station did report that two of the four hunger strikers of the past week were freed in the Schalit prisoner exchange and then re-arrested for violating the terms of their release. But this was kept secret from most listeners and viewers of other media outlets.

Even the left wing in Israel is criticizing the media for playing up the imminence of a “third intifada.”

Amos Harel of Haaretz in an op-ed article on January 4 noted that the “third intifada lives primarily in the headlines.” The left-wing media review organization Keshev reached the same conclusion and decried the incessant discussion of the topic, which it said just gave the Palestinians an unjustified black name.

The bottom line is that Israel’s media set an agenda this past week – “the third intifada.” The most troubling aspect of this “documentary production” is that when it becomes clear that it presents the facts just as accurately as in the Five Broken Cameras and The Gatekeepers, no one in the media will have to pay for their irresponsibility.

The authors are respectively vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch http://www.imw.org.il.

February 21, 2013

MEDIA COMMENT: Media darkness

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:16 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Media darkness
A debate on the use of gag orders or on the need for military censorship is always welcome.

Israel’s media devolved into a frenzy last week. Availing themselves of an Australian news program which reported on an apparent suicide in an Israeli  prison, the editors and correspondents and columnists of our printed press and  broadcast media erupted into what in retrospect proved to be the spreading of  much misinformation.

Leading the campaign of the “public’s right to know” were a few MKs who, with incomplete details, exploited their parliamentary  immunity and, on a live TV feed from the Knesset, asked the (wrong) justice  minister, who was responding to other questions, whether this or that part of  the story was factual, which it now appears they mostly were not.

Our  interest in this column is not the incident itself. It also isn’t whether the  government bodies who dealt with the case at the time, a few years ago, or  currently, acted properly or legally. We review the media, its standards, its  ethical and professional behavior, biases and foibles – purposeful or accidental – and, when they happen, its violations of law and codes of conduct.

The  principle of the “public’s right to know” has been traced back to something the  American president James Madison wrote in 1822: “A popular government without  popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or  a tragedy, or perhaps both…a people who mean to be their own  Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

And  as the author of much of that country’s Bill of Rights, he had inserted therein  that the “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of  the press….”

However, the American Supreme Court, as well as the  high courts of many other countries have curbed the freedom of the press. And  despite the howls of the media here, one could question whether what they were  seeking was to further good governance and inform the populace, or simply  sensationalism for the sake of selling newspapers or advertising  space.

The media pushed several basic themes. One was: Why did the news  have to come from abroad? As it turns out this is an easy question to answer.  Most of the information obtained by the Australian media outlet came from our  own media. In this context, Eitan Haber, formerly prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s  press adviser and longtime Yediot Aharonot writer, had a story to  tell.

In a column on Sunday, he reflected on Mordechai Vanunu, who had  attempted, fairly successfully, to reveal secrets related to Israel’s nuclear  capabilities. Haber asserts that in an effort to stem leaks from being published  in Israel, then, as today, the editors’ forum was convened by Shimon Peres to  provide background justifying the lack of information and asking them only to  quote from the British press. Immediately after the meeting ended, Gershon  Schocken, the editor/publisher of Haaretz, alerted his Londonbased  correspondent, who provided the British media with the information that he  himself needed to quote, thus assuring that the true story could appear in  Israel, with all the subsequent damage.

This past fortnight, Haaretz  twice attacked the gag order as an instrument of the state. First on February 5  when its editorial on the air strike in Syria criticized what it perceived to be  the prevention of “a public debate in Israel about the wisdom and responsibility  of Israel’s pushing itself into the boiling lava of the Syrian civil war…  turn[ing] Israeli media into a fighter in the ‘perceptionshaping’ army,” a task  the paper despises.

Then on February 14, it railed against Israel “disappearing” people. While the paper did grant that state secrets should indeed be kept, it  opposed what it termed “a grave infringement on the civil rights of people who  are confined in prison.”

Was there such an infringement? Was the media  championing democracy and a free press? AS OF this writing, it would appear that  for all the brouhaha, the press did a bad job of providing real  information.

Instead, using headlines, pictures, graphics and repetition,  it was engaged in sensationalism.

While not a crime, this is not only bad  journalism, it shows little consideration for state security and, perhaps, the  lives of agents in the field.

Moreover, although a feed from Australia’s  secret service or other sources cannot be discounted, indications are that the  Australian reporter, Trevor Bormann, was tipped off by a local Israeli media  person.

Another recurring theme was the violation of Israeli democracy by  making a person “disappear.” In fact, no one “vanished.” Mr. Zygier met his  family, his lawyers and others while in custody. A Meretz MK at the time was  involved, but chose not to follow it up further. His identity was kept secret at  his own request .

Second, the judicial process was not “secret.” The  case’s secrecy was warranted and authorized. It seems that there was adequate  judicial supervision, not to mention one public leak which, it is true, was  quashed. There was no disproportionate injustice or undue confidentiality, at  least in comparison to previous similar cases in Israel and abroad.

In  the final analysis, a free press is a necessary condition for guaranteeing civil  rights and liberties.

However, an elected government is also responsible  for the defense of the state and the security of the lives of its citizens. It  is true that too many of the state’s bodies and officials have not internalized  the enormous change in communication which comes as a result of the Internet,  social media and other technological developments. Instead of realizing that  there is a crisis and managing it, our officials only react to media pressure,  giving an impression that they are hiding something, which was not  appropriate.

Nevertheless, our media is not much better, and it, too,  does not generate much confidence.

Mr. Zygier’s case is a personal  tragedy for himself, his family and, too, for his handlers. Further  investigation must be expected, as in any case of someone who purportedly  commits suicide while in custody. A debate on the use of gag orders or on the  need for military censorship is always welcome.

At the same time the  story calls for deep introspection by our media. It should deal with news  collection and publication, as well as the inevitable confrontation with  governmental authorities over how the news is to be reported. However, running  abroad with a story is not only a symptom of weakness, it is also indicative of  a lack of patriotism.

It is high time that our media recognized the fact that  contrary to expectations, Israel remains a country considered illegitimate by  most of the world. Its very existence is under constant threat. Anyone who  deeply cares for our lives here must be at least circumspect and very careful  when it comes to military or defense secrets.

For good or otherwise, our  media should also hold a dialogue with the public it believes it represents.  Since the press claims to be taking positions in the name of the public interest  it should also concern itself with the question of whether our public is  interested in the media being so antagonistic to the defense  establishment.

This is more important than finding favor in foreign  lands.


February 14, 2013

MEDIA COMMENT: Bashing haredim

Posted in Media at 8:56 am by yisraelmedad

Bashing haredim by YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 13/02/2013

The job of news people is to report, to get the facts, not to argue, reprimand and wave a finger.

It was only a week ago that Hadas Shteif, the police correspondent for Army Radio (Galatz), got an important scoop. The headline was sexual harassment and its concealment in Modi’in Illit.

The gist of the story was that various people claimed knowledge of cases of sexual harassment of children which were suppressed due to rabbinical pressure. Drawing special ire was a story about the rape of a five-year-old girl on her way to kindergarten, whose parents, advised by rabbis, refused to go to the police. Shteif did qualify her story by stating at its end that police had not yet acted upon the case of the five-year- old and that it was not clear whether indeed she had been raped.

The next day, Galatz aired a response from the head of the rabbinical court in Modi’in Illit, who claimed the story was a complete fabrication.

This did not stop anchor Razi Barkai from stating what he termed the “shocking” fact that every month there are five to six cases of sexual harassment in Modi’in Illit.

Barkai and Galatz also aired a live interview with a lady, identified as “Iris,” who had complained to the police about harassment of her daughter. She continued to describe an atmosphere, called “terror” by Barkai, which makes her fearful of talking freely of the events.

Iris described the perpetrator of the act against her daughter as a known pedophile, asserting that the local leadership refused to act against him.

The story raised a storm of accusations against the haredi community, of course at a very opportune time. The political issue of army service of haredim is heavy on the agenda, and any story which depicts the haredi world in negative terms plays into the hands of those who claim the haredi world must be brought under the fold of the law.

The story continued for three successive days on Galatz. Sure enough, it was picked up by almost all other news services in the country, including Ynet, NRG, Israel HaYom, Haaretz, TV Channel 2 news and more. One can well believe that people belonging to the haredi world were under pressure by their colleagues and friends, who were demanding explanations.

But the story goes much deeper. Let us assume that indeed the rabbinical leadership took the law into their own hands and did not go to the police. Let us further assume that the same leadership put pressure on all involved to keep things quiet. Is this right? Certainly not. But is the outrage of Shteif and her colleagues justified or is it just an outrageous double standard? Decide for yourself based on the following information.

On June 13 this year, Shteif, under the title “It is time to cease shutting up,” wrote the following in her blog: “A new female journalist group has emerged last Friday. In their first meeting, a previously closed door was opened. The problem of sexual harassment and indecent acts taking place in newspaper offices and other media bodies in Israel came up in the meeting repeatedly. The women who gathered…decided that this time they would open their mouths for the sake of female journalists, producers and editors, and for the sake of the ‘fresh meat’ of the future.”

Shteif does not let go. In a follow-up blog, published on November 4, 2012, entitled “You have been warned,” she writes: “to you the media man, beware, I am after you. For months I am following you, gathering testimony of women against you. Media women tell me their stories. Troublesome stories, which took place over a period of years. Testimony against a single media person, you.”

Amazingly, to this day Shteif has not revealed who this person is, nor have any of her friends revealed the identity of the people Shteif claimed were guilty of harassment.

Razi Barkai did not use the opportunity of the story from Modi’in Illit to ask Shteif some tough questions about this other matter, presumably involving a non-haredi individual. Is she, who lives and works in a much more liberal and “free” atmosphere, any better than the rabbis accused of hiding the facts from the police? Truthfully, the issue is a serious one, not to be made light of. The law says that when we know of a felony we must report it to the police.

But does this really lead to prevention? The outrage of people like Shteif and Barkai is false and inhuman. None of us would want to face such dilemmas.

Shteif and her media friends claim that they are making a positive contribution to haredi society by exposing misdeeds. Even if we accept that this is not another sensationalist story that perhaps didn’t quite occur the way it was reported, will their self-righteous storm really create change? One knows that such attacks only lead to a further defensive reactions and an unwillingness to deal with the situation.

The claim of the media people, that they are only using the media to defend the poor five-year-olds, does not hold water. If Shteif does not have the guts to expose her media “friends” who are guilty of similar acts, why then, does she expect a haredi family to expose their five-year-old child to further calamity? It would seem that the only “profit” that emerges from such stories is that some people in the media can pat themselves on the back for creating an uproar. Their motives, seem to be mainly selfish.

The media attack on the haredim was not limited to this case. Too many people, such as Arieh Golan from the IBA’s Reshet Bet radio station, felt that it was their heaven instructed duty to attack haredim for their lack of “equality in sharing the burden.”

To be precise, we certainly believe that all citizens should “share the burden.”

However, the job of news people is to report, to get the facts, not to argue, reprimand and wave a finger. By doing this, they jeopardize their standing as purveyors of news.

In fact, as noted by Dr. Devora Lederman-Danieli in the “Seventh Eye” website, statistics talk about one out of seven girls raped by a member of the family. In most cases, rape is not reported to the police, irrespective of the social makeup of the people involved. There is nothing really extraordinary in Shteif’s story from Modi’in Illit, except for the blatant and unethical attack on the haredi world.

Does anyone still believe that our media is “liberal”?

The authors are, respectively, vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch,


February 6, 2013

MEDIA COMMENT: Biased, but free

Posted in Media at 11:39 pm by yisraelmedad



Reporters without Borders, in its ranking of freedom of the press, dropped Israel this year to the 112th place, down from 92.

All who read our columns know that there is much to criticize when it comes to Israel’s media; too many infractions of ethical codes; to many laws regularly ignored; ineffective regulatory bodies; inadequate financial oversight. Its interference in politics, economics and societal issues can be deleterious to the media consumer, who is all too often misinformed and misled.

All these and more have demonstrably harmed Israel’s democratic fabric.

But none of these factors were the reason Reporters without Borders, in its ranking of freedom of the press, dropped Israel this year to the 112th place, down from 92, out of 179 countries.

No, the organization gave Israel bad marks based on actions carried out during “Operation Pillar of Cloud” in the Gaza Strip. The group claimed the IDF “launched a deliberate assault on journalists and media buildings associated with Hamas, in addition to Israel’s continuous arrests of Palestinian reporters.”

Reporters without Borders has a rather strange approach towards measuring freedom of speech when it comes to Israel. It differentiates between “Israel within the Green Line,” where Israel was ranked 40, and Judea and Samaria, where it was ranked 150. The final number is then obtained by some adjusted measure of the two.

The organization admitted that Israel’s journalists “have full freedom of expression; however military censorship still poses a structural problem.”

This is not the first time that this advocacy group has attacked Israel based not only on its own political bias but on a seemingly naïve outlook on the unfolding of events between Israel and its neighbors. Nor is this the only international media organ to demean Israel’s press standards.

We wish to make it quite clear: Israel’s media is very free, perhaps even too free. This is documented in many ways.

Israel has a system of ombudsmen appointed to supervise the broadcast media, whether the state-sponsored Israel Broadcasting Authority’s television channels and multiple radio stations, the IDF’s Galatz radio, the Second Radio and Television Authority’s two commercial television stations (Channel 2 and Channel 10), 16 regional radio outlets and Educational Television Network.

However, complaints are poorly handled; no fixed system of punishment exists. Israel’s press council, a voluntary oversight body, is also rather powerless.

Program hosts offer the public their personal opinions unchecked. They can label one politician or social activist an “extremist,” while ignoring the extremism of another. The ultra- Orthodox can be discriminated against and termed “parasites.”

Sexist remarks can be uttered with no more than a finger-wagging from a supervisory forum. Foulmouthing is rampant. An Army Radio editor, Golan Yochpaz, is free to become an editor, for two years, of Yair Lapid’s Channel 2 show while continuing to edit the army station’s news.

There is a lot of freedom in Israel’s media.

Our printed press, which originated over 150 years ago (HaLevanon was founded in 1863), is robust and hard-hitting. Haaretz has been so consistently anti-government in its positions that Menachem Begin famously quipped: “The last time a Haaretz editorial was published that was pro-government was during the Mandate period, when the British ruled.”

Indeed, complaints about anti- Semitic caricatures appearing in newspapers abroad seem quite ludicrous when considering some of the cartoons appearing in Haaretz.

Consider the following: Yedioth Ahronot, following the announcement that Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer intended to resign, headlined its report, “No confidence in Netanyahu.” The reporter, Sever Plocker, formerly of the Marxist Al-Hamishmar daily, wrote that Fischer’s departure was “a vote of no confidence… even if Fischer himself denies it.”

Although reporters are supposed to have the inside track on their beats, the liberties he – and his editors – took with the facts here is problematic. After all, Fischer stated that all is mostly fine with Israel’s economy, and that he had full confidence in the policies of the prime minister (indeed, other reporters even speculated that Fischer might become foreign minister).

But in Israel’s too-free press fact and fantasy may intermingle – as long as it serves the interests of editors and journalists.

Israel’s media is much too free to browbeat and intimidate parliamentarians.

They do not hesitate to use threatening language in the Knesset’s committee sessions, with the aim of assuring continued public funding and financial support for their failure.

A failing television outlet (Channel 10), whose owners have repeatedly, for nearly a decade, played the scoundrel with respect to their legal commitments regarding fees and repayment of debt are free to continue their flaunting of law and order, with hardly any public outcry.

ARGUABLY, HOWEVER, the best evidence of the exaggerated freedom of our journalists is the phenomenon of journalists going into politics – there will be nine in the 19th Knesset.

Journalists have become used to using their position to create political facts on the ground.

Can one forget that Shelly Yachimovich, together with Carmela Menashe, almost single-handedly caused Israel’s rout in South Lebanon by their subversion of the public discourse? Or the fact that Yachimovich not only used her journalistic freedom to support MK Amir Peretz in 2006, but a few weeks later joined his party? Yair Lapid, whose main claim to professional fame is as a columnist and interview show host, is another one of those who realized the power of politics. Indeed, he may become one of the most senior cabinet members.

When Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz first became a member of Knesset and sought to pass legislation that would limit the ability of a media outlet to remain a virtual monopoly, he had to face a boycott by the Yedioth Ahronot news association.

Our media has little respect for the free speech of others.

Nor does Israel’s media does not limit itself to attacking politicians.

The wealthy have also become targets.

Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson are always knock-worthy – especially since they believe that Israel should have true freedom of speech and plurality in its media.

The fact that the publisher of Israel’s largest paid-circulation newspaper, Arnon (Noni) Mozes of Yedioth Ahronot, is very much a tycoon himself, with extensive holdings in the media market and outside of it is not of great interest. Perhaps because he also holds what the media conceive to be “politically correct” attitudes toward Israel’s relations with the Arab world.

In contrast to the media, Israel’s public is far more open-minded. Last week’s TGI readership survey indicates that while Mozes’ flagship paper (there are also local weeklies) is read by 37.4 percent of the Israeli public , the free daily owned by Sheldon Adelson, Israel HaYom, has overtaken it and has 39.9 percent of the readership on weekdays.

Mozes also maintains a premier online news site and portal, Ynet, and a former editor of his paper, Rafi Ginat, has now been selected to be the head of Channel 10.

As we noted in our column of last December 19 (and also of November 16, 2011), the continued outlandish financial support for Channel 10 from state bodies, through various exemptions and benefits, reported to be over $400 million, was obtained via blatant violation of the democratic process.

As Israel HaYom’s Gonen Ginat phrased it, the channel’s directorate succeeded by “waving the flag of ‘freedom of the press’ and making false accusations of ‘stifling free speech.’” This past Monday evening, Channel 10’s Raviv Drucker broadcast a piece of investigative journalism on Israel HaYom – which had been held back until Channel 10’s extension arrangement with the government had been finalized – which Israel HaYom’s editor, Amos Regev, dismissed as a hatchet job.

Our politicians are far from being as astute as the Israeli public.

They do not understand the importance of media pluralism, nor of their duty to refrain from pouring public funds into failing media outlets.

Israel’s broadcast media networks feel themselves quite free to circumvent the laws that obligate pluralism. Too many elements within Israeli society are marginalized.

Political opinions, cultural views, religious outlooks, ethnic uniqueness which do not fit in to the stereotype of our “liberal,” “educated” and “open” media personnel are usually ignored.

The Reporters without Borders document was outrageous in its mendacious portrayal of what happened in Gaza during the latest anti-terror campaign, ignoring international law in its protection of Hamas and al-Qaida “media personnel.”

Reporters without Borders could contribute positively to our media if it undertook a politically unbiased and open look at it.

In our opinion, our media indeed does not deserve to be at the top of the list of countries in which freedom of the speech is respected – because it is much too free to do as it pleases.

The authors are, respectively, vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch, http://www.imw.org.il

February 3, 2013

MEDIA COMMENT: The media and the election campaign

Posted in Media at 12:31 am by yisraelmedad

The media and the election campaign, By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK

Now that the election is over, one can look back at what role the media played.

The recent elections have, once again, provided ample evidence that Israel’s media, much too often, slides into the role of managing rather than reporting the news.

On November 4, two-and-a half months before election day, an article was published which noted that the public opinion poll business was essentially an industry with “no trace of professional ethics, no standard for determining who can be included, [working in] wild competition, obedient to only the blind, hungry media.” The author further pointed out “that most journalists and commentators are aware of the limitations of surveys, their errors and failings, but ignore them.”

The author, Prof. Gaby Weimann from the department of communication at the University of Haifa, was even more critical of the journalists and editors who used the election polls to provide a sense of entertainment and sensationalism; they were just “wild speculation and false interpretations” and thus bordered on “toxic and dangerous,” he wrote.

A few days later, Israel HaYom conducted a roundtable discussion on the subject in its November 9 edition with Dr.

Mina Tzemach, Prof. Camil Fuchs, Prof. Gabriel Weimann, Prof. Yitzhak Katz and Prof. Avi Diskin. The theme was, “Do surveys only predict election results, or perhaps determine them by affecting the way we vote?” Weimann stated that “paradoxically, surveys change the reality they purport to reflect [and] often move voters from party to party.”

Katz, director of the Ma’agar Mohot Institute, was adamant that “there is a very high correlation between the responses of the public opinion polls and actual voting,” although he added that certain sectors, such as the ultra-Orthodox or Arabs, are more difficult to survey as they tend to vote en masse, or clannishly.

Polls, however, were but one media failing.

FIRST AND foremost the media should provide information.

Take, for example, Yossi Verter, writing in Haaretz: “Everyone who’s been living here in recent years knows Yediot Aharonot’s war against [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu is [owner Noni] Mozes’s war against billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his newspaper, the organ of the prime minister, Israel Today… I wonder Yediot graduate Yair Lapid’s…attitude will be when the bill to limit the activities of newspapers comes up during the 19th Knesset.”

This appeared three days after the elections. Why didn’t it appear before the elections? Shouldn’t the public be made aware in advance of the possible implications of their votes? Was it not the responsibility of the media to highlight the possible future conflict of interest? In The Marker, on January 24 – again, after the elections – Shuki Sadeh wrote a highly informative article about Yair Lapid and his connections. Billionaire Arnon Milchan, one of the owners of Channel 10, is one of his close friends and supporters. Lapid retained his ties with Udi Angel, a shareholder of one of Channel 2’s concessionaires, Reshet. Lapid’s political consultant is Uri Shani, formerly Ariel Sharon’s bureau chief. Former prime minister Ehud Olmert maintains warm ties with Lapid’s family to this day.

Lapid is also close to Yediot’s publisher/owner Mozes, who nearly three weeks prior to the elections held a sumptuous farewell party for Lapid at the Crowne Plaza hotel. Why wasn’t the public informed of this prior to Election Day? ANOTHER EXAMPLE of an “ordinary” omission was Rina Matzliah’s admission on Radio 103FM on January 24 that she refused to cover the New Land list of Eldad Yaniv. While we are not fans of Eldad Yaniv, it is still outrageous that a senior political correspondent and commentator uses her power to prevent a legitimate political party from presenting its agenda to the public.

On Aviad Kissos’ Radio 99 show that same day we heard a guest being allowed to say that incoming MK Orit Struck would “dip a rifle barrel cleaning cloth into Netanyahu’s blood and feed it to Palestinian children.”

While this happened after election day, it is illustrative of the level of prejudice the media elite can possess – and broadcast.

On January 9, during the election campaign, Channel 2 anchor Yonit Levy referred to the Strong Israel party list as “extremist.” Meretz and Balad are also extremist, but were not described as such by her. A report on Army Radio in December 28 also had the term “extremist” describing Strong Israel but not Balad, the party of MK Haneen Zoabi of Mavi Marmara fame.

This type of media bias was further exemplified by senior commentator Emmanuel Rosen, who on November 26 referred several times to the Likud “fascists” on the Economic Light Channel 10 show.

IN A piece for the Seventh Eye internet magazine published by the Israel Democracy Institute, Avmer Hofstein noted that Netanyahu’s second term as prime minister was remarkable for its almost total lack of regular ongoing press contacts.

Netanyahu did not have a “court journalist” following his actions. His press conferences prohibited questioning and the few to which he agreed were initiated by him for his own purposes. Did the media express its frustration? Hofstein said the bottom line was that the manipulation of the media by Netanyahu and the media’s willingness to accept this type of senior governmental media manipulation prevented the public from receiving the kind of informed information it would expect from a professionally motivated media. The media was blindsiding the public.

Hofstein suggested that journalists should be more mature, more respectful of the prime minister, criticizing in proportion and with a lot less sensationalism.

This way, he argued, the media might get more concrete information and reliable insight into the workings of the office of the prime minister, to the benefit of us all.

We respectfully disagree. The prime minister is a public servant, accountable to the public, and it is the media’s job to make sure that the public gets the relevant information in a timely manner. The media’s inaction during the election campaign, its inability to impose an election debate on the party leaders, demonstrates a profound failure.

The ongoing fight between Israel HaYom and Yediot Aharonot, with the former supporting the prime minister and the latter doing everything possible to prevent his reelection, even to the extent of aiding the Bayit Yehudi party, contributed very little to the quality of the election campaign.

Instead of providing facts, the media in its shallow ways concentrated on providing headlines, which were more often cheap than accurate.

But let us end with an optimistic note. When comparing the present election campaign to past ones, such as the 1996 runoff between Shimon Peres and Netanyahu, we can assuredly say that media pluralism has led to a campaign which was much more varied and fair.

Who knows, maybe next time the media will even contribute quality to our democratic process?