January 30, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: Media repression

Posted in Media at 1:26 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Media repression

By YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK, 30/01/2014

Especially good and positive news is repressed in innovative Israel, while unjustified, even anti-Semitic criticism of Israel is encouraged.

Catherine Ashton is generally not well liked in Israel. In the aftermath of the murders in Toulouse, France, two years ago, Ashton said: “When we think of what happened in Toulouse today, when we remember what happened in Norway a year ago, when we know what is happening in Syria, when we see what is happening in Gaza and Sderot and in different parts of the world – we remember young people and children who lose their lives.” At the time, she was roundly denounced by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and even by many in Israel’s media, for likening the Toulouse atrocity to events in Gaza.

Yet Catherine Ashton is the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, or in short, the EU’s foreign minister. She carries the beacon of Palestinian rights in the world over – enthusiastically. Her pressure to boycott Israeli products from Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights jives with a good many reporters in Israel. Her latest success in banishing Ariel University from the EU’s Horizon 2020 scientific program was interpreted in sections of the Israeli press as a welcome stage of the increasing isolation Israel faces due to the “settlements” the media dislikes.

Two weeks ago, in the aftermath of Israel’s announcement that it would allow construction of 1,400 new homes in territories east of the “Green Line,” Ashton repeated her views: “The settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make the twostate solution impossible.”

Israel’s press preferred to avoid confronting Ashton over her discriminatory attitude toward Israel; as this paper has published, the EU supports “illegal settlements” in Cyprus and Morocco. Instead, the media prefers to at best ignore her biases, and at worst, as in Haaretz, to commend her for her foresight.

Just two days ago she again demonstrated her biases.

On the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, her press release read, “Today the international community remembers the victims of the Holocaust.

We honor every one of those brutally murdered in the darkest period of European history.” She did not see fit to mention specifically the term “Jews.” As reported by Ulrich Sahm, a German reporter who strongly defends Israel, to the chagrin of his country’s mainstream media, the statement was then changed. The words “six million” were added, but Ashton even then could not bring herself to utter the word “Jews.”

Ashton’s statements were reported in the Israel Hayom newspaper, the INN news website and in a Haaretz blog. That’s it. But there was enough time to interview Caspar Velkamp, the Dutch ambassador to Israel, on Tuesday on the Galatz radio station. The ambassador used the opportunity to further attempt to convince Israelis that they must make the tough decisions to reach what he describes as a peace accord with the Palestinians.

The Galatz reporter, Iddo Benbaji, did not attempt to get a response from the EU’s representative in Israel to Ashton’s remarks, nor did he ask the ambassador any questions concerning the current rise of anti-Semitism in Holland.

Israel hosted an important guest this January: Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The Israeli media’s repressive attitude was very clear. As reported in The Jerusalem Post, when asked about the Israeli settlements Harper could not have given a clearer answer: “When I’m in Israel I’m asked to single out Israel, when I’m in the Palestinian Authority I’m asked to single out Israel, and half the other places around the world you ask me to single out Israel.

“No one asked me there [in Ramallah] to single out the Palestinian Authority for any criticism in terms of governance or human rights or anything else.”

Haaretz’s Barak Ravid was livid with Harper for his enlightened stance. Instead of highlighting that an important leader in the Western world is defending Israel, his stories were headlined: “Visiting Canadian prime minister supports Israeli self-repression. Harper’s Knesset speech was devoid of criticism of the Netanyahu government’s policy. Harper gave the impression that he is more a friend of Netanyahu than a friend of Israel.”

Compare this characteristic attitude with Israeli media’s overflowing enthusiasm for every hiccup emanating from their favorite New York Times journalist, Thomas Friedman. B’tzelem, with its outrageous false reports, gets more attention from the Israeli media than Harper did.

Harper is not unique. Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop came to Israel for the Sharon funeral. In a January 15 interview with The Times of Israel’s Raphael Ahren, she was asked whether she agrees or disagrees with the near-universal view that Israeli settlements anywhere beyond the 1967 lines are illegal under international law.

She replied: “I would like to see which international law has declared them illegal.”

She also added: “The issue of settlements is absolutely and utterly fundamental to the negotiations that are under way and I think it’s appropriate that we give those negotiations every chance of succeeding.”

Her positive stance toward Israel and her utter rejection of boycotts and other anti-Semitic actions against Israel stood out like a beacon, when compared with Ashton.

The Israel public was left in the dark. Benbaji did not interview her, nor did Aryeh Golan from Kol Israel radio, nor did any of the major TV stations. It would seem that there are news editors who believe that it is not healthy for the Israeli public to know that there are countries that actually do not buy the Palestinian narrative.

Another story that was spiked this past week had to do with the ongoing theme of “price tag” events. As reported on January 24 at INN news, Arabs were caught live on the camera of the Tatzpit News Agency destroying olive trees and leaving behind fabricated evidence which would connect the act to “price tag” action. This also occurred last October. But Israel’s mainstream media suppressed it.

Instead of understanding that the issue of “price tag” actions can be misused not only by Israelis but also by Israel’s enemies, the media will excoriate “price tag” actions by Jews but will refuse to react similarly toward those who try to further increase enmity between Jews and Arabs from the other side.

Repression is harmful, from any side. Israel’s right wing is not free of such actions either. Just recently, the right-wing B’sheva weekly refused to publish an article by journalist Yedidya Meir which criticized Ze’ev Hever, known as “Zambish,” because of his words at the funeral of Ariel Sharon.

Zambish did not expressly criticize Sharon for the expulsion of Jews from their homes and so created the impression among some people that he found Sharon’s actions excusable.

Repression may be the norm at too many news outlets. A news company will repress adverse reports concerning a heavy advertiser.

It will tend not to publish op-ed articles which disagree with its editorial stance. But in innovative Israel, repression has taken a dimension of its own. Especially good and positive news is repressed, while unjustified and even anti-Semitic criticism of Israel is encouraged.

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January 23, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: Friedman, give us some peace

Posted in Media tagged , at 9:31 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Friedman, give us some peace

by YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK, 22/01/2014

Micha Friedman is a veteran Israeli journalist whose professional media career started in the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

Micha Friedman is a veteran Israeli journalist.

Born in Israel 65 years ago, Friedman’s military service was in combat units. His professional media career started in the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

Thirty years ago he moved to the Galatz army radio station where he anchored the station’s premiere morning news show, Good Morning Israel, which was broadcast between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. In addition, he took part in numerous TV programs. Perhaps most notable was his three-year stint at the Educational TV station where he hosted its weekly media criticism and review show, Tik Tikshoret (Media File).

In a column published here on November 28, 2012, we discussed Friedman’s career at Galatz. We highlighted in detail his unabashed extreme left-wing opinions, expressed in many ways during his work at the station. We noted that he does not consider Israel’s soldiers “our” soldiers, preferring to be “neutral.” In an interview with the parent of a new conscript to the army he tried, via manipulative questioning, to instill doubt about the need to serve in an army whose soldiers face life-threatening situations – rather odd for an anchor on an army radio station.

On December 20, 2012, in an interview with Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, who complained about the UN ’s singling out Israeli construction in Jerusalem while ignoring the ongoing massacre of innocent civilians in Syria, Friedman had this to say: “How can you compare [the two], the Syrian situation is an internal Syrian affair while the construction in Jerusalem will kindle all of the Middle East.”

Friedman’s ethics were questionable.

He was not the affable host who gave everyone a fair chance and who made sure that anyone on the receiving end of an item would have the right of response, especially when the item dealt negatively with the Jewish population residing in Judea and Samaria.

An egregious example is from June 2010. Friedman and reporter Dana Tzuk had a story about a resident from Kedumim who took over the lands of a local Palestinian resident. The item was aired without even asking for the Israeli’s response.

As reported on the Srugim news website, Friedman opened the item with the claim that “especially when it comes to settlers, Israel’s justice system works very slowly.”

To this day, the station has not apologized for this unprofessional report and conduct.

Friedman does not like haredim (ultra-Orthodox) and lets his views be known on air. He should have had to apologize for denigrating them, stating that he certainly would not interview any haredi person for a program dealing with the Second Lebanon War, even though we all know that there are haredim who serve in the army.

After 30 years, Galatz is finally without Friedman. He has retired, but not without throwing rocks at the establishment he took advantage of for over 30 years. In a flattering interview by Yediot Aharonot – with no serious questioning from the interviewer, Amira Lam, he complained that the reason for his leaving the station is that he understood that Yaron Dekel, the station commander, is searching for a replacement.

In his “interpretation” of events, Dekel is trying to find favor with the Prime Minister’s Office, since Friedman is considered to be a leftist. Friedman complained bitterly that he felt he was in for a daily witch hunt by right-wing organizations. He cited his army service as proof of his loyalty to the country.

Perhaps the most revealing statement in his interview was: “My political views emanate from values of equality and justice, of using violent means only for self-defense. I did not take advantage of the radio to proselytize for my opinions.”

Friedman simply is not capable of looking at himself through the eyes of people who disagree with him.

It is interesting to compare the treatment of Friedman at the station with that of his colleague Avshalom Kor, Galatz’s Hebrew language expert. Kor, who since 1976 presents a daily Hebrew language corner, responded satirically two weeks ago to the recent further release of terrorists from Israeli prisons, saying, “the receptions for the murderers of children released from prison reminds me of the story about someone who became a victim of cannibals.

The chief was awarded the face and the rest of the tribe received the ears, hands and feet. When they (the Palestinians) talk to us about the main body of issues (to be discussed) soon also the body will be tossed aside.”

Haaretz, with its far-left agenda, was quite upset. It is so used to left-wing satire, and has so often justified the usage of the public airwaves to advance its post-Zionist agenda, that it came as a shock that someone would dare do the opposite.

It comes as no surprise that Kor was told unequivocally by Dekel that he is not permitted to use his Hebrew language corner for any further political statements, although he was not ordered to apologize.

There is a huge difference between Kor’s satire and Friedman’s statements, however: Kor does not present a news program.

Friedman regularly entangled news with his views.

This does not mean Kor was justified in usurping the public airwaves to air his personal opinions. But given that this is the daily accepted practice of the Israeli media, backed regularly by the ombudsmen who should know better, it is not surprising that Kor did the same, expecting that he too would be treated equally.

One would only hope that the same rule holds for all, and that Razi Barkai in his morning program, Yael Dan in the daily noon program and David Tadmor in his legal program on Galatz would also be directed to stop using the airwaves to express their personal opinions.

Pluralism at the army radio station has progressed significantly since Yaron Dekel took over the helm. This reflects itself in the social makeup of the soldiers recruited to the station, as well as in the programming.

Israel’s citizens seem to be taking kindly to Dekel’s leadership. Only this week we learned that Galatz was the leader in the ratings war, with 42.7 percent share compared with Israel’s public radio, whose share was 39%. It would seem that Friedman’s departure hardly made any impression on the public.

Dear Mr. Friedman, go into your retirement in peace and please leave us, also, in peace.

^

January 16, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: Sharon and the media; the media and Sharon

Posted in Media tagged at 12:15 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Sharon and the media; the media and Sharon

by YISRAEL MEDAD, 15/01/2014

Eventually, Sharon found himself alternatively battling and being assisted by the media.

Ariel Sharon’s death, eight years since his second, devastating stroke on January 4, 2006, provides an opportunity to review one of the more intense love-hate-love relationships that have existed, over a period of decades, between Israel’s media and a major political and military figure. Of course, for the foreign media, the relationship is more properly described as hate-hate.

Swords were crossed in the past. Spiteful and even hateful remarks were aimed at Sharon, who first as a soldier, then as a commander and then as a politician, sought to assure his self-assigned role in Israel’s – and the Jewish people’s – consciousness. Asked by a television reporter as to his future, on the evening of the Likud election victory in May 1977 – in which he played no small part – he replied, “I think I am appropriate for a variety of positions in government.”

Eventually, he served in many, and found himself alternatively battling and being assisted by the media.

The love part of the relationship has its roots in the Gaza disengagement. Sharon’s crowning media achievement was having both Haaretz and notable left-wing media icons such as Amnon Avramovitz and Nahum Barnea line up in his camp. Haaretz, without any ethical scruples, declared in print, in editorials and in the words of then-editor David Landau, that any peccadilloes of Sharon’s would be downgraded in consideration of his new political line.

As Gil Beckerman recorded in 2004 in the Columbia Journalism Review, “as soon as the plan was announced in late 2003, the daily editorials in Haaretz began sounding as if Sharon’s speechwriters had written them.

The disengagement was ‘the life-saving medicine for a fast-moving disease, hungry for victims,’ the editorial board wrote on October 26, 2004.”

Avramovitz, who was severely burned during a tank battle in the Yom Kippur War, and who was a critic of Sharon, became a leading political pundit in Ma’ariv and then on Channel 1 TV and finally Channel 2. He about-faced in a conference at the Van Leer Institute in February 2005, declaring, “Sharon must be watched over as though he were an etrog; to keep him in an airtight box, padded with soft padding, cellophane and cotton wool, at least until the disengagement is over… Sharon established all these ‘settlements,’ and if the good spirit comes over him at the end of his life and he dismantles them all, he should be closely guarded.”

But the Gaza withdrawal was insufficient for the appetite of his new-found left-wing pundits and political commentator friends.

They wanted more, much more: the dismantling of all the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. So much so that during this past week one of the central themes has been the claim of various people, such as attorney Dov Weisglas, who oversaw the disengagement in his role as director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, and General (res.) Amiram Levin, that Sharon may well have actually intended to dismantle many more settlements.

Oddly, or ominously, after being an object of particular scorn for Haaretz journalist Yoel Marcus over the years, it was to him of all people that Sharon agreed to grant an initiated interview to announce the disengagement.

The move went above the heads of his coalition partners and party loyalists, and was made even before the government debated or discussed the issue.

Sharon, or his advisers, knew very well that his success in implementing policy depended on a compliant and supportive media.

The Marcus incident more than perhaps any other was an indicator of the respect politicians have for the power of the media.

In an awkward turn of events for Sharon, his disengagement plans almost ran aground when, perhaps believing the mainstream media’s claim that he was riding high among the public, his decision to agree to a Likud plebiscite backfired. It was the community of Gush Katif residents and their supporters who managed to exploit the opportunities the media presented to momentarily stave off the approaching expulsion and destruction.

In 2004, right-wing theorist Motti Karpel suggested Sharon had been fooled by the media’s smoke and mirrors; he really did believe the public wanted peace almost at any price, Karpel wrote in his How Israel’s Media Overcame Ariel Sharon. When the polls indicated the negative trend, Sharon turned the Likud vote into one of personal confidence in him, yet he lost despite the exuberance expressed by the powerful leftwing elements in the media. In a sense, he defeated himself by trusting, against his own experience, what the media was telling him.

Sharon was no innocent babe. He understood the media, manipulated it and had his circle of supporters. One of his most well-known, trademark patterns of behavior was to virtually ignore any question posed to him during an interview. He would patiently wait until the reporter finished speaking, and then answer whatever he thought question should have been.

Haaretz pundit Uzi Benziman, who battled Sharon in a long-lasting libel case, asserts that Sharon’s “contribution” to a new IDF relationship with military correspondents was circumventing official press releases and leaking plans and opinions of fellow officers to selected correspondents.

Over the years, newspapers and reporters attacked Sharon ferociously, for military operations ranging from Qibya to the Mitla Pass to Lebanon, and over his unqualified support for the increase in Jewish presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. His ascent to the Temple Mount in September 2000 was arguably the highlight of the hate relationship.

But the same people who attacked him sacrificed their ethics without hesitation when it appeared they could gain politically by doing so.

Sharon’s love-hate relationship with the media ended with a grand finale: an outpouring of media attention paralleled only by the aftermath of the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. Former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, on the other hand, whose steadfastness under pressure and whose care for the Jewish people certainly was not less than that of Sharon, barely registered in the media when he died 18 months ago.

Was the Israeli press used by Sharon, or did it use him? More importantly, are we, the consumers of the media, the ultimate victims of Israel’s biased media norms?

^

January 8, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: It’s all in the context

Posted in Media at 11:57 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: It’s all in the context

by YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 08/01/2014

Media context harms the media itself but also our democratic society, which desperately needs a context- free media to uphold it.

Last week, Melissa Harris-Perry had to apologize for her MSNBC show which included a comic “year in review” program. In one segment, a photo displayed Governor Mitt Romney’s grandchildren, including his adopted grandson, who is African-American. Some of the captions of the photos were nasty.

She admitted that ground rules were broken and then declared, “We’re generally appreciative of everyone who offered serious criticisms of last Sunday’s program, and I am reminded that our fiercest critics can sometimes be our best teachers.”

Here in Israel, not only are critics of the media not appreciated by the media, in most cases they are ignored, too often becoming objects of ridicule. At best, the response most often heard by those criticized is usually, “Since we’re criticized both from the Left and the Right, we must be doing something right.” Of course, the possibility theoretically exists that they may be doing everything wrong.

Nevertheless, it is legitimate to ask if the media really is biased and/or unethical or is the problem with the perceptions of biased viewers and listeners? Is bias just a matter of a chronic sloppiness, or is there something more intrinsic? What can we in Israel learn from media ethics studies from abroad? Katherine Fink and Michael Schudson of Columbia University point to a major development, whereby journalism has turned itself into a news manager and a political power player. Their article in January 2014’s Journalism labels as “contextual journalism” the new style in reporting.

Whereas journalism used to be, at least theoretically, all about facts, it has metamorphosized into interpretation.

What today’s journalists do is provide meaning and narrative, while facts are left far behind.

Ala Fink and Schudson, there are four categories of reporting: (a) straightforward conventional reporting; (b) contextual reporting, which includes a considerable analysis component; (c) watchdog reporting, usually involving government or big business; and (d) social empathy reporting, usually dealing with the lives of people with whom the readers are unfamiliar.

Their findings are that the frequency of classic “straight” news items has fallen, and contextual journalism has increased to nearly half of all articles they reviewed. They quote Stephen Hess, who called this type of writing “social science journalism,” which has “a clear intention of focusing on causes, not on events as such.”

An obvious problematic outgrowth of these tendencies is that the professional value of “objectivity” is becoming virtually non-existent. Objectivity, which means “truth-seeking, neutrality, ethics and credibility,” as Noel Sheppard, associate editor of NewsBusters, writes, becomes a very different thing “when the journalist’s job moves from describing events to creating interpretations.”

The most potent element discovered by polls and academic studies, consistently over a long period of time, is liberal bias in the media. A 2005 UCLA study, led by Tim Groseclose, termed it a “systematic tendency…

[of] media outlets to slant the news to the Left.”

This is reflected in negative vs. positive content coverage, as well as the framing of developments.

Bias manifests itself in two major ways: structural (bias in individual stories that favors one side in a conflict) and partisan (aggregate news coverage that systematically favors the liberal or conservative side in a political conflict).

Why is there perceived bias? One explanation offered by a 1999 study by Watts et al. attributes it to “media self-coverage and elite cue-taking.” Citizens might perceive the media as liberally biased because conservative political elites often focus their media relationship on these allegations.

A classic example is Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s famous (or infamous) May 1999 remark about the media: “They are afraid, a-f-r-a-i-d.” That speech provided his critics within the media milieu with much ammunition.

On December 28, 2012, Anat Balint, writing in Haaretz, recalled his words and asserted that “Netanyahu is one of the most hostile prime ministers to a free press that Israel has ever known… [his is] a silent yet consistent policy that can only be understood as intended to strip Israel’s media outlets of any significant power to stand up to the government and its current elected leader.”

Last time we turned a page, scrolled a screen or turned on the television or radio, it was our distinct impression that all is well with our media’s freedom.

The power it has in dictating the agenda and framing stories has not diminished appreciatively, if at all.

Some would think it has only increased. In contrast to Balint, we believe that the real problem with our media is its bias, not its freedom.

Social empathy reporting is big in Israel. Consider the continuing campaign on behalf of persons, mainly from Africa, who entered Israel illegally. The reporters sent to cover the stories are usually, if not exclusively, those whose beat is termed “social welfare.” Their language and concepts pass on a highly politicized point of view. One may only wonder what the response of the “human rights” groups in Israel would be if, instead of using such terms as “refugees,” “asylum- seekers,” or even “work migrants,” the migrants were to be referred to as “illegal settlers attempting to occupy another people’s territory.”

The very use of concepts such as “rights” is a matter of context rather than truth and reflects media bias, for do not Israelis suffering from the presence of these migrants also have rights? It would not be too difficult to guess that if legal affairs reporters or security or police correspondents were sent to cover the events, the reporting would at least sound different. The editors are here at fault perhaps even more than the journalists, limiting the coverage to one area of what is news but ignoring its other aspects. Since the editors adopt the line of interpretation that this story is already an internal one rather than an external threat, that these infiltrators are somehow already “Israeli,” half the struggle of those groups promoting this issue has already been won.

An example of contextual bias in Israel was when a certain newspaper persisted in interviewing for background and commentary only those legal experts whose opinion was that Avigdor Liberman would be found guilty. They were quite surprised to find out how wrong they were when Liberman was declared innocent.

In the same context, consider some of our media’s reaction to Liberman’s suggestion that while no Arab need be removed from his home, Israel’s border could be redrawn so that Umm el-Fahm residents would be in the new State of Palestine. We’ll ignore some of the more extreme responses suggesting that he is preparing the ground for a “new Nakba,” but if the context is a citizenship issue, is any reporter dealing with the fact that in 1949, none of the Arabs in Israel were asked if they wished to be Israeli or not, and that perhaps this is also part of the current issue? Media surrounds us. It is in our homes and cars. More often than not, the television is on in our homes for hours. Many news websites are free. The media, more often than not, is providing us with context, sometimes at the expense of facts. This makes it all the more difficult for the public to decide what is important and what is not, what is right and what is wrong, what is acceptable social behavior and what is not. The result is a muddled society, whose trust in the media is low.

Media context harms the media itself but also our democratic society, which desperately needs a context- free media to uphold it.

^

January 1, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: The sleazy media

Posted in Media tagged , , at 11:56 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: The sleazy media

by YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 01/01/2014

“The media is sleazy – but we allow it to be. Shame on us.”

It was media sociologist Brian McNair who justified media interest in sex by writing in his book, Striptease Culture: Sex, Media and the Democratization of Desire, that the subject was “the most important thing in the world.”

He notes that despite the private, intimate nature of sex, it is involved in power and is a “terrain of emancipation.”

Mainstream and commercialized media have channeled the subject so that it has made “the sexual social and the personal political, both more than marginally profitable” for the media. It is a “pink pound” in that sex sells.

Nevertheless, McNair denies that there is a link between the sexual content promulgated in the media and the “allegedly anti-social values, beliefs and behaviors of the consumers of those images.”

We beg to differ.

Despite the fact that most media news reports relating to sex are factually negative and oftentimes of a criminal nature – such as rape, pornography, adulterous affairs, workplace harassment – the characterization the media provides is all too often also aimed at titillating and riding on the ratings that sexual content supposedly provides.

There is an ever-increasing amount, proportionately and absolutely, of sex-related issues transmitted in the media, including images, language, coverage of sex crimes and, not least, the entertainment world and the activities of its stars. The latter is perceived to be an extremely attractive news element. Some channels have whole programs devoted to what these “stars” wear, take off and put on.

A Rutgers University academic, Ahmet Bayraktar, has published an analysis of the use of sexuality and violence as marketing instruments in the mass media. His deductions about the use of sexuality are that its impact exceeds that of violence. Media institutions not only report on the subject but also use sexuality and violence as marketing tools to attract more viewers or consumers. This, he asserts, is unethical.

The media’s role in the sexualization of children and adolescents has been well researched. In a 2011 article Brett Lunceford, until recently an assistant professor at the University of South Alabama’s communication department, notes that with the advent of new media technologies such as the Internet and cellphones, children and adolescents are no longer merely consumers of sexual content, but also creators of digital content through what is termed “sexting” – sending sexually explicit messages and/or photographs, primarily via mobile phones.

The media has created a culture that celebrates sexuality, yet at the same time claims to safeguard the individual, whether minor or adult, from perversions and criminal practices.

Israel’s media is part and parcel of the sexualization of our culture. One of the reality shows (X Factor) on Reshet TV had a contender who during the auditions bared his backside twice. The scene was then extensively used in the promos for the show, and the “star” is now one of the leading contenders.

TV Channel 10 runs a series titled Beauty and the Geek, a program which brings together beautiful but rather vacuous and ignorant females with a group of extraordinarily nerdy, high-IQ males. The program is a prime example of the media’s objectification of women.

Should we be surprised if some males consider this legitimate and then take it to criminal extremes, or simply exhibit loutish behavior? Should we shake our heads in disbelief when some misguided girls agree to being misused? Walla is a very popular website, especially with youth, due to the large amount of games which are accessible on it. At the same time, its users are sometimes only a click or two away from pornographic content. Walla, a purveyor of news, could, if it only wanted to, make sure that pages which are accessed by and aimed at youth would not contain such content. But probably advertising revenue is more important to Walla than the health of the children and youth using the website.

Ynet is another highly popular website and purveyor of news. On Monday, its third “news” item – appearing on the online equivalent of the front page – was “The sexual secrets of the famous.”

Our TV stations have no respect for ethics. Guy Pines has a program airing on Channel 10 between 7-8 p.m., when children, we can presume, are not yet asleep. Guy always sits, while his female counterpart, who takes the role of a model, always stands. Is she a “server,” a news waitress? Her dress is immodest, the background revolves about who is the desirable female, what should she look like, etc. The evening version of the same program exudes nudity and sexuality.

Popular Israeli series The Octet is based on a group of intelligent kids who participate in a secret government project aimed at researching the human brain’s energy.

This seemingly innocuous setting is in fact loaded with sexuality. Typical examples are boys who pair up with girls, only to find out they are underage, going on to pair up with older girls. The younger ones then find someone else, and so on.

These are but representative examples. Why have we returned to this issue at this time? The past few weeks were full of detailed coverage of a case in which a 12-year-old girl was raped by a gang of boys who claimed it was consensual. The media was full of holierthan- thou comments and discussions of the “how could this happen” variety.

Take for example the central news magazine of Channel 2 news, the highest-rated news program in Israel. Dafna Liel reported in detail on the implications of this case, including many excuses as to why such incidents occur.

However, there was not one iota of self-criticism or even awareness of the responsibility of Channel 2 news, which does not refrain from contributing to a sexually charged atmosphere in its programing schedule.

Her report ended with: “The problem is mainly with exposure to media. Research shows that Israeli youth is a leader in the consumption of electronic media. Although a poll published lately showed that only 16 percent have sexual relations below the age of 15, one of the lowest statistics in the developed countries, this problem includes all segments of Israeli society. So what can we do? “It is the easiest to reminisce about how things used to be and say ‘tsk, tsk’ to the 12- and 13-year-olds of today. But the truth is that the parents have a lot of influence – unless they themselves are also sitting in front of the screen.”

This is typical of what the Israeli public had to suffer during these past weeks. This would have been worth it, had the intensive preoccupation with the topic led to a deep review of the media’s role in the sexualization of society.

But perhaps we are being too harsh with the media. If the public shunned the purveyors, if the public demanded more modesty and less exposure, if the public stopped buying products sold via ads that debase the human body, we would all be better off.

At the end of the day, yes, the media is sleazy – but we allow it to be. Shame on us.

^