December 23, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: Trump, Jerusalem and ‘hidden news’

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:02 pm by yisraelmedad

Trump, Jerusalem and ‘hidden news’
European responses to Trump’s Jerusalem announcement have not been taken in kind.
US President Donald Trump’s policy announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was and is a milestone in the history of Jerusalem. With two weeks’ hindsight it is evident that the city has not only been recognized as a capital but that its deep link to the Jewish people has also been acknowledged. The US veto in the United Nations this week was not only a resounding reconfirmation of the policy, but evidence of the strong antipathy toward not only Israel but also the United States at the UN. As US United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley reiterated, no other country would tolerate a dictate concerning where it puts its embassies.

That the Arab nations, including Egypt, would try to roll back the American position is a given. Islam cannot accept that Jerusalem is ruled by infidels. But what about Europe? Why are countries like France, Germany and Great Britain going so far as to demand and vote for retraction? The easy answer is that the “old” Europe is rearing its head, but that is too easy.

Most of us know and are friends with many Europeans who we know are not antisemites, yet they too believe that the US has gone too far by creating unilateral facts rather than allowing the two sides to negotiate a result.

The irrational European opinion that the only solution to the Middle East problem is the so-called two-state solution underlies Europe’s actions.

Not only the leaders of those countries, but also the citizens of those countries believe that the Palestinian people have a right to exist as an independent nation. The ongoing Israeli occupation is in their eyes immoral and this includes the city of Jerusalem, where Israel has unilaterally created facts on the ground.

There are many good, rational and convincing answers to this ill-informed and unrealistic attitude, but they do not come to the forefront. A major player in this struggle is the media, which in Europe sides clearly with the Palestinian Authority. This attitude became apparent during the past two weeks.

For example, the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) outdid itself in bashing Trump and Israel. The following is a partial list of headlines: On December 7, Jochen Stahnke’s article was titled “The Right of the Mighty” and the subtitle was “Two states for two people? With his decision … Trump has only strengthened the radicals.”

On the same day an op-ed article by Atef Abu Saif was titled “We no longer believe in peace.” On December 8 Frauke Steffens writes “The Dealmaker does not have the political concept” and she continues, “Trump’s decision endangers America’s role in the region.”

We could find not one article on the website that provided a balancing opinion.

The Swiss Neue Zueriche Zeitung on December 15 had an article by Martin Zahringer with the lead: “The West Jordanland is a powder keg and the one-sided recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel is a political fuse. This conclusion must be reached also by a political layperson when reading 26 reports, essays and travel descriptions under the title ‘Olives and Ashes’ from authors from all over the world.”

It goes without saying that the rest of the article is written in this spirit with no attempt at all to be fair handed and consider that to any dispute there are two sides.

An editorial in Austria’s Die Presse was titled “Days of Folly.” It opened with: “The recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a statement of fact. But it also ignores a people’s right of self-determination and creates a completely unnecessary provocation.”

This style of unbalanced writing is not limited to the major newspapers. Smaller, more regional ones do the same.

Elisabeth Hausen’s review of the media in the PRO Christian Media Magazine on December 7 concluded that “German-language media against Trump’s Jerusalem decision.”

The situation in Britain is not much different.

The Guardian’s December 7 headline was “Defiant Donald Trump confirms US will recognize Jerusalem.” Why defiant? Who is he defying? The Guardian? But at least the Guardian did publish some defense of the decision on December 8, with an article headlined “Differing views on Jerusalem as a capital.”

It read in part, “Palestinian claims to Jerusalem as their capital have no basis in fact or history, says Joshua Rowe. Trump and [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu know the west’s response is all wind and fury, says Christopher Sterling. It’s hard to argue with Israel’s assertion that Trump is simply acknowledging the reality, says Leon Rosselson.”

But note that the Guardian took it for granted that the reader would understand that these responses differ from the mainstream.

The Telegraph was not better. Its headline on December 9 was “Trump’s decision on Jerusalem shatters the Palestinian old guard.”

On December 7 it was “Saudi Arabia blasts Donald Trump’s shift on Jerusalem.”

If one reads though the Israeli newspapers or listens to the Israeli media, one would not know about this at all. Our media does not make it a habit to round up international response to happenings in the Middle East.

Is it because this does not interest the average Israeli? We doubt it. Most Israelis are aware that the State of Israel is not accepted worldwide, but do not know or understand the extent. Not for lack of interest but lack of knowledge of languages and lack of time to browse through the various media outlets.

But more damning, if more Israelis were aware of the specifics, they would do something about it. We have Zionist journalists and they would respond with their op-ed articles which would reach the international papers and provide some balance. The foreign media in Israel is sensitive to professional criticism, but instead of providing the balance, at best, outlets such as Haaretz simply pour oil into the fire. Zvi Hauser, former Israeli government secretary, tweeted on December 7: “nine measures of character went into print last night in Haaretz. Not one spoke positively about Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

It is not only the media which is responsible for the disaster. As we wrote many times in this column, our Foreign Ministry is incompetent. It sends out ambassadors to countries even though they do not speak the local language. How can they defend Israel? They are too often not even aware as to what is written against us. But our media is also to blame.

We have many programs which purport to expose shortcomings of government. Nary a one of them has taken the Foreign Ministry to task. When deputy minister Tzipi Hotovely made a remark about American Jews, it was plastered all over. The meetings of Supreme Court justices with reporters filled our headlines this week, but no one asks how many reporters were wined and dined by Israel’s representatives in Europe.

To our mind the damage done to Israel by the inaction and incompetence of the Foreign Ministry is a strategic threat to Israel’s future. But our media is complacent and ignores this threat. All of us pay the price, even the president of the United States.


December 7, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: The Israeli media is unpopular because it is biased

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:33 am by yisraelmedad

Media comment: The Israeli media is unpopular because it is biased
The media in Israel is not very popular.
It has been suggested that the instinct to share information is matched by the instinct to prevent it from spreading. We would add that there is another instinct, which is to spin the information, shape it, frame it and present it in a way that benefits someone or something in that information chain. In a word, bias.

And an additional corollary is that the more the bias stems from the ideological and political sphere, knowingly and even sub-consciously, the more cunning, guileful, artful and devious that bias will be.

For example, an early tweet from Times of Israel journalist Dov Lieber on the incident last Thursday when Jewish children hiking were stoned, beaten and had possessions stolen near the Arab village of Kutzra near Shiloh, read, “48-year-old palestinian [SIC] shot dead by an Israeli… army said the Palestinians were throwing rocks at ‘hikers,’ and one responded with gunfire.” He was queried about the quotation marks and replied, “At the time it wasn’t clear who was there. Army said hikers. Simple.”

But is it? 

Of all the words he chose to bracket in scare quotes, why hikers? He could have selected others, such as shot, or throwing rocks, responded or even dead. Why the use of what’s known as scare quotes?

Scare, or sneer, quotes have become increasingly employed by journalists and bloggers, as Megan Garber wrote a year ago in The Atlantic, “to make clear that [the word bracketed] is not just a term of discussion, but a term of contention… indications of words that are doubted… They signal irony, and uncertainty. They suggest words that don’t quite mean what they claim to.”

If media people insist on inserting themselves into the news, or their own views and values, eliminating objectivity, it may come about that someday, journalists will find their own names bracketed in scare quotes.

An extreme form of bias is to pressure a friendly legislator to attempt to ban a rival publication.

As reported on November 27, MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union) was asked whether he was wrong to have attempted to pass the anti-Israel Hayom bill several years ago. His reply was that “today I know that I was wrong in how I led this effort… but the decisions were made on the move; in retrospect, it was wrong to engage this matter through legislation.”

Was the shutting down of Arutz 7 over a decade ago also the result of some MKs being “on the move”?

SATIRE IS a form of media comment which openly permits those participating to drop any sense of neutrality. Is this ethical? Not if the program is presented by a public broadcaster, without balance. If satire is one-sided, bias dominates.

The Kan network airs the Ad Kan! (No Farther) political satire program whose host, Michael Hanegbi, is afforded a special introductory slot to let the world share his wisdom, in addition to being able to shape and limit the other six panelists, who appear to be fairly representative voices.

Early last week, one of Hanegbi’s monologues touched on the very annoying Peleg group demonstrations. Representing a fraction of the general haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community, and forcefully reprimanded by leading rabbis, the group has been campaigning against any cooperation with the IDF, even to obtain draft deferments. But this allowed a swipe at all haredim. Here is how his remarks went: • On one thing we can all agree on: the haredim are kakot (turds).

• The haredim really aren’t kakot, they are simply different and took themselves out of democratic society and formed for themselves a society that contributes just to and for itself.

• Okay, they’re a bit crappy, but that’s okay.

Hanegbi zeroed in on a small group and then, pardon the pun, smeared all of the haredim.

Another spin tool is to redo history, the “old news” that few can recall.

We do not have the space to review in depth all the Haaretz coverage of this year’s centenary of the Balfour Declaration, but some of it exuded utter contempt for Zionism. One op-ed bemoaned “the racism of the British government 100 years ago, which disturbingly, continues to reverberate in the conflict to this day” and claimed that “the Cabinet had no intention of giving Judea to the Jews.”

Other articles this year were entitled “The Curse of the Balfour Declaration,” “Balfour Declaration Wasn’t About Israel,” “Balfour Declaration’s Legacy Is Toxic for Both Israelis and Palestinians,” “Balfour’s Original Sin” and “Britain Facilitated Palestine’s Ethnic Cleansing. Today, Britain’s Celebrating It.”

One, “Britain’s Broken Promises to the Palestinians From Balfour Onwards,” uncritically quotes a Gazan Arab saying: “The Jewish people took their rights after Hitler committed massacres against them.”

Returning to the stoning of the children hikers, a fierce Twitter battle erupted between Channel 2’s Amit Segal, son of Makor Rishon editor Haggai Segal who grew up in the Ofra community in the disputed territory of Binyamin, and Haaretz’s owner and publisher, Amos Schocken.

Angered at the way the English-language Haaretz headline reporting that incident was worded – “Palestinian Shot and Killed by Jewish Settler in the West Bank” – Segal tweeted: “journalistic garbage can.”

Schocken responded: “Liar and propagandist disguised as a journalist.”

Schocken explained there was a bug in the application (?) which translates the Hebrew to English, but Segal showed that the Hebrew version was identical and said, “perhaps the problem is not technical but psychological?” Schocken is active on Twitter. On Nov. 23 this year, he promoted an opinion column by Lior Birger, who is studying for her PhD in social work in the field of immigration and refugees. She asserted that in deporting illegal infiltrators to third-party countries, Israel is placing their lives at risk. She wrote that the “increased removal” policy adopted by the government is “another step in the abusive jailing and deportation of asylum seekers in Israel. For many of those deported it is a death sentence.”

Schocken added his own interpretation: “The murderers in suits: Eli Yishai, Gideon Sa’ar, Gilad Erdan, Aryeh Deri, Miri Regev, Ayelet Shaked, Benjamin Netanyahu.” Sa’ar, incidentally, is not a member of the government.

Besides his inciting words, given the rather outspoken nature of the publisher/owner of the newspaper, as documented in previous columns of ours, can there really be freedom of thought in Haaretz’s newsroom? Can a reporter truly feel free to follow up a story or, once entering the building at 9 Schocken Street in south Tel Aviv, must he assume the mindset of the editorial line?

The media in Israel is not very popular. It is regularly characterized as conceited, self-aggrandizing, shallow and not responsive to the public. It is also too often irresponsible.

The biases of our media are a root cause underlying its unpopularity.