February 15, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: Fake news, Israel-style

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:39 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Fake news, Israel-style
By YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK
02/15/2017
The media, from the editors down, presume that they know much better than average Israelis what they should be hearing or reading.
‘Fake news’ has been anointed by at least one dictionary as the “word of the year” and most assuredly it is one of the linguistic highlights for others who promote vocabulary inventiveness.

To our mind, fake news is the lesser problem. Most of it turns out be fake and the public knows. A much more difficult issue is when real news is made fake by journalists who have no respect for their own profession and its code of ethics.

A fact can easily be misrepresented.

Imbalance of coverage or the makeup of a discussion panel will divert attention from unpleasant matters. A wink, shrug or raised eyebrow will mislead the viewer. A tagged-on comment from a supposedly impartial anchor can persuade a listener to believe what is not actually true.

Amanda Taub, writing in the January 11, 2017, edition of The New York Times, asserted that the problem could lie with the media consumers who are becoming more insular and resistant to a pluralistic review of news and views.

She had it that “Partisan tribalism makes people more inclined to seek out and believe stories that justify their pre-existing partisan biases, whether or not they are true.” We would point out that there is a corollary to this: journalists are more inclined to publish and air stories that play up to their own political and social peer groups. If violations of the professional journalism rules becomes a regular feature of some media personalities, outlets and programs, the result is quite fake.

American columnist David Zurawik of The Baltimore Sun expressed related concerns when he admitted in a CNN interview that he is upset with “over-the top rhetoric, historical ignorance, an utter lack of proportion and, in some cases, just plain bias.” He has issued a “call for calmer, more centrist media” instead of the “feeding frenzy” that too often dominates reporting. He urged “real reporting – not alleg[ing] it with over-the-top rhetoric.”

“Credibility,” he wrote, “remains the highest prize of all.”

Of course, there is always the comic approach of Ron Burgundy (the Anchorman character): “Why do we have to tell the people what they need to hear? Why can’t we just tell them what they want to hear?” Even that approach, in Israel, is impossible.

The media, from the editors down, presume that they know much better than average Israelis what they should be hearing or reading. One cannot find a single public poll which attempts to understand the media needs of Israelis. Even the public broadcasters do not give a hoot for the public’s interests as they know it all.

For example, shortly after the recent Amona evacuation, Judge Miriam Lipschitz-Previs of the Jerusalem District Court handed down a spectacular decision. Four years after the previous Migron expulsion, she declared that Arab ownership of the lands in question was unproven. She issued an order that the plaintiffs who had sought damages themselves would pay the residents of the former Migron location for the discomfort they had caused. She also prohibited the Arabs from attempting any future court challenges connected to land upon which the original Migron was built.

This decision merited headline treatment and studio debate. But hardly anyone knows about it. Our media, which is so good at exposing political misdeeds and at deifying “investigative reporters” such as Ilana Dayan, did not, as far as we know, devote an investigative report to the fate of the families evacuated from Migron. Where are they today? What are their conditions? Has anything been learned from the catastrophic Gaza and North Samaria expulsion of 2005? And what of the conditions of the current Amona evacuees? Even the Left should be interested in such facts, given that it promotes further expulsions of Jews from their homeland.

Another item has been the ongoing media treatment of police investigations into actions taken or not taken by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. One concern was Netanyahu’s rumored involvement in the process of contracting for the purchase of German submarines.

Some media outlets indicated that bribes were involved.

Last week, as if in a “still, small voice,” it became apparent that Netanyahu was not a suspect. Almost daily, several times a day, Israelis, almost obsessive consumers of news, were primed by the media to think “Netanyahu” and “bribery” as if in a Pavlovian experiment. And then, within a day, we learn the matter never really existed. Headlines? An apology? Only additional “news” about the alleged misdeeds of the prime minister and his wife.

A recent media study, based on a content analysis of articles by Johannes Kaiser and Katharina Kleinen-von Konigslow about the EU crisis in German and Spanish online newspapers and published in Journalism’s December 2016 issue, found that ideology-guided framing is present in nearly half of all articles. This type of self-injected involvement has long been a negative factor in Israel’s media establishment elite.

A charge of agenda-driven journalism was made last week in Maariv by Kalman Liebskind against Rino Tzror, who broadcasts over Galatz Army Radio (which will not be transferred to the Defense Ministry as we had urged in our previous column, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman having backtracked on his own suggestion).

Liebskind expressed outrage at Tzror’s characterization of a film clip Liebskind and others employed as satire. It showed snakes chasing an iguana, to highlight how Netanyahu is being hounded by the media, and was depicted by Tzror as “incitement.” He searched Tzror’s Facebook page and found that back in 2011, complaining about what Tzror considered to be a Netanyahu- led anti-media campaign, Tzror himself used an image of a snake.

What is prohibited for the Right is, Liebskind indicated, quite a permissible tool for the Left.

Prime Minister Netanyahu left Israel earlier this week for his first meeting with US President Donald Trump. Over the past weekend, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the Bayit Yehudi party, warned that Netanyahu should not continue to push for the “two-state solution.” This warning was the media’s introduction to the trip. Only Israel Hayom mentioned that the prime minister would raise the Pollard issue with Trump, a news-worthy item.

Although everyone knows that the Oslo process which was initiated 25 years ago was a total failure, one will never find the mainstream media considering the consequences.

Perhaps a strong joint US-Israel stand, supporting the recognition of unified Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, promotion of settlement activity and legitimization of Israel’s claims to Judea and Samaria would bring the PLO to its senses and the negotiating table?

Perhaps Israel’s housing crisis is directly related to the prime minister’s acquiescence to Obama in prohibiting construction in Judea and Samaria? The atmosphere in Israel’s mainstream media is one of denial and misrepresentation of the issues facing Israel. If this were not so serious, as the destiny of our small state depends so much on the decisions of weak politicians who let themselves be guided by a fake media, it could be considered ludicrous.

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February 5, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: ‘Galatz’ no more?

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:22 pm by yisraelmedad

‘Galatz’ no more?
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK
02/05/2017
The present IDF chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, has made public his opinion that a radio station should not be part of the army.
Galatz’ is the Hebrew abbreviation of Galei Zahal – Army Radio (literally “the waves of the IDF”) Last week the Israeli public was informed that Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman had decided to move Galatz from the military to the Defense Ministry.

This is not a trivial move, for it means that if and when it actually happens Galatz will become an independent entity, operating within the Defense Ministry, much as the Israel Broadcasting Authority is an independent entity operating within the Communications Ministry or the Israel Educational Television network is attached to the Education Ministry.

The present IDF chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, has made public his opinion that a radio station should not be part of the army. Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon disagreed, but now with Liberman replacing him, the decision seems to have been made to accept the recommendation of the chief of staff, one that Ehud Barak, too, supported in 1992 when he was chief of staff.

But truth be told it is far from certain that it will happen, and worse, even if it does it may not improve the situation. In fact, if deputy attorney-general Dina Silber has her way, it will only further the distance between the station and the public. Silber, who is known for her left-wing views, has been given the authority to lay down the legal guidelines which are to govern the transition of the station. The headline in Makor Rishon last Friday had it thus: “This is the method by which Galatz will keep its independence in the Defense Ministry.”

As reported in Makor Rishon, Silber’s directive, presumably affirmed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, had it among other things that the station would be under the control of the Defense Ministry director-general, and not the minister. Moreover, the government would not be permitted to move the station from the Defense Ministry to any other structure or institution within the government. Of course, the head of the station would not be chosen by the minister but by a committee whose head is someone such as a former Supreme Court justice or the president of the Israel Press Council. It really does not matter how it is accomplished, as long as it is the outdated elites who identify with the liberal progressive Left who control the station.

One would hope that Liberman will ignore these antidemocratic directives. But then what? What type of station will it be? What should its mandate be? News? Entertainment? Political commentary? Battle chronicles? Analysis?

We believe that the best decision is to close the station. We have published our outlook for over two decades now. Israel does not need the station, there is no need for taxpayers to fund it. We already have more than enough government-funded media outlets. It would be much better to leave the playing field to private competition and spare the government the expense.

We are not naïve, however. This will not happen. Bureaucratic inertia and the love of politicians for “playthings” outweighs logic. The shouts of “gevalt!” coming from Israel’s elite will be heard from one side of the world to the other. The government will be accused of being antidemocratic. The media elite, many of whom are alumni of the station and fully understand its important role of keeping Israel’s airwaves clear of true pluralism, will use their power to stop such a decision, as they have successfully done in the past.

What then, will the station continue to employ army recruits? Probably yes, even though this, too, is not exactly justified. Where does the state get the moral right to draft young people into jobs that do not have anything to do with the defense of the State of Israel? But let’s gloss over the niceties. Minister Liberman could take advantage of the transition and change the ground rules. Nowadays, soldiers who are of combat quality cannot even apply to serve at Galatz. This is a wonderful rule, since in practice it means that highly motivated and Zionistic youngsters will never be able to enter this bastion of the Left.

Galatz has suffered in the past incidents in which employees seemed to “misunderstand” the station’s identity. Examples abound. In 2002, Galatz commander Avi Benayahu had to suspend Amos Krieger for allowing Saed Kashua to attack the IDF’s actions across the Green Line – on Remembrance Day. This past summer, Yaron Dekel, the station’s current commander, was reprimanded for permitting an interview which touted the anti-Zionist poet Mahmoud Darwish’s output as a “classic Israeli text.”

There is, though, a way out. Being accepted as an employee of the station should be conditioned on having first served 18 months in a regular unit. Moreover, the gender discrimination should cease. Both men and women should agree to a three-year stint in the station, of which during the last 18 months they would be considered regular soldiers receiving a modest salary. This would assure that the people serving in the station had first-hand army experience.

It would increase their identification with what should be the station’s core Zionist values. It would insure that the recruits do not partake in the post-Zionist army bashing which has been too often the hallmark of the radio station.

^

Original unedited version:

Galatz no more?

MEDIA COMMENT

By Yisrael Medad and Eli Pollak

Radio Galatz is the Hebrew abbreviation of Galei Zahal – the air waves of the Israel Defense Forces. Last week the Israeli public was informed that Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman decided to move Galatz out of the army to the Defense Ministry.

This is not a trivial move for it means that if and when this actually happens, the radio station will no longer be under the command of the officer responsible for education in the IDF, who is under the command of the general heading the personnel department and whose boss is the IDF Chief of Staff. Instead, the idea is to have the station become an independent entity, operating within the Ministry of Defense, much as the Israel Broadcasting Authority is an independent entity operating within the Ministry of Communications or the Israel Educational Television network is attached to the Ministry of Education.

The present Chief of Staff of the IDF, General Gadi Eisenkot has made his opinion public that a radio station should not be part of the army and its budget should not come on account of the IDF’s budget. Former Defense Minister Ya’alon disagreed, but now with Lieberman replacing him, the decision seems to have been made to accept the recommendation of the Chief of Staff, one that Ehud Barak had supported in 1992 when he was Chief of Staff.

We are happy to say kudos to Lieberman, but truth be told, we are far from certain that this will happen and worse, if this does, it will not make the station better. In fact, if Ms. Dina Silber, who is one of the deputy attorney-generals, has her way, it will only further the distance between the station and the public. Silber, who is known for her left wing agenda, has been given the authority to lay down the legal rules which are to govern the transition of the station. The headline in Makor Rishon last Friday had it thus: “This is the method by which Galatz will keep its independence in the Ministry of Defense”.

Strange, when it comes to life and death, the left wing is quick to blame the government for not allowing the cabinet to take responsibility for operational decisions of the army. At least that is the line taken by the IBA’s perpetual left wing legal commentator Moshe Negbi this past Sunday on his weekly radio program on Kol Yisrael.

He noted that it was a “crime” not to involve the Cabinet in the decision making process leading to the Protective Edge operation. But, when it comes to the really important issues, such as the strategy, policies and budget of a media organ, the Government must be kept at arm’s length. One might think that Ms. Silber is paying the expenses and not the Israeli public who elects officials to carry out policy. Ms. Silber is not an elected official.

As reported in Makor Rishon, Silber’s directive presumably affirmed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had it, among others that the station would be under the control of the Director General of the Defense Ministry and not the Minister. Moreover, the government would not be permitted to move the station from the Defense Ministry to any other structure or institution within the government. Of course, the head of the station would not be chosen by the Minister but by a committee whose head is someone such as a former Supreme Court justice or the President of the Israeli Press Council. It really does not matter how it is done, as long as it is the outdated elites who identify with the liberal progressive left wing who control the station.

One would hope that Lieberman will ignore these antidemocratic directives. But then what? What type of station will it be? What should be its mandate? News? Entertainment? Political commentary? Battle legacy chronicles? Analysis?

We believe that the best decision is to close down the station. We have published our outlook for over two decades now.  Israel does not need the station, there is no need why the taxpayer should cover the bill. We already have more than enough government-funded media outlets.  It would be much better to leave the playing field to private competition and totally remove the defense ministry from wasting any of its budget on Galatz.

We are not naïve, however. Unfortunately this will not happen. Bureaucratic inertia of the love of politicians for ‘play things’ outweighs simple logic and money-saving ideas.  The shouts of Gevalt! coming from Israel’s elites will be heard from one side of the world to the other. The government will be accused of the most horrendous crime of being anti-democratic.  The media elites, many who are alumni of the station and who fully understand that it is an important part of keeping Israel’s airwaves clean from true pluralism, will use their power to stop such a decision as they have successfully done in the past.

What then? Will the station continue to employ army recruits? Probably yes, even though this, too, is not exactly justified. Where does the State garner the moral right to recruit young people into jobs that do not have anything to do with combat and the defense of the State of Israel? But let’s gloss over the niceties. Minister Lieberman could take advantage of the transition and change the ground rules. Nowadays, soldiers who are of combat quality cannot even apply to serve in Galatz.  After all, their job is to go to the fighting corps, not the “jobniks” who serve behind the desks and computers. This is a wonderful rule, we ruefully note, since in practice it implies that especially those youngsters who are highly motivated and Zionistic will never be able to enter this bastion of the left.

Galatz has suffered in the past incidents when employees seemed to “misunderstand” the station’s identity. Examples abound. In 2002, Galatz Commander Avi Benayahu had to suspend Amos Krieger for allowing Saed Kashua to attack the IDF’s actions across the Green Line, on the Memorial Day for the IDF’s fallen. This past summer, Yaron Dekel, the station’s current commander, was reprimanded for permitting an interview which touted the anti-Zionist poet Mahmoud Darwish’s output as a “classic Israeli text”.

There is, though, a way out. Being accepted as an employee of the station should be conditioned on having first served 18 months in a regular unit. Only then would one be able to enter the radio station. Moreover, the discrimination between women and men should cease. Both should agree to a three-year stint in the station, of which during the last eighteen months they would be considered as regular soldiers receiving a modest salary for their duties. This would assure that the people serving in the station would know the army from first-hand experience.

It would increase their identification with what should be the station’s core Zionist values rather than another outlet for our cultural and intellectual elites. It would insure that the recruits do not partake in the post-Zionist army bashing which has been too often the hall mark of the radio station.