June 25, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: Covering Up

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:55 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Covering up
by YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 06/24/2015  
The Ghattas story, we suggest, is one big cover-up aided by Israel’s media.
Israel’s media prides itself as the watchdog and protector of democracy. The latest attack on democracy it seeks to highlight is the possibility Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might alter the Public Broadcasting Law, the “baby” of former communications minister Gilad Erdan.

In this column we pointed out many times that the new legislation was hasty, not well thought-out and far from accentuating the Zionist nature of the Jewish state.

We certainly would hope that the prime minister, together with current Communications Minister Ofir Akunis, does not heed the media’s cry of “wolf” regarding the government’s supposed undermining of democracy, but rather rethinks many aspects of the present law, not least the actual name of the corporation which we believe should be called The Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation.

The present law is wanting. Not only does it not assure fair, balanced and ethical broadcasting on the public airwaves, nor provide a system to punish offenders for unethical behavior, but in practice achieves just the opposite. Consider the latest brouhaha over MK Basel Ghattas of the Joint List.

Ghattas flew to Athens to join the latest attempt at sending a boat to the Gaza Strip. When the story came out on Monday, Yossi Hadar, Kol Israel’s Reshet Bet anchor, asked the station’s legal expert, Professor Moshe Negbi, about the legality of Ghattas’s actions. Negbi, without blinking, claimed that there was nothing illegal about them and cited as “proof” the fact that the Supreme Court annulled the decision of Central Election Committee to ban the Balad Party from running in the elections. MK Haneen Zoabi, who partook in the Mavi Marmara flotilla, is a member of Balad, and so, Negbi concluded, her actions were legal and therefore the same applied to Ghattas.

The Ghattas story, we suggest, is one big cover-up aided by Israel’s media. Ghattas repeatedly stated that he was going on behalf of the 1.8 million residents of the Gaza Strip. A reliable census of the population of the Strip has not been taken for many years, yet not one Israeli anchor even questioned him as to the source of his information.

As for the legality of his actions, one should only ask advocate Nitzana Darshan- Leitner about this. Her organization, Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center, demanded that the Swedish bank Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken stop its financial services to the Free Gaza organization. Her brief was based on what is obvious: the planned trip is an unlawful attempt to breach Israel’s naval blockade of the terrorist-controlled Gaza Strip. She noted further that “Israel’s naval blockade… is lawful,” referencing Sir George Palmer, who headed th Report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Inquiry on the 31 May 2010 Flotilla Incident.

Aiding and abetting a terrorist organization is illegal in Israel, and even the act of publicly supporting a terrorist or acting in a way which encourages terrorists is also illegal. But not only did guru Negbi demonstrate his lack of knowledge, which can be tolerated (no one is perfect), or worse, his bias, but the IBA did not find it justified to provide the public with an opinion different from that offered by Negbi. It did not let the public know about Shurat Hadin’s actions. Was an editor hiding the facts of the case from the public? This incident is not an isolated one. Consider the latest OECD report. Our media feeds us stories regularly about how bad life is in Israel, how poorly we fare as compared to other OECD countries. It loves to accentuate the large disparity in Israel between rich and poor. Only the United States, Turkey and Chile are worse off. Israel’s poverty rate is the worst in the OECD. One might then think that we are a really miserable country.

But let us consider the following OECD statistics, which for some reason are kept mostly hidden from Israel’s populace. The gross salary of teachers in Israel is the third highest in the OECD, surpassed only by Poland and Estonia. Public spending on education is the third highest. Private spending on education is second highest.

Israel’s fertility rate (3.05) is the highest in the OECD. Israel is at ninth place with life expectancy at birth, with a median of 81.8.

Net pension wealth puts Israel at fifth place. Our government’s debt is smack in the middle of OECD countries. Israel leads the OECD with gross domestic spending on research and development (4.2% of GDP). The long-term unemployment rate in Israel is fifth lowest with only Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Mexico and Korea doing better. Is it then surprising that Israel is in fifth place in life satisfaction with only Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Denmark doing better?

As a third example, let us consider the recent revelations of MK Michael Oren (Kulanu), our former ambassador to the United States. In his June 16 article in The Wall Street Journal he had this to say: “Nobody has a monopoly on making mistakes. When I was Israel’s ambassador to the United States from 2009 to the end of 2013, that was my standard response to reporters asking who bore the greatest responsibility – President Barack Obama or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – for the crisis in US-Israel relations. I never felt like I was lying when I said it. But, in truth, while neither leader monopolized mistakes, only one leader made them deliberately.”

Oren was roundly attacked by almost everyone in the Israeli media, as well as by his political adversaries. Barak Ravid of Haaretz, echoing US administration spokespersons, wrote that Oren’s only aim was to sell his book. Mati Golan wrote in Globes that “I presume that Oren’s goal was to garner popularity from the right, where he belongs.”

Of course, Oren is an outspoken supporter of the “two state solution” and claims that Israel’s construction in Judean and Samaria is harmful, but who cares about facts? Golan continues: “For this purpose, Oren is willing to sacrifice the relations between two countries and heads of state. I call this charlatanism.”

TV Channel 10 reported that “White House sources claimed that when he was ambassador, he said just the opposite… he was almost never present in the meetings.”

Yet it was only a few months ago, when Prime Minister Netanyahu insisted on appearing before the US Congress on the Iran issue, that our media was roundly attacking our present ambassador, Ron Dermer, for creating the worst atmosphere ever between Israel and the United States.

There are only two options: either the media is naïve or no matter what happens, will attack any ambassador who was appointed by the prime minister.

The truth is that our media does little investigative reporting regarding the performance of our ambassadors overseas and too many take the lead of American sources (remember the “chickensh*t” episode?).

The end result is that Israel’s media consumers are all too often kept in the dark.

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June 18, 2015

Those Betarim and Their ‘Fascist’ Uniforms

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:01 pm by yisraelmedad

Didn’t Betar have fascist-looking uniforms in-between the wars in Europe?

shmutz - עותק

Ooops.

Sorry.

Those were members of HaShomer HaTzair in Hrubieshow:

shmutz

Here are the Betarim:

zionists

begin-betar-bielsk podalski

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MEDIA COMMENT: Trigger-happy media

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:01 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Trigger-happy media
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 06/17/2015
With big stories, the honest journalist must make some hard decisions.
It was less than two months ago that the whole country was ablaze due to a video of a policeman beating Ethiopian-Israeli soldier Damas Pakada. Members of the Ethiopian community went on a rampage, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited the victim to his office in attempt to reduce the tensions. The media was full of accusations against the police, the government and Israeli society in general for our racist handling of the Ethiopian community.

People such as Kol Yisrael’s Keren Neubach made it a point to show how our society does not know much about the former Ethiopian community, or perhaps does not want to treat its members fairly. Pakada was hailed as the model of innocent youth, serving in the IDF only to be mishandled by a police officer because of his skin color.

The story did not end there. The police were under pressure, and the policeman in question was summarily dismissed. The justice mill turns slowly, but it does turn. This week, the attorney general decided that the policeman would not be prosecuted. The story, it seems, is much more complex, and perhaps even damning.

Pakada, if we are to believe Weinstein, was not an innocent babe in the wood.

The policeman instructed him not to enter a cordoned-off area due to a suspicious object, but Pakada did not heed the warnings.


He attempted to enter and was forcibly stopped by the police. Pakada, Weinstein accepted, then simply punched the police officer, and even picked up a stone and threatened to hurl it at the officer, who then, instead of reacting coolly, hit him back. This last act was broadcast nationally.

The press at the time did not even attempt to hear the police officer’s side of the story. It just did not exist; it was clear he was a racist.

The footage shown was clearly edited, yet the press swallowed the story for it sold well, made good headlines and increased ratings. Who cares if a police officer had to pay with his livelihood? Yet even after these revelations, our media should be asking some questions.

For example, how could it be that the officer in question was so quickly sacked? Who fired him? Were they using him as a scapegoat? Prime Minister Netanyahu and the media should be asking his aides how it came to pass that the prime minister was unwittingly aiding someone who according to the attorney general is a violent law-breaker. The attorney general should be asked why he isn’t prosecuting Pakada for striking an on-duty police officer.

The press should be demanding that the officer be reinstated. But no, the story is over. The media had its party and that is all that counts.

This story is not unique. It repeated itself just this week. MK Oren Hazan (Likud) was the latest victim. Based on material which, at least at this point, would not be acceptable in any court, MK Hazan was accused by Amit Segal of Channel 2 TV of procuring prostitutes and drugs for himself and his friends during the time he managed a casino in Bulgaria. Rather strong accusations against a newly elected MK. Yediot Aharonot even went so far as to quote a girl from Hazan’s school years as saying that he was a “bad guy.”

Segal introduced testimony from a number of people, most of whom had their voices changed so as not to reveal their identity. If these stories are true, these people should be talking with the Israeli and Bulgarian police, but that will probably never happen. The Channel 2 report showed pictures of Hazan with young girls, perhaps not something that your average citizen would support but certainly not illegal in itself. One photograph, presented as if it were snapped at the casino, was in fact an old one, taken years ago.

On Monday evening, the ante was upped when Channel 10 reported that three women were accusing Hazan of sexual molestation. The women did not go to the police and again, the use of anonymous accusations of sexual or any other molestation is itself an ethical impropriety.

We do not know the facts nor have any empathy for Hazan. According to our sages, someone who is involved in running a casino (Hazan did not deny this) would not be acceptable as a witness in a court of law. Hazan’s presence in the Knesset does not do great honor to this august body. But the issue is the ease with which the media can accuse a person of serious criminal behavior, when such charges would not stick in any court of law. How can Hazan answer his anonymous accusers? The reports of channels 2 and 10 are not much better than those of the NGO Breaking the Silence, which smears Israel all over the world using anonymous and unverifiable testimony against the IDF.

Most of us would claim that Breaking the Silence is a reprehensible organization – but was Segal’s report so very different? After all the brouhaha, it was reported yesterday that the attorney general is reopening an investigation into Hazan’s alleged assault against officials of the Ariel municipality! The most worrisome part of this story is that it could lead to tragedy. Segal must be aware of the suicide of Ariel Ronis, a senior manager in the Interior Ministry accused by name on Facebook for racist treatment of a person of Ethiopian descent. In the aftermath of the violent demonstrations, Ronis was immediately judged in the court of public opinion. He had no way to defend himself. Our media did not ask the accusers tough questions, Ronis could not take the pressure and committed suicide.

Some legislators claimed afterward that something must be done to prevent such tragedies, but it was all lip service and the Hazan story is the proof.

There is a real dilemma. Many times, stories such as Segal’s revelations regarding MK Hazan have eventually brought crooks to justice. Indeed, we have a former president who is currently sitting in jail. We also have a prime minister who was brought to justice due to among other things the professional efforts of journalist Yoav Yitzchak on his News 1 website. In these cases, the stories were true, in the sense that they brought about a trial and a conviction.

The honest journalist must make some hard decisions. On the one hand, she or he has a great scoop on their hands, and if they don’t publicize it, someone else probably will. On the other hand, there is the nagging worry that the journalist is being used, that the testimony is not truthful, that the people giving evidence have an ax to grind, etc.

We would like to believe that our professional journalists know when to publish and when not to. But judging these three events, it seems our media is a wee bit trigger-happy.

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June 11, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: The media, politics and the media, again

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:06 pm by yisraelmedad

MEDIA COMMENT: The media, politics and the media, again

by YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 06/10/2015

On May 31, a journalist employed by a public broadcasting network revealed that he had received a covert call offering him a role as a spin doctor for the head of the Labour Party.

On May 31, a journalist employed by a public broadcasting network revealed that he had received a covert call offering him a role as a spin doctor for the head of the Labour Party in preparation for the upcoming election campaign.

He was told that “the party knows it has a problem and is determined to fix it.” The leader was suffering “presentational difficulties”and he “needs advice, and it has to come from someone with sufficient stature to ensure he’ll listen to it.” The journalist replied first by politely expressing thanks for being considered, and then by saying he “remained committed to journalism” and did not desire to enter the political arena.

All who saw the second part of Anat Goren’s documentary on Isaac Herzog (which we commented on in our May 28 column) noticed the presence of Sefi Rechlevsky, Haaretz op-ed columnist, intimately engaged in the activities of Herzog’s inner sanctum. But Rechlevsky wasn’t the journalist referred to above, and neither was any other Israeli journalist.

The people involved in the above telephone conversation were BBC commentator Nick Robinson and the former, but now resigned, chairman of the British Labour Party, Ed Miliband. The two are Jewish, as are Rechlevsky and Herzog, but the similarity ends there.

To be fair to Rechlevsky, political involvement is a problem endemic to journalism. The media, without a critical public and with at best impotent supervisory bodies, can at times be no better than the unethical subjects they cover. Nevertheless, it appears that a different set of ethical standards was at work in England, but not only there.

In a column last month titled “Stop Hiring Political Operatives as ‘Journalists,’” Hamilton Nolan reviewed the controversy of, in his words, American “political pseudo-journalist” ABC news anchor George Stephanopoulos.

The latter was discovered to have made undisclosed contributions to the Clinton Foundation while employed by ABC. Nolan eviscerated the network’s managers for ignoring that Stephanopoulos, who had “forfeited all trust as a newsman,” had not only worked as communications director for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign and as an adviser to the Clinton White House but also recently interviewed Peter Schweizer, author of an anti-Clinton book on the family’s financial dealings, without disclosing his links. For Nolan, “the scandal is that George Stephanopoulos was ever hired as a ‘journalist’ in the first place.”

A JOURNALIST need not be a past political operative or a former employee of a politician to endanger democracy or hurt the public’s right to know. Bob Schieffer, speaking on Fox News Channel’s Media Buzz, conceded that the awe-struck press had given Barack Obama an easy ride in his 2008 presidential campaign, stating: “I think the whole political world was struck by this fella…maybe we were not skeptical enough.”

There are other dangers. In the Herzog documentary there is a scene in which consultant Tammy Henchman is on the telephone with someone, to whom she says, “We’re putting out a release, and you’ll give it headline treatment.” She then tells a staffer to put out the release to “Miranda,” noting that “Miranda” would publish the statement prior to its being uttered by Herzog.

It turns out that “Miranda” is Amnon Miranda, deputy to the chief editor of the Ynet news website, a subsidiary of Yediot Aharonot. Did the company’s antipathy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pave the way for Miranda to use the unethical road of publishing news that hadn’t quite happened yet? Another example of unethical and unprofessional journalism occurred on Kol Israel’s Reshet Bet radio last week on the 15th anniversary of the IDF’s retreat from Lebanon. As both Besheva’s Amiel Ungar and Makor Rishon’s Haggai Segal commented in their columns, in two hours of air time not one guest who thought that the move was a wrong decision was given the courtesy of the public microphone.

Segal added that he had texted the program’s editor complaining about the one-sidedness of the program, hosted by two journalists who openly took credit in the past for supporting the pro-withdrawal campaign. The two were Shelly Yacimovich, now a Labor MK, and Carmela Menasheh, Kol Israel’s military affairs correspondent.

The reply Segal received was: “Do you really want that we should return there, Haggai?” That question revealed the incompetence of the editor, who did not understand that Segal’s demand was for pluralism and balance, and nothing more.

There are also media-industry links which are disturbing.

On June 2, the V15 group tweeted to Nadav Perry, who had resigned from his position as political correspondent for Channel 10 News after 17 years working in the media to act as a publicist for tycoon Yitzhak Teshuvah, the following message: “Success! Thanks for the devoted work!” The media elite were upset with Perry’s crossing the lines, but the real gem was the crossing of swords between Perry and MK Micky Rosenthal. Rosenthal, who worked in the past with Perry as an investigative program producer, tweeted that Perry’s new monthly salary was to be NIS 160,000 and expressed outrage that Perry had “sold out.”

Rosenthal had to quickly backtrack and admit that he was mistaken: Perry would be earning “only” NIS 60,000 per month. Perry then tweeted, “It is scary to think that this is your level of professionalism and fact-checking with your past investigative work.”

Our last example is Ilana Dayan’s TV Channel 2 interview with US President Barack Obama. Dror Eydar asked the pertinent questions in Israel Hayom: “Did Dayan present the interest of the public, or those of an imaginary journalism community? …The interview amply demonstrated Dayan’s identification with Obama’s views. She didn’t challenge him ideologically and sidestepped potholes of controversy….”

Ruthie Blum was more acerbic there, writing, “A tough investigative journalist like Dayan could have made better use of the microphone. But for this, she would have had to avoid slipping into idolatry mode and keep herself from fawning like a high-school girl in the presence of a movie star whose poster hangs over her bed.”

Media consumers have the right to know if the news they pay for is corrupted, biased, the result of sloppy journalism or delivered in the service of a person or political outlook. Sefi Rechlevsky’s sojourn in the close company of Labor’s Herzog – and it makes no difference that he claims he was there merely as a guest of political adviser Reuven Adler, the excuse he fed his Haaretz employers – should not have been allowed to happen. Journalists must be open to oversight no less than the subjects they cover.

Time and again, we witness the media’s double standard.

They demand journalistic freedom in the name of the public’s right to know yet they refuse to apply the same principles to their own work. All too often some engage in devious behavior, at times bordering on the criminal. Their colleagues do not call them to task. Ethics are not only for the journalist. They exist, equally so, to protect the media consumer.

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June 4, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: The FIFA aftermath

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:16 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: The FIFA aftermath

By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 06/03/2015

 

The Israeli media had a ball in the days leading up to the finale.

 
Jibril Rajoub is the head of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) as well as the Palestine Olympic committee. As head of the PFA, he tabled a motion at the Federation of International Football Association’s (FIFA) general assembly to have Israel suspended from the association. As we all know by now, last Friday Rajoub essentially lost and due to behindthe- scenes maneuvering had to retract his motion. Israel continues as a full member of FIFA.

The Israeli media had a ball in the days leading up to the finale.

Ousting Israel from FIFA was portrayed as a very serious challenge to Israel and if successful, a harbinger of future boycotts. The motion was portrayed as a result of the Palestinians losing hope for any “progress” with the new Likud government.

The nuance was that the “occupation” and lack of willingness of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “negotiate” with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was the real reason underlying Rajoub’s actions.
Who is Jibril Rajoub? A simple Internet search will quickly reveal that he is a convicted terrorist. In 1970, he was sentenced by Israel to life in prison for throwing a grenade at an Israeli army truck. On May 21, 1985, Israel released 1,150 prisoners as part of an agreement with Ahmed Jibril and his terrorist organization the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, for the return of three captured Israeli soldiers.

One of the released terrorists was Rajoub.  Shortly thereafter, he was re-arrested for a period of seven months.

He was imprisoned for another seven months in September of 1986, for militant activity. This did not end his struggle against Israel.  He was again arrested in December 1987 in the wake of the first intifada and deported to Lebanon in January 1988.

Rajoub used his time in Israeli prison to learn Hebrew and study Israeli history. His political astuteness should not be underestimated.  He is considered by Israel’s Left as one of those Palestinians with whom it is possible to “make peace.”

As reported by Lily Galili in Haaretz, on September 14, 2004, Rajoub, in a joint interview with Dr. Yossi Beilin, stated that “the Palestinians recognize Israel’s existence as a Jewish state within the 1967 borders, and do not aspire to change its demographic balance drastically.” This was part of a media campaign by the “Geneva Initiative” headed by Beilin, aimed at convincing the Israeli public that there are genuine partners for peace within the Palestinian leadership.

None of this background was to be heard or seen on our radio and TV sets. The central issue that was discussed was whether the Israeli delegation would manage to be convincing enough to prevent the vote from passing. That is not to say that all Israelis were blind to Rajoub’s background or his current support for terrorist activity. Shurat Hadin (The Israel Law Center), headed by attorney Nitsana Darshan- Leitner, demanded that FIFA expel Rajoub on the grounds that he was inciting terrorism. In a letter sent to Joseph Blatter, FIFA’s former president, Darshan-Leitner noted that Rajoub has glorified attacks by Fatah and the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades against Israel.

She quoted Rajoub saying to Lebanon’s Al Mayadeen television station that Israel is “our enemy and our battle is against them.” Furthermore, Rajoub, who is also deputy secretary of the Fatah Central Committee, stated that the resistance should be fought by all means and using all weapons, as for example in that same May 2013 interview when he declared: “I swear that if we had a nuke, we’d have used it this very morning.” Rajoub has also praised Hamas for firing 4,000 rockets at Israel this past summer.

Darshan-Leitner noted that all this is an open breach of FIFA’s standards of conduct and demanded that Rajoub be expelled from FIFA.

This was not the only attempt.

The Mattot Arim organization, under the leadership of Susie Dym, documented many of the racist and terrorist statements emanating from Rajoub. He openly called for the “slaughtering of settlers” on the Awdah TV channel on August 13, 2014, as documented by Palestinian Media Watch. A fencing match named after arch-terrorist Abu Jihad took place under the auspices of Rajoub. He was caught live in May 2012 by PalWatch stating that “Jews are the incarnation of the devil, Zionist sons of whores.”

Mattot Arim also called for the dismissal of Rajoub from FIFA.

Yet none of this came to the forefront of our mainstream broadcast media (whether Israel’s official representatives presented any of this damaging material to FIFA is another matter), neither via television nor the Reshet Bet and Galatz radio stations. Yediot Aharonot dedicated its first two pages to the drama – but not a word about Rajoub’s history. Why was this information withheld? In fact the radio stations made it a point on Sunday morning to interview Rajoub, giving him full freedom to continue his diatribe against us. For example, on Reshet Bet, he stated that the present Israeli government is racist. His interviewer, Gal Berger, did not even utter a murmur of protest.

Our media, however, did make it a point to remind us all that FIFA is only an opening shot and that we should expect more to come. This theme appeared on the TV screens and on radio. Chico Menashe, the political commentator of Kol Yisrael, excelled in his dire warnings.

This same kind of biased reporting and hiding of facts characterizes the coverage of Israel’s decision regarding the natural gas companies.

Professor David Gilo, Israel’s antitrust commissioner, resigned after his recommendations for regulating the gas companies were not accepted by the government. Gilo insisted on creating open competition between the gas companies.

The government decided that this would lead to a further delay in the production of gas, would create losses for the economy and would violate the agreements signed with the gas companies prior to exploration.

Here, too, sufficient background was not provided. We need remember that the Netanyahu government and then-finance minister Yuval Steinitz already broke the agreements with the gas companies, levying higher taxes than were agreed upon. The initial contracts were not signed by the Netanyahu government nor was it responsible for them. The whole idea that previous agreements can be renegotiated is rather problematic. Yet Arieh Golan on his morning radio program only interviewed MK Miki Rosenthal (Labor) who, of course, was against the government.

It is high time that our media stop being political and instead provide the public with information and allow us to make our own political decisions. Defending the “good name” of Rajoub only because he is associated to some minor extent with the Geneva Initiative is unprofessional journalism.

Criticizing the government just for the sake of criticism, or worse, to support a political or economic outlook, is unethical. We deserve better.