March 26, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: Don’t let the media judge itself

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:04 am by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Don’t let the media judge itself

by YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK, 03/25/2015

Ominously, the opinion polls seemed to reflect more the opinions of media personalities, executives and editors as well as the owners of media outlets than those of the man in the street.

In the wake of the collapse of the election- day exit polls, and the subsequent piranha-like mutual frenzy of media rivals following the Likud victory, James Taranto, writing in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, provided a bit of consolation, if not encouragement. He noted that American experts also flopped. For example, Sam Wang of the Princeton Election Consortium had tweeted on Monday that “Netanyahu staying PM seems hard. I’ll stay w/ 3-1 odds against.” Paul Waldman of The Washington Post wrote, “There is a real possibility that Benjamin Netanyahu will lose.”

That American professionals are no better than their Israeli counterparts is nice to know, but the real problem is that those polls, ordered and paid for by central media outlets, developed a Golem-like aspect and, for all intents and purposes, took over the reporting platform. They were the story rather than being commentary. Almost all coverage began to revolve around the numbers and percentages.

Ominously, the opinion polls seemed to reflect more the opinions of media personalities, executives and editors as well as the owners of media outlets than those of the man in the street. Too many in the media were dancing around themselves in a closed circle. As Raviv Drucker of Channel 10, who did all he could to bring about the downfall of Netanyahu, freely admitted, “Maybe we live in la-la land.”

Amir Teig, writing in Haaretz on March 23, was even more critical, claiming that the country’s media outlets “have now come to understand the extent to which the public is hostile to them…the campaign revealed the one-dimensional character of the media and a sense that the media believe they know what’s best for their own audiences.”

The important issues facing the public, such as the local and international situation, analysis of economics and of defense matters, the relationship with the Palestinian Authority and more were shuffled to the background. Even some of the background of members of the new 20th Knesset, such as the Bulgarian hotel manager job held by the Likud’s Oren Hazan, a resort that also had a casino, was ignored. The media not only reflected its own biases but was shallow as well. It simply did not provide the information the public needed to make an informed decision on whom to vote for.

As Sir Alan Moses, chairman of England’s Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), declared three weeks ago, examples of media “abuse, intrusion, distortion, lies, cruelty and brutality” need to be addressed and regulatory rules need be fine-tuned.

Most importantly, wherever there is bias, the media cannot judge itself; oversight must include external partners.

In the week since the elections, Israel’s media, to its credit, is asking itself how it got the election results so wrong. As Nati Tucker described in The Marker, “Journalists misread the political landscape, newspapers were blatantly biased and polls proved to be utterly mistaken.” They engaged, he asserted, “in unethical and often ugly journalism.”

Drucker went even further: “There was a torrent of one-sided, biased reality. Netanyahu was smart enough to translate this revulsion into votes.”

But this preference for one-sidedness also carried over to the media’s introspection this week. For the most part, the discussions, interview panels and columns carried by the various networks, print, electronic and online, were staffed by media personnel.

The Tik Tikshoret program, which is supposed to deal with media infractions, brought to its panel discussions journalists Yaakov Ahimeir, Baruch Kra and Barak Ravid. Kalman Liebeskind, who dared to suggest in Maariv that journalists with a proven left-wing bias should be fired, drew sharp attacks from Channel 10 staff.

Drucker slugged it out with Channel 2 TV’s Amit Segal via tweets and Facebook posts following an op-ed Drucker published in Haaretz. Drucker asked in his op-ed, full of self-importance and unrepentant for his behavior: “Which model is better for the viewer: a reporter who wants the Right to win but conceals his views, or a reporter who acknowledges his preference and then reports on the facts?” Segal responded that the problem with journalists like Drucker was not mistakes in analyzing forecast data but in their total mobilization on behalf of the political Left.

Yediot Aharonot owner Arnon Mozes hasn’t apologized for the unprofessional behavior of his newspaper, nor has Amos Schocken, publisher of Haaretz. On the other side, Benjamin Netanyahu already has expressed contrition for his remarks regarding the busing of Arabs to the voting booths.

Yet, despite the across-the-spectrum admissions, and the clear evidence, we expect that nothing will change. Those responsible at the management and editorial levels in the Israeli media organs for overt media bias are unwilling to admit their professional errors, are not willing to reach personal conclusions and will not permit outsiders to participate in the post-performance debriefing.

This criticism should not detract from the value of the voices heard from within the media. To strengthen the charges of institutionalized bias, Arianna Melamed, herself a left-winger and a long-time member of the inner media elite who worked at Maariv and then moved to Ynet before resigning last year, published on her Facebook page this past Saturday that Yediot’s Mozes had personally spiked a column she penned critical of the Zionist Union’s Tzipi Livni.

“Mozes,” she wrote, “turned journalists into circus dogs. Yediot is the exact mirror- image of Israel Hayom. In one, Bibi is a dog and in the other, he’s a king.” She added, “Yes, I can relate much about the anti-Bibi media.” Her harsh remarks were then also reported on Channel 10’s Mako news site.

Another aspect of the biased media is evidenced in the coverage of US President Barack Obama’s unprecedented dressing- down of Prime Minister Netanyahu for saying that “Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them in buses.” Kol Yisrael’s Arieh Golan broadcast his personal disgust with Netanyahu’s “racist” remarks.

Never mind that Netanyahu was merely stating the truth or that the money for these activities came, in part, from funds whose connection to Obama’s State Department is currently being investigated.

Haaretz’s Benny Ziffer wrote on March 19 that the “‘Arabs on buses’ comment was not racist.”

Not a single Israeli media commentator pointed out that there were other disparaging and even racist expressions directed at sections of Israel’s populace, that were not addressed by Obama. The divisive words, of course, came from left-wingers and we mentioned them in our column last week. Somehow, the White House was quite selective in the media sources that were passed on to the president.

Yair Garboz and Yehoshua Sobol, Meretz supporters, targeted traditional religious people who identify with the Right. Tzipi Livni had referred to Netanyahu as “garbage” to be taken out to the bin. Last Wednesday, columnist Yonatan Geffen told a club audience that those who voted for Netanyahu shouldn’t “cry when your kids die in the next military operation.” Truthfully, it is Obama that has opened himself to charges of racism; he only complained about comments referring to Arabs, but the words shaming Jews were considered by him to be kosher.

To improve, the media must realize that it is a servant of the public rather than its master.

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March 22, 2015

Contra Bauer

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 6:25 pm by yisraelmedad

From the new issue of Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, Volume 9, Issue 1, 2015:

On Yehuda Bauer’s Letter to the Editor

Sir,

While I may or may not have read Prof. Yehuda Bauer’s article “very carefully” as he surmises, I certainly perused his reply to my letter very studiously. Allow me to begin with his stupefying ending.

My mention of Bauer’s Palmach membership was not meant to label him as “terrible,” but rather to point to the major fault line in his polemical writings, as opposed to his scholarship: I am referring to his ideological mindset, which is hard left. Bauer’s anti-Bergson group stance, as exemplified by his writings in this journal, is one expression of this. His letter provides additional insight into his political thinking. Oddly, Bauer notes my domicile in Shiloh, which, I might point out, is not located in, as he calls it, the “West Bank,” which is an artificial geopolitical term that did not exist prior to April 1950, but in Samaria, as it was called by the United Nations in outlining the borders delineated in the 1947 Partition Plan. While graciously allowing me my views, Bauer then, irrationally, and for no possible purpose except to paint me politically outside the pale, identifies me in an intentional slur as being equivalent to a Jew in Brooklyn or Paris, in other words, in the Diaspora, except that I do not require a plane to reach my home. Why is that? Simply because the State of Israel has not applied its sovereignty to the area in which I reside. For the record, I was born in the Bronx and grew up in Queens, New York.

Bauer’s astounding implication is that I am in chutz la-aretz [outside the borders of the Jewish homeland], as if Shiloh—the location of the Tabernacle, where Joshua divided up the Land of Israel, where Samuel first ministered and where the Prophet Achiyah spoke the truly terrifying words about dogs and vultures—is not somehow fully Jewish and/or part of Eretz-Yisrael—the Land of Israel. This reveals an empty and detached approach to Jewish history and heritage. Given that Bauer came from Prague to this country in 1939, when it was not a state with any sovereign power, I hope he did not consider himself still in the Diaspora simply because the British ruled the land. That is, unless belonging to the Labor/Socialist faction of Zionism somehow bestowed upon him and his comrades a mantle of belonging that he now claims does not apply to me in Shiloh.

To return to the rest of Bauer’s letter, let me respond quite briefly to his complaints. No, he was not guilty of misdeeds in belonging to the Palmach unless he personally tortured Irgun members and handed them over to the British Criminal Investigation Department. Yes, prior to the October 1944 Saison sponsored by the official Yishuv [pre-State Jewish community] bodies, Lehi [Stern group] members were obliquely identified by Irgun intelligence officers to the British. However, Bauer absents conveniently the Palmach’s own pre-Saison operations against the Lehi in early 1942. And yes, and to his credit, he was the first historian to shed light on this episode.

As for Bauer’s supposing that I somehow attacked his Holocaust scholarship, I should have used the word “previous” rather than “past,” although I would characterize some of his conclusions, which I first heard in his lectures at Hebrew University during my 1978–79 academic year, as arguable. Regarding another semantic matter, I will admit to being unable to fathom the precise difference at least as far as the end result is concerned, between his suggestion that a coalition of Islamic states should mediate the Arab–Israeli conflict, as I described it, and his correction that his suggestion was actually that the major powers should act in that fashion.

The final point I wish to make is that Bauer insists that the 230-page Torat HaMelech tract (and I will not engage in a dispute over whether or not and to what extent it is “unabashedly racist and even potentially genocidal”) has had an impact. He is a scholar and, therefore, we can presume that he will eventually academically and empirically prove his charge of a direct link between disgusting acts of anti-Arab/Islam vandalism and that book, published in 2010. However, surely he realizes that violent acts against Arabs, justified or not, do not require esoteric Halachic, Midrashic, or Kabbalistic deliberations of the sort found in that book.

In the summer of 1943, the Palmach punished an Arab rapist of Jewish women in the Beit Shean Valley by surgically castrating him (although none of them was a surgeon or even a physician) and then celebrated the event for years with the campfire song “Sirasnucha Ya Muhammed.” That was not an isolated incident of retribution against Arab rapists. Moreover, there were the Palmachniks who killed some eighty Arabs, reportedly shot while their hands were rope-bound, at Ein Zeitoun on May 1, 1948, and who, in the attack at Sassa on February 15, 1948, blew up houses, killing over sixty Arabs, the majority of whom were women, children, and the aged. Another dozen civilians were killed when the Palmach’s Third Brigade blew up dwellings in Al-Khisas on December 18, 1947. Other Palmachniks had operated even prior to the November 30, 1947 beginning of Israel’s War of Independence against Arab forces at Yaquq and near Kfar Syrkin.
None of them, we can surmise, was a wild-eyed “hilltop youth” who delved into tomes of ancient Jewish literature. They were, rather, “the handsome young men with the forelock,” who, unlike the “terrorists” of the Irgun and “Stern Gang,” mythically behaved according to the principle of “purity of arms.”

Yisrael Medad
Shiloh

^

March 19, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: Will anyone really learn?

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:34 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Will anyone really learn?

by YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 03/18/2015

“The bottom line is that even with the considerable improvement in the media’s performance, the ‘old guard’ of post-Zionist media people is still entrenched in central positions.”

The media was a central player in these elections, for good and for bad. Some journalists, such as Yonit Levi, Amnon Abramovitch and Rina Mazliach of Channel 2 TV, truly believed the “Bibi must go” mantra; otherwise they would not have sacrificed their professionalism on the altar of propaganda.

It was only on Monday night that Abramovitch went overboard in citing the greatness of the Livni and Herzog in being able to agree to cancel the rotation between them.

Even after the results came out, Mazliach’s response was, “Well will Bibi now stop his vicious attacks on us?” A colleague of theirs, Amit Segal, tweeted: “elections 2015: The public against the elites and the media: that’s the whole story.” Erel Segal (no relation) wrote at the NRG website Tuesday, “These past three months we’ve witnessed a ‘Saison’ campaign of incitement and hunting, of unparalleled reviling… and my colleagues in the media preferred to close their eyes.”

An important element in the campaign was the reliance on pollsters. Their errors, however, were far beyond the accepted norm.

It would seem that the polling system has crashed and it can no longer be considered reliable. Too many people refuse to answer, and the polls get skewed by those who have an axe to grind. The media’s devout following of the polls should have been stopped years ago. But the polls this time around reflected the desire of the media to replace Netanyahu, so care and criticism were thrown to the wind.

In the past few months, we have documented time and again the various ethical breaches of our media, and undoubtedly, media bias typically favored the leftist, post-Zionist viewpoint. However, these past months have also witnessed some of the best of Israel’s media. All through the campaign, our radio and TV broadcasters made a noticeable effort to bring all views to the public. The morning radio shows were relatively balanced. Someone from the Right would be balanced from the Left and vice versa. The smaller parties, ranging from Meretz to Bayit Yehudi, Yesh Atid and the Joint Arab List, received ample representative air time.

The print media also fared well. On the one side there was Yediot Aharonot with its anti-Netanyahu bias, but it was balanced by Israel Hayom, which supported the prime minister. Haaretz was partially balanced by Makor Rishon.

The situation was vastly different 20 years ago. Back in 1996, the media, with one voice, supported Shimon Peres. Some TV shows were skewed 90 percent in his favor. The anchors were openly rooting for him. Israel Hayom did not exist and Yediot Aharonot had a monopoly on the Israeli media. The same occurred in the 1999 elections.

Something has happened during the past 20 years. Most notably, the call of the late journalist and Bayit Yehudi minister Uri Orbach, urging young people with a Zionist bent to join the media, has created a movement. Professional journalists such as Kalman Libeskind, Erel Segal, Amit Segal, Sivan Rahav-Meir and Emily Amrousy, all with kippot or scarves on their heads, do not hide their ideology. They do their jobs but do not bend over backwards to kowtow to the post-Zionist bon ton. Twenty years ago, Channel 2 TV proudly boasted that they had a national religious figurehead in Nissim Mishal, whose left-wing bias was well documented.

The media’s performance cannot be disassociated from the politicians. Some of them were very dissatisfied with the media. As reported by Globes, already back in July 2014, Netanyahu claimed that some television commentators “do not represent the people” and that “there is a monopoly on opinion.”

He also complained in January about the media’s coverage of his participation in the Paris gathering in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo and kosher deli terrorist attacks.

This continued throughout the campaign, reaching perhaps a crescendo with Netanyahu’s personal attack on Noni Mozes, publisher of Yediot, and the prime minister’s refusal to be interviewed by Channel 10’s Raviv Drucker, who has been pursuing the prime minister and his wife for quite some time.

Minister Naftali Bennett also joined the fray. Only a week ago, he commented on Channel 10 about the media’s strong desire to replace Netanyahu. When Makor Rishon was saved by American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, Bennett, who at that time was a subject of adulation by Yediot for his stand against Israel Hayom, was troubled, worrying that this would turn also Makor Rishon against him. On January 24, on Channel 10’s Hamate Hamerkazi TV program, Bennett responded to moderator Nadav Peri, saying: “You have crossed all borders, the media in general, and this channel… systematically only highlights my candidate in the 94th slot… show me once when you broadcast or attacked someone from the Left.”

It is easy to attack the media but much more difficult to do something about it. Consider the Bayit Yehudi Party and its predecessor the Mafdal – the National Religious Party.

Not once in these past years has it demanded the Communications Ministry portfolio as part of a coalition agreement. Last summer, Likud minister Gilad Erdan steamrolled a law through the Knesset which turns the Israel Broadcasting Authority into the “Public Broadcasting Corporation.” We tried to prevent his law from turning the authority into a post-Zionist one but only Minister Orbach assisted. The other Bayit Yehudi Knesset representatives were hardly present during the committee deliberations and attempts to convince them to take a more active role were not successful.

Both Bennett and the Likud complain about bias on Channel 10, but they had ample time to change Israel’s media map.

Channel 10 should have been closed down years ago due to its hefty debt of over a billion shekels to the Israeli public. But time and time again, it was the Likud that saved the channel. There are at least two TV channels that would jump at the chance to broadcast nationally in Israel: Channel I24 and Channel 20. The Second TV and Radio Authority was appointed by the Likud during these past six years.

Why hasn’t the authority increased pluralism in Israel and provided us with a few more channels? Channel 2’s News Corporation is public, supervised by a public commission. The open bias which leaves a political pundit such as Amnon Abramovitch on the job for years without end, without balancing him, should have been eliminated and could have been eliminated. The only thing missing was leadership and will. But neither the Likud nor Bennett and Bayit Yehudi would have anything to do with this.

The bottom line is that even with the considerable improvement in the media’s performance, specifically in allowing greater pluralism of voices to be heard, the “old guard” of post-Zionist media people is still entrenched in central positions. They create havoc with Israeli public opinion and the perception of Israel abroad. The Likud, and especially the Bayit Yehudi, should realize that defending Israel from its enemies starts at home. Use your empowerment to do away with the current unprofessional and damaging parts of the media.

^

March 11, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: An interventionist media

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:46 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: An interventionist media

by YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 03/11/2015

The media is constantly bucking the laws of the land which seek to assure fair and objective coverage of the ultimate political process.

A 1924 journalism ethics handbook edited by Kansas academic Nelson Crawford quotes the Detroit News press code, according to which the Friday prior to a Tuesday election day is the last time a “candidate or party should be permitted to print new charges or statements.” The principle behind this is that “no paper should print anything about anybody without allowing ample time for an answer.”

Almost a century later, here in Israel it would appear that any ethically- imposed restriction is ancient history.

The media is constantly bucking the laws of the land which seek to assure fair and objective coverage of the ultimate political process.

This 20th Knesset campaign was highlighted by many media stories which ignored Israel’s current Electioneering Law. This past Sunday, for example, Channel 1 television’s HaMusaf program hostess Geula Even had Avigdor Liberman, Aryeh Deri and Ofir Akunis in the studio for interviews that, for the most part, were election propaganda.

This format was repeated many times on the other two main television channels as well as the two national radio networks and over a dozen regional ones. The only thing lacking was a “vote for me” proclamation accompanied by party jingles.

Undoubtedly, though, it was Ari Shavit who, in a March 9 interview with Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog published in Haaretz, summed up this year’s election campaigns: “But the array of powers that work in Herzog’s favor is often reminiscent of the one that brought Netanyahu down in 1999… The anti-Sheldon Adelsons are generous in their financial support. The media is doing all it can to smear Netanyahu.”

A stark example of this anti-Netanyahu effort by the media in the service of a political ideology was the press conference conducted by the Likud’s Benny Begin and Yuli Edelstein last Sunday. This came in the wake of what was perceived as a devastating piece of investigative journalism by Israel Prize winner Nahum Barnea, senior columnist for the Yediot Aharonot media empire. Begin and Edelstein, known for their integrity, flatly claimed that Barnea was a liar.

In the Yediot weekend edition, Barnea, under a front-page headline, revealed a supposed August 2013 “document of concessions” to which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he asserted, had agreed. It included basing talks with the Palestinians on pre-1967 lines with land swaps, and leaving Jewish communities under Palestinian Authority control. This was headlined with the trope “Netanyahu’s lack of credibility.” Barnea’s integrity, as noted many times in this column, is questionable. This was not a news item but a blunt attempt to convince the public that a certain political contender should not receive their vote.

The Likud spokesmen were also blunt, indeed scathing, in their response. Begin related how 20 years ago Barnea, presented with facts in connection to diplomatic issues, refused to publish them since they served the camp to which he did not belong. Barnea’s current piece, Begin said, as reported in this paper, served those who “want to blacken the name of and cause damage to the prime minister and Likud.” Barnea “fathered a lie,” he added. Edelstein also proclaimed that “the document is a lie.”

They further pointed out that Dennis Ross, a former adviser to three US presidents engaged in the American peace initiative, had declared that Netanyahu never agreed to pre-‘67 lines, dividing Jerusalem or giving the right of return to Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

Why didn’t Barnea check his story with Ross? In a March 8 interview with i24 TV, Barnea offered this explanation: not everyone is aware of all the documents. In a second column, published on the Ynet website, Barnea wrote that Netanyahu’s reaction “was a panicked response in which he, unfortunately, did not tell the truth.”

Could this be just another case of Barnea suppressing information which does not fit his worldview? The media vs. Netanyahu has always been a subtext in Israel, but the eruption this year of spiteful attacks, most of them simply irrelevant to the political, security and social issues facing the electorate, has been astounding in breadth and depth of animosity. In this context, it is also illuminating that Channel 2’s election-evening program will be a normal, open-studio news show – but will also star the station’s left-wing satirical ensemble, Eretz Nehederet (It’s A Wonderful Country). In the eyes of Channel 2, the elections are entertainment. But only when colored appropriately.

No less pervasive is the ignorance of some of our reporters and interviewers.

On the afternoon of March 4, Yossi Sarid was interviewed by Benny Bashan on the Army radio station. This was a very interesting type of interview; Sarid not only answered but also asked most of the questions, while Bashan merely chuckled.

Sarid declared at one point that one reason he was critical Netanyahu’s speech before the US Congress in Washington was that “the word ‘peace’ was not mentioned once.” However, as we all heard, during the speech the prime minister said: “The difficult path [that]…will make all the difference for the future of my country, the security of the Middle East and the peace of the world, the peace we all desire”; and that we cannot “ignore aggression in the hopes of gaining an illusory peace.” Bashan did not call Sarid to order. Was he too mesmerized by a fellow comrade in ideology? Was the program’s editor asleep? Was a correction offered the media consumers? Even when some of the media’s own icons are honest enough to note that the attack on Netanyahu is not always justified, they do not relent. Author David Grossman, who not only opposes Netanyahu’s reelection but also lambasted him for interfering with the process of awarding the Israel Prize, told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica’s Fabio Scuto that, “The points raised in [Netanyahu’s speech]…are important and must be heard…Iran threatens the entire world; this time Netanyahu is right.”

He also characterized the American position as “clumsy” and one of “criminal naivete.” Is it surprising that these comments of Grossman were not the first item on the news? At times, one felt that they were a well-kept secret. After all, hadn’t Tzipi Livni clarified that the prime minister was sacrificing the future of Israel for his personal political gain? It was just not “right” to allow Grossman to spoil the party.

One speech that Central Elections Committee chairman Justice Salim Jubran did not subject to a delay was that of Yair Garboz, who appeared at last Saturday night’s anti-Netanyahu rally. He railed not only against the prime minister but against all those who supported the right-of-center political agenda in terms recalling Dudu Topaz’s 1981 “riff raff” speech that denied Shimon Peres an election victory.

The surreal aspect of his words, calling right-wingers ignorant, racist, piggish pleasure-seekers and destroyers of democracy, were in his summary: “So how is it that the handful rules us? How is it that… the handful has turned into a majority?” In truth, Garboz was just describing, and rather accurately, the reality of our media.

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March 4, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: Netanyahu’s speech and the media

Posted in Media at 11:19 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Netanyahu’s speech and the media

by YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 03/04/2015

Bias is unfair to the media consumer who by nature has limited sources of information.

In a normative reality, the media would be reporting on and following news stories, and columnists and pundits analyzing and commented on them from a variety of political and economic outlooks.

If the editors or publishers of a private or commercial media outlet have a specific policy they wish to promote or a candidate they seek to support, they are free to print or broadcast editorials. There is the news and there are the views. To mix them creates bias.

Bias is unfair to the media consumer who by nature has limited sources of information.

The consumer usually has no direct link to events, and thus blurring the line between news and opinion denies him or her the ability to make a reasoned judgment.

The responsibility of state-sponsored media networks to provide objective reporting as well as a plurality of opinion is even greater since, in essence, the public is the editorial board. The directors and editors have no right to unfairly influence the consumer through their broadcasts.

Two weeks ago, this critical observation was made regarding the media: “Nobody wants to associate with anybody who doesn’t agree with them politically… You can’t have a conversation, people won’t listen to each other, they listen to different media, and those different media [outlets] tell different stories about the very same thing… You cannot run a great country like that.”

Sound familiar? Probably it does. But this wasn’t said by an Israeli; those were the words of former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, spoken during the Conference for Women gathering in California last month. They do most certainly, however, touch on the problems media consumers here face in trying to be informed and to make their own decisions on what to do, how to vote and how to forge their own lives.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Washington to speak at the AIPAC convention and, at the invitation of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, to address a joint session of Congress has been one of the main media narratives of these Knesset elections. Is our media reporting the story objectively, with full background and with no agenda but to provide news and balanced commentary? In the fallout from the NBC news anchor Brian “I was there” Williams debacle, Nicole Hemmer, a visiting assistant professor at the universities of Miami and Sydney, wrote in a recent issue of The New Republic of an “evolution in the media bias argument” promoted by the Right. She claims that according to conservatives, mistakes made by journalists and which editors fail to correct are due to a “liberal worldview” that “kept them from questioning assumptions and double-checking information.”

But is that not true? For example, one of the main arguments against the Netanyahu speech is the supposed damage it will do to American-Israeli relations. But the annual Gallup World Affairs poll, conducted February 8-11, indicates this may not be the case. As reported, Netanyahu’s favorable rating has improved in the US, and nearly twice as many Americans view Israel’s leader favorably (45 percent) as unfavorably (24%). Moreover, his favorable score is up from 35% in 2012.

In other words, the stories based on a threat that Netanyahu is doing damage are inadequately reflecting an issue considerably more complex and quite undecided. The support could potentially affect how Americans vote for their representatives in Congress and therefore affect how those politicians, seeking reelection, will be reacting to Netanyahu’s arguments.

A different media line is: “Netanyahu has a credible case to make. Any nuclear agreement that allows Iran to maintain a native uranium enrichment capability… an empire-building, Assad-sponsoring, Yemen-conquering, Israel-loathing, theocratic terror regime is a dicey proposition. The deal that seems to be taking shape right now does not fill me – or many others who support a diplomatic solution to this crisis – with confidence.”

Those lines were from pundit Jeffrey Goldberg, and appeared in The Atlantic this past Sunday. Goldberg is the columnist that first reported the “chickensh**” slander of Netanyahu by a high Obama administration official. Goldberg himself is not favorably inclined to Israel’s prime minister. Indeed, he has not suddenly become a Netanyahu devotee, and still does not approve the prime minister appearing before the joint session of Congress.

But he does attempt, as a professional, to include multiple angles in his writing.

Unfortunately, that cannot be said of too many Israeli journos and pundits, who allow their “anyone but Bibi” ideology to override their professional responsibilities.

Last October, Gershom Gorenberg, quite an opponent of Netanyahu’s, upset about a lack of fact-checking in the media wrote in The American Prospect about his concern over the commitment of journalism to pursue truth. For him, “Putting the truth inside the news report, right after the quote, is the only way to be unbiased.” But that requires an intelligent reporter, a wise editor and a system which assures that lies or misrepresentations are caught before publication. If a news outlet is already prejudiced against its subject, no system can be effective.

Netanyahu’s speech to Congress is a litmus test case for the professionalism of Israel’s media. Sad to say, the result is not heartwarming.

The radio broadcasts (whether the IBA or Army Radio) were interspersed with comments by the anchors. Yonit Levy of TV Channel 2 News, as usual, could not let Netanyahu talk without contributing her two bits of personal opinion. The idea that the consumer should be allowed to first hear the speech, free of any outside influence, did not even occur to the editors of these outlets.

As usual, too much of the ensuing discussion revolved around the silly questions, such as counting ovations, who sat and who stood, how does this influence elections in Israel. The really tough questions, on all sides, just did not come to the fore. Netanyahu has been talking about the Iranian problem for the past six years, but can he show any positive results? The Iranians are amassing on the Golan Heights, what is Israel’s reaction to this? Is Israel prepared for an Iranian-supported attack from the Golan? How does the Iranian threat impact Israel’s budget? Will the various politicians from all parties be able to responsibly divert funds from the defense budget to important social issues? One might argue in their favor that the TV stations have all put pressure on the prime minister to participate in a televised debate with his opponent, Isaac Herzog. But instead of just calling upon them to debate, they should present the public with the questions they intend to ask. But it would seem that the main aim of the networks is not really providing the electorate with important information, but rather with gaining a few more shekels from advertising.

Our recommendation to the electorate is to ignore the commentaries, and try to get the news only. The rest is not worth the effort.

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