March 30, 2016

MEDIA COMMENT: B’Tselem’s track record

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:10 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: B’Tselem’s track record
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK
03/30/2016
It would be ridiculous of us to assume we can pass judgment, for this is the responsibility of our judicial process.
No one – neither we, the public nor the politicians – knows what really happened in Hebron last Thursday.

We do not know what the exact circumstances were, what the atmosphere was, what the commanders said and did, and when, why the shooting of the terrorist was carried out and more. Even the mainstream media doesn’t know.

It would be ridiculous of us to assume we can pass judgment, for this is the responsibility of our judicial process.

But we do know one indisputable fact, that the B’Tselem NGO once again succeeded, with the collaboration of the media, to give Israel a black eye. It presented the world with a damning video clip filmed by Emad Abu-Shamsiyah in which one sees the terrorist lying on the ground, seemingly alive and powerless; after the passing of an ambulance, one sees a red spot under his head.

After a flurry of social media attention, Israel’s mainstream media, Pied Piper-like, picked up on the B’Tselem clip’s message: that the soldier was presumably guilty of an extrajudicial murder and the IDF was perhaps covering up a crime. Israel’s army is “immoral” was the implication.

For example, on the IDF’s Galatz radio station, correspondent Tal Levram accused the IDF of preventing medical care to the injured terrorist, as the troops are seen standing around, he recounts, for many minutes, doing nothing and not even caring about a wounded person lying on the ground.

He adds, “The incident is very quiet – no shouts, everything is calm – then one hears the click of a gun…. This is one of the worst incidents that I ever saw, there are no questions about editing, the army spokesperson understands this, no one suspects that something was edited in the video clip….

This is a very serious incident.”

Yet Magen David Adom CEO Eli Bin noted that there was no police sapper or official entity who could confirm that the terrorist had no explosives attached to him. Medics are not allowed to treat a person suspected of having a booby trap on her or him.

THE FOCUS of this column is not on the morality or immorality of killing subdued terrorists, nor on the actual incident, but rather on the media’s handling of a clip emanating from an organization that has a track record of presenting misleading evidence to the public, aimed at portraying Israel at its worst. This is not the first time that we point out how dangerous and false this organization is.

In our May 3, 2012 column published in this paper, we described the questionable reporting of Channel 10 TV’s Orr Heller in January, 2010 when he described Arab youths demonstrating in the vicinity of Neve Tzuf. His story was quite odd. He said the youth were non-violent, yet we see a broken jeep mirror, a burned-down hut and some forcible shoving, not the usual result of passive demonstrations. He reports that Jewish youth appeared on the scene and threw rocks at the Arabs and that the IDF did nothing to stop them. An interview with a lieutenant who “explains” that his job is to arrest not Jews, but only local Arabs, is included the clip. However, it was a B’tselem production trick – the “interview” with the lieutenant was an old clip that had nothing to do with the Neve Tzuf demonstrations.

On September 17, 2008, former minister and then-president of Israel’s Media Watch, Dr. Uzi Landau, basing himself on a report by Tamar Sternthal of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, sent a letter to the head of the Israel Broadcasting Authority detailing a list of flagrant ethics violations, falsifications, fabrications and outright lies by B’Tselem. For example, B’tselem had blamed Israel for killing an 11-year-old Palestinian child who actually had been killed by Hamas and Fatah fire.

This is a pattern. As reported by CAMERA’s Yishai Goldflam and Sternthal, a February 27, 2011 B’Tselem clip purportedly showing the mother of an 11-year-old boy pleading with a policeman to accompany the boy actually was re-purposed from an unrelated incident in which a Israeli police officer had asked the mother to come along, but she was pulled away by a Palestinian thug. The B’tselem version received wide coverage, for example, on Ynet.

Other groups and websites have documented numerous cases of B’tselem inaccuracies.

A visit to the NGO Monitor website provides ample instances of misleading (to put it mildly) B’tselem reports. It was a major player in the attempt to discredit Israel during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

In a January 21, 2011 op-ed on the +972 Blog website, B’Tselem’s then-director Jessica Montell attacked a reputable journalist.

“Caroline Glick is a hack of a journalist who parrots any drivel that suits her extremist ideological agenda without having the basic journalistic integrity to check her facts.”

This from an organization that not only does not have any integrity to check facts, but actively falsifies them. Perhaps belonging to a group that made falsifications the norm renders someone like Montell quick to assume that everyone else does the same.

THE REAL ethical problem is Israel’s media collusion with B’Tselem’s proven unreliable source material. On Sunday, Kol Israel interviewed Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer, introducing him as vice president of the Israel Democracy Institute. He was requested to give his learned opinion about the affair, but moderator Yossi Hadar and his editor, conveniently omitted mentioning that Kremnitzer is a member of B’tselem’s presidium.

The unrestrained and unverified propagation of B’tselem material raises a fundamental issue of how the media should report or broadcast information that emanates from interested parties – especially ideologically driven political groups.

The BBC guidelines are clear.

“We should ensure that material from members of the public is clearly labeled, so that our audiences know it has not come from the BBC or another news organization.  Material from third-party organizations such as lobby groups must be labeled to ensure the audience understands its provenance.”

Yet even this moderate approach is not observed by the Israeli media. Galatz’s Tal Levram, did not for one minute consider the source of the clip and the dubiousness of the organization behind it. He failed his listeners and violated journalistic norms.

Most of the mainstream media also lends full credence to B’tselem by including in their website article a link to its video footage but not to other clips that have surfaced showing different angles and a different version of events, even if none show the full story.

Perhaps, though, the redeeming factor is that the Israeli public does not “buy” B’Tselem’s narrative. Polls show that more than 80% of Israelis approved of the soldier’s actions.

B’Tselem will probably gain increased donations for portraying Israel as if guilty of a “war crime.”

This would be the most cynical part of this story, that the only profiteer from the demise of the terrorist is the “human rights” organization B’Tselem.

^

Advertisements

March 23, 2016

MEDIA COMMENT: Distortions in the foreign press – part II

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:11 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Distortions in the foreign press – part II
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK
03/23/2016
There are various strategies that could assist the struggle for a fair international coverage of events in Israel.
Last week we reviewed some blatant examples of anti-Israel bias in the foreign press. We also noted that Israel’s Government Press Office (GPO) has not really succeeded in improving the coverage.

This week, we will suggest various strategies that could assist the struggle for a fair international coverage of events in Israel.

As the outset, it should be clear that we have high respect for the people at the GPO and their efforts. The GPO today is more accessible and user-friendly than it ever was. It is also willing to take a stand.

For example, on March 17, the headline on the GPO’s website was “TIME won’t clarify that ‘Palestinian graphic designer killed by Israel’ was terrorist who murdered 3.”

This was in reference to a Time magazine report on December 22, 2015: “a graphic designer from the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood Jabel Mukaber, was killed by Israeli security forces after allegedly trying to carry out an attack in Jerusalem.”

The GPO’s action vs. Time is a step forward, but are there any real consequences for Time as a result? Why can’t the GPO provide on its website (publicly available) contact details of the reporters and editors responsible for such an outrageous headline? Why doesn’t it allow people and groups to subscribe to a newsletter which would provide on-thespot information? That would facilitate the ability of both individuals and groups to express their disapproval more directly and effectively.

Action can take different forms; it can be through letters of complaint. Citizens or groups could ascertain that the public and the politicians know who the reporters are.

Action can be a demonstration at the offices of the media organ responsible. It can also be carried out abroad, by concerned citizens in the country of origin of the media organ.

Action should also be positive. Concerned citizens might invite the relevant reporters to their homes, discuss the situation with them, explaining the Israeli viewpoint. It can also take the form of recognizing and encouraging those media outlets that are fair.

For example, the Voice of America March 14 headline read: “Three Palestinians Killed in West Bank Attacks” and was later altered to “Israel Military Kills Three West Bank Attackers.” From the story’s lead in one learned that “Three Palestinians who carried out attacks in the occupied West Bank were shot dead.” Reuters proved that headlines can be composed correctly and fairly when that same story appeared as “Three Palestinians attack Israelis in West Bank, shot dead.” The AFP’s headline, “3 Palestinians carry out shooting, car-ramming attacks, shot dead,” also proves the point.

But responsible action must be predicated on reliable information. This should be coming from the GPO. A search of the GPO website using the words “Voice of America” or “VOA” gave zero results. Even Reuters doesn’t fare much better.

On the website, in the section “About the GPO,” one can read that “The GPO also monitors and collects, on a daily basis, stories in the foreign press about the State of Israel and sends the survey to the relevant government offices.” Why then isn’t this information made available to the public? The GPO should have a section entitled “Media Bias.”

This would not only lend increased credibility to the work of the independent NGOs engaged in waging the battles from which official Israel remains aloof. The GPO should let the public know what is going on. As the GPO claims it gathers this information in any case, uploading it to the site would not cost anything.

There is much more. An important part is dissemination of the information internationally.

Naturally the GPO cannot do this, nor can it act upon it. However, there are at least a dozen pro-Israel media review organizations world-wide. Why doesn’t the GPO fund an annual International Conference of Media Review Organizations and individuals? It would then hear what these organizations are doing and at the same time learn how it can help them in their struggle to defend Israel. More effective networking is an important side benefit of the conference that would increase cooperation between these organizations, making their voice even stronger.

There is another arena where the GPO could make a difference: it should provide press credentials to outstanding bloggers and editors of news websites who bother to bring the truth out. This would not only improve their professional standing, it would allow them to participate in press conferences and attend events where only the media is allowed in. These people would be able to ask some of the questions that the standard politically correct media never does. They could also observe just how mainstream media works.

Consider this past week when Kol Yisrael repeatedly, perhaps even gleefully, reported that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the German foreign ministry and America’s state department criticized Israel for embarking on the long road which would turn almost 620 acres in the vicinity of the Almog settlement, close to the Dead Sea, into Israeli government land. Not a word of response from the government’s official spokespeople was mentioned in these reports.

Now consider that a reporter, in a press conference, poses the question to the foreign minister, who is also the prime minister: Why didn’t Israel respond to the criticism and defend itself? Who in the Foreign Ministry should take the blame? Wouldn’t this help in preventing the kind of article written in the Neue Zuercher Zeitung on March 18, by their Israel correspondent Dr. Ulrich Schmid (who is not an Israel-basher), whose headline on this issue was “The Israeli Palestinian conflict,” with the subtitle, “Land expropriation in the Jordan Valley” and a further subtitle “Israel has confiscated additional land near Jericho. The Palestinians and the world protest. Jerusalem does not respond.”

The name of the game is information. Our enemies have no difficulty for they falsify it freely. We need to be reliable, responsible and accurate. While hyper-activity is not the style of any government bureaucracy, passivity is no advantage.

Take for example the story of Hanan al-Haroub who received last week $1 million as the winner of the Global Teacher prize. The Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, participated in the award ceremony via a video link. As it happens, Haroub is married to a former security prisoner, someone who could be termed a terrorist, a fact the Israellycool blog posted.

While the GPO or someone from the Foreign Ministry might be loath to point that relevant item out in a backgrounder to the press, there should have been no problem in informing them that in Haroub’s classroom hangs a map of “Palestine” (which another tweeter forwarded) which shows all the land between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River, leaving no room for Israel.

A legitimate question could have been: is this the geography she teaches? These are but a few examples of how our GPO could take a lead in providing Israel’s citizens as well as our friends abroad with reliable and factual information to act on.

This would make a quite difference.

 

^

March 17, 2016

MEDIA COMMENT: Distortions in the Foreign Press – Part One

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:03 am by yisraelmedad

MEDIA COMMENT: Distortions in the foreign press – part one
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK
03/16/2016
Various NGOs work hard to report press manipulations.
It is no secret that the foreign press too often distorts events in Israel. Likewise, the fact that the Government Press Office (GPO) is rather impotent in improving the coverage is no secret.

A blatant example was the CBS February 2 headline “3 Palestinians killed as daily violence grinds on” in the aftermath of the terrorist attack that took the life of Hadar Cohen. Nitzan Chen, GPO director, reacted sharply, announcing he was considering rescinding the official certification of the journalists involved. Nothing of the sort happened. The only result was that CBS changed the headline to “Palestinians kill Israeli officer, wound another before being killed.”

Is it really impossible to change the situation? Why does Israel face a hostile press? Are answers to the two questions interrelated? The GPO does not itself gather the needed information. This is done by those individuals and organizations that care to do so.

One of them is Kenneth Abramowitz, founder and president of SaveTheWest.com, which seeks “to advance knowledge concerning the foundational underpinnings of Western civilization” as well as advance strategies, tactics and common-sense solutions for its survival. Abramowitz, who has also funded the Israeli Media Criticism Prize for the past 13 years, commissioned Jon Sutz to look into The Huffington Post, one of the most popular and influential news websites, with nearly 130 million monthly readers from its 15 international editions.

The results were damning.

Sutz’s documentary portrays “a systemic anti-Semitic bias and… even justif[ ication]” of terrorism against Jews in the name of “Palestine.” The study found that 90 percent of Arab terrorist attacks between September 13 and November 30, 2015, never appeared on either the front page or world page of the Huffington Post.

Of the 11 stories that did appear, nine were manipulated to blur the distinction between Palestinian terrorists and their Jewish victims, or to evoke sympathy for Palestinians. In several incidents, HuffPost editorials whitewashed and legitimized the Palestinian narrative.

Does anyone in Israel know about this? Does the GPO? This is by no means an isolated event. Britain’s The Guardian also engages in the systematic distortion of events here. Its headlines following terrorist acts are invariably a description of the Palestinians who were killed, employing words that soften the harsh reality of Arab terrorism. On October 17, 2015, the headline was, “Four Palestinians shot dead after attempted stabbings.” On December 18: “Two Palestinians shot dead by Israeli forces as violence flares.” On February 14, “Three Palestinian teenagers shot dead on West Bank.” In all cases, those Palestinians shot were terrorists intent on murdering innocent civilians. Violence did not just “flare,” it was perpetrated by the terrorists.

Various NGOs work hard to report press manipulations. CAMERA and HonestReporting in the US, Presspectiva here in Israel, UK Media Watch in the United Kingdom and Audiatur in Switzerland are but a few examples. But what does anyone here in Israel know about them? Does the GPO do anything to bring their work to the attention of the media? At this past Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remarked that “we are taking action against media channels that encourage the murder of Israelis and Jews… I spoke with French President Francois Hollande… and requested that the French broadcasts of the Al Aksa channel be taken off the air.” That was indeed done but Netanyahu admitted it had gone back on air via another satellite.

Netanyahu did not even mention the “standard” foreign press and its perversions.

Finished with her stint as the bureau head of The New York Times in Israel, Jodi Rudoren was interviewed by her own paper on March 3. Her line was that media watchdogs critical of her Israel coverage do not base their critique on journalistic values.

In her mind, critics are advocates whereas knowledgeable media figures say her output was okay.

Her arrogance is noteworthy. Especially when it comes from those who usually describe themselves as liberal and seek to protect freedom of expression.

Her attitude echoed the words of Luke Baker, a Reuters journalist and head of Israel’s Foreign Press Association, at a Knesset subcommittee meeting on the issue of false or biased reporting on Israel news in international media on February 9, 2016. He claimed there is “a pretty rigorous process of reporting and checking facts.” There are errors, he admitted, and “sometimes it’s been harder to correct them than others,” but there is little “to answer in terms of systemic bias.” Nitzan Chen was present but did he present Baker with the facts? No.

Could it be that the GPO simply does not know them? It was the Zionist Union’s Tzipi Livni who was the moving force for the deliberations in the Knesset over the perceived unethical behavior of the foreign media. Her interest, as is ours, was what changes could be made to the procedural work of Israeli spokespersons.

MK Michael Oren (Kulanu) bemoaned the lack of coordination among the various organs of state that deal with putting out the message as well as orchestrating a stronger element of being “on the same track.” Oren pointed to the need for further streamlining and shaming such news outlets.

Livni also bemoaned the slowness of the IDF Spokesman’s Office in responding to outlandish claims of wrongdoing. All GPO head Nitzan Chen could add was to confirm that occasionally “headlines published about terror attacks were distorted.”

One of us (YM) was present at a session of the US Conference of Presidents’ Leadership Mission to Israel on February 18 devoted to the question whether there is a double standard in media portrayals of Israel. The panel comprised Barbara Opall- Rome, Israel bureau chief of Defense News, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, IDF spokesperson for foreign press, Udi Segal, Channel 2 diplomatic correspondent, Josef Federman, the Associated Press Israel bureau chief, and was moderated by David Horovitz, Times of Israel editor.

Both Horovitz and Lerner highlighted the lack of context and perspective that can taint media reports, with Lerner suggesting that “there needs to be a fuller story [told].”

But Segal countered that “Israel should not be complaining about unfairness in the media.” In fact, foreign journalists should be given more access to information, said Segal.

It was Federman who proved just how weak our professionals are. His statement “it has become very unpleasant to be a journalist in this country” wafted by with no outcry. Lerner, the IDF spokesperson to the foreign press, knows that this is not the case, but did not respond. With no media watch NGO rep on the panel to provide expert testimony, Federman continued in an Orwellian fashion, saying, “There is very little intentional distortion, errors are usually due to haste or carelessness, and are generally corrected quickly.” The examples we cited above, from the Huffington Post and the Guardian, certainly negate Federman’s assertions.

So what can be done to change the situation? We will provide our answers next week.

^

March 9, 2016

MEDIA COMMENT: A plan to address discrimination at Galatz

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:44 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: A plan to address discrimination at Galatz
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK
03/09/2016
His reaction was to spit into the well from which his whole media life was created. He is now suing Galatz for the paltry sum of NIS 1.2 million.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is considered to be Israel’s melting pot. Soldiers come from all walks of life in Israel as well from abroad, get to know each other and become an integral part of Israeli society. One significant exception to this is the army radio station Galatz.

The radio station is open only to those not fit for combat. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Why should the army waste the services of people fit for combat, the army’s primary task, for a radio station? The fact is that serving in Galatz is the equivalent of going to the most prestigious media school in Israel, all paid for by the Israeli taxpayer. Why should this opportunity for those who might wish to pursue a career in the media be denied to combat soldiers? Why can’t they compete freely and, if found worthy, join the station for the mandatory three years? Consider the latest brouhaha involving Golan Yochpaz, a former Galatz employee. He had served as the station’s “territories reporter” (not the Yesha reporter as that is too Zionist a term) from 1992-1995.

What happened afterwards is more interesting.

From 1999-2008, he was the chief editor of Channel 2’s Kolbotek consumer affairs television program.

From 2004-2006 he was the editor and host of the The world this morning news magazine on that channel.

He then continued as editor of the channel’s Friday news program roundup show and simultaneously editor and host of Galatz’s Good Morning Israel news broadcast.

In 2013, he became the executive director of TV Channel 10 news. As reported on March 6 on the News 1 website, at the time, he demanded from Galatz to continue to host the morning news program, knowing full well that this was a blatant conflict of interest. Galatz understood this and Yochpaz was released from his duties.

His reaction was to spit into the well from which his whole media life was created. He is now suing Galatz for the paltry sum of NIS 1.2 million.

Matan Chodorov entered Galatz as a soldier in 2003. He became the traffic correspondent and, subsequently, the senior economics correspondent in 2005. In 2006, he served as editor of the Good Morning Israel program. It was then but a short jump to the prestigious professional media world.

During 2008-2009, while still working at Galatz, he also served as economics commentator for various Channel 2 programs. In December 2009, he left Galatz to become the economics correspondent of Channel 10.

Chodorov had a good teacher: Noa Kolp. She also started her career in Galatz, in 1998 as a real estate correspondent.

She was the first religious female soldier at the station. In 2005, she moved to Channel 10 to become head of the economics desk there, serving also as host of the channel’s economic program. She then moved with her spouse in 2009 to the US, becoming Channel 10’s and Globes’ New York correspondent. Chodorov assumed her post when she left.

A more recent example of Galatz soldiers moving on to the big time is Yona Leibson, who was drafted into Galatz in 2007 and, given her Soviet origins, covered at first immigration and absorption affairs and the Jewish world. She was then promoted and became the economics and environmental affairs correspondent. She also became an editor of the morning news program and vice-head of the current affairs department. In September 2015 she was chosen to be the social and welfare correspondent of Channel 2.

One of Galatz’s biggest success stories is Amit Segal, son of Chagai Segal, the editor of the Makor Rishon newspaper. Segal, who does not hide his right-wing sympathies, embarked on his career in 2000. In 2006, he was already employed at Channel 2, continuing as a media correspondent, the post he also held previously at Galatz. Nowadays he is the political correspondent, hosts a weekly show on the Knesset TV channel, pens a weekly political commentary column in Makor Rishon and more.

These are but a few representative examples of the deep influence Galatz has on Israeli media on the one hand and on the other, the huge advantages of those who embark on their media career at the Galatz station. This bring us back to our opening comment, that it is patently unfair that soldiers fit for combat cannot enjoy the same opportunities just because they risk their lives for the state.

This situation is so wrong that even extreme left-wing Yediot Aharonot commentator Nachum Barnea called in July 2011 for the closure of the station. Among his reasons was that “young people arrive at the station and leave it after three years, well-trained professionally but ethically screwed up. This is what happens when an 18-year-old youngster pushes a microphone into the fact of a prime minister. …But the central issue is that he did not serve in the army. Thanks to Galatz, the media is full of journalists who have little interest in Israel outside of the perimeter of the Yarkon River.”

Is there a solution to this situation? Is it really necessary for the station to discriminate against those who really deserve to serve in the station? There are two choices. One is to close the station down. This is the correct choice that we, as well as many others, have advocated, noting the ludicrousness of a media organ which belongs to the military but broadcasts mostly civilian and political content. Israel does not need so many public radio stations.

But, as is perhaps also evident from the examples above, Galatz’s alumni permeate our media everywhere and whenever there is even a hint of an initiative to close the station, the hue and cry they raise scares off the politicians.

There is a solution: the army could and should make it imperative for anyone who wants to serve at the station to sign on to a four-and-ahalf- year stint. The first 18 months would be spent doing regular duty in the army. Those fit for combat, in combat units, those not, in support units. After this period, they continue to serve for three years at Galatz.

Ideally, they should not receive payment for the last 18 months, given that they are receiving free media schooling. But as a compromise, one could also pay them a minimal salary, as received by officers who serve a fourth year in the army for the added period.

This suggestion has many advantages.

Foremost, it would open Galatz to combat soldiers, ending the discrimination.

Secondly, it would perhaps bring into Galatz people who are somewhat more ethical than Golan Yochpaz. Thirdly, any soldier who has served for 18 months of regular duty would understand the army much better and could then perform in Galatz with a much deeper perspective about the army.

We have suggested this policy to a number of politicians, but to no avail. Perhaps the public can influence those who decide for us.

 

^

March 2, 2016

MEDIA COMMENT: ‘Haaretz’ vs. Bennett

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:56 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: ‘Haaretz’ vs. Bennett

By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 03/02/2016

It is no secret that the academic elite in Israel identify mostly with the secular, left-wing liberal community.

In our consumer-driven society, a privately owned newspaper has the right to advocate the views of its editors and publishers. The consumer who does not like the editorial line or, better, the party line, is free to purchase other newspapers. But freedom of expression is not freedom of vilification. A media outlet which respects itself should allow even villains the right of reply and the ability to defend their good name.

Haaretz doesn’t act that way. When it decides to latch onto someone, it does so with no holds barred, cruelly, bitterly and decidedly unethically. This is so in the case of Haaretz vs. Bennett.

The party line of Haaretz is liberal, extreme left-wing but fiscally conservative. Education Minister Naftali Bennett is perceived as a threat, especially to the first two characteristics. Under his leadership, his Bayit Yehudi party is changing some of the most important strongholds of the elites, and they are screaming, with Haaretz leading the pack.

It is no secret that the academic elite in Israel identify mostly with the secular, left-wing liberal community.

They are avid consumers of Haaretz and Bennett is threatening their hegemony. Israel spends many billions of shekels on higher education. Policies are implemented through “Malag,” the Council for Higher Education, and the funding goes through “Vatat,” the Coordination and Budget Committee. The education minister is, by law, the chair of Malag and he appoints the chair of Vatat.

In practice, the vice-chair of Malag is the person responsible for its day-to-day management since the minister does not have the time needed (nor perhaps the expertise) to run the affairs of Malag on such a basis.

Professor Hagit Messer-Yaron, a professor of electrical engineering at Tel Aviv University, served as the vicechair from October 2013 until February 2016. Bennett forced her resignation. Although he did not publicize his reasons, one can fairly well guess what they were: Messer-Yaron led an effort to neutralize the powers of the education minister to implement the minister’s policies and to oversee academia.

Briefly, the Commission for Regulation of Governance which she headed recommended that the members of Malag be appointed through an independent committee, chaired by a Supreme Court justice. The academic community applauded as this would assure their domination of academia. The forced resignation of Messer-Yaron put an end to this.

Haaretz is understandably concerned. So it permitted Professor Moshe Shoked, professor emeritus of anthropology at Tel Aviv University, to write an op-ed article entitled “In Our Very Own Weimar Republic” on February 19. In it, Shoked berates his colleagues and attacks Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who, he said, is “the unrestrained, deceptive magician who grew up in the home of a historian but was trained to enlist and promote ignorance, fear and hatred in Israeli society.”

He saves, however, his harshest remarks for Benett, “whose conduct is a reminder of dark regimes of other periods” and who wears a “pistol on his waist.”

He ends his article by describing Israel as “a society…that in practice is moving toward an apartheid regime” and asks: “How can we remain passive in an era that is our equivalent of the happy days of Weimar?” When people in the Gaza Strip, who were threatened and in fact then expelled from their homes, wore a yellow star as a demonstrative act, the media hanged them in the public square. But Haaretz is allowed to publish an article which effectively accuses a minister of Nazi-like behavior, and no one considers this a serious issue.

Indeed, Haaretz knows that Shoked has a habit of demeaning the Holocaust. He previously did so in a Haaretz op-ed on March 11, 2011, “No to Boycott, Yes to Suicide,” reacting to a Knesset bill which would forbid boycotting Israeli academic institutions, writing, “it is hard not to recall the 1930s and 1940s, when another great nation took its own life under a mad vision of border expansion.”

Bennett has a number of additional “sins” for which he need atone. These include the decision of his ministry not to place the book Borderlife by Dorit Rabinian on the list of compulsory reading for the matriculation exam in literature. If a student wants to she or he can include it, but it is not an integral part of the curriculum.

Haaretz was incensed. In an editorial on January 1 it wrote: “The backing of Minister Bennett [for the decision on the book] is another step in the nationalistic indoctrination that the heads of the education ministry are providing for the secular public school system.”

But even this was not enough. The paper went so far as to publish a letter to the editor by author Amos Ben-Vered on February 2, who describes his childhood experience in a German school in Bulgaria in 1938.

Although the school was German and its teachers wore the swastika, the curriculum remained as it was in pre-Nazi Germany. Ben-Vered writes: “The question is how does the government and, especially Minister Bennett, want to act? Are they willing at least to accept the moderate spirit of the Nazi [Konstantin] von Neurath who permitted the schools to teach as in previous years, when Germany was a democracy?” On the Haaretz website, the letter comes with a picture of the Nazi von Neurath. The equation, Bennett is a Nazi, speaks for itself.

This is not to say that Haaretz was not taken to task.

On February 26, journalist Erel Segal criticized the paper in an article published in Makor Rishon and the NRG website. The story related that: “As long as Minister Bennett worried about the number of children in the class, adding helping teachers and increasing math lessons, it worked not too badly. But when he dared to touch core issues of our existence here, the left went berserk. What was permitted to [former education ministers Yuli] Tamir and [Yossi] Sarid is forbidden for the right.”

After describing outrageous acts by previous left-wing education ministers, he ends by noting: “For me at least, the story is clear. There is no danger to democracy, there is no fascism. There is here an elite struggling for its hegemony. A paranoid and frightened elite unwilling to accept the fact that the government of Israel, chosen by a majority which believes in Zionism, decided to act accordingly.”

Segal was not alone, but the mainstream media remained silent. The talk shows, the radio programs, the TV news shows, all of which were very quick to decry any allusions of the Left to Stalinism or Nazism, said nothing.

They did not call upon the Israel Democracy Institute or the president of the Press Council, former Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner, to express their opinion on Haaretz’s articles. They did not request a response from President Reuven Rivlin or Knesset speaker Edelstein.

No, they were silent, quiet accomplices of a newspaper which is a blight to our society.

^