September 29, 2016

MEDIA COMMENT: Trump-phobia

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:06 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Trump-phobia
The upshot of all of this is that in Israel, at least, one should beware of and distrust the media when it comes to reports and analysis of the US election campaign.
Asaf Lieberman has been for the past two years the anchor of army radio station Galatz’s morning news program.

A few weeks ago, he was sent to the United States by the station to cover the presidential elections.

Last Friday, he wrote an op-ed for Makor Rishon describing candidate Trump: “Let’s be explicit, Donald Trump does not have a program for fighting terror and he has no idea how to approach the issue.

That is OK, why should he have such a program? He is a business man who understands real estate, TV and show business, there is no reason why he should understand anything on this topic.”

In his various appearances on Galatz news shows he consistently denigrates Trump. This would be fine if he did the same to Hillary Clinton, but he doesn’t. An objective bystander could be forgiven for assuming Lieberman is actually on the Clinton campaign payroll.

Haaretz, which published its English edition with The International New York Times, is, of course, rooting for Clinton, following the lead of The New York Times. In a classic example of manipulation, Haaretz on September 18 ran an almost full-page article titled “How Netanyahu is using YouTube to take over the world” with two pictures, one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and one of Trump.

Both are shown in an angry posture and the equation is clear: one is bad, the other is worse. In the same eight-page issue there are two more articles depicting Trump negatively.

One is entitled “For many blacks, including Republicans, Trump birther flip is too little, too late.” The second, on the first page, is “Trump adjusts call for Clinton bodyguards to disarm.”

On September 26, Barak Ravid’s article in Haaretz on the Netanyahu- Trump meeting was headlined with: “For Trump, Israel’s security is all business.” Is it? Could it possibly be also shared political, security and ideological interests? And even if it is only business, given Israel’s selling of itself, and let’s recall that Netanyahu’s central theme in his UN General Assembly speech last week was just that – that Israel can provide the world with goods and services – is that so terrible? Ravid further suggests that Netanyahu should not bask in Trump’s declarations on an undivided Jerusalem.

Why? Because “in any case [they] will disappear if he’s elected president.” Whether or not that happens – and a correspondent should not always be so confident of his prognostications – should not Ravid have tempered his words and reminded his readers of Clinton’s infamous browbeating of Netanyahu over construction in Jerusalem’s post-’67 neighborhoods back in March 2010? Then, as President Barack Obama’s “designated yeller” (her own description) she yelled at Prime Minister Netanyahu for 45 minutes after Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel.

But none of this appeared in the papers the day after the Clinton-Netanyahu meeting. The report by Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury was headlined: “Clinton tells Netanyahu she’s against UN imposing solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Does Ravid really believe that Clinton would hesitate to impose a UN solution if she thought that this would serve her best interests and those of the United States? Is there any difference between the campaign statements of Clinton and Trump? In this context we note that in contrast to Clinton, Trump extensively posted and pushed the details of his meeting with Netanyahu in New York. He even mentioned it in the debate the next day.

One might presume that the fact that Trump clearly doesn’t worry about his anti-Israel alt-right supporters while Clinton seems to know that praising Netanyahu would damage her with her extreme left-wing base would be newsworthy in Israel, but it isn’t.

The Trump-phobia goes much deeper than just Haaretz. Ynet, Israel’s most popular Internet site, ran this headline Monday, just before the Clinton-Trump debate: “…The candidates’ point of departure: The most experienced politician against the star of the gossip sections, the woman who weighs her every word carefully against the billionaire who shoots with hesitation.”

Not only is the headline silly, it is not factual. Clinton is not “the most experienced politician” nor does she weigh every word, for if so, why did she have to backtrack on her very public accusation that half of Trump’ s supporters are “deplorables”? If, indeed, our media were fair and unbiased, that remark of Clinton’s would have been cause to pillory her no less than was Netanyahu’s about “Arabs coming out in droves” to the voting booths last year.

Moreover, Haaretz journalists are the preferred “experts,” so right after the debate who is allowed to give an opinion piece on Galatz? Haaretz economics correspondent Nehemia Straessler, who was full of praise for Clinton and her “victory” in the debate. Both Galatz and Reshet Bet radio of the Israel Broadcasting Authority gave prominent space to the poll CNN publicized an hour after the debate. Reshet Bet had it as a major news item.

The CNN poll was devastating for Trump. According to the poll Clinton won by 62 percent to 27%. Yet anyone who spent a few minutes on this “poll” realized it was meaningless.

As CNN freely admitted the sample was skewed; 41% of the respondents were Democrats, 26% identified themselves as Republicans and the remaining 33% were unidentified. Add to this that CNN is pro-Clinton and you have Israel’s media falling for a US media station using its influence to support Clinton.

Why did Israeli media not give that headline a second look? A day after the debate, the impression one receives from reading the various media reports, from both sides of the political spectrum in the United States, is that Clinton made headway in the debate. It put her back on course in the presidential race, making up quite a bit for her previous errors, including false reporting about her health status.

It is valid to criticize any one of the candidates in the aftermath and we, for example, would consider Trump to be something of a crybaby in view of his accusations about a faulty microphone. Even if true, where were his people to check up on this prior to the debate? But such considerations are irrelevant when it comes to reporting the news. There is no space for personal views in such reports. They should be factual, leaving the listener or the viewer to reach their own conclusions.

The upshot of all of this is that in Israel, at least, one should beware of and distrust the media when it comes to reports and analysis of the US election campaign.

In addition to wishing our readers a good New Year, we also extend our condolences to the Peres family on the passing of a major figure in Israel’s history.

The authors are members of Israel’s Media Watch (


September 14, 2016

MEDIA COMMENT: That ethnic cleansing clip

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:40 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: That ethnic cleansing clip
These comments and many others did not answer why Netanyahu did not come out with his statement to Israel’s TV networks instead of YouTube.
Last Friday afternoon, on time for viewers especially in the United States, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu uploaded a video clip to YouTube that went viral.

In the clip the prime minister made the following observations in English: “I’m sure that many of you heard the claim that the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are an obstacle to peace. But no one would seriously claim that the nearly two million Arabs living inside Israel, that they are an obstacle to peace. That’s because they aren’t…

Yet the Palestinian leadership demands a Palestinian state with one precondition: no Jews. There is a phrase for that. It is called ethnic cleansing.”

Netanyahu’s criticism of countries who perceive the settlements as obstacles to peace received an immediate response from the Obama administration. US State Department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau noted: “We obviously strongly disagree with the characterization that those who oppose settlement activity or view it as an obstacle to peace are somehow calling for ethnic cleansing of Jews from the West Bank. …Using that type of terminology is inappropriate… We share the view… that ongoing settlement activity is an obstacle to peace.”

The clip raises many questions. Why in English? Why no subtitles in Hebrew? Why was it posted just before Shabbat? Why didn’t the prime minister broadcast his message through Israel’s TV channels? After all Friday evening is primetime TV in Israel. Why was this broadcast just now? What provoked it? Was this the first time the prime minister used the term “ethnic cleansing” in the context of Palestinian demands? Didn’t Netanyahu and his aides know that this would lead to a strong condemnation from the US? The clip was food for many pundits. Unfortunately, most of the commentary coming from left-wing media was not to the point but limited to Netanyahu-bashing.

Consider the comments of Israel Prize laureate for journalism Nahum Barnea, who wrote last Sunday: “Netanyahu is no fool, he knows that his speech presents him naked [referring to Hans Christian Anderson’s The Emperor’s New Clothes fable]. But the times are not simple. Any headline, only not the headlines on an unending police investigation, on an indictment in the saga of [the PM’s] homes, on flights, presents and goodies, therefore he is running from one medium to the next, from one photo op to the next.” To Barnea’s credit he then does explain why in his eyes removal of settlements would not be ethnic cleansing: we are occupiers and in addition, the residents of Judea and Samaria have never agreed to live under foreign sovereignty.

But can his comments be taken seriously? If Netanyahu wanted to deflect Israeli public opinion, why did he talk in English? Why on Friday afternoon? Does Barnea truly believe that Netanyahu, who “is no fool,” would risk the wrath of US President Barack Obama and the bad publicity it would cause him back home just for the purpose of deflecting stories? Obama can harm Netanyahu much more than momentary headlines on accusations that thus far have not amounted to anything and which have followed the prime minister for the past 20 years.

Meirav Batito, another Yediot Aharonot commentator, wrote: “The timing of the video… [was] when most Israelis are fatigued from the past week, relaxing and too weak to resist something which just might sound less logical during the traffic jams on Sunday, on the way to work.”

As for the content, her comments were: “Netanyahu put Arabs against Jews and this always works for him… he puts one public against the other, mixes issues, compares government policy to strengthen the settlements to the citizenship of Israel’s Arabs.” She ends by going below the belt: “Only he knows how to instill equations which make a parallel between ceasing settlement construction to the atrocities against the Jewish people, and the Americans from their part can continue to censure until tomorrow.”

At least Barnea does not take Netanyahu for a fool.

Arieh Golan, the left-wing ideologue of Reshet Bet radio, also had some words of wisdom Monday. His answer to Netanyahu was: “Israel will receive in the next decade $37 billion in aid from the United States, and this is truly important news… but there is some additional news, the ethnic cleansing… does not include in it the Jews living in the State of Israel, for them, the USA is helpful, really helpful.”

Haaretz could not resist bashing the prime minister. It took his clip, edited it and then immediately went on to provide excerpts of the statements of Trudeau from the State Department to make sure the viewer would not miss how damaging (in the eyes of Haaretz) the clip is. Its editorial on Monday was headlined “not cleansing and not ethnic.” It opened with: “The Israeli Palestinian peace is not threatening, sadly, to burst tomorrow… why then did Netanyahu initiate a public, political and diplomatic discussion of the issue by stating that removal of settlements equals ethnic cleansing? …Netanyahu wanted to create noise. Why? One possibility is that… two months prior to elections in the US, he wanted to draw a hard line for the next administration, and to irritate the outgoing Obama administration.”

These comments and many others did not answer why Netanyahu did not come out with his statement to Israel’s TV networks instead of YouTube. We would dare to say that Netanyahu, like other leading Israeli politicians such as Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid Party, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, chair of the Bayit Yehudi Party, tend to give their most important messages to the public, as well as their insight, via social media. In our minds the reason is obvious: a mistrust of the media and their capability to provide a politician with a fair stage from which to present her or his political and ideological position on any issue. One does not forget so quickly how Yonit Levy mistranslated the prime minister during his speech to the joint session of US Congress on the Iranian issue.

The silly response of the mainstream media to the clip is another reason. By going through YouTube, anyone can access the prime minister’s remarks, getting them from the horse itself rather than through the filter of the commentators.

The media could have considered that the prime minister was answering Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, preparing for the future meeting with him. It could have noted that by being sharp, the prime minister sought to preempt a unilateral step by Obama after the elections which could compromise Israel’s future. It could have asked why didn’t the prime minister mention the ethnic cleansing of Jews during the mandate period, when they were forcibly removed from Jerusalem neighborhoods, Gush Etzion, or Hebron and Gaza in 1929?

The shallowness and one-sided commentaries are first and foremost losses of the media itself. If only it would be a bit more open to other opinions.


September 7, 2016

Those of faith; those of fate

Posted in Judea & Samaria, revenant, Yesha tagged , , , , , at 10:03 pm by yisraelmedad

Those of faith; those of fate
I am not an anthropologist but will admit that the sense of participating in a “rite of passage” was unmistakable in this and other marches toward a location to be redeemed and populated by Jews.
Forty years older, veterans of the campaign to establish a Jewish community in Samaria convened last week in a festive gathering to mark Kedumim’s success in receiving government permission to set up camp at the Kadum army base. Wisely, they chose a late summer day rather than the wintry, rainy days they camped out, on the eighth attempt, in December 1975 at Masudiah, the old Turkish railway station near the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Israel, now called Sebastia.

I was there just prior to Tisha Be’av 1974, when that site was first selected by Gush Emunim, mainly because it provided a natural “fort” for protection against the expected army and police evictions. We reached it by car and then on foot, avoiding roadblocks and being chased by security forces. It was the second attempt of the Elon Moreh resettlement group, which wanted a site as close to Nablus as possible. In fact, not too long after Kedumim was eventually set up, the group split, with about half going eastward of Nablus to the current location of Elon Moreh on Mount Kabir, near the original location they sought.

I am not an anthropologist but will admit that the sense of participating in a certain “rite of passage” was unmistakable in this and other marches toward a location to be redeemed and populated by Jews.

Living in Jerusalem’s Bayit Vegan neighborhood at the time, the word went out in synagogues, youth movement clubhouses and grocery stores to get ready. Almost as in a drill, those who mobilized prepared sleeping bags, a change of clothes, or at least underwear and socks, and some sandwiches. Good walking shoes were located deep in a closet and friends were contacted for rides. And then came the notice of the day, hour and destination.

Samaria was empty of Jews at that time. The family of Moshe Sharret had lived in the Arab village of Ein Sinya, north of Ramallah, but had left after two years. The ferocious Arab violence assured that the few Jews who had been living in Nablus could no longer do so. The JNF’s Yosef Weitz had purchased land around Tulkarm in the 1930s and 1940s and in the Jiftlik area in the Lower Jordan Valley. But it was in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem, in the heart of Judea, that modern Zionist settlement efforts were directed in the Mandate days, and where a Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz, Revadim, was established on former lands of Nahlin village, in addition to the two moshavim north of the city, Atarot and Neveh Yaakov. All were overrun in the 1948 war the Arabs launched in their attempt to eradicate the nascent State of Israel, as were the Shimon Hatzaddik neighborhood near the American Colony Hotel and the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The post-1967 resettlement efforts of Judea, Samaria and Gaza were assisted by a major realigning of Zionism’s left-of-center camp and not solely due some sort of a religious messianic enthusiasm. The Land of Israel Movement founding members, who signed its manifesto, included two sons of Yitzhak Tabenkin, Rachel Yanait Ben-Tzvi, Antek Zuckerman and Eliezer Livneh as well as Natan Alterman, Haim Guri, Yehuda Burla and Haim Hazaz, all luminaries of Mapai, Kibbutz Meuchad and the Palmach. If there was an “intoxication of the senses,” as Gadi Yatziv phrased it, the attachment to the regions of the Jewish homeland that fell outside Israel’s reach in 1948 bestirred deep if inchoate feelings that the State of Israel and the land of Israel were to become one.

Kfar Etzion was reestablished in September 1967 and Kiryat Arba, on Hebron’s outskirts, was inaugurated after the Passover 1968 renting of a downtown hotel by rabbis Moshe Levinger and Eliezer Waldman. Two of their yeshiva students, Benny Katzover and Menachem Felix, launched the Elon Moreh nucleus already in 1973. The grassroots movement of Gush Emunim only appeared in early 1974, following the nadir of national sentiment in the wake of the Yom Kippur political debacle.

I watched as Yitzhak Rabin flew over our encampment at the Sebastia railway station and read in the next day’s press that he had muttered “porshim,” the derogatory term meaning “dissidents” applied by the official Yishuv leadership to the Irgun and Lehi underground fighters. But it was Shimon Peres – who described in his autobiography how he slept close by David Ben-Gurion, with his rifle under the cot to protect Israel’s first prime minister during the Altalena arms ship episode when Ben-Gurion sought to quash the dissident camp once and for all – who, as defense minister in 1975, arranged the Kedumim compromise which allowed for the Elon Moreh group to stay at Kadum.

From several hundred “beyond the Green Line” residents, the past four decades have resulted in 460,000 Jews living, planting, constructing and producing throughout Judea and Samaria, despite the withdrawal from Sinai and the disengagement from Gaza. Since the UN, US President Barack Obama and several others view Jerusalem’s post-67 neighborhoods as “settlements,” another 210,000 Jews need be added to the population demographic. That represents some 15 percent of the total population of the area known as the Palestinian Authority.

Indeed, four decades ago, the men and the women of faith altered Israel’s political, social and cultural landscape. In the wake of the December 8, 1975, compromise signed by Peres, they became the men and women of fate, of Zionism’s future.

For the 19 years between the War of Independence and the Six Day War, Jews could not live in the areas where Jewish nationalism was fostered. Israelis were prohibited from visiting the Western Wall, where previous generations of Jews prayed. The land was occupied, illegally, by Jordan, but no one was disturbed by a breach of the armistice agreements the United Nations oversaw between Israel and the Arabs states which sought to destroy it. Those were also 19 years of Fedayeen and then PLO terrorist attacks.

All that was swept away in 1967, and in its wake, those of faith, and not solely those who were religiously observant, rallied to assure the future fate of Israel, the state, the land and the people.

The author resides in Shiloh and is a pro-Land of Israel Jewish residency activist.


September 6, 2016

MEDIA COMMENT: The media’s Netanyahu fixation

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:55 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: The media’s Netanyahu fixation
The fact is that in our media there is no proper analysis of the Islamism growing in the kingdom across the river.
Criticism of journalism by media consumers is often dismissed as either “political,” “subjective” or as coming from those who know nothing about the profession. That journalists can be extremely political themselves, or have no real training, is generally avoided.

The New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg has described the standard for media ethics as follows: “It is journalism’s job to be true to the readers and viewers, and true to the facts, in a way that will stand up to history’s judgment.” But who makes those judgment calls, and are they as liable to be critical as the politicians and public figures they scrutinize? Consider Israel’s latest media scandals in its coverage of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

As we have written previously, we viewed quite negatively the willingness of Netanyahu to allow Channel 10 to continue to literally steal money from the public while at the same time providing its viewers with tainted and unethical programming content and slanted ideological commentary.

Not only was the channel economically unsound, but we also documented its biased content.

Channel 10 has a different view of “fairness,” permitting Assaf Harel, one of its late-night satirists, to rip into Netanyahu mercilessly.

On his July 19 program, Harel, upset that Netanyahu as communications minister postponed the launch of the new public broadcasting company, accused him of acting so because of investigations he is embroiled in. “You wish the media to deal with this [delay] rather than your personal corruption… running the country without integrity, fraudulently, without values and 100% opportunism… you are a monster,” said Harel.

This monologue came after the July 5 show when Harel criticized the 40-year memorial ceremony for the Entebbe raid, which was combined with Netanyahu’s meeting with seven African heads of state, as all “because Yoni [Netanyahu’s brother] died.”

This week, one of Harel’s scriptwriters, Ruth Elbaz – who is not enamored of Netanyahu – posted to her Facebook page a picture of Hitler with Goering on a balcony, a Nazi flag in the background and the caption: “Many came to the briefing today.” We will return to the context, but first, if exploiting Nazi imagery is fair for an extreme left-winger, or anyone opposed to Netanyahu, why is everyone still upset about GSS-employed agent provocateur Avishai Raviv’s photoshop of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in an SS uniform, which he managed to get displayed live on camera back in 1995? And if that contributed to Rabin’s assassination, what is the culpability of Elbaz? When, within minutes, voices rose against such abuse of the freedom of expression, Elbaz responded: “If anyone felt slighted, it was just bad-taste humor.” Her FB page carries that caption under a scene from Orwell’s 1984 and other totalitarian figures.

As for the context, in the past few weeks Netanyahu has been conducting one-on-one meetings with members of the press. Multiple meetings and, it seems, intensive ones. This is the backdrop to Elbaz’s Nazi reference mentioned above. In the past, Netanyahu has been rapped for not conducting press conferences. Now he is holding them, if not in public. But it is not enough.

One meeting, a four-hour session with the editorial board of Haaretz (!), generated much discussion.

Haaretz columnists, being who and what they are, were troubled.

On August 18, Gideon Levy referred to the meeting two days earlier as a “performance, authentic theater, a one-man show by a character actor… [p]erhaps he is an effective Evangelist preacher….”

Levy added: “He’s a kid who’s never grown up.” At the same time, when Netanyahu used his Facebook page to snap back at journalists, a protest arose from media ranks; how dare he?. What the media permits itself is prohibited to those they attack.

In April, former editor-in-chief for The Observer in England and current Guardian columnist Will Hutton expressed fear of “a highly powerful rightwing press” for which “a cowed BBC” was no match. He spoke of “a new carelessness about truth… partisan, unforgivable nonsense, with uneasy tones…,” and warned that the public debate is in danger of being “largely framed by a media whose core purpose has transmuted from the dissemination of information, news and fact to the propagandizing of a worldview.”

Parallel to this perspective was Justin Raimondo’s, who wrote in The Los Angeles Times, “It has become almost impossible to separate coverage of the Trump campaign from attempts to tear it down.”

Indeed, the coverage of Netanyahu in the Israeli media seems to be driven not by objective, factbased reporting or even well-reasoned opinions but by an animosity almost pathological in nature.

It has been amply documented that in Israel, this very type of “personal opinion journalism” has been the dominant bon ton, especially in the public broadcasting networks. This includes the broadcast hosts who led the Get Out of Lebanon campaign and boasted of it; the suppressing of news regarding Yasser Arafat’s negating of the Oslo Accords commitments; the fawning over those who adopt an anti-occupation stance; the ignoring of cultural events, usually either religious or connected to the nationalist camp and more.

We have analyzed this and documented bias with factual data and, in many cases, actual admissions.

Returning to the present, has there been any investigative journalism as to what the elections in the Palestinian Authority mean? Is the Iran-US deal being reevaluated as Iranian ships bait American vessels (not to mention the ransom money the US admits it paid)? Have Israel’s new foreign policy outreaches been subjected to a fair and balanced review? Have anti-boycott successes been lauded? Have attacks vilifying American Jews trying to assist Israel in this matter been highlighted? Why has Jordan’s vicious antagonism over events on the Temple Mount and capitulation to extremist Islamism after it jettisoned its agreement with Netanyahu to affix surveillance cameras ignored? The fact is that in our media there is no proper analysis of the Islamism growing in the kingdom across the river.

In America, media critics on both sides of the spectrum are referring to a “complete collapse of American journalism” as the election campaign seems to spiral out of control, with one noting that the “shameful display of naked partisanship by the elite media is unlike anything seen in modern America.” We in Israel, sadly, have our own share of shameful displays.