July 29, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: The unethical media that disengaged itself

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:41 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: The unethical media that disengaged itself
The expulsion of over 8,000 Jews from the Gaza district, and the destruction of all they had achieved and accomplished, took place 10 years ago. In February 2005, Channel 2’s left-wing ideologue Amnon Abramowitz called upon his colleagues to safeguard then prime minister Ariel Sharon.

He used the etrog, which is wrapped to protect it from damage but discarded after Succot, as an example for how Sharon should be treated.

The media blindly followed their “Rebbe Abramowitz” and outdid itself in serving the government.

As Caroline Glick characterized it in her Friday column, the media was in “lockstep” with the government. It was uncritical, mobilized and unprofessional. We would add that it was doubly unethical.

The media at all levels identified with and supported the government’s decision to remove all traces of Jewish life from the three areas of renewed Jewish residency in the Gaza district – Gush Katif, the center and the northern areas as well as four northern Samaria communities. Secondly, most of the media promoted the government line which portrayed the opposition to its plan in a carefully-crafted negative and untruthful fashion.

Were all involved in reporting the process of disengagement kowtowing to the government? No. But those who weren’t faced either peer pressure or government heavy-handedness. At a conference organized by the left-wing Israel Democracy Institute on July 13, three instances of such interference were revealed. Avi Benayahu, then head of the Galatz Army radio station, related that he was ordered by Dan Halutz, the IDF commander-in-chief, to fire Amit Segal, now a Channel 2 TV star. Asked for a reason, Halutz replied, “Every morning he needles me.”

Mordecai Shaklar admitted that his appointment as director of the Israel Broadcasting Authority was canceled after he publicly criticized the media for being more interested in how the settlers would react rather than whether the disengagement was good or bad.

Panelist MK Yinon Magal, then a Channel 10 reporter, posted on his Facebook page that the station’s director sought to keep him off the air as he had expressed sympathy for the Jewish Gaza residents in his broadcasts. He was the only reporter on the roof of the Kfar Darom synagogue yet he was informed that he would be cut off as according to the IDF spokesperson (now Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev) it was prohibited to broadcast from that location.

Channel 2 television’s military correspondent, Roni Daniel, who was unopposed to the disengagement, was quite forthright in a July 17 Makor Rishon interview, describing the media’s overwhelmingly left-wing slant as a “junta of thought police.”

These few observations, it could be claimed, are not necessarily representative.

But the PhD thesis of Anat Roth is.

Roth, is a former field observer for Peace Now who has worked for Labor politicians Ehud Barak, Amram Mitzna and Matan Vilnai and who became a researcher with the Israel Democracy Institute, originally supported the disengagement. The book, Lo Bechol Machir (“Not at any price”), is over 600 pages long and copiously annotated.

It demonstrates that the media ignored collection of behind-the-scenes information, portrayed unfolding events in a demonic manner and worse, too often did so with no factual basis. Roth, now a recent Knesset candidate on the Bayit Yehudi Party list, highlights all this with a multitude of examples quoted directly from the press.

At the Kfar Maimon showdown, on the eve of the disengagement’s final stage, Haaretz was reporting there would surely be a violent confrontation. Ma’ariv’s Ben Caspit termed it “a clash of civilizations.” Others described the protesters in Kfar Darom as using language from the Second Temple period. Moshe Gorali, also with Ma’ariv, called the Gaza residents “the direct continuation of the Jewish zealots… ready, in the name of their faith, to destroy the Jewish commonwealth and bring it down on top of all our heads.”

To the IDI’s Uzi Benziman, then at Haaretz, they were “armed militias [who] pose a challenge to the government’s capability to exercise its authority.”

Dror Eydar, writing in Israel Hayom last Friday, pointed to the early stages leading to the expulsion, describing the media’s behavior as “shameless.”

He notes that in early May 2004 Sharon, buoyed by media polls that predicted a victory for his plan, decided to put the issue up for a referendum among the Likud members, promising that he would abide by the result.

The polls were wrong; Sharon received a resounding “no.” On the day of the vote, Yediot Aharonot, in an op-ed composed by columnist Sever Plocker, tried to sway Likud members to vote in favor of the disengagement.

The next day, Sima Kadmon, in true communist fashion, had it that the Likud was “against the people.” The paper’s Nechama Dueck noted that “the Likud Party has disengaged from Sharon… the rightist, extremist, religious Likud.”

Last week, Emily Amrousi also recounted her experiences as Yesha Council spokeswoman at the time. After a 250,000-strong rally in front of the Knesset demanding a referendum, all the Army Radio interviewer was interested in was a sign that one protester had waved comparing Sharon to Pharaoh.

“The interviewer wouldn’t move past the silly sign,” she fumed. “Not a single listener knew what a quarter-million people had been demanding.”

Amrousi, like Eydar, notes that the dominant media discourse ignored serious discussion of the security implications of the disengagement. “No one asked why,” she said. “Not one of the smart journalists, the thousands of people who work in the field. No one.”

One of her anecdotes is especially illuminating.

In a closed cabinet meeting, then-Israel Police commissioner Insp. Gen. Moshe Karadi asked for additional manpower and justified the request by noting that perhaps some rabbi might rule that his students could shoot at a Druse soldier during the evacuation. The next day, a page two headline in Ma’ariv read, “New halachic ruling: Druse may be shot during evacuation.”

Despite the Yesha Council’s press release that an investigation had revealed that there was no such halachic ruling, the response was not broadcast. “All the TV and radio current events programs dwelt on that made-up nonsense,” she said.

A press conference convened to announce that “Yesha leaders and protest groups say ‘no’ to violence” was a failure. A sticker had been supposedly distributed in the settlements reading: “Sharon, Lily [his late wife] is waiting for you.” Amrousi informed us that the sticker was not “distributed in the settlements” but handed to three TV reporters.

Only months later was there an indictment against the person responsible for printing it – a police officer whose job it was to locate extremists.

This past fortnight we have monitored the media and noticed an increase of items devoted to the failures of the media a decade ago, which is an improvement. But sadly many of those whose conduct was unprofessional then, such as Abramowitz, Kadmon, Dueck and Plocker, continue to pollute our public discourse. A truly free, professional and ethical Israeli press is still far from reach.



July 22, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: The media’s Temple Mount complex

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:55 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: The media’s Temple Mount complex
Media coverage of the Temple Mount has increased dramatically over the past three years. In the more distant past, only if something extraordinary occurred would there be a media report. For example, if someone in power wished to divert attention from a problem and leaked a hint about an attempt to blow up the Dome of the Rock, the media would splash it across front pages or at the top of the evening news.

As we have shown multiple times in our columns, the battles over the site are portrayed almost exclusively in a frame which, on the one hand, highlights extremism, political recklessness, religious fanaticism and imminent danger and violence – almost all the fault of Jews – while on the other hand those very same themes, when Muslims are involved, are downplayed or ignored. Even worse, often times their responsibility, it is suggested, falls on Jewish shoulders that, it is claimed, shouldn’t have been in the esplanade in the first place.

When the paschal sacrifice exercises are conducted in some faraway Jerusalem neighborhood, with the priests dressed in white and a goat prepared for the slaughter, many media outlets cover the event, but with a smirk.

The accompanying protests of animal rights activists are awarded almost equal air time. In contrast, the Samaritans, with their same sacrificial activity on Mount Gerizim (in the “occupied territories” no less), including the slaughtering and roasting of not one but half a dozen lambs, are a tourist attraction of the first degree. The media’s orientation is positive; the animal rights activists for some reason are not there.

One major recent exception to this frame resulted from the attempted assassination of Rabbi Yehuda Glick. That story, due both to Glick’s personality and links to the political establishment, was unavoidable. He almost died for the cause.

It was thus a welcome development when Channel 10 news programs, on two separate occasions, devoted many minutes of air time to concerns that usually are not allowed to appear on the screen. The first was aired on Friday night, July 10. Entitled “Cultural Intifada,” it was hosted by senior security affairs correspondent Alon Ben-David and focused on the destruction of archaeological artifacts and historical remains of the Jewish presence on the Temple Mount.

The program reviewed almost 20 years of systematic efforts by the Wakf Muslim religious trust authorities to erase and hide anything which preceded the arrival of Islamic invaders and their subsequent 12 centuries of occupation and foreign rule. The program mostly avoided the regular hot political potatoes and asked a simple twopart question: who is ineffectually supervising the holy site and is there truly a policy status quo in place? A professor of archaeology was interviewed, rather than a shlumpy, wild-eyed and ear-lock-crowned youngster.

The correspondent walked about the compound, talked to Muslims and presented a fair reflection of the reality.

Problematic issues were shown and not just referred to.

The shouting of the paid female agents of the Islamic Movement and Wakf were clearly heard and their menacing behavior shown.

The second broadcast, a 20-minute prime-time segment, “Incitement in the Mosques,” was shown on Wednesday, July 15. It followed Zvi Yehezkeli, the network’s highly regarded Arab affairs reporter, as he visited 15 different mosques around the country during this past Ramadan.

He found increasing levels of incitement, against the state of Israel and in particular against Jews, which reached a literal crescendo in the sermons within the Temple Mount compound.

Of course, all this is not new. The various Jewish Temple Mount groups have been publishing pictures of posters, banners, assemblies, rallies and more on social media sites and in the sectoral press but the mainstream media virtually ignored the issue, or worse, attacked the messengers.

Yehezkeli’s report was criticized by Anat Saragusti in the now-independent left-wing-oriented Seventh Eye media criticism website. Saragusti is, nominally, a “journalist.”

She was also a member of the Israeli Black Panthers movement, a photographer and reporter for Uri Avneri’s Ha’olam Hazeh weekly and director of B’Tselem USA. In a word, a neutral and unbiased professional.

Saragusti saw the documentary as a “campaign” with dramatic “teasers” and promo trailers. Her central point, which is well-taken and even Yehezkeli admitted, is that only 15 mosques were presented, and not even all of these were shown to be inciting – although the incitement that was heard was murderous and quite criminal. One might take Saragusti more seriously, though, if she had published a similar piece, say, in relation to the way the media covers “price tag” incidents as being representative of the entire “settler camp,” or the way the media relates to Jewish Temple Mount activists and their activities.

To be fair, we did a Google search. As expected, it turned up nothing in this regard. However, we did locate an op-ed of Saragusti’s from January 12, 2015 on the Saloona website, which criticized death threats made on Facebook against Haaretz journalists. We can recommend to Saragusti several other Facebook accounts, all run by Muslims, as well as a small number of left-wing extremists, which have been threatening to murder Jews for their Temple Mount activity. One of those threatened is a journalist: Arnon Segal of Makor Rishon. Fairness and objectivity should be ingrained in professional journalists – as opposed to professional ideologues masquerading as journalists.

Temple Mount reportage is the antithesis of professional media coverage, which is replaced by a media defense of a status quo policy with respect to the Jews.

As we have noted in our previous articles on the subject, the status quo works only in one direction. It is discriminatory against Jews. Weekly pro-Hamas and pro-Islamic State assemblies, with flags and banners, are held on the Mount.

Terrorists are praised. A fourth, underground mosque was fashioned under the Mughrabi Gate. Last November, following Glick’s shooting, there was an item by Channel 2’s Ohad Hammo interviewing those Muslim ladies who said “[the Jews] have no Temple according to us.” But regular and ongoing coverage is lacking.

Sunday will be marked as the solemn fast of Tisha Be’av, commemorating the destruction of two temples. The media need not adopt an architect’s plan for its rebuilding or champion a new status quo. On the other hand, it should not lend a hand to those who seek to further keep from our consciousness the ongoing destruction, physical and legal, that exists there.

The ever-increasing number of days the site is closed to non-Muslims is another change in the status quo. Why does the media accept that Arabs/Muslims are permitted constantly to create a new “status quo”?


July 8, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: The media’s role in Bracha’s suicide

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:10 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: The media’s role in Bracha’s suicide
Is the Justice Ministry trying to cover up for someone?
Fifteen years ago, Israel’s Media Watch honored journalist Yoav Yitzchak with the Israeli Prize for Media Criticism. Yitzchak is one of Israel’s most responsible and successful investigative journalists.

Yitzchak was the journalist who revealed that president Ezer Weizmann, while he was a member of Knesset and minister in the Israeli government, received large sums of money from businessman Edward Sarussy and did not report them. After an investigation by the attorney general, Weizmann resigned.

Perhaps his most successful investigative effort concerned former prime minister Ehud Olmert.

Yitzchak was the first to expose, in July 2008, that Olmert had received a bribe from the developers of the Holyland project in Jerusalem. His first exposes regarding Olmert came in 2005. In their wake he had to leave his job as a reporter for the daily newspaper Ma’ariv, and the Israeli government stopped advertising on his online news site, “News 1.” The end of the story is known: Olmert was found guilty and it is only the Supreme Court, which is delaying its decision on Olmert’s appeal, which is keeping him out of jail.

Yitzchak is also the journalist who accused the late deputy police commissioner and chief detective Ephraim Bracha of criminal conduct. Yitzchak’s headlines and news columns on his News 1 website regarding Bracha were harsh.

For example, on May 30, Yitzchak’s headline screamed: “Bracha aided in obstructing a criminal process against Galili while both Bracha and Galili were represented by Fisher.”

The subtitle let us know that “a complaint to the police against Menachem Galili and sons accusing him of attempting to blackmail the mayor of Ashdod was denied under the guise of lack of guilt. The lawyer of the complainants demanded to receive the investigative materials in order to appeal. Bracha became involved, even though this was not his formal duty, and prevented the handing out of the records of the investigation. Galili’s lawyer was Fisher. Bracha was also represented by Fisher. An accident? Oh no, conflict of interest, corruption and bribes.”

Fisher in this case is Ronel Fisher, who has been formally prosecuted on 12 counts and is in detention until the end of the judicial process against him. Another lawyer who was representing Bracha is Ruth David, the former head prosecutor of the Tel Aviv district and later Fisher’s partner in his law firm.

David herself is now under investigation for criminal activity while serving as a justice department prosecutor. Bracha, whose job it was to investigate criminals, had a knack for consorting with shady people.

For many years, his rabbi was Yoshiyahu Pinto, sentenced to jail for bribery. Pinto tried to bribe Bracha in 2012 and nine days later, the latter exposed him to the police.

On July 3, Yitzchak’s headline was “Bracha is a danger to the public.”

The subtitle was: “Attorney-general Yehuda Weinstein, who has defended Bracha for a long time, will have to decide in a few days whether to open a criminal investigation against Bracha for obstruction of justice, bribery and fraud and remove him as head of the police fraud squad. If found guilty, Bracha might be sent to prison for many years. The big drama is still ahead of us – the results of the quiet investigation which was opened as a result of the exposés of News 1 will shock the public.”

On July 5, Ephraim Bracha committed suicide.

The shock was indeed large, and the recriminations started flying.

Everyone in the police was full of praise for Bracha, his modesty and honesty. Perhaps naturally, Yoav Yitzchak was accused, either directly or indirectly, of responsibility for Bracha’s death. Gidi Weitz wrote in Haaretz: “The News 1 website held a wild, violent and uninhibited crusade against Bracha.”

The Justice Ministry also joined the chorus by releasing a special communique noting that there was no decision to open up a criminal investigation against Bracha. Specifically, the ministry wrote: “In continuation to the claims of Yoav Yitzchak as though there had been a decision to open a criminal investigation against Officer Bracha, we would like to make it crystal clear that this is an obscene lie, a continuation of Yitzchak’s false reports on this topic.” Yitzchak himself noted, and we were very careful in translating his article, that he never claimed that a decision had been made. He only claimed that a decision would be made soon.

Oded Ben-Ami, in his Channel 2 evening news round-up on Sunday, interviewed Yitzchak. Channel 2’s police correspondent Moshe Nussbaum questioned Yitzchak about Yitzchak’s alleged report that a decision had been made to investigate Bracha. Yitzchak interrupted Nussbaum and did not let him finish his question, noting that he would not allow lies to be further spread about him. Ben-Ami wanted Nussbaum to continue, but Yitzchak, publicly calling Nussbaum a liar, refused, and Ben-Ami took Yitzchak off the air.

In an interview we conducted with Yitzchak on Tuesday, he reiterated his accusation that Nussbaum was a liar. The Channel 2 TV correspondent, he said, had posed a question to the Justice Ministry based on the false premise that Yitzchak had claimed the ministry had decided to investigate Bracha. The ministry, without requesting proof from Nussbaum, then responded as quoted above.

Yitzchak demanded a retraction from the ministry, which has yet to materialize.

The campaign against Yitzchak is fierce and dirty. Mati Golan in a Globes article claimed that the News1 website “was always for Pinto and against Bracha.” The subtitle of Golan’s article was: “There is no escaping the impression that in this case you did not do your work, but that of Pinto.” Unfortunately for Golan, the facts are not on his side. For example, on May 5, the headline in the News 1 website was: “Pinto tried to conquer the judicial system,” with the subtitle: “He used his influence on Bracha, a religious man; bribes were part of a series of actions aimed to obstruct the investigations and the judicial process.”

What Golan kept from the public was that he had been sued in the past by Yitzchak, and forced by the court to apologize publicly to him. Golan, Yitzchak claims, is simply trying to get even with him now.

In the aftermath of Bracha’s suicide, Yitzchak expressed his dismay and sorrow. However, he did not retract any articles nor was he apologetic regarding his journalism. He claimed that he was only carrying out his duty as an investigative journalist.

Yitzchak is not only upset by the personal vendetta against him, but more so by the fact that the investigation against Bracha has stopped and that Bracha is being now touted as a role model by the Israel Police.

We would have expected that the media, which demands freedom of the press, would defend Yitzchak for having done his job, and would call upon the police and the Justice Ministry to pursue the investigation. If Yitzchak’s allegations are true, then there are other people involved. Is the Justice Ministry trying to cover up for someone?

July 2, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: Israel Broadcasting Corporation?

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:15 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Israel Broadcasting Corporation?

This past Monday, the Knesset’s Economic Affairs Committee passed a government- proposed amendment to defer the implementation of the new Public Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) law.

This past Monday, the Knesset’s Economic Affairs Committee passed a government- proposed amendment to defer the implementation of the new Public Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) law. The law, adopted just last year, stipulated that by June 30 the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) would be dissolved and the new PBC would immediately begin operating. The necessary bureaucratic steps needed to implement the June 30 deadline were already in place, including the recommendations of the newly formed nominations committee, headed by judge (ret.) Ezra Kama, for the people who would lead the PBC.

But, as happens so many times, especially in a democracy, in the meantime we had elections.

The previous communications minister, Gilad Erdan, who barreled the law through the Knesset in record time, is now the minister of public security and strategic affairs. The communications minister is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and he appointed Minister-without- portfolio Ofir Akunis to implement communications policy.

The prime minister decided to temporarily freeze the recommendations of the Kama Committee and give himself time before having to take action.

It is this step which led to Monday’s deferment, giving the prime minister 90 days to decide. As might further be expected, the opposition as well as parts of the media roundly criticized the prime minister, accusing him of wanting to control Israel’s media and make it subservient to him. As Nati Tucker published at The Marker website: “The fear is that now, in order to appoint his people, Netanyahu will bring back the previous law where the appointment of the council and the CEO was in the hands of the politicians. Such interference would violate the independence of the broadcasting authority.”

Is this really the case, or are there some fatal flaws in the present PBC law? In the Economic Affairs Committee discussion, Minister Akunis noted repeatedly that even the name “Public Broadcasting Corporation” is problematic. Just as there is a British Broadcasting Corporation, he said, there should an Israel Broadcasting Corporation. This is not mere quibbling about a name. The law as it now stands raises a number of serious questions, which should be considered very carefully.

The IBA costs the Israeli taxpayer close to a billion shekels per year. As the motto goes, “no taxation without representation.” The taxpayer has a right to determine how her or his money will be spent. In democracies this process is well understood.

We go to the polls, elect our government and give it the power to implement policy. It is the government’s responsibility to see to it that our taxes are well spent. If our representatives do a bad job, they are sent home and someone else comes in their stead.

But this is not the case with the PBC law. In seeming deference to pressure from the media, who always demand that the media be separated from politics, Minister Erdan initiated the formation of the nominations committee. The communications minister appoints the head of the committee, who then appoints two further members and decides together with them who would lead the PBC. The minister can either approve their whole slate or nix all of them. He cannot decide that one or the other nominee is not fit for the job. On the face of it, the minister surrenders his power and subverts democracy.

The law fails those who pay for this service, we the taxpayers, and hands over a state institution to yet another clique. Only this time, one which by law is non-Zionist, marginally Israeli and almost void of any Jewish character.

Why did Erdan propose it? Perhaps it was a political scheme. The minister gives the power of nomination to a respected judge. If the judge makes mistakes, the minister can claim it’s not his fault. At the same time, behind the scenes, the minister can continue with the political appointments. It just so happens that the legal adviser of the Communications Ministry, Dana Neufeld, was present during the deliberations of the nominations committee. If one really wanted to disassociate the nomination from politics, why was she present at committee deliberations? After all, she is beholden to the minister who appointed her his legal adviser.

From personal experience, we know that the committee was mainly interested in finding people that fit the legislative framework dictated by Minister Erdan. This framework assures that the PBC is controlled by managers, not by visionaries.

It is at best meant to assure the financial viability of the PBC, but not much more.

The media and Israel’s Left demand separation of the PBC from political intervention, claiming that political control impedes the freedom of speech and obstructs the ability of journalists to do their job as the watchdog of democracy.

This is why they supported Minister Erdan’s nominations committee. We claim that the nominations committee is a travesty of democracy as it empowers the unelected elites to run a public corporation without being responsible to the taxpayer.

Is there a better system? We would claim that there is. Indeed, the 2012 IBA law which preceded Erdan’s PBC law was based on compromise.

It gave the minister the power to appoint half of the directorate. Is this a good compromise? The answers are not obvious, but the question is certainly weighty enough to justify a decision by the prime minister to give himself some time to study the issue carefully.

The flaws of the PBC law do not end with the nominations process. As indicated by Minister Akunis, the actual goals of the PBC are far from being consensus ones. Why does Israel need a PBC? Why should the public have to shell out close to a billion shekels annually for it? There must be some really good arguments justifying spending so much public money on a public broadcaster. The present PBC law presents nothing of the sort. The word “Zionism” does not appear in the PBC law, just as the word “Israeli” is not mentioned in the title of the PBC. One might think that in view of the international onslaught on Israel and Jews all over the world, an important part of the PBC’s mandate would be to broadcast and maintain an important public dialogue with world Jewry.

The 2012 IBA law stated among other things that the roles of the authority were to “present and document the lives and culture of the citizens of Israel and the Jewish people in the Diaspora” and “to broadcast the Israeli experience to the Diaspora.” Yet the PBC law does not mention the Diaspora even once.

The flaws of the PBC law are sufficient to fill the graduate thesis of an advanced media student.

In this column we just touched the tip of an iceberg. We would recommend that the present PBC law be abolished and replaced by its 2012 predecessor which, though far from perfect, would go a long way toward justifying the required public expenditure for its operation.