May 25, 2016

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:54 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: They missed the point
A lazy, one-sided media that cannot think out of the box missed the point.
The Ya’alon-Liberman drama dominated the airwaves this past week. Much ink was spilled and airtime filled with the comments of senior pundits, most of whom were full of praise for outgoing defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and extreme fear of his incoming replacement Avigdor Liberman.

The appointment of Liberman is indeed a serious matter; defense touches on the very essence of our existence in the Middle East. Still, the media did a poor job. It missed the really important issues and doted on the trivial ones.

We all are aware of the content of Ya’alon’s recent declarations defending deputy chief of staff Maj.-Gen.

Yair Golan and his incendiary remarks, or his immediate condemnation of the soldier Elor Azaria for his shooting of a terrorist in Hebron, or defending the chief of staff for his remarks that IDF soldiers should not shoot to kill 14-year-old girls armed with scissors.

These remarks were at the center of an ideological struggle between applauding liberals and critical hardliners.

The liberal media went out of its way to support Ya’alon, describing him as the last sane voice in the Netanyahu government. What the media did not do is ask itself and the experts what Ya’alon’s record as defense minister really was. What does he leave as his legacy and imprint on the IDF? After all, he was defense minister for the past three years, not a short time in Israeli politics. His tenure included Operation Protective Edge during the summer of 2014.

Yaakov Amidror, former national security adviser, summarized what he believed Ya’alon’s three major achievements were. One was arranging for a longterm budget for the IDF. Second was maintaining good working relations with the IDF’s top brass, and third was bringing about relative quiet around the Gaza Strip and lowering the flames of the recent terrorist acts against Israelis.

At the same time though, we know today that Ya’alon did not understand or at least did not prepare the IDF for the tunnel threat. When Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett repeatedly questioned Ya’alon and the IDF in the cabinet as to what he was doing to contain the threat of the tunnels he was ignored or worse, castigated for having the gall to question the judgment of the defense establishment.

As the transcripts reveal and as the ombudsman’s report indicated, Bennett was right, while Ya’alon and the top brass realized only belatedly the strategic threat of the tunnels.

Channel 2 TV’s military correspondent Roni Daniel used the top-rated Friday night news roundup to categorically state that: “After this week, I’m not sure I want my children to remain here.” This made quick headlines, but was not serious journalism.

The fact is that he did not even consider the idea that Ya’alon’s preference of a “quiet for quiet” policy is leading to the continued rearmament of both Hezbollah and Hamas and might just be much more dangerous than Ya’alon’s replacement by Liberman.

But even on the question of the army’s morality and Ya’alon’s defense of army officers’ freedom of speech the media did not get it right. Army officers are government employees who by law do not have the freedom to criticize the government publicly. Setting the legal issue aside, if an IDF general had publicly stated during the Gaza disengagement (which was planned by then chief of staff Ya’alon) that the mass expulsion reminded him of the actions of Nazi Germany, would Ya’alon have defended his freedom of speech? Would this same media been supportive of that general? Of course not.

Let us recall the letter sent by Col. Ofer Winter to his soldiers during the 2014 war, in which he wrote: “I raise my eyes to heaven and read together with you ‘Hear O Israel, our God is One, God of Israel, please make sure that we are successful in our endeavor.’” Winter was roundly criticized, especially by Haaretz, and did not receive the same support from Ya’alon that Golan did. Has Ya’alon been called out for his lack of consistency? The media went to great lengths to remind everyone about Liberman’s various pronouncements concerning the need to retake the Gaza Strip and end Hamas rule there. But it did not even try to consider Liberman’s record as foreign minister. Did he prove himself an able administrator? Did he create any change? Did he leave any legacy as foreign minister? As readers of this column know, we have expressed criticism of foreign minister Liberman, noting that he did not create change in Israel’s image abroad.

Just as Ya’alon did not foresee the strategic threat of the Gaza tunnels, so Liberman did not foresee the anti-Israel sentiment abroad, especially in Europe, and did not do anything about it. There was no review of how our ambassadors are preparing for this issue, how they cope with it, whether they defend the government’s policies on the settlements or support those who consider them as illegal.

These questions and many others should be asked, and answers should be given. But a lazy, one-sided media that cannot think out of the box missed it.




May 18, 2016

MEDIA COMMENT: How reliable is the media?

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:48 pm by yisraelmedad

THE MEDIA COMMENT: How reliable is the media?
Benjamin Rhodes, US President Barack Obama’s adviser for strategic communications and speechwriting, and his team created a media “echo chamber.”
Do you ever question whether the media is really doing its job as a watchdog of the powerful government and private sectors, providing an objective picture and verifiable facts? Or do you think media monitoring groups are too aggressive?

As we now know, during the negotiations with the Iranians, Benjamin Rhodes, US President Barack Obama’s adviser for strategic communications and speechwriting, and his team created a media “echo chamber.” The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen termed Rhodes a “master manipulator of the moronic media.” Politico’s Jack Shafer wrote that “the Obama administration’s propaganda machine… [has a] cold, casual style.”

Rhodes attempted to take back his words but the reality was that most of the media actually did not adequately analyze the Iran deal and most importantly, the media’s liberal bias provided the White House with an advantage.

In Israel, reporters play an important role in presenting the government’s positions, but here, the more they criticize the government and its institutions the more famous and honored they become. Their colleagues heap praise on them, award them prizes and they become celebrities. Certain standards, usually those the media criticizes when government or tycoons fail to meet them, are, however, not applicable to themselves.

Let us recall: it is the media that sets the agenda of how the news is reported, how it is framed and, through repetition and multiple presentation forms (interviews, films, studio discussions) how important we media consumers should think an item is.

The media hullaballoo over the indiscreet words of IDF deputy chief of staff Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan – that “the Holocaust should bring us to ponder our public lives and… if there is one thing that is scary in remembering the Holocaust, it is noticing horrific processes which developed in Europe – particularly in Germany – 70, 80 and 90 years ago, and finding remnants of that here among us in the year 2016” – conveniently ignored the fact that significant sections of the media are responsible for twisting the terminology used to describe the IDF’s behavior to fit a post-Zionist perception.

Only Ma’ariv’s Kalman Libeskind had the honesty to point a finger at the media itself.

It is the Haaretz newspaper in particular which, for the past few years, has used the Nazi analogy to describe processes within Israeli society with which it disagrees. Yediot Aharonot’s Yigal Sarna is another “Israel is akin to Nazi Germany” proponent, as we have pointed out in our columns. We could even go back to the radical Left’s darling Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz’s description of IDF soldiers as “Judeo-Nazis,” first made in the early 1980s. Only Israel’s media could aid and abet Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who called on army officers to comment on civilian affairs, in violation of one of the basic tenets of democracy: army officers do not participate in politics while in uniform.

Incidentally, Sarna is currently involved in a lawsuit with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, concerning a post on his Facebook page. His line of defense includes the statement that “social media allow less meticulousness… than the traditional media… the post [is] not necessarily an accurate reflection of actual reality, but a possible reality.”

In our opinion, as well as according to normative professional journalism guidelines, that standard of ethics should get him fired immediately. Who would trust a journalist with those views about his profession? Which editor would continue to employ him? To earn the trust of consumers, media outlets cannot assume they will always be above criticism and able to hide their faults. Take, for example, our complaint that the IDF’s Galatz Radio network, in employing many civilians, does not reveal their salaries as well as much of its operating budget.

Now, in England, for example, a group of BBC stars may be forced to declare how much they are paid as part of plans unveiled in a white paper on the future of the corporation. In Israel this does not seem likely to happen.

In Israel, any overhaul of public broadcasting is treated as a fascist onslaught on the country’s democracy.

In the UK the BBC’s future is a matter of major disagreement and anxiety, but also a subject of healthy discussion. There, a former chairman of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons, spoke forthrightly on a BBC radio program and declared: “I can understand why people are worried about whether some of the most senior editorial voices in the BBC have lost their impartiality….”

There, the bias, it is claimed, is against the Labour Party. Its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has even told supporters that the party needed to use social media to communicate with the public. When our own prime minister makes a similar claim, the media ridicules and reviles him. When was the last time any senior Israel media executive admitted that perhaps his staff could be biased and unfair? The BBC also compels producers of natural history shows to sit through a fakery prevention course, after shows were found to have broken editorial guidelines.

Do diplomatic/political/military journos here in Israel undergo similar courses in their own fields?

Can we trust our media? Is it indeed reliable?

Isn’t it high time that it was improved?



May 6, 2016

MEDIA COMMENT: Independence

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:55 am by yisraelmedad

MEDIA COMMENT: Independence



The general tenor is that Israel is losing international support both in Europe and the US, due to the government’s policies.

On Thursday next week, Israel will celebrate its 68th birthday.

A birthday, yes, but not yet really an independence day.

Over 2,000 years ago, the prophet Jeremiah admonished Judea: “And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? Or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river?” (Jeremiah 2:18). Too often our media, with its exaggerated bragging, considers itself to be the modern prophet of the people of Israel. But in fact it is a far cry from the honesty, and the political incorrectness, of our prophets of old, and kowtows mainly to money and power.

Our electronic and written media will be full of praise and adulation for the immense achievements of our country next week. The media will as usual criticize our political leaders for not doing enough to prevent the next war. Already this week, the media went out of its way to publicize the “scoop” of Der Spiegel, namely that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is upset with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his statements concerning Merkel’s “understanding” the Israeli point of view. Netanyahu was roundly criticized this past year also by our self-appointed prophets for his public disagreement with US President Barack Obama’s Iran policies.

The general tenor is that Israel is losing international support both in Europe and the US, due to the government’s policies.

A similar fate was met by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who dared to suggest that Israeli law should also be implemented in Judea and Samaria. The false prophet Moshe Negbi immediately went on air to warn of the international outcry which this would raise.

This is the precise opposite of Jeremiah’s admonitions. The prophetic testament is that for Israel to survive it must go in the righteous way, it must maintain its morals instead of following or becoming subservient to the world powers of the time. Indeed, Netanyahu, in his first speech to the US Congress, on July 10, 1996, initially followed this sage advice. Among many other topics, he also had this to say: “We are deeply grateful for all we have received from the United States….

But I believe there can be no greater tribute to America’s long-standing economic aid to Israel than for us to be able to say: We are going to achieve economic independence.

We are going to do it. In the next four years, we will begin the longterm process of gradually reducing the level of your generous economic assistance to Israel. I am convinced that our economic policies will lay the foundation for total self-reliance and great economic strength.”

Will any one in our media raise this issue and publicly ask the prime minister why, after 20 years and especially today, when Israel has indeed become an economic powerhouse, doesn’t he celebrate this Independence Day by announcing our true independence from American funding? Will he be asked why he doesn’t pre-empt the criticism coming from US presidential candidate Donald Trump and announce a five-year plan for ending Israel’s debilitating addiction to US aid? Perhaps some negotiations with the next US president could barter our US aid in exchange for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem? This would be a step toward real independence.

Our media, instead of endlessly repeating the dire predictions that if Israel does not implement the so-called two-state solution and enter talks with the Palestinians its good relationship with the Western world will come to harm could for once act like the prophets of old and urge our government to bring about true independence.

Our media totally ignores the fact that the European Union has de facto divided Jerusalem, with the acquiescence of the Israeli government.

All official EU representatives are not permitted to enter so-called “east Jerusalem” from the Israeli side. They need to receive the blessing of the Palestinian Authority. If the Israeli media would take this issue and put it on the agenda the next time that the prime minister or any other government official announces that Jerusalem will remain unified for eternity, then perhaps it would truly contribute to our independence.

Independence is not only about politics. Our society is dependent on money. Ecclesiastes claimed that “money is the answer for everything” (10:19). But independence means also understanding that there are issues that are sometimes more important than money. Israeli society is becoming increasingly Americanized and this is also part of Jeremiah’s call not to follow the powers that be.

In the US, Independence Day is a shopping holiday. Israel is unhappily emulating this trend. Our media plays an essential role in this. If an ultra-Orthodox person does not respect the day, the media will pounce upon him or her with glee. But if a greedy merchant takes advantage of the crowds on the street and illegally opens up the store, nothing happens.

Although commerce is illegal on Independence Day, advertising is not only permitted but reaches dizzy heights. Even the public media outlets such as the IBA and Galei Tzahal have not voluntarily ceased to carry advertisements on Independence Day.

A major indication of independence is language. One of the miracles of the Zionist revival is the rebirth of the Hebrew language, a rebirth which experts predicted was impossible. For 100 years the experts were proven wrong, but during the past decade it has been becoming evident that they were actually right. Hebrew is no longer the dominating feature of our culture.

It is slowly but surely being replaced by English.

This happens first and foremost in our advertisements and business names. Some ignoramuses in advertising have decided it is easier to sell a product or a business if it has an English, or even better, American name. The media plays along. Israeli sportscasters seem to get their job on condition that they emulate Americanisms. The result is obvious.

Our youth especially are exposed daily to this mixed-up jargon and do not remember at all that our language is Hebrew. We would guess that nine out of 10 youths do not know how to count correctly in Hebrew. A proud Israeli media, which truly believes in independence, not only in the freedom to make money at any cost, would take Independence Day and turn it into a festival of preservation of the Hebrew language.

Independence Day also is a celebration of tradition and a cultural legacy. One outstanding element of the day is the broadcasting of songs of “old Eretz Yisrael.” Why cannot more of these songs be heard in proportion to the rest of the music our youngsters are exposed to? There is no need to eliminate music from abroad but on the other hand, the music of the pre-state days, oriental or Mizrachi music or the genius of Naomi Shemer and Moshe Vilensky, for example, should not be shunted off to a corner of broadcast time.

Independence is not just a shopping list for media directors and editors but must be nurtured.