April 20, 2016

MEDIA COMMENT: Media crumbs and specks

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:15 pm by yisraelmedad

MEDIA COMMENT: Media crumbs and specks
As hassidic rebbes stressed, there is more than the physical chametz (leaven) to which we are obliged to pay attention.
In this week of removing the leaven from our homes as part of the pre-Passover preparations, paying attention to the specks and crumbs of media misbehavior is quite appropriate.

As hassidic rebbes stressed, there is more than the physical chametz (leaven) to which we are obliged to pay attention. There is the chametz that drives attitudes of people.

In our columns we have noted that too often, media personnel, those who not only inform us of the news from the field but those at the news desks who send reporters out to collect the story, or who provide direction for their investigations; those who write up the texts for the broadcasters; those who edit; those who select the panels; the columnists and editorial writers and more assume they may intervene and even interfere in the reporting and interpret it for us. In doing so, they can insert elements of their own personal bias or political inclinations.

Even a small distortion is just like that little bit of chametz that can ruin one’s kitchen or prepared food.

Too often, too many people in the media presume that they are in some ways superior, different and above the criticism of the consumers who watch, listen and read their output. It is proper to recall what the outstanding journalist Gay Telese observed in his The Kingdom and the Power on The New York Times: “Most journalists are restless voyeurs who see the warts on the world, the imperfections in people and places.” Telese, by the way, worked for the Times and a good few newspapers before and after.

Being engaged in such a profession, too many can adopt disdain for their subjects which then evolves into unfair treatment of the subject. At the same time, too much adoration for your subject can also lead to bad journalism. It was Swedish professor Hans Rosling, and not a “right wing” Israeli, who, on Danish television last September, criticized the media for being “arrogant,” adding, “You can’t trust the news outlets if you want to understand the world.”

This past year, our campaign to amend elements of the new Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation Law, specifically the obligation that news broadcasts “avoid one-sidedness, prejudice, expressing personal opinions, giving grades and affixing labels, ignoring facts or selectively emphasizing them not according to their newsworthiness,” failed. Those in the studios and behind the microphones deem themselves, too often, as being above the rules.

A Kol Yisrael radio host can call a soldier under investigation for shooting an Arab terrorist a “terrorist” without worrying about the consequences.

Rino Tzror, a Galatz radio host, pontificated last week about the origins of this last half-year’s wave of terrorism. To his mind, “the ‘intifada of the individuals’…

began after a series of ascents by Jews to the Temple Mount. That was the match. It was ignited in September 2015… the flame consumed all… due to this Temple Mount festival….”

One would think, as Ma’ariv’s Kalman Liebskind noted, that a liberal and democrat like Tzror would at least blame those who actually committed the killings for their lack of tolerance and acceptance of the “other.”

But Tzror went one step further and blamed the Makor Rishon newspaper, and its weekly Temple Mount column penned by Arnon Segal, as a contributing factor to the Muslim violence. Tzror justified Islamist fanaticism and recourse to knifings and car-rammings by pointing to what, supposedly, causes it: the Jews. And Tzror is a “distinguished” and “admired” media person. And, in our opinion, full of chametz.

Yonit Levy is a prime-time news anchor on Channel 2 who regularly uses her position to further her own agenda. As pointed out by Shimon Riklin on Facebook, on April 17, after reporter Guy Peleg broke the news that there would be a rally in support of Sg. Elor Azaria who will be tried for manslaughter, Levy had this to say about entertainers who originally agreed to appear: “A bunch of artists who follow the public sentiment to understand what they should be doing for themselves.” Or, in plain words, the artists who were to go, Eyal Golan, David D’or and Subliminal, were doing so to curry favor with the public, not because they truly support Sgt. Azaria.

Now, one wonders who heard Levy say the same about the artists who participate in Meretz-organized rallies. Indeed, Levy’s job is to report the news, not to be the psychoanalyst of performers. We the public should stop listening to her; that would be the correct way to destroy this source of chametz.

Another media professional, Roy Baharir Perl, whom most of us had never heard of before, is another example. As reported on the INN website, in response to the planned rally in support of Sgt. Azaria, Perl wrote the following on his Facebook: “Dear Terrorists, On Tuesday there will be a large rally at Rabin Square. You are invited to carry out a terror act.”

Perl is an editor on the Walla news site.

He later retracted the offensive note, but consider what would have happened had a right-wing journalist made a comment like that with regard to a left-wing rally. The media would have ostracized her or him, and the person would been quickly out of a job. Not so at Walla. They do not believe in getting rid of the chametz.

Last week we all witnessed a non-story.

Heinz-Christian Strache has been chairman of the Austrian Freedom Party since 2005. As a reminder, the Freedom Party was headed by Joerg Haider from 1986 until then. Haider was a vocal anti-Semite, but Strache has disavowed anti-Semitism and disposed of many members of his party who harbored such prejudice. In the latest elections in Vienna, his party garnered over 40 percent of the vote and many are predicting that he could become the next chancellor of Austria. Strache is the leader of a right-wing party, so our foreign ministry, headed by someone who claims also to be the leader of a right-wing party, the Likud, decided not to grant Strache “official visit” status. Instead, he was invited by the Likud Party and secretly met with Likud ministers and MKs, as reported in Makor Rishon.

Was this story newsworthy? Should it have been up for public discussion of the pro and cons of such a visit? Should the media have asked the Foreign Ministry some tough questions, such as why Strache cannot be an official visitor of Israel while Western leaders such as Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom are worthy of official recognition? Strache is supportive of Israeli settlements.

Is this the reason he was considered chametz by our media?

We wish you our dedicated readers a very happy and chametz-free Passover.


April 14, 2016

MEDIA COMMENT: A lack of media memory

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:07 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: A lack of media memory
We expect reporters and columnists to mine the archives of their newspapers and networks to make interviews more incisive and reportage more accurate.
We depend on the media not only to report and analyze current events but also to remind us of past events so that today’s news is provided with proper context and perspective.

We expect reporters and columnists to mine the archives of their newspapers and networks to make interviews more incisive and reportage more accurate.

This past week demonstrated conclusively that our media does not uphold such standards. Instead of relating to all issues with the same impersonal but professional standard of providing the public with the news, our media manipulates it in accordance with its own convictions and desires.

Our first example is the recent coverage of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. Ya’alon was very critical in public of the soldier who shot an incapacitated Arab terrorist in Hebron. Due to his principled stance, Ya’alon has been under considerable pressure from within the Likud as well as outside of it. The result is that Ya’alon has become the darling of the media and those who attack him, the black sheep.

Most mainstream media outlets have glossed over the fact that Ya’alon seemingly is interfering in an ongoing criminal investigation.

By contrast, when Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked criticized the Supreme Court’s recent decision further delaying the implementation of the agreement on the utilization of the offshore gas fields, she was portrayed as interfering with the country’s rule of law.

However unlike Ya’alon, Shaked’s pronouncements came after a decision was handed down which she thought wrong. She did not interfere with the judicial process at all.

Digging a bit deeper, we note that now Ya’alon’s pronouncements are praised as upholding true liberal and democratic values. Not too long ago, the media’s frame of reference was quite the opposite.

In mid-January 2014, Yediot Aharonot broke a story that the defense minister had, in a supposedly off-the-record background talk, made comments in which he called US Secretary of State John Kerry “obsessive” and “messianic.” He was also quoted as saying that Kerry “should take his Nobel Prize and leave us alone.” The media played up his remarks, stressing how damaging they were to Israel’s relationship with its “greatest ally.” The leak was obviously not only breaking the accepted norms of interviews in which reporters respect the wishes of the person interviewed and keep off the record comments private, but aimed at damaging Ya’alon and his political backer, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Under fierce media pressure, Ya’alon apologized.

Two months later, he had to do so again, after criticizing the US for its global weakness. Lecturing at Tel Aviv University on March 17, he said, “If your image is feebleness, it doesn’t pay in the world.” US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel placed a call to protest. Ya’alon was again raked over the coals in Israel’s media.

But now he is being backed, especially by Yediot Aharonot. The difference between then and now? If his judgment was so bad then, how come it has become so good now? We can only conclude that Yediot and the media are not reporting the news, but managing it to fit their own personal wish list. A Ya’alon perceived as not relenting to American pressure is put down. The same Ya’alon, when his actions fit the agenda of the press powers, is bolstered.

Another, related example of a lack of historical perspective is the recent investigative item of Dr. Ilana Dayan on her Uvda program in which former minister Rehavam Ze’evi was accused of sexual harassment. “Gandi,” as he was nicknamed, has been dead for 15 years, assassinated by Arab terrorists.

Besides the fact that he cannot defend himself, the program cannot change the behavior of the deceased.

If Dayan truly believes that such stories, whether true or not, should be investigated, why doesn’t she take up a long list of suspected public personalities whose dalliances may have been, by today’s standards, harassment? These might include Moshe Dayan, Ezer Weizmann or even David Ben-Gurion, who had an affair with Regina Klapholz, 21 years his junior.

What positive contribution did this segment on Ze’evi make? Things become almost ludicrous when we compare the media’s coverage of MKs Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Union) and Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi). Bahloul, in a statement made in his party’s faction and then again on Thursday in an interview on Galatz with Yaron Dekel and Amit Segal, clarified his views regarding terrorists and freedom fighters. In essence, any attack on Israeli soldiers is considered part of a struggle for freedom, according to Bahloul. Only the murder of innocent civilians may be considered terrorism.

Bahloul was roundly criticized, both within and outside his party.

His party colleague MK Eitan Cabel said Bahloul was no longer a member of the Zionist Union. Indeed, anyone who has followed Bahloul’s programs on the regional Arab-language A-Shams radio or who read the detailed report of Shlomo Daskal and Dr. Tehila Altshuler of the Israel Democracy Institute would know Bahloul considers himself to be first and foremost a Palestinian whose land was taken away by Israel. Bahloul insists on referring to the city of Upper Nazareth as Nazareth, claiming that the lands of the Jewish city were stolen from the Arab city of Nazareth. He is an admirer of Muhammad Bakri, the producer of the Jenin, Jenin film which falsely accuses the IDF of perpetrating war crimes in the 2002 battle in the Jenin refugee camp.

Legislation aimed at preventing any public show of mourning on Israel’s Independence Day was considered by him “a shady and despicable act.”

None of this appeared in the ensuing media discourse. Quite the contrary, on Monday, Razi Barkai devoted almost an hour of his Galatz program to analyzing whether Bahloul’s differentiation between killing soldiers and civilians holds water. He thus legitimized Bahloul’s assertion instead of asking the obvious question which is whether any country in the world would defend someone who identifies with its enemies, let alone allow such a person to serve in its parliament.

Smotrich did not receive such empathy. He was branded a racist.

Haaretz’s Uri Misgav used the term “Judeo-Nazi” – ironically, a term coined by the newspaper’s darling, the late professor Yeshayhu Leibowitz, who employed it to describe IDF troops in Lebanon.

But why provide context? It would only ruin the media’s story-line.


April 6, 2016

MEDIA COMMENT: They zeroed in on Ziffer

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:27 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: They zeroed in on Ziffer
He was considered a Netanyahu-backer, an unpardonable sin among our media elite.
Media critics can be harsh, even a bit unfair. On August 30, 1888, writing to novelist Katharine Tynan, Irish poet William Butler Yeats wrote, “I hate journalists.  There is nothing in them but tittering, jeering emptiness… they have given up their individuality….The shallowest people on the ridge of the earth.”

Despite perhaps unfair criticism, it is amazing that a group of professionals who engage in criticizing people, organizations, governments and policies and who delight in revealing the foibles, failings and flaws of their subjects, are themselves remarkably thin-skinned when they become the subjects of monitoring, analysis and criticism. They are also very intolerant of those who stray from their ideological-cultural line.

Ehud Ya’ari, the well-respected Arab affairs correspondent at Channel 2 news, recently suffered a peer-group put-down. He had been participating in a panel discussion with Amnon Avramovitz, Ronni Daniel and Dana Weiss on March 25 on Ulpan Shishi, the Friday-night weekly news wrap. The subject was Islamic terrorism in Europe and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertion that Israel and Europe were facing the same phenomenon. Ya’ari disagreed strenuously with Weiss.

Weiss declared, “I’m sure that now all the male panelists will gang up on me,” and Daniel protested her manipulative usage of gender discrimination. Ya’ari said, “Better you should delve more deeply into the sides… and also the data.”

She responded, “Why do you think I haven’t checked?” “Because that’s the way it sounds,” Ya’ari said.

When another participant began to talk, Weiss engaged Ya’ari in a side conversation that was caught on mic. Ya’ari was heard to say, “You’ve become a yachna.” The Yiddishism indicates a female gossip, busybody and even a shallow woman. Ya’ari was raked over the coals by his colleagues for his remark, which they considered insulting to women. Haaretz’s Tzippi Sa’ar termed Ya’ari himself a yachna, writing that the poor man doesn’t know where he is living and is harassing women.

It just so happened that six weeks previously, on the Channel 10 HaMateh HaMercazi program, Shimon Schiffer of Yediot Aharonot was on a panel discussing the subject of MK Anat Berko’s remark a few days earlier on the Arab use of “Palestine.” Berko had said, “There isn’t even a ‘P’ in Arabic, so it’s a borrowed term that’s worth analyzing… there is no ‘puh’ sound!” and indicated clearly that it was Latin word originating from the land’s Roman conquerors.

Schiffer, a sharp opponent of Netanyahu and Israel’s right wing, called Berko a “behema,” another Yiddishism, meaning uncouth and literally, a bovine animal. Surprisingly, there was no similar ganging up on Schiffer. His quite misogynistic insult, declared in a derogatory manner, was protested only by the Right.

Worse, Berko’s official complaint to Channel 10 about the insult was treated as an in-house media joke. The media clique knows well how to protect its own.

HOWEVER, THE case of Benny Ziffer marks the nadir of this phenomenon of media people destroying colleagues for espousing the wrong opinions. It is the very antithesis of the freedom of expression that the media leftists always use in their own defense.

Ziffer has become a red flag for the media elite.

Back in July, this paper’s Greer Fay Cashman observed, people were wondering if Haaretz, the bastion of left-wing opinion, was turning to the Right.

Ziffer was defending Sara Netanyahu. He admitted that he had come to her defense when she was being pilloried by the media.

Cashman thought he was even “fawning” in his writing and that “even the reporters at Israel Hayom could not do better.” An August column enraged the LGBT community. Ziffer’s fate was sealed and his colleagues waited for an opportunity.

It came when in his blog column on March 4, Ziffer wrote what was interpreted as a defense of statutory rape by artists of young girls as essential for art. His exact words were, “artists… are also required to feel with intensity those things that are considered the basest urges in life, like intercourse with young female admirers. Without this, there would be no creativity, for all the pain this is liable to cause these young women, whose lives might have been damaged.” Over 90 poets refused to appear at a poetry festival in Metullah because Ziffer was its artistic director.

Since one of the artists Ziffer mentioned was Eyal Golan, accused at the time of sleeping with underage girls, Ziffer was considered to be promoting abhorrent, criminal acts. That Golan was never charged with statutory rape seems not to have stemmed his critics. Kalman Liebskind in his March 12 column at Ma’ariv saw Ziffer as being the victim of “terror” perpetrated by those who usually hold themselves to be the champions of free speech but now, in Ziffer’s case, had decided to euthanize that freedom.

Ziffer, in an interview that week with Razi Barkai on Galatz, had virtually pleaded for understanding. He mentioned Woody Allen.

He could have mentioned a fellow Haaretz columnist, poet Yitzhak La’or, accused of multiple rapes but uninvestigated due to the statute of limitations. A darling of Israel’s cultural literary leftist elite, Dahn Ben-Amotz, was accused by Yudit Shachar, who was his housekeeper, of sleeping with underage girls, but he is still an icon. And, as Liebskind noted, the pages of Haaretz are well-known for the scandalous language of Gideon Levy, Rogel Alpher, Zev Sternhel and a host of others that we have documented over the years, including direct calls for murder and support for real violence.

Ziffer, however, was a marked man. He was considered a Netanyahu-backer, an unpardonable sin among our media elite.

On March 9, he succumbed to his critics and, as if in a resurrected version of a Stalinist-period trial, confessed and pleaded for mercy. In what was to be his last column, which was entitled, “A Heartfelt Apology,” he informed readers that he was “corrupt,” had been called at Haaretz’s Culture Conference “a disgusting person” and “had become a satanic clown.” He admitted, “I am crying.”

He finished by writing, “Even though I have no right to ask for mercy… my heart is now totally submissive.”

Almost noiselessly and unnoticed, the guillotine had fallen.