August 29, 2019

MEDIA COMMENT: Who is afraid of debates?

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:05 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Who is afraid of debates?
The need to justify your actions in previous governments, or to explain why your candidacy should be taken seriously before a mass audience, does not exist in Israel, but it is sorely needed.
In the election campaign of 1999, then-candidate Ehud Barak refused to publicly engage Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a televised debate. Barak is today a founding father of the Democratic Union. He can credit himself that this is perhaps his only significant contribution to Israel’s democratic system. At that time, one of the major reasons underlying Netanyahu’s defeat and Barak’s victory was the fact that Netanyahu did engage famously in a debate, moderated by Nissim Mishal, with then-leader of the now defunct Center Party Yitzhak Mordechai – and lost. Who can forget the classic line, “Bibi, look me in the eyes”?

It was Israel’s great democrat, Ariel Sharon, who did away with the debate system as well as prime ministerial press conferences. Netanyahu, his ardent student, followed in his ways – and since then, Israel’s elections are not marred by political debates. The need to justify your actions in previous governments, or to explain why your candidacy should be taken seriously before a mass audience, does not exist in Israel, but it is sorely needed.

Consider the competition for who will occupy the Prime Minister’s Office between Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and the Likud’s incumbent, Netanyahu. Gantz took his party to visit the South and made some bombastic statements about how he would not allow the present situation in Gaza to continue. Instead of dealing with show business, he should have challenged Netanyahu to a debate and a thorough public discussion of the Likud Party’s policies with regards to the war against Hamas. 

But for some reason, Gantz refrains from doing this. Is he afraid that Netanyahu, the well-polished speaker, will beat him? How could he possibly do this if his performance as prime minister is the dismal failure described by all Blue White politicians?
But it is not only the Prime Minister’s Office that should be debated. The defense portfolio is arguably second only to the Prime Minister’s Office – and sometimes even more important, as evidenced by Sharon during the First Lebanon War.

The September elections have many candidates vying for this job, whether it be Ehud Barak, Moshe Ya’alon (Blue and White), Gabi Ashkenazi (Blue and White), Amir Peretz (Labor-Gesher), Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) or Naftali Bennett (Yamina). It is no secret that Israel’s defense policy is second to none in establishing Israel’s leading party. It is not an accident that the Blue and White Party is led by three former IDF chiefs of staff, one of whom was also a defense minister.

The topics for such a debate are almost self-evident – Israel’s strategy versus Hamas in the South, Hezbollah in the North, Syria and Iran in the Northeast, as well as resurgent terrorism in Judea and Samaria. The present government is not immune from public criticism, whether by the parents of citizens held hostage or soldiers who fell in action in Gaza.

Netanyahu’s Schalit deal has not resulted in quiet; too many of the murderers released in that deal promptly returned to terrorist activities against Israel. Gantz, Ya’alon and Ashkenazi are also under fire for their policies with regards to Gaza and the lack of military action there when they were in charge, as well as Ya’alon’s active participation in preparing the IDF for the disastrous withdrawal from Gaza, which underlies much of our problems today. These issues and many more should be discussed, and tough questions asked. The public deserves to know more and to be exposed to the thoughts and plans of the candidates.

ISRAEL’S FINANCE Ministry is of utmost importance in determining our future. The finance minister can block even the initiatives of the prime minister. The Finance Ministry has almost a stranglehold on any governmental activities. As in Ecclesiastes 10:19, “money is the answer to everything.” Today’s parties have a few former finance ministers who would vie for the job, such as Yuval Steinitz (Likud), Yair Lapid (Blue and White), Liberman and incumbent Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu). Naftali Bennett has not hidden his bid to become the next finance minister. Kahlon may boast of creating a huge deficit; Liberman claims he would increase the pension level for the elderly; and Israel’s leftist parties claim that Israel has become a greedy capitalist country without the needed social structures that would support the poor and downtrodden. How would these be created when the country faces a huge deficit?

Is it really true that the capitalist system is Israel’s downfall, or as claimed by the Right, capitalism has proven itself, turning Israel into an economic powerhouse? They would also claim that even today, the socialist practices in place, such as the right to strike by workers in critical governmental sectors, are an impediment towards improving the situation of the elderly, the periphery, etc.

Let us also not forget the Education Ministry, which lies at the heart of Israel’s struggle between secularism and Judaism. The ministry has the largest of all governmental budgets barring the Defense Ministry. In recent years, it has been under control of the Likud (Gideon Sa’ar), Bayit Yehudi (Bennett) and now Yamina (Rafi Peretz). The problems faced by the next education minister are huge, including improving the level of education in the Arab and haredi sectors, the crisis in Israel’s higher education system, the quality of teachers, their working conditions and salaries, to name a few. These issues touch the homes of practically all citizens. Are they not worthy of public debate?

Finally, the Justice Ministry and Israel’s future as a democratic state is one of the hottest topics that divide Left and Right. The former claims that the present government is step-by-step destroying Israel’s democracy; the latter notes that the judiciary and the Justice Ministry are dictatorial and have taken into their hands the running of this country. Former justice minister and leader of Yamina Ayelet Shaked is in the forefront of this silent debate.

Naively, one might think that those who are vying for positions of influence and who trust their abilities would especially lead the call for public debates, but they do not do so. Presumably, their political advisers are afraid. But the one power that could change the situation is strikingly silent – Israel’s media. Isn’t it in the interest of the media to have debates? Would they not bring in higher ratings? Is it not the media’s job to keep the public informed? Israel’s media has vast experience in creating and enforcing agendas: in the secular-religious divide, the status of illegal infiltrators and much more.

The media here is too quiet. The politicians vying to be elected are not challenged to face the public. To paraphrase The Washington Free Beacon’s Matthew Continetti, the old media sought to inform whereas the new conception is that the reader is but ripe for manipulation. Could it be that the central reason for this undemocratic state of affairs is that the media does not want debates since they would take away the abilities of the media stars to promote their own political agendas?


August 1, 2019

MEDIA COMMENT: Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s fake news incident

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:55 pm by yisraelmedad

Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s fake news incidentZe’ev Jabotinsky’s fake news incident


‘Fake news” is not a new concept. Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky, whose yahrzeit, or death anniversary, is today, the 29th of the Hebrew month Tammuz 1940, was a victim.


Fake news” is not a new concept. Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky, whose yahrzeit, or death anniversary, is today, the 29th of the Hebrew month Tammuz 1940, was a victim.

Born in Odessa in 1880, Jabotinsky’s first calling was that of a journalist. His early fame came by penning that unique form of reportage known as the literary feuilleton in a daily column titled “At a Glance,” published in the Odesskije Novosti newspaper. Such columns are characterized by a familiar tone, as if chatting with the reader, dealing with subjects ranging from an opera performance or a restaurant’s fare to public transportation and local or international politics. He left high school just prior to his graduation to become a foreign correspondent in Switzerland, and then in Rome. During 1909-1910, he was responsible for the Zionist press effort in Turkey, editing and overseeing four newspapers in three languages.

It was while on press assignment in Belgium in October 1914 that he came up with the idea of a Jewish Legion whose task would be to fight on the British side to liberate Palestine from the Ottomans. He stood at the head of Jewish self-defense in Jerusalem during the April 1920 Arab riots and was arrested. He resigned from the World Zionist executive in January 1923 and later established the Zionist-Revisionist organization and founded the Betar youth movement.

At the end of December 1931, Jabotinsky was in Warsaw, Poland, attending a conference where he delivered a speech, part of which was transmuted into a fake news incident.

The London Times, in its December 30 edition that year, carried a story by its Warsaw correspondent which quoted Jabotinsky saying, “The Jews of the world are angry with England; and if they continue to be angry… they may yet become the dynamite which will shatter the British Empire.” The JTA cable that day did not carry that phrase in its summary of the speech.

Nevertheless, accepting The Times’ version, David Eder, then-president of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain, published a letter in The Times on January 2, 1932. It announced that the federation “desires to dissociate itself from the irresponsible statements attributed to Mr. Jabotinsky.” The Jerusalem Post’s predecessor, The Palestine Bulletin, carried the item two days later.

Prof. Selig Brodetsky, chair of the Zionist executive’s political department in 1932, stated that the Zionist organization “repudiates all responsibility for the alleged utterances of Mr. Jabotinsky.” D’Avigdor Goldsmid, former chairman of the council of the Jewish Agency, also dissociated himself from Jabotinsky’s attacks on Great Britain, “emphatically,” as well as from the whole of his program The Times reported.

In Chicago, The Sentinel weekly reported on January 8, 1932, “The Jews of England, are in a state of bitterness and consternation because of [the] speech.” Columnist Joseph Salamark noted, “If the fantastic swashbuckling of Jabotinsky does any harm, that harm is reflected on the whole of the Jewish people. We have suffered not a little from the wild antisemites who talk of a Jewish world conspiracy, a Jewish world power, a Jewish international control.” Jabotinsky was being targeted as being a cause of hatred of Jews.

JABOTINSKY WAS obviously in trouble. But what exactly did he say?

On January 5, 1932, The Times carried a letter from A. Abrahams, secretary of the executive committee of the Revisionist World Union, who noted that in the report of the Warsaw Yiddish daily Der Hajnt, the quoted passage makes for a “different reading.” According to Der Hajnt, Jabotinsky had declared, “England, with her 13 years’ government in Palestine, has nullified our aspirations. She has thereby set light to 15,000,000 Jewish hearts, and the danger of 15,000,000 flaming matches is very great.”
That still could be considered incendiary, but arguably not quite explosive.

It was only on January 27, 1932, some three weeks later, that Jabotinsky was provided a platform in the form of a letter to the editor in The Times. The Palestine Bulletin published it the following day. Jabotinsky clarified his actual words, in which he had mentioned the term “dynamite,” as: “But this is not the only game of world incendiarism in which some English agencies now seem to engage. There is an even bigger one going on just now: I mean the systematic galvanization of pan-Islamic fanaticism in its most medieval and reactionary form. Jerusalem is being converted into a center of incitement… a center from which innumerable sticks of dynamite are to be showered all round, threatening not only our Jewish settlers in Palestine but also the whole of Europe’s colonial system.”

Accepting Jabotinsky’s testimony, one must conclude that he had been the victim of a “fake news” item.

But that was only one part of the fakery.

As the JTA and The Palestine Bulletin noted, Jabotinsky’s letter in The Times had been shortened. We may well suspect that it wasn’t just a matter of space. Jabotinsky did not hold back his strong opinion on the reality of England’s rule over Palestine in period of the post-1929 riots.

Here are some of the missing excerpts:

“Let me warn all concerned against attempts to shout down the feelings here expressed as those of one single faction or one single person. It would be blindness not to realize that the natural reaction to all this must inevitably be the rise of a strong anti-English feeling among all sections of Jewry not living under the British crown.

“In this term, anti-English feeling, I imply no hint of a futile threat…. It was we who have for years, and even as late as the 1931 Zionist Congress, endeavored to persuade our masses that the main defaulters were the Palestine bureaucracy and the Zionist leadership; but that there still remained England’s collective conscience as our Court of Appeal, and if we only could reach it, it would redress all our wrongs. I wish we could still go on preaching the same… but a moment comes when even the most desirable illusion can no longer be maintained in the face of cruel realities.”

Jabotinsky had suffered a double fake news hit, and it wasn’t the first time he was victimized.

On April 29, 1930, the JTA published an interview with Emir Ardel Arslan, head of an Arab delegation then visiting America, who alleged that Jabotinsky had once said, “The Zionists will only allow enough Arabs to remain in Palestine to be hewers of wood and drawers of water.” It was only on May 12 of that year when the JTA published Jabotinsky’s reaction which was that the allegation was an “invention”.

The source of the misquotation, Jabotinsky pointed out, was in the Palestine Inquiry Commission Report, from the commission appointed after the 1929 riots. His actual words were: “There is not one Zionist who really dreams of ousting the existing rural population of Palestine… irrespective of whether I desire to oust them or not, it is impossible…. Perhaps it is possible… to constitute a nation simply by urban population, waiting for such time when the intensification of cultivation will allow the Arabs to live on a smaller area so that we can buy the remainder.”

Fake news is not new.