May 29, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: Unreported ‘price-tag’ actions

Posted in Media tagged , , , at 10:22 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Unreported ‘price-tag’ actions


The one-sidedness of the media is fuel in the hands of those who believe that their violent deeds can lead to anything good.

Over 48 hours (May 23-24), there were no less than 69 stone-throwing and fire-bombing attacks against Jews in Judea and Samaria (Yesha). On May 24, according to a report of the Hashomer Hachadash website, fires broke out at three separate locations in the area of Givat Nili and Regavim. Arson is strongly suspected. Givat Nili and Regavim are not “settlements” across the Green Line, rather they are located on the Western boundary of Wadi Ara. Such fires occur in that area at the rate of approximately 1,000 per year.

The Hakol Hayehudi news website reported on May 22 that that morning there were 10 stonings of Jewish cars in Yesha. Some were damaged, no injuries were reported. According to the same website, during the week preceding May 13 no less than 62 attacks against Jews in Judea and Samaria were recorded. Most of them were “only” stonings. Similar statistics were reported for the first week of May.

There is nothing new about any of this. The Megaphone website, in an article from November 23, 2013, reported that in the three weeks prior to the article’s publication, 786 stonings were reported in all of Israel, not including attacks directed at IDF forces. Yehudit Tayar, an emergency medic volunteer with the Hatzalah Yehudah and Shomron organization and who served in an IDF combat unit, has so far published, with the clearance and confirmation of the IDF, 91 reports, each of which contains dozens of violent incidents that have occurred over the past three years in Judea and Samaria. These reports have appeared on news websites in both Hebrew and English, but are ignored by mainstream media outlets.

Ynet reported on May 8 that swastikas were spray-painted on three vehicles in Lydda. The report, by Eli Senior, ends with the laconic statement that the police had opened an investigation. On May 8, the Rotter website reported that swastikas were spray-painted on a bus parked in the vicinity of the ORT Shapira School in Jaffa. Swastikas were also reported on the Serugim website to have appeared in the ancient synagogue in Eshtamoa (located in the South Hebron region). The “price tag” logo did not appear in any of the cases described above.

Had it not been for modern technology we would not know that a war is taking place in Judea and Samaria.

No, this war did not break out as a result of the “breakdown” of the talks between Israel and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his henchmen. It has been going on all through the nine months of talks.

No one in the media addressed a question to Abbas about these events. PA negotiator Saeb Erekat, a frequent guest of Razi Barkai on Army Radio, was not asked questions such as, “Do you condemn such violent acts against civilians, holy places, etc.? Aren’t you also responsible for these acts if you do not actively seek to have them stop? Don’t you think that it is high time that your religious leaders stop their hate speeches in the mosques, so that such terror acts are reduced?”

One wonders why the IDF radio station is even willing to interview Erekat, an outspoken supporter of this kind of terror. The same station has not interviewed (and justifiably so) the “price tag” suspect caught in Yokne’am to provide him with a broad platform to “explain” his weltanschauung.

Israeli reporters whose beat is Judea and Samaria are called “territories’ correspondents,” not, for example, “Yesha reporters.” Obviously, the title “Yesha reporter” would be interpreted as bias, identifying the reporter with the settlers of Yesha. But isn’t the title “territories’ correspondent” just as biased, identified with a left-wing ideology in which Judea and Samaria are “occupied territories”? Is there a correlation between the media outlets’ title for the reporters and the fact that they do not provide the public with the information as to what is really happening in the territories?

Providing coverage of acts of vandalism against Muslims and Christians is vital. Op-ed articles, interviews and media discussions on the issue are in order, and have taken place. But stones and fire-bombs are much more dangerous than paint. They can kill and maim. Adel Biton, the infant critically wounded near Ariel is but one example, Yitzhak Palmer and his infant son, killed when a rock smashed their front window near Hebron, are another.

Why is it that state prosecutor Shai Nitzan this week in his speech at the Israel Bar Association conference in Eilat singled out price tag acts as intolerable, but said not a word about violence against Jews?

The Israeli media simply doing its job would have too major effects the issue of terrorist acts against Jews. One is that the IDF and other security forces would take it more seriously and put more effort into prevention. The second and the more important result, however, is that more people in Israel and all over the world would appreciate the pressure on Israelis coming from the Palestinian side.

Unfortunately this is not currently the case. The one-sidedness of the media is fuel in the hands of those misguided people who believe that their violent deeds can lead to anything good. An atmosphere in which no acts of violence are condoned could go a long way to helping those educators attempting to teach their students that price tag actions are morally reprehensible; a tough assignment when such acts, and much worse ones, are condoned as long as they are committed by the “right” side. It is high time that all “price tag” acts are reported, irrespective of their source.

On another note, although perhaps somewhat connected, we would like to pay our respects to Uri Elitzur, who succumbed to cancer last week at the age of 68. Many have eulogized Uri, his accomplishments and outstanding contributions to the national-religious camp. Here, we would like to note his ground-breaking contributions to Israel’s media.

Together with Motti Shaklar (who would later become director-general of the IBA), Yitzhak Recanati and Naftali Glicksberg, he founded the Ma’aleh School of Television, Film and the Arts in 1989. He understood the need for the national Zionist camp to make its presence felt in the arts, literature, film and journalism. He was the editor of the monthly Nekudah magazine, turning it into the premier magazine for exchange of opinion, new ideas and out-of-the- box thinking for the national camp. In 2004, he became deputy editor of Makor Rishon’s political section, Yoman, and a few months before his passing became editor of the newspaper. His contributions were nationally recognized, he was awarded the Sokolov Prize for Excellence in Journalism.

Uri was devoted to raising a new cadre of national-religious journalists. His life’s work in journalism sets an example to us all.



May 21, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: Criticizing the media

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:29 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Criticizing the media


Israel is a country which has just witnessed a former prime minister being sentenced to a jail term, along with others, for criminal corruption. The media had a field day, whether they supported or opposed him.

US Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the issue of press freedom, noting that May 3 was World Press Freedom Day. He said that “for too many, a free press is under assault…. People everywhere count on a free press to keep us informed, hold leaders accountable, filter fact from fiction and unmask false narratives masquerading as truth.”

Indeed, a central problem with the media is that those in the profession of reporting the news have to a great extent succeeded in sealing themselves in an impenetrable cocoon, insulating themselves from criticism. To criticize the media has become tantamount to “destroying democracy.”

For example, Lara Logan of CBS News decided to incorporate punditry in her news stories, a particularly acute problem here in Israel. Interviewed about the apparent ethical violation of mixing news and views, Logan said, “politics are critically important… I’ve acquired a reputation for having some depth of knowledge… you should be entitled to give [your opinion if asked] and not be vilified for giving it.” Logan later failed miserably in the 60 Minutes Benghazi story when her source was revealed to be a liar. She is now on a long-term “leave of absence,” her opinions notwithstanding. Her bubble burst.

There are other media bubbles. No media organization can exist without a director, managers, administrators and technicians, or without an economically sound and sustainable budget. These individuals are behind the scenes, but they, too, are the media. Last week, our state-sponsored media conglomerate, known as the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), became a news item when the State Comptroller published a report on the IBA’s off-screen performance.

The IBA has been a regular feature in state comptroller’s reports. Here is what was published in this newspaper: “Reforming the IBA and revising the Broadcasting Authority Law has been on the agenda for a long time…. While management has definitely made an effort to repair some of the flaws in the system, it has not yet done enough, the comptroller’s report notes, and what still remains to be done is of a very critical nature.”

That was written by Greer Fay Cashman and appeared in on May 6, 2009.

In 2012, she reported on a state comptroller’s probe to be launched regarding claims of unfair politicization of employment tenders. We ourselves, many times, have touched on this aspect of Israel’s media, for example on August 4, 2011, in our article “The new director-general of the IBA.”

However, the situation is different this year. Communications Minister Gilad Erdan is insistent that the IBA be not just reformed, but shut down. It may be reestablished, but only if it is restructured.

One of the most basic problems of the IBA is that it has never really internalized the idea that it is a public broadcasting network. If there is one matter government bureaucracy has difficulty with, and not only in media affairs, it is the responsibility to genuinely represent the interests of the public. As we have highlighted in the past, quite simply, the “public” is rarely found, either in the administrative institutions of the IBA (and even less, for that matter, in the Galatz Army Radio station) or in the editorial departments and the newsrooms.

The concept of “public” too often morphs into the insular “us” or, to use the local slang, the “branja.”

An advantage possessed by the on-screen and on-mic celebrities is that their high-profile presence creates for them a nearly star-like quality. Their biases and ethical misbehavior are one problem, another is that there are those, according to the comptroller’s report, in the offices at Romema who mismanage the taxpayers’ money, contribute to the ruination of publicly- owned property and promote an atmosphere of irresponsible laxity.

The report this year zeroed in on contracting procedures for the production of local television programming, how the film and vocal recording archives are (not) preserved and the supervision of the digitalization project of the archives.

The comptroller established that the lack of sufficient progress of digitalization is due to the fact that “over the years, the IBA acted without any yearly program… no orderly work plan was prepared for the project’s operation that would include objectives, output measurements, establishing priorities, scheduling and budget.” Moreover, up until 2012, the IBA did not have in position someone who would oversee the long-term project and who would be intimately familiar with its requirements, potential difficulties and possible solutions.

Contracting procedures for programming are no mere trifle. The cumulative sum of taxpayer money involved is estimated to be, between 2012 to 2017, NIS 650 million. IBA economic reporters do not hesitate to criticize government spending. They harp on the expense of the prime minister’s travel, or Judea and Samaria communities, or the salaries of deputy ministers’ offices, and describe them as examples of unjustified splurging. Yet these examples pale when compared the financial failures of the IBA’s own directors.

The report constantly highlights its disappointment that too many in charge at the IBA seem to ignore the “important need to protect the public interest and public funds.” Reading the report, it becomes more and more obvious that not only is there little “out of the box” thinking at the IBA, but that those behind the desks prefer a very “inside the box” reality, with no one reviewing their output, or rather the lack thereof.

Given such a depressing reality, one suggestion we can make, which might prevent the repetition of such reports, is to give the IBA executives a preparation course in management. There is, of course, another option. Just recently, the editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson, was fired.

Ostensibly, her “management style” was the cause of her departure. Whatever we may think of the justness or even correctness of the newspaper’s publisher, Arthur Sulzberger’s statement identified a pattern of “arbitrary decision- making, a failure to consult…

inadequate communication and the public mistreatment of colleagues” as his reasons for firing her.

In a bad week for female media editors, Natalie Nougayrède, Le Monde’s editor-in-chief, resigned, announcing that she could not “accept being undermined as head of the paper… no longer hav[ing] the means to run it with all the necessary peace and serenity that is required.”

Her move came after several top editors pointed to a “lack of confidence in and communication with editorial management.” Again, without entering into the rights or wrongs, the principle overseas is that poor performance is unacceptable, one way or another.

Israel is a country which has just witnessed a former prime minister being sentenced to a jail term, along with others, for criminal corruption. The media had a field day, whether they supported or opposed him.

The IBA, it is true, is not the only public media company whose managers have failed. There are others, such as TV Channel 10, who have also wasted huge sums of public money and resources. It is sad, though, to see that in the words of Ecclesiastes, “what has been will be and there is nothing new under the sun.” It seems that when it comes to the media itself no one really cares.


May 15, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: The media, the restaurant and a response

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:53 am by yisraelmedad

Media comment: The media, the restaurant and a response


Israel’s present regulatory agencies are quite powerless.

Regulating the media is tough.

Israel’s present regulatory agencies are quite powerless.

The TV concessionaires violate their agreements with the government with impunity. It is the public which pays the price, receiving third-rate programming and too many commercials both on TV and radio.

The media companies complain about the media market crisis and look for more aid from the government, i.e., from the taxpayers’ pocket. Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, because of this “crisis,” has appointed the Shechter Commission, charged with “looking into the regulation of commercial broadcasting.”

Professor Amit Shechter’s media-related career started in 1993 when he became the legal adviser of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, a position he held for four years. Shechter, born in the US, returned there in 2004 as an associate professor of Telecommunications at Penn State. Today, he is a senior lecturer at the Communications Department of Ben-Gurion University specializing in mass media and its effects on Israeli democracy.

The commission was asked to look into central issues regarding media regulation in Israel. These include essential principles needed to assure fair and balanced regulation of all broadcasters; alternative models for the existing regulatory agencies; and the question of whether advertisement should be permitted in cable and satellite broadcasts. The commission was also charged with indicating how public broadcasting would be treated under the proposed new framework.

The public was also asked to respond. Israel’s Media Watch submitted a position paper and appeared before the commission this past Sunday. We believe that the key response to the minister’s queries is a free market. We suggested that an excellent model is the restaurant business.

Anyone in Israel can open a restaurant. The proprietor’s responsibilities are to assure sanitary conditions and legal business management. The government does not tell the owner what food to prepare, whether Moroccan, Chinese, kosher or whatever. The only important task the government has in this regard is to assure that the restaurant’s patrons receive edible food which will cause no harm. Why is the media different? Why does the government meddle with the content of the commercial media provider? The government does not ask restaurateurs whether they import food or use the local market. Why then should it impose on the commercial broadcaster predetermined levels of locally bought media programs? It is the government’s duty to intervene only in the publicly funded media, which should reflect the Zionist ethos of Israel, be pluralistic, adhere to media ethics and much more.

20th century limitations constrained the number of TV broadcasters in the country to two or three. The government distributed concessions and received royalties accordingly. 21st century technology, however, has eliminated these constraints. The airwaves are becoming limitless.

The IBA and army radio station’s monopoly on national broadcasting will shortly disappear. Within five years, our car stereos will have direct access to the Internet and any Internet radio provider will be able to broadcast nationally.

The very concept of radio broadcasting concessions or regional broadcasting licenses is outdated. Anyone can broadcast through the Internet. Royalties to the government should also become an issue of the past. Any company making profits pays taxes, and that’s that.

What then of ethics? Preventing harmful broadcasts and the like? The restaurant parallel is spoiled food. If people eating at a certain restaurant start getting sick, the regulator will close the restaurant.

The same should be done with the media. No more hanky-panky resulting in ridiculously small fines which broadcasters are happy to pay. Can this be done in practice considering the ease of usage of the Internet? Yes: make it illegal to advertise on websites that have been shut down, adding serious fines for those advertisers who break the law.

Restaurants in Israel can offer non-kosher or kosher food. Those who choose to offer kosher food do so for commercial reasons, even though they must pay more. The media parallel is clear: Those media companies that want to continue using the airwaves provided to them by the government, for example though Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), would have to accept more stringent supervision of content, ethics, their Internet content and the like. They would do so not because the government imposes this upon them, but due to their perception that this brings with it larger market share.

Advertising is the oil that lubricates the media market. It should be open and free to all, whether through Internet, cable or satellite.

But it must be prohibited in any form to publicly funded broadcasters.

The funding they get from the government is nowadays misused to lower advertising rates, seriously harming the commercial media market.

A restaurant gets a license for selling prepared food to the public.

Food companies have licenses to provide the restaurant with the ingredients. The media purveyors, that is, the cable and satellite companies, should do just that. Their license should be for providing the platform for the media companies.

They should, however, not be allowed to provide any content of their own. This would lead to the elimination of the hefty prices that they have forced the public to pay for their (low quality) services.

The media business is not really very different from the restaurant business. The public knows how to choose good restaurants, and is willing to pay for them. The same should be the standard for the media market. It is high time that the government stops meddling in it.

And a response: Last week, Dr. Tehilla Shwartz-Altshuler, in defense of her employer, the Israel Democracy Institute, in her May 7 article “The IDI: Advocates of diversity and transparency in the media” suggested that we did not properly present facts, that we do not recognize social media platforms as media and that she actually “supported the survival of Makor Rishon,” and “sign[ed] petitions” to that end.

The reader can judge her level of support from the following quote of her words as they appeared on The Times of Israel website on April 1 this year: “‘Adelson’s purchase of Makor Rishon is sad,’ said Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler, head of the Israel Democracy Institute’s Media Reform Project. ‘It consolidates the media market, which is bad for content, but we shouldn’t mourn it….’” So, did Dr. Altshuler really support Makor Rishon? For the past year and more, Israel’s Media Watch took active steps to protect especially the employees of Makor Rishon. We petitioned the anti-trust commissioner to hand down a quick decision, before Passover.

But the IDI did nothing. IDI sources gave statements only after Makor Rishon itself complained about their lack of interest. Altshuler claims that she wrote an article that Haaretz rejected – but why did she not publish it at the IDI’s own “Seventh Eye”? We maintain that the IDI failed to adequately protect the freedom of the press.


May 7, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: Shameful legislation

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:12 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Shameful legislation


Restricting Israel Hayom would be a blow to Israel’s freedom of the press and freedom of speech.

MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) was once the minister responsible for the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), at which time he introduced an amendment to the IBA law which among other things attempted to assure that politicians would have no say in the IBA. When it was finally adopted, however, it gave the ruling government the ability to appoint the IBA’s public board. Cabel lamented the change and warned against any such intervention.

MK Cabel was right: His legislation, if passed in its final form, would have assured that the left-wing liberal elite was in control the IBA, independent of which government is elected. The board would have been appointed by a retired Supreme Court judge and his cronies.

Nowadays, however, Cabel is bothered by the fact that Israel’s print media is no longer controlled by the left-wing Yediot Aharonot-Haaretz axis.

Israel Hayom is currently Israel’s most widely read daily newspaper. Its editorial policies are conservative and quite supportive of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud). Even worse, as we noted last week in this column, the owner of Israel Hayom, Sheldon Adelson, has also purchased the Makor Rishon newspaper after the belated ratification of the deal by Israel’s antitrust commissioner. With strong financial backing, in the near future Makor Rishon may well overtake Haaretz, whose market share is only six percent.

True to form, Cabel, who was also one of the leaders in the successful shutting down of the Arutz 7 radio station, is now trying to use his legislative powers to destroy Israel Hayom. Under the Orwellian title “Legislation for furthering and defending the written media in Israel,” Cabel has tabled a law which would force Israel Hayom to cease existing as a free newspaper.

Cabel’s legislation is a model of originality. Its stated purpose is “to further equal opportunity and assure true and fair competition among newspapers.” The law would forbid free distribution of a paper “which is published six days a week, contains at least 30 pages on weekdays and 100 pages on weekends and prior to festivals.”

The paper would have to be sold at a price which is at least 70% of the price demanded by the daily with the lowest price on the market.

The use of legislation to curtail the operation of a newspaper is not new. In 2001, MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), at the time president of Israel’s Media Watch, submitted a law entitled “Prevention of monopolies and cartels in the media.” Complementary legislation was submitted at the same time by MK Tamar Gozansky (Hadash) restricting cross-ownership in the media.

Both laws ended up in the legislative junk pile by default. The government changed in 2002 and the legislation was discontinued. At that time, the attempt was made to use the law to limit the influence of Yediot Aharonot, which was then the most popular newspaper.

Its syndicate published many local newspapers, as well as the most-read Russian newspaper, Vesti. It had a stranglehold on the advertisers as well as the distributors.

The emergence of Israel Hayom revolutionized Israel’s written media. The paper had the means to entice some of Israel’s leading journalists to “defect” from Yediot and Ma’ariv. It advertised its wares aggressively, providing whoever requested it with a free subscription delivered daily to the doorstep. Only lately was this policy changed and nowadays a monthly subscription is no longer free, but costs a fraction of the price requested by any other newspaper in Israel.

The Israel Democracy Institute’s Seventh Eye Internet media review journal claims that part of the paper’s aggressiveness was in pulling the plug on the price of advertisements. This created a situation, it claims, whereby the competition could no longer operate profitably.

The fact is that the Ma’ariv and Makor Rishon may have closed had they not been rescued.

The proponents of the law claim that Adelson’s financial backing has skewed Israel’s written media market to the point that none of the other papers can operate. It is for these reasons that MK Cabel is running to the rescue of Israel’s press.

Cabel’s shenanigans are not surprising. What is surprising is that so many level-headed MKs have been taken in by him. Some of the other signatories of his law are MKs Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu), Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi), Elazar Stern (Hatnua), Ariel Atias (Shas), Ilan Gillon (Meretz) and Yoel Rezbozov (Yesh Atid). The legislation has wall-to-wall representation among the Zionist parties except, naturally, the Likud.

It is clear that the legislation has no chance of passing as long as Binyamin Netanyahu is prime minister. He will not allow any legislation which would curtail his strongest supporter in Israel. But politics aside, the law is a sham.

Adelson is by far not the largest funder of media organs in Israel. That would be the State of Israel, which spends close to a billion shekels a year on the public media. The IBA as well as the Galatz army radio station are allowed to advertise. It is not a secret that they sell their airtime at prices which are well below what would otherwise be the norm. Their policies have harmed Israel’s private broadcasters. But Cabel and company have not initiated legislature to ban advertising from the public media. Banning such advertisement would cost the public in the form of higher taxes. But the same politicians are willing to hit the taxpayers’ pockets by preventing them from receiving a free newspaper.

The most damning evidence against Cabel’s legislation is the fact that the entrance of Israel Hayom to the media market has if anything significantly increased the number of people reading a daily or weekly newspaper in Israel. As reported by TGI, the average readership levels for all daily and weekend papers in 2006, before the emergence of Israel Hayom, were 68.7% and 85.9% respectively. In 2013 the numbers are 98.8% and 106.6% percent respectively. In contrast to the Western world, where newspaper readership is shrinking, in Israel it has grown immensely. Such growth is a boon to democracy, to the advertising market and most importantly to the journalists themselves who find their work appreciated by an ever increasing fraction of the population.

Israel’s Media Watch sent a letter this week to all the signatories of Cabel’s legislation asking them to rethink their position. The real source of competition to the paper media is the Internet, not the freebies. Restricting Israel Hayom would be a blow to Israel’s freedom of the press and freedom of speech.

Two and a quarter centuries after its adoption, the US Constitution’s First Amendment, that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech or of the press,” appears to carry very little weight among too many of our lawmakers.


May 1, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: ‘They’ are not ‘one of us’

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:47 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: ‘They’ are not ‘one of us’


In this period between Holocaust Remembrance Day and Independence Day, we can only wish that Israel’s democracy does not succumb to those who abuse its freedoms.

Israel’s “democratic” institutions are very sensitive to any attempt to stifle the media. TV Channel 10 is a classic case. The mismanaged channel with its huge financial losses should have been closed down a long time ago. Yet in the name of freedom of the press former Supreme Court justice and present president of Israel’s Press Council Dalia Dorner went out of her way to defend the channel.

As reported on August 8, 2009 by Globes, Dorner demanded that Channel 10 be kept alive. Her statement was: “The closure of the channel does not bode well for the freedom of the press. Undoubtedly, Channel 10’s news added a dimension to the media [and] I will be deeply saddened if they are closed down. This is not a legal opinion, but the responsible factors [implying the Second Authority for TV and Radio] must exercise discretion and take us [the press] into consideration. The outcome [of their decision] may be that Israel will be left with only one news channel and a faltering public channel.”

Dorner, throughout the process of the hearing on Channel 10, supported the channel. The outcome, reached through blackmailing the politicians on the eve of elections, was that the government decided to subsidize Channel 10 to the tune of hundreds of millions of shekels from the public’s pockets. The channel continues to operate, Israel’s democracy was saved and so we now have two news channels whose news broadcasts are clones of each other, and a faltering public station.

Israel’s Democracy Institute was not far behind. The IDI’s vice president and former president of the Press Council, Professor Mordechai Kremnitzer, and Dr. Tehila Schwartz-Altshuler, the head of the IDI’s project “Media Reform,” came out very strongly in favor of Channel 10 in November 2012. Relating to the question whether the channel should be allowed to further delay paying its debts to the state the two luminaries stated: “We wish to express our deep concern in view of the decision not to allow an additional moratorium on Channel 10 debts, a move that will result in its closure. We believe that closure of Channel 10 would adversely affect the marketplace of ideas and opinions.”

The Israeli daily newspaper Makor Rishon was in dire straits. Its owner, Shlomo Ben-Zvi, went bankrupt and the paper went into receivership.

The receiver, accountant Chen Berditschev, succeeded in selling the paper to Sheldon Adelson, the owner of the Israel Hayom daily, the most widely circulated paper in Israel.

The purchase was finally approved yesterday by Professor David Gilo, Israel’s antitrust commissioner.

Gilo was rather slow in giving his decision even though he was fully aware that many of the employees of Makor Rishon have been either sent home or have not been receiving their salary and that the format of the paper has been downsized.

During this whole process, up until this week the IDI and the Press Council kept mum. Makor Rishon is right-wing in its views and its readership lives mostly outside of Tel Aviv. It’s closure is not deemed a threat to Israel’s democracy. Quite the opposite: anything which would restrict the power of Sheldon Adelson is considered as essential for preserving the freedom of the press.

Channel 10’s Raviv Druker even published a column on the channel’s website decrying self-righteously the discounts Adelson would be receiving if his purchase of Makor Rishon were approved.

During the Channel 10 saga, one of us (EP) was publicly denounced by the head of Channel 10 for daring to suggest its closure. The very idea which we promoted, that taxpayer money should not be spent on a failing media company, was considered to be in bad taste, even “cruel” and “evil” to the employees. Yet, when Makor Rishon was facing closure, when its employees went hungry, there was a deafening silence.

Makor Rishon’s editors were aware of their inferior status. Last Friday, in a page-one editorial, they noted: “We remember very well the public outcry when Channel 10 was on the verge of closure, and listen with heavy heart to the present sound of silence. The politicians are silent, the leading journalists are silent, even the Press Council is silent.”

This past Sunday, Israel’s Media Watch sent a letter to the Press Council and the IDI asking whether they intend to intervene. My Israel also questioned the Press Council.

The pressure was partially successful and on the same Sunday, Dorner responded to My Israel stating that: “Freedom of the press, which is necessary for democracy’s existence, is not reflected only in preventing governmental involvement. It is important that the press be multi-faceted and that it represent all parts of society.

Makor Rishon, which is a good newspaper on its own, has an important place in the media mosaic in Israel and it should be preserved.”

Our letter to the Israel Democracy Institute has thus far remained unanswered.

Yesterday, Kremnitzer in a radio interview did unequivocally call for prevention of closure of the paper.

The editors of Makor Rishon fought to preserve the very existence of their newspaper. They managed to convince an impressive list of leftwing journalists – Keren Neubach, Moshe Negbi, Yaron London and Motti Kirschenbaum – who signed an ad headlined “A voice of protest in view of the imminent closure of Makor Rishon.” The ad stated, in part: “It is well known that the there is a heavy cloud of dispute hanging over the Israel Hayom newspaper, due to its method of free circulation, its editorial policies and its aims – nevertheless we believe that this difference of opinions should not have any effect on the question of ratifying the purchase of Makor Rishon [by Adelson].”

Israel’s Media Watch was also asked to sign the ad, but we refused. In our view, the closure of Makor Rishon would be a real blow to Israel’s media.

For years as well as during these past weeks, we have done all in our power to support the very existence of the paper. However, to sign an ad which feels it necessary to strike at Israel Hayom at the same time as part of justification of support for Makor Rishon is simply not right.

It is sad that those people who for years have been trying to convince the Israeli public that freedom of the press is essential for upholding our democracy were not able to stand as one when a right-wing media organ was threatened. Their proclamations ring hollow. They are not talking about democracy, but rather about preservation of their own stranglehold on Israel’s freedom of speech.

Makor Rishon has survived, but the process was painful and will leave wounds which will not heal so quickly.

And all because Makor Rishon is not “one of us.” In this period between Holocaust Remembrance Day and Independence Day, we can only wish that Israel’s democracy does not succumb to those who abuse its freedoms.