June 25, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: Klinghoffer

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:41 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Klinghoffer
Attempts to rewrite history are ubiquitous, but here arguably the most important opera house in the world is participating in this anti-Semitic distortion.

On May 30, 2014, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA), informed us of a rather disturbing story – disturbing, that is, for anyone who worries about the resurrection of blatant anti-Semitism.

It was based on an open letter published on the JNS website written by Myron Kaplan, a CAMERA senior research analyst.

The Achille Lauro, a Greek cruise ship, was hijacked on October 7, 1985, by terrorists, members of the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), affiliated with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Reem al-Nimer, widow of PLF leader Muhammed Zaidan, testified in 2013 that the hijacking was planned 11 months in advance. The goal was to hijack the ship, run it to Ashdod port and then kill Israelis.

Surprised by a crew member, the terrorists were forced to alter their plans. They then set out for Syria, demanding the release of 50 Arab terrorists held in Israeli prisons in exchange for the hostages held on the Achille Lauro. The Syrians did not allow them to take refuge in the Syrian harbor in Tartus. The hijackers then murdered an American citizen: wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer.

He was shot twice and the ship’s crew were forced to throw the body and the wheelchair overboard.

The PLO’s Faruq Qadummi denied responsibility and claimed that Klinghoffer’s widow, Marilyn, killed her husband in order to collect life insurance payments. It took over 10 years until Muhammad Zaidan, who eventually died in 2003 in American custody, finally admitted responsibility and the PLO reached a financial settlement with the family.

But this is only the background to our “story.”

In 1991, the librettist Alice Goodman, together with musician John Adams, created an opera titled The Death of Klinghoffer. It was backed by theater director Peter Sellars and choreographer Mark Morris. One of its five commissioners was the Brooklyn Academy of Music. John Rockwell, in a special report to The New York Times on March 21, 1991, gave it a rather positive review, predicting that the opera might reach greatness.

Indeed, the opera has finally reached the world scene. The New York Metropolitan Opera decided to present it to the public, not only as an opera at the Met but also to simulcast it in high definition to over 2,000 locations in 66 countries, all over the world.

So, what is so disturbing? The title of the Opera already says it all – the “death” of Klinghoffer. He did not “die,” he was murdered in cold blood. Adams’ libretto portrays the terrorists in a positive light, as idealistic freedom fighters. The opera includes blatant anti-Semitic statements as detailed by the Zionist Organization of America on its website.

It is an inglorious attempt to rewrite history, portraying the “bad guys” as the “good guys.”

Myron Kaplan was appalled and beseeched the Met to at least change its decision to broadcast the production to the whole world. Kaplan’s appeal together with the pressure of various organizations, such as CAMERA and ZOA, succeeded. The Met agreed to cancel the worldwide production, but the opera itself will continue to be part of the Met’s 2014 fall season program and will be staged at least six times.

Is this story of interest to the Israeli public? We think that it is. It exemplifies many of the problems Israel faces.

Attempts to rewrite history are ubiquitous, but here arguably the most important opera house in the world is participating in this anti-Semitic distortion. Secondly, this is a prime example of the importance of NGOs. It is only through their efforts, and not through governmental intervention, that the Met backtracked. Thirdly, though, it highlights Israel’s weakness when it comes to defending the Jewish people and itself. Official Israel has been silent on the issue. Israel’s President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have not taken an official position, nor requested the Met to completely cancel the “opera.”

Why? One reason has to do with “agenda setting.” A well-known standard for pushing an agenda in the media is to have it surface at least 100 times within a one-week period. The radio and TV advertising business is guided by this. For example, the post-Zionist media will repeatedly cite President Peres’ complimentary comments to the Palestinian Authority’s leader Mahmoud Abbas, supporting the agenda of those among us who believe that Israel should deal with a Hamas-dominated government.

Has our mass media dealt with this matter? The Klinghoffer opera affair was mentioned on May 19 in Haaretz, in its cultural section. In the English version, published on June 6, the paper outdid itself, headlining the cultural news item with “Opera set to be performed by the Met in November, but Klinghoffer daughters say ‘biased’ and ‘historically naive’; Rabbi says great art should be provocative.”

The rabbi in question is Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, VP for philanthropy at the World Union for Progressive Judaism.

Isi Leibler mentioned the affair in two lines in an op-ed in the Israel Hayom newspaper. The Arts and Entertainment section of this paper had an item on the cancellation of the world broadcast on June 19.

That’s about it.

This attitude is typical of our news media. In January, NGO Monitor exposed the anti-Israel actions of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), an NGO which is funded ($9 million annually) by Britain, Norway, the European Union and other countries.

These funds were used to intervene in Israeli policy and strengthen the international campaign of demonization against Israel. The NRC’s strategy is to “use all possible legal means to disrupt the Israeli legal system…and to add to the load on the courts and the Supreme Court.” It has funded close to 700 cases, most of which deal with property rights in Judea and Samaria. The coverage of this issue, reported only on the Galei Israel radio station and the IBA’s Kol Israel radio, was next to nil. The governments involved were not called to task by anyone in official Israel.

At Israel’s Media Watch, we are bombarded by people in Europe with complaints about anti-Israel bias in their local media. Jewish organizations such as the excellent Swiss Audiatur website attempt to defend Israel. But it is difficult. Official Israel is loath to provide statistics in too many cases and our local media does not demand transparency on issues which might just dispel the Palestinian narrative.

The pro-Israel NGOs in the United States did a great job in the Klinghoffer case. Official Europe has no problem in funding political NGOs and the press does not find it outrageous to support the agenda of these government- funded organizations (here, Israeli governmental support blemishes the recipients, coloring them as propagandists). Razi Barkai of Galatz honored the tenth anniversary of the anti-Israel and arguably anti-Semitic and European Union-funded organization “Breaking the Silence” with an interview.

At the end of the day, though, perhaps we should thank the Met.

Its actions serve as another warning bell to all as to what we should be doing to defend our country and our people.



June 19, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: The ‘frame’

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:00 am by yisraelmedad

MEDIA COMMENT: The ‘frame’


We call upon the media to stop framing this kidnapping story, and to just present the facts as they are.

Alain de Botton, a writer, television presenter and a Fellow of the British Royal Society of Literature and who also happens to be Jewish, has published The News: A User’s Manual. In it, he asserts that news has replaced religion as the prime source of influence on society. The public, he says, is expected to treat it deferentially and comply with its rules without question or hesitation. The media is in the “habit of randomly dipping readers into a brief moment in a lengthy narrative … while failing to provide any explanation of the wider context,” he writes, – or in short, guilty of unethical manipulatory practices.

John Ryley, head of Sky News, was adamant in refuting these claims. This past week he said that news organizations do not “shape” people’s views, rather the people are being given “the most accurate information impartially, so that they can shape their own views. We are not doing what de Botton accuses us of – trying to ‘craft a new planet’ in the minds of the audience.”

But media consumers are very much the target of shaped news reporting. Since the 1960s, when “New Journalism” took root, the central idea has been that journalists influence readers through the language they employ and how they position themselves in the story. Journalists dramatize their interpretation of events, and drama, in turn, leads to an unequal test for the media consumer: choosing between the truth and the beauty of a narrative. The journalist, like a theater director, frames the presentation using parameters that he or she controls, rather than merely presenting the story as is.

This past week’s kidnapping sadly provided us with some examples of this type of “framing.”

On Friday night, Channel 2’s political correspondent, Rina Mazliach, hosting the weekly round-up program Ulpan Shishi, said, “Netanyahu decided to prefer the freeing of prisoners over a freeze of construction [in Judea and Samaria]. His critics, who don’t want as yet to say this in their own voices but perhaps may state it later, [believe] that if he hadn’t made this decision to free prisoners there wouldn’t have been any motivation to kidnap Israeli civilians to release more.”

Sitting across from her, the channel’s Arab affairs correspondent Ehud Ya’ari expressed amazement, saying, “Are you speaking seriously?” To this Mazliach responded, “I hope you pay serious attention to what I am saying; I demand it. I hope you realize I am quoting Netanyahu’s critics.”

Mazliach was hiding behind anonymous persons, using their supposed statements to literally accuse the prime minister of responsibility for the kidnapping. We, her audience, are kept in the dark. Who are these persons? Is she herself among them? Mazliach could have presented the issue quite differently.

She could have posed the question of whether Netanyahu’s decision to release prisoners instead of halting construction in Judea and Samaria communities could have motivated the kidnapping. That would have been fair.

Even better, she should have quoted the critics by name, giving them due credit but noting at the same time that Israelis have been kidnapped previously without any connection to either a prisoner release or to housing construction.

But no, Mazliach preferred to use anonymous sources to dramatize the issue and accuse the prime minister. Ethics be damned.

A second example of “the frame” was the loud media voices laying the blame for the kidnapping with the three kidnapped boys. Ra’anan Shaked of Yediot Aharonot wrote on his Facebook page that “the heart of every parent in Israel is telling all the same thing: ‘[expletive], those crazies take their children with them to live in the territories.’” To its credit, the mainstream media also attacked extremists who “blame the victim.” Voices were heard asking if these persons also think the way woman dresses can be blamed for her rape. An excellent item was featured on the Walla website. A youngster from Judea and Samaria was invited to explain his view on hitchhiking. He noted that when buses were bombed, murdering hundreds, people continued using them, blaming the terrorists for the carnage.

No one complained that people should either walk, bike or drive. In Judea and Samaria, hitchhiking is the equivalent of using public transportation. If a terrorist kidnapping occurs one should only blame the kidnappers for the atrocity, no one else.

In an op-ed published in Haaretz on June 15, Uri Misgav expressed dark forebodings. He wrote – dramatically – about the media and the left wing retreating into silence as the eighth anniversary of the Second Lebanon War drew near.

“The media,” he wrote, “is giving in to Bibi [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] by being his fawning lapdog, the Left is shutting up, the government is acting as its own publicist, insanely, so as to disguise its ministerial and strategic responsibility.”

Drama, did we say? This appears to be mere histrionics.

Ben Caspit, two days later in Ma’ariv, took it further, writing of Netanyahu’s “success in harnessing the kidnapping/terror attack to detour the media’s attention from the unending scandals of his and his wife’s behavior, from the garden furniture removed from Jerusalem to Caesarea, etc.”

The two assumptions in that assertion, namely that the prime minister is actually cynically manipulating a tragic incident to his own personal ends, and that his and his wife’s actions – in this case a supposed theft of government property by Sarah Netanyahu – is a proven crime and not simply an accusation, are not only disconnected from the main story but lack all factual basis. Even opinion pieces should be based on fact.

Three youths have been taken from their families; their lives are in danger. We call upon the media to stop framing this story, and to just present the facts as they are. The families, who are suffering from the terrible uncertainty, need support, not “frames.”


June 13, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: The presidency

Posted in Media at 12:40 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: The presidency


The campaign for the election of the 10th president of the State of Israel was described by many pundits as the dirtiest ever. The filth hit almost everywhere. A shoddy video attempted to connect president-elect Reuven Rivlin to the convicted criminals Moshe Katzav and Ehud Olmert. Is there any senior politician whose photo was not taken with a former president or prime minister? Even the writers of this column have had their photos take with the two.

Hatnua MK Meir Shetreet was accused of doling out a quarter of a million shekels in severance pay to his housecleaner, who worked in his home for only two years. Former Knesset chairwoman Dalia Itzik was reminded of her NIS 75,000 bill for a hotel room in Paris for four nights as well as NIS 70,000 spent on the tax-payer’s account for the renovation of her home in Jerusalem. This information “helped” her to “volunteer” that she had a third apartment.

Minister Silvan Shalom was forced to absent himself early on due to accusations of sexual misbehavior, which were proven to be unfounded. Former Labor party leader and MK Binyamin Ben- Eliezer dropped out this past weekend due to revelations concerning his expensive home in Jaffa, funded partially by multi-millionaire Abraham Nanikashvily, who seems to also be entangled in the criminal proceedings surrounding the Ashdod Port.

Only two candidates, neither of whose candidacies were serious to start off with, Nobel Prize laureate Professor Dan Shechtman and former Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner, managed to emerge unscathed.

The truth is, though, that the same stories may be viewed very differently. Let us remember that of the past three presidents, two – Ezer Weizmann and Katzav – were forced to leave office.

Weizmann resigned in the wake of accusations of financial improprieties and Katzav as a sex criminal. It is the job of the media to uncover the truth regarding the candidates before the election, not after the results are counted. An alert media could have prevented the Weizmann-Katsav debacles. Instead, the good name of the office of the presidency was severely damaged.

One may well assume that the public would want to know of any serious offenses committed by the various candidates.

Eldad Yaniv publicized the issue of Ben-Eliezer’s expensive home. It is not a crime to be wealthy, but when a leader of the Labor Party, who did not make millions in business, spends funds which are only a dream to most Israelis on an extravagant home it is not surprising that eyebrows are raised.

Ben-Eliezer, a seasoned politician, was aware in advance that his home would become an issue; at least this is what MK Eitan Cabel, his senior supporter in the Labor Party, claimed. Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich let it be known that she would support Rivlin. A president of the state must be capable of providing the public with an open and satisfying explanation of such things.

One cannot but compare Ben-Eliezer’s home with the very modest dwellings of many former presidents.

The same goes with MKs Itzik and Shetreet. Yes, these accusations seem like mudslinging, but if the accused are so innocent, why didn’t they from the beginning clarify their personal affairs? It is the job of the media, once it gets wind of such seemingly inappropriate behavior, to publicize it. Instead of pointing fingers in the air, claiming that sinister forces are at large and playing around with the presidential election, we should be grateful that we live in a democracy where information is free and politicians cannot get away with misdoings. The fact is that the video concerning MK Rivlin was roundly criticized by the media for what it was – a smear campaign.

There seems, however, to be a general feeling of discontent with the media’s treatment of the presidential election. During the past 20 years the media was derelict in its duty to engage in the admittedly difficult and sometimes expensive task of investigative journalism. Compare Ben-Eliezer with president Shimon Peres. The latter increased the presidential budget from NIS 20 million annually to over NIS 60 million. Ben-Eliezer’s home cost “only” NIS 9 million (as reported) – and taxpayers didn’t foot the bill. Itzik’s NIS 70,000 renovations are comparatively a drop in the bucket.

Did the media know about Peres’s extravagance prior to his election? The opulence of the Peres Center is, of course, not a state secret. Yet Peres can go to the pope and shake hands with terrorists in Rome, as well as engage in scores of precedent-setting “diplomatic work meetings” with visiting statesmen, with hardly a peep from the media. Not to mention the separate domiciles of president Peres and his late wife.

There is another aspect to the media’s failings. The platforms of the various candidates were discussed to some extent during the last days prior to the vote. But why didn’t the media present the public with a civilized debate in which each of the candidates could present to the public directly their vision for the next seven years? To quote polls is insufficient. The tough questions should have been asked directly and openly. The fact that the Knesset elects the president is not sufficient ground for claiming that such a debate is unnecessary.

Given the rowdy nature of Israeli talk shows, one might claim a debate would be demeaning of the presidency. A candidate who respects herself or himself and the public, however, would know not to bend down to the depths of the usual shows. In the distant past, Israel had debates between prime ministerial candidates and these were rather informative.

The president of Israel is no longer merely a figurehead. President Peres has amply demonstrated the power of the president to influence government policy. The release of terrorists could have been stopped by the president. Even the process of government formation can be influenced by the president’s choice in asking one politician or the other to undertake the task.

Former president Katzav could have taken a strong public stand against the expulsions from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria. Had he done so, history may have been written quite differently.

The media during this year’s campaign should have forcefully demanded that the candidates provide direct answers to the public on the issues surrounding the presidency. It also did not put the heat on Peres for misappropriating his power, creating the anarchy that exists nowadays.

It might well be that the media has its own agenda. In cooperating with a serving president and low-profiling the campaign for a new one, a bond can be formed, one in which a certain type of president can be catapulted into the house on Jerusalem’s HaNassi Street. The pundits had this race wrong, most of them predicting a close end run between Itzik and Rivlin. It is a relief to know that our politicians do not (yet) always dance to the media’s tune.


June 5, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: The media and Jerusalem day

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 11:24 pm by yisraelmedad

MEDIA COMMENT: The media and Jerusalem day


Jerusalem has presented our media outlets with a special problem over the years.

Jerusalem has presented our media outlets with a special problem over the years. As we all know, from viewing, reading and listening to the media, the theme of Jerusalem Day is most usually that the city is divided and we should surrender Israeli sovereignty over the eastern neighborhoods to the Palestinian Authority. They can then have their share of Jerusalem as their capital.

A second theme is moaning over the “terrible state of our capital”; secular residents and young people leave the city, whose remaining social makeup is only Arabs and haredim (ultra-Orthodox). A third theme is that Jerusalem Day is a holiday mostly for the national-religious camp and their Christian supporters.

The biased reportage is well reflected in the visit of Pope Francis to the Temple Mount on May 26, 2014. An agreement was reached between the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Wakf that the IBA would have an IBA van on site to cover the story, but the agreement was violated. The ministry gave in to pressure and the compromise was that the van could enter the Mount – but without the logo of the IBA.

This story was picked up by numerous media outlets.

But only a few bloggers caught on to the fact that the pope was escorted not only by Sheikh Abdul Azim Salhab, president of the Council of the Islamic Wakf in Jerusalem, and Grand Mufti Mohammed Hussein, a preacher at the Aqsa Mosque. Jordan’s Prince Ghazi was also present as representative of his country’s status as the patron of “Jerusalem’s Muslim and Christian holy sites.” This inclusion of a foreign country’s representative in an official state visit was simply not discussed.

No one thought that it appropriate to ask the Foreign Ministry or the Prime Minister’s Office about this violation of Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount. Let us imagine that Israel had not allowed the Jordanian official presence, and Jordan had expressed its “outrage.”

One can be sure that all the pundits would have taken up the cause.

Not less striking was the fact that there was no broad reportage of what Salhab and Hussein said to the pope.

The mufti said that peace has been removed from the city and that, “Our goal is to fight the Israeli occupation of oppression… that wants to wipe out our presence – both Muslims, both Christians… to take control of the holy places… There are ferocious attacks against the holy places… and attempts to change the status- quo… We urge you to prevent damage to holy places and to stem the attacks on al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Hussein added that the mosque is “subjected to aggression and invasions of extremist settlers” and that Israel seeks “to Judaize the mosque and divide it so as to share it, both in terms of time [certain hours] and in terms of the areas [specified places].”

The pope heard that Jews have no rights, history or future in Jerusalem. The Israeli reportage of all this, as exemplified for example by Ynet, was as bland as could be. No one complained about the pope’s silence. Had this information been fully shared with media consumers, perhaps there would have been less amazement at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s words at Ammunition Hill last Wednesday when he spoke of the phenomenon of Temple denial.

Pope Francis in his reply to the two Muslim dignitaries said, “May we work together for justice and peace” and added, “from this holy place I make a heartfelt plea: …may we respect and love one another as brothers and sisters! …May no one abuse the name of God through violence!” Was the pope pressuring the Wakf to lessen its provocative and violent behavior toward Jews and Christians who visit the Temple Mount but cannot display religious respect or practice any worship there? That could have been a very big story. But our media is just not tuned in to this side of the story and so missed the opportunity.

Many of our politicians swear, whenever the opportunity arises, that Jerusalem will be unified “forever.”

Our media thinks quite differently. There is an enormous gap between the coverage of national days such as the Holocaust Memorial Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day and even Tisha Be’av, as compared to the media’s relation to Jerusalem Day.

The right-wing Galei Yisrael radio station, broadcasting mainly in Judea and Samaria, dedicated the whole day’s programming to Jerusalem. A very special item was an in-depth interview with Naomi Shemer’s daughter Lalli. She described her influence as well as that of Rivka Michaeli on Naomi Shemer’s “Jerusalem of Gold” masterpiece, which is perhaps the symbol of the reunified city.

She claimed to have brought singer Shuli Natan to the attention of her mother, and that Michaeli’s admonishment to Shemer for not including the Old City in her song led to the creation of the second stanza: “How the cisterns have dried; The market-place is empty; And no one frequents the Temple Mount; In the Old City.”

Compare this to the IBA’s Reshet Bet radio station.

The radio program on Jerusalem Day between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. was hosted by Iris Lavie. She had a long item relating to Shavuot, but the only mention of Jerusalem Day was that of the traffic announcer who described the closure of roads in Jerusalem due to the day.

Is this an accident? We believe not. Lavie is also the permanent editor of the weekly left-wing-dominated program of Professor Moshe Negbi. Lavie often identifies with Negbi’s post-Zionist agenda. During the interview with Professor Rachel Elior on Shavuot, Lavie made it a point that she is a resident of Tel Aviv.

Lavie’s program was not unique. Reshet Bet dedicated two programs to Jerusalem Day including one hour covering the official Jerusalem Day ceremony, which took place in the Russian compound in the city. The army radio station Galatz did not do much better, with three programs. The IBA’s TV Channel 1 had six programs relating to Jerusalem Day, TV channels 2 and 10 had none.

The media’s disinterest in Jerusalem is not limited to Jerusalem Day. For example, how many people know that in the aftermath of the Oslo accords, officials of the European Union are not permitted to visit the eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem unless they are hosted by official representatives of the Palestinian Authority? Why is our media so cold when it comes to Jerusalem? We can only reflect that for the avowed secularists of Israel, who have an aversion to anything relating to religion, Jerusalem is the problem. It is the holy city, it does not fit in with their post-Zionist view of how Israel should look.

Is it easier for them ideologically if Jerusalem were ruled by the Palestinians who would then eradicate any Jewish connection to the city? Surely, if there were more Zionist- and Jewish-oriented figures in the media, Jerusalem Day would look and sound very different.