September 25, 2013

MEDIA COMMENT: A Zionistic media – utopian?

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:09 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: A Zionistic media – utopian?


Israel’s population is not fooled by the media, nor does it follow its advice when it comes to elections.

No society that values democracy and pluralism can do without a free media. Israel is a country whose media – printed, broadcast and electronic – is powerful and dominant. It should meet professional ethical standards of the highest order to provide the consumer with fair, truly representative and factual news – not views. Moreover, Israel, the Jewish-Zionist state, has by law its heritage and cultural values, which should be preserved and maintained.

It is not a secret that Israel’s major media purveyors are dominated by post-Zionist journalists, editors and producers. They set the agenda through the much-too-influential Haaretz and Yediot Aharonot newspapers, as well as via the most popular Israeli Internet news sites – Ynet, Walla and NRG. Even more so, they arguably control the broadcast media.

Theirs is a contrarian narrative. The Channel 2 TV daily news roundup show is Israel’s most popular, yet its host, Yonit Levy, and its leading commentators, such as Amnon Abramowitz, have little contact with the Zionist ethos which led to the creation of the State of Israel.

Their weltanschauung is, broadly, that Israel is a pariah country due to the “occupation” of the West Bank.

The actions of the Arab world and especially the Palestinians are viewed favorably, or at least neutrally, while anything that Israel or its citizens do which does not conform with their post-Zionist credo receives disproportionate attention, with the “guilty” being called to task.

They attempt to present a humanistic liberal exterior. Any hint of racism, such as calls to Israelis not to sell land to Israel’s enemies, who happen to be non-Jewish, is regurgitated ad nauseam. The fact that selling land to Jews in Arab countries, and especially in the Palestinian Authority administered areas, may lead to a death sentence, on the other hand, is a non-issue.

When Jews are discriminated against, for example by being restricted from entering the Temple Mount and prohibited from praying there even when they are allowed in, the same holier-than-thou-attitude at best keeps silent, and at worst blames the Jews for creating unnecessary provocations.

ISRAEL’S POPULATION, however, is not fooled by the media, nor does it follow its advice when it comes to elections. Roughly three-quarters of the Jewish population is Zionist, treats our Jewish heritage with respect and believes that Jews also have rights.

Yet the damage to the state caused by its media takes on strategic proportions.

Europe is identified today with Israel’s enemies. Its boycott practices put it smack in its historical anti-Semitic role. Israel’s media has done much to contribute to this negative image, by repeating the mantra that Israel is an illegal occupational force, practicing apartheid.

It highlights political NGOs who have been caught out, by Israel’s Media Watch and others, time and again fabricating video clips and misreporting events. Yet, these are repeated by the media without proper editorial supervision.

Most “cultural” events in the European sphere having to do with Israel contribute to the image of the “ugly Israeli.” It is not surprising then that Europe is using its Horizon 2020 scientific program to discriminate between Jews and prevent those operating from post-1967 territories from taking part. And this is only the beginning.

There have been positive changes.

Yediot Aharonot has lost much of its monopoly. There is Israel Hayom as a counterpoint. Although the Arutz 7 radio station was closed down, it has been replaced to a large extent by the legal Galei Yisrael radio station. The Educational TV network daily news program has many right-wing journalist hosts. On the Internet one finds influential websites such as News 1, Israel National News (Arutz 7) and The Jerusalem Post, which do not hide their pro-Zionist bias.

Indeed, one may argue that we are in the midst of a revolution, though at times we do not recognize it as such. The Israeli public is today well aware of media manipulations.

The pioneering editor of this newspaper, David Bar-Ilan, with his weekly column “Eye on the Media,” was the first Israeli who had the inner strength to criticize and expose his fellow journalists.

Israel’s Media Watch, established in 1995, was Israel’s first nongovernmental media review organization.

Through its reports and public activities, its battles in Knesset committees and the High Court of Justice, it detailed the biases of Israel’s media outlets. Its continuous defense of Zionism, in Israel and abroad, has led to significant changes.

Israel’s broadcasting legislation, which specifies that the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s mandate is to promote Jewish heritage and the Hebrew language, is a significant victory of IMW over those who proposed a secular, humanistic ethos.

Israel’s Media Watch (IMW) was the pioneer. Nowadays, Israel has a dozen or so media review organizations, most of which promote the Zionist viewpoint.

NOT LESS important is the “democratization” of the Israeli public.

Israelis are becoming increasingly aware of their power as citizens to create change. At the end of the day, the media lives off the public, which pays for the newspapers, whose taxes fund the public media organizations and who enjoy the services of the advertisers.

A prime example of the public’s awareness of its influence is Israel’s Media Watch’s complaint box on its website, which is Israel’s most popular address for public complaints over media infractions. These include among others political bias, discrimination against Jews, the broadcast content of a pro-terror Arab radio station.

Facebook, Twitter and the Internet have changed the rules of the game.

The decision of the Israel Broadcasting Authority to air an anti-Semitic promo two weeks ago was rescinded almost instantly due to public pressure from the bottom up.

A third element is the people in the media. The number of Israelis who have entered the media profession during the past two decades and identify as Zionists has increased noticeably. There is awareness among Zionists that the media and culture are arenas which must not be left only to post-Zionist forces. The social fabric of new recruits to the army’s radio station, arguably Israel’s most prestigious school of journalism, is no longer dominated by the “humanistic” Tel Aviv scene.

There is a fourth leg to this revolution, which is still wobbly. Just last week we read in Ecclesiastes that “money will answer everything.”

Investment in Zionist media and culture lags far behind the public awareness of the strategic importance of the issue. Jews all over the world should realize that the future of the Jewish state and together with it the Jewish people, is at stake.

The combination of the necessary financial backing with the continued determination of many people will ultimately lead to a Zionist media, which knows how to defend Israel in times of need. The nagging question is whether the revolution will occur on time?



September 18, 2013

MEDIA COMMENT: Days of Atonement at the IBA

Posted in Media tagged , , , , at 9:17 am by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Days of Atonement at the IBA


We hope that by next year’s Day of Atonement, we will be able to look back and say the IBA has changed.

“The Jews, they’re a’comin/Soon the Jews are coming and they don’t have a God/Sometimes I am a hero and at times a murderer/Sometimes an assassin and at times a butcher/But I am a rightwing murderer, a right-wing murderer, a rightwing murderer.”

Those were the words to a song recently uploaded to YouTube. In the background, we hear a popular and well-known children’s tune by Uzi Chitman. The scene is that of people dancing about a tree, and during the song Baruch Goldstein, Yigal Amir and Yona Avrushmi appear. The clip ends with the promise of “soon.”

Who uploaded the clip? No, not Al Jazeera, not the BBC nor CNN. Not even TV Channel 2 or Channel 10. This was an authorized promo for a new satirical series titled The Jews are coming which, we were informed, is supposed to appear soon on the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s Channel 1 TV, the state-sponsored network.

The IBA obviously took the Day of Atonement seriously. It had time to reflect on its sudden decision – taken after years of deliberation – not to broadcast Latma’s satirical show The Tribal Update (see our column, “The poor Right,” July 7) and realized it wasn’t really fulfilling its public responsibility. After all, is not satire an important part of culture? So the wise men at the IBA (actually an as yet unknown IBA employee) decided it was time for some real satire, the type that would really blow people’s minds. The result is there for all to see. The promo clip uploaded to the Internet contained hatred, pure and unadulterated, promoting, under the guise of satire, a one-sided, vicious attack on half of Israel’s populace and for which, to the best of our knowledge, no one in the IBA hierarchy has yet owned up to.

How did the series come about? Over three years ago, someone had what turned out to be the unpopular idea (at least among the elite group that sets our entertainment norms) of hosting the Latma group’s satirical program at the IBA. In the eyes of some of the decision-makers at the IBA, Latma is but a coterie of extreme right-wingers whose material is not worthy of reaching the public.

However, one cannot come straight out and say, “hey, this is right wing, we can’t show it.” So they came up with a brilliant solution: balance. The IBA would also air a left-wing show. The IBA programming committee was duly presented with this new idea.

However, there wasn’t one left-wing show pitched to the committee, but two (both by the same producer), Peace in the House and The Jews are Coming.

Those on the committee who were in favor of the Latma show agreed that balance was a reasonable request, so they authorized The Tribal Update and Peace in the House. Three years later, when it became apparent that the IBA would actually have to keep its commitment to Latma, the decision was abruptly made to cancel The Tribal Update show and, to maintain “balance,” also the Peace in the House – but not The Jews are coming.

What do the managers of the IBA have to say about all this? Amir Gilat, chairperson of the IBA, claims he was never shown this series and that it was not authorized by the IBA. He does not understand how the promo came about. We have it from authoritative sources, however, that Gilat’s version is less than precise. The series was authorized by the IBA program committee over a year ago.

Yoni Ben-Menachem, the IBA’s director general, responded by taking the promo off the IBA website (you can still find it on YouTube) and promising an investigation into who authorized its airing. In other words, the best-case scenario here is that the IBA management has no idea what’s actually going on under their noses. One wonders in that case why they continue to draw salaries.

But there are some very positive sides to this sordid story. The public response has been angry, and huge. The clip went viral on the Internet. Public outrage was expressed not only by politicians, but by the people.

The complaints overflowed at the IBA’s offices. Gilad Erdan, the minister responsible for the IBA, is looking into the issue.

Another positive aspect to this story is the fact that it showed the true face of some of the people at the IBA. Their hatred of their own people is now in the open, and the IBA is now under enormous pressure to reinstate Latma.

Let us end this column on the optimistic side, hoping that by next year’s Day of Atonement, we will be able to look back and say the IBA has changed, that it understood it needed to be reformed, that it needed to represent all parts of Israeli society. We can also hope that Latma’s show will have become Israel’s premier satire show. That would be a fitting response to those as-yet unnamed IBA employees who seem to despise the Jews they ideologically oppose but who are paying their salary.


September 13, 2013

MEDIA COMMENT: Our prayer for a better media year

Posted in Media at 12:55 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Our prayer for a better media year


Our prayer for a better media year

As the Hebrew year 5773 came to an end, the media looked more and more like a battlefield. On the pages of newspapers, on television and computer screens and over the airwaves, the lines are drawn, mobilization for this or the other side is being conducted, reports from the field are passed around and decisions are being made.

All are reporting on and discussing what is happening in Syria and all are frivolously telling the political leaders what to do. And the lines between fact and opinion are being blurred.

At a dinner two weeks ago in honor of the visit of US Republican Congressman David Reichert, Shlomo Ben-Zvi, owner and publisher of Ma’ariv and Makor Rishon, addressed the issue of a possible American military response to the gassing of civilians in Syria. He was blunt and expressed his view that Israel cannot ignore its own moral responsibility and expect that only America should be attacking targets in Syria. He said that at an editorial board discussion earlier that afternoon, he suggested that his newspaper publish a leader demanding that Israel consider its own independent position based not only on military and security concerns but foremost on Israel’s moral obligation as a civilized nation.

On the other hand, in the International Herald Tribune on August 30, Nahum Barnea, senior columnist for Yediot Aharonot, published a piece titled “Israel should not take action.”

Noting that Israel could intervene and stop the horror, he nevertheless concluded “it shouldn’t, and it won’t.” He was sure nobody expects Israel to intervene and observed that “nobody would thank it if it did.”

In his line of argumentation against Israel employing force, he writes of “internal and tribal rifts and realities of violence and economic despair” in Arab countries, despite the hopes raised by the Arab Spring – itself a slogan invented by the media – and further expounds that with religion playing a negative role in Syrian and even Egyptian domestic conflicts, “we would be foolish to believe that these two countries could adopt democracy in the Western liberal sense.”

Whatever happens, or doesn’t happen, with regard to the West’s response to Syria, any objective media consumer should be asking: why does Barnea not apply the same logic to the much-closer- to-Israel Arab entity, i.e., the Palestinian Authority? If he is so knowledgeable about Arab culture and political behavior, and as a leading media personality who shapes our perceptions and attitudes, why does he not express these same doubts when it comes to Israel’s “peace partner”? Or is it not really about logic, but rather: “I know what is good and right, therefore do as I tell you.”

A recent example of the poor quality of commentary we are exposed to came in the Saturday night broadcast on the IBA’s Reshet Bet news radio station, which preceded US President Barack Obama’s press conference announcing the delay on any military action in Syria. The IBA’s commentator, Chico Menashe, knew in advance that the US would undertake military measures against Syria “within 24 to 48 hours.” He complimented the Israeli government for not getting involved in the Syrian mess.

A commentator’s job is to provide his listeners with facts, round off the story and fill it in, so that the public gets a better understanding of the various aspects affecting the decision-making process. His job is not to tell us whether the decision makers are “good” or “bad,” and certainly not to try his hand at prophecy. It would seem that Menashe was so full of admiration for President Obama that he could not conceive that the president would backtrack on the explicit statements of his secretary of state, John Kerry.

The files of Israel’s Media Watch provide extensive documentation of how partial and biased agenda-setting is implemented in Israel’s media.

Between mid-October 2012 through January 1, 2013, Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On was interviewed 16 times on Reshet Bet.

This number is out of all proportion to her relative significance within the political spectrum. It is especially striking when compared to the lack of exposure received by other MKs from parties with similar parliamentary strength. In simple English, this is favoritism at its best.

The Mussaf interview show, usually hosted by Geula Even, follows the Mabat central news program on TV Channel 1. Even has perfected, on too many occasions, not only the fine art of expressing her personal opinion, but of bypassing the elementary right of the person being criticized to respond to her charges.

She famously attacked Histadrut leader Ofer Eini without giving him the opportunity to respond to her accusations. In Even’s vocabulary, a Palestinian who helps Israel’s security services is considered a “collaborator.”

Her colleague, Oded Shachar, calls such Palestinians “shtinkerim,” or snitches. Their views override our right to news.

In previous columns we have noted the terminology reserved for but one side of the political/ideological divide. Only in the camp of the right-of-center are there “extremists.” In other instances, the Likud party is portrayed as the party of “fascists” or “illiterates.”

Peace activists, even when they use violence against the IDF, remain “peace activists.”

By definition, activists which identify with Israel’s right wing cannot be “peaceniks,” even when in real life, many “settlers” – another negative epithet – contribute more to peaceful coexistence between Palestinians and Jews than anyone who lives in Tel Aviv and visits the territories only for the sake of “peace” demonstrations.

The Jewish high holidays are a period of reflection and atonement.

In our columns, as well as in this one, we are rather critical of the Israeli media. We have painted a picture of our media as shallow, opinionated and not fulfilling its duty to the consumer.

We have not shied from criticizing specific people, and as is the nature of a personal opinion column, we have not provided the right of retort (although when corrected, we were not afraid to publicize the corrections).

Our efforts are motivated by love of Israel and Zionism. We view the media as an essential part of the puzzle which is the Jewish State of Israel. It is our dream that just as in the sciences and other spheres, our media will be a positive role model for the world. This can be achieved through the cooperation of all involved – the media itself, the media consumer and the media reviewers. We only hope that the journalists, editors and commentators, as well as you, our reading public, accept that our criticism is meant to be constructive. We look forward to a year in which our media continues to provide us with the information and entertainment which makes our lives so interesting.

Shana tova!