May 9, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: Misdirecting the news

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:59 pm by yisraelmedad

MEDIA COMMENT: Misdirecting the news
Iran lied; OK but precisely about what?
In the liberal Politico magazine, on April 26, Tim Alberta observed of the 30-year effort by American conservatives to prove media bias that, “It’s no secret that the majority of journalists working in national newsrooms are left-ofcenter, at least culturally. Few of them own guns, for instance, or attend church every Sunday.”

Nevertheless, he couldn’t restrain himself, pompously adding, “But most of the reporters at respected, mainstream outlets check their worldviews at the door when covering the news and strive for impartiality.”

That remains to be proven.

For example, consider the reaction both here in Israel as well as abroad to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s presentation of the Iranian files coup. Whether analyzing media reports or how the media is directing and managing the reactions of persons being interviewed, one finds an obvious effort to minimize and basically pooh-pooh what Israel revealed. The story’s focus was moved from Iran’s duplicity to the persona of Netanyahu.

Ma’ariv’s Kalman Liebskind quipped, “The Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Israel’s media have a shared enemy: Netanyahu.”

One especially blatant example was evident at US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s in-flight press conference as he was leaving Israel.

Pompeo pointed out that “we now know that they continued to store this material in an orderly fashion for some purpose – right? They kept the documents for a reason, and one can speculate as to why… [they] chose to store in secret and hide these documents.”

So what does a reporter ask? The unnamed journalist, according to the transcript, suggested, “Historical record?” and added, “you’re not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they don’t want to destroy their history.”

Pompeo cut him off: “The world can decide if this was for the Iranian museum that they – that they decided to hang onto it. (Laughter).”

The former American diplomat Aaron David Miller “went dark” to influence the story line, tweeting: “my head’s still exploding re: Bibi’s pitch which makes the Roadrunner cartoon bomb shtick pale in comparison.

Iran lied; OK but precisely about what? Who’s gonna read 100,000 files to find out?” He then added, conspiratorially, “How long has Israel been sitting on this?,” ignoring Netanyahu saying in his presentation that “the information was obtained within the past 10 days.”

Outlandish views were being echo-chambered, such as those of Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution, who was quoted saying “nothing that Netanyahu has said undercuts the rationale for the [Iran deal].”

The beating of media tom-toms to get the masses dancing in a trance was obvious in Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer’s reference to the story. He wrote in The London Times the day after: “What Mr. Netanyahu delivered…was less than earth-shattering.”

And in Haaretz, Pfeffer claimed that what Netanyahu presented “wasn’t a smoking gun but a photograph of a smoking gun taken years ago,” ignoring what Netanyahu actually explained.

Barak Ravid from Israel’s TV Channel 10 also downplayed the event, tweeting “…the data wasn’t new and interesting but for those who appreciate the [spy] genre…

Begin bombed Iraq and Olmert bombed Syria. Netanyahu continues bombing with speeches.”

Ravid, in his old age, might have an impaired memory, but we note that Netanyahu’s government has more than once, even openly, ordered bombings in Syria to prevent weapons from reaching the Hezbollah, or lately, to counter Iranian presence in Syria.

Orit Galili-Zucker, a far-left former media adviser to Netanyahu, tweeted that he’s “one of the biggest liers [sic] in the world who’s saying Iran is lying and that’s a macabre joke on brainwashed uneducated citizens.”

Raoul Wootliff of The Times of Israel characterized Netanyahu’s speech as preceded by a “hyperbolic and fear-mongering build up.” Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev spun it this way: “The prime minister risks casting himself as pushing for a U.S.-Iranian confrontation just as he did with Saddam Hussein in 2002.” In other words, since there were no nuclear armaments then, there are none now.

The media message: Netanyahu Lied.

Shalev added that the operation was “a blatant play to domestic public opinion.”

The media message: Netanyahu is a Megalomaniac.

Amir Oren, now at Walla after leaving Haaretz, described the event as “Netanyahu’s Show of Illusions” during which he revealed “old and dusty documents… nothing new.”

He added that “the only thing that interests him [Netanyahu] is delaying the criminal probe against him.”

We are reminded of the media accusing Menachem Begin over the bombing of Osirak in 1982 of possibly sacrificing IAF pilots’ lives just to win the election that month.

Humor also served the media to depreciate what the Mossad had accomplished.

Amy Spiro, writing in this newspaper on May 1, noted that Amichai Stern, the tech and foreign affairs correspondent of Kan, the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation, posted a photoshopped image of Netanyahu hawking goods on Israel’s shopping network. Jokes quickly spread. The police were opening yet another criminal probe against Netanyahu, this time for the theft of Iranian files. Another was that Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev had decided to submit the film recording to the Academy Awards in the category of Short Documentary.

Indeed, many reports highlighted the aspect of a “good show,” one that was “dramatic.” Content was quickly relegated to second place and claims that Iran was actually fulfilling the terms of the deal US President Barack Obama had negotiated were given prominence.

Incidentally, and worthy of more extensive treatment, is the phenomenon of journalists expressing themselves quite freely and without normative ethical restraints on Twitter and Telegram. The practice clearly demonstrates that there is a major problem when it comes to the ability of the public to obtain professional-quality media content.

Almost none of the senior pundits we reviewed raised the point that the total lack of on-site inspections of Iranian installations dovetails with Israel’s claim that Iran was lying or that, as Caroline Glick noted lasted Friday, the storing of the materials was a breach of Article T82 of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the “Iran deal” Dr. Haim Shine observed in Israel Hayom that “Mockery backfires on the media” and that a for ”group of well-known Israeli broadcasters, media pundits and political figures… their hatred of Netanyahu, the ‘Bibiphobia Syndrome,’ throws off their judgment, overpowering their love of country and their concern for its future and security.”

To be fair to Haaretz, last Friday, IMW awardee for excellence in economic reporting Nehemia Strassler wrote: “Might it be that Netanyahu is right? A new accord is needed, one that will prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons forever. Our survival depends on it.”

This inserting of journalists, themselves as well as their biased opinions, into their reporting, is part of what Kelly Jane Torrance published in the conservative Weekly Standard on April 27: “There’s nothing the media love more than a story about themselves and if it isn’t about them, they’ll make it so.”

Using disparaging terms, casting doubt where there is none, quoting interested parties and providing less-than-necessary information to prevent media consumers from making informed decisions is not only unethical, but should be criminal.



April 25, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: Newsworthy?

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:54 pm by yisraelmedad

If we go back a few years to when Israel Hayom was in its infancy, it, too, was ignored by the mainstream media.


On March 11, a slew of Lebanese news agencies and online portals reported that the “Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestinian Territories,” Mohammad Ahmad Hussein, had arrived in Beirut to participate in the 4th International Forum of Solidarity with Palestine, organized by the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine. At the meeting, Hussein presented a special citation to the Forum coordinator, Sheikh Yusuf Abbas, for his efforts on behalf of Palestine.

This same Abbas, in his speech at the convention noted that the slogan of the Forum is “Jerusalem is the capital of all Palestine without borders.

Another participant was deputy secretary general of Hezbollah Sheikh Naim Qassem. He is a terrorist. The former chief Hamas terrorist, Ismail Haniyeh, addressed the meeting via satellite.

Sheikh Hussein is no babe in the woods. Last July, in the wake of the terrorist shooting on the Temple Mount in which two Israeli policemen were murdered, he was arrested.

As reported by the Galatz army radio station, “in his sermon, Hussein called on Arabs and Palestinians to gather en masse for the sake of Jerusalem, and against the closure of the compound.” The Kan news network, the Israel Broadcasting Corporation, also referred to his arrest, saying that Hussein had been delivering his Friday sermon outside the Old City’s Lion’s Gate when he was detained.

The story of Hussein’s visit to Lebanon was aired on TV Channel 20 news on April 10.

The news item brought with it responses from advocate Yotam Eyal, a member of the Legal Forum for Eretz Yisrael, who noted that the actions of Hussein are “criminal and serious.”

He further stated that “for years the mufti incites against Israel and its citizens and in this case even met with heads of terrorist organizations who work night and day to destroy Israel.”

On the face of it, Hussein violated Israeli law on a number of counts, such as entering an enemy state, contact with foreign agents and aiding and abetting terrorists. One can be assured that the Israeli security services knew about his trip, yet Hussein was not arrested upon returning to Israel.

Being that our main interest is the media, we note that the press and networks as well as almost every other outlet quashed the story completely.

This is known in the journalism world as “spiking a story.”

Israel’s mainstream TV channels, radio stations and websites reported nothing about it.

It was, we can only surmise, not “newsworthy.” Even the conservative newspapers Makor Rishon and Israel Hayom did not report it. Why? Was it indeed not newsworthy? Are we, perhaps, wrong in our estimation of what happened in Beirut last month? Compare to some of the “important stories” that surfaced on Israel’s Remembrance Day and Independence Day. A female soldier was not allowed to participate in an official army singing event and graffiti appeared in Samaria against the local army commander.

These events were reported on rather extensively.

Consider what would happen if a member of the Israel’s far Right participated in a neo-Fascist, not to mention Nazi, support rally in Europe.

Would such an issue remain quiet? So, what happened here? We can only guess.

Our first surmise has to do with the status of TV Channel 20 news. It is a threat to the other TV channels, 11, 12 and 13. Indeed, thus far the ratings of Channel 20 news are on par with those of TV Channel 11, which belongs to the Kan Israel Broadcasting Corporation. The left-wing media is afraid that Channel 20 will become Israel’s Fox News and outperform all the others. The last thing it would want to do then is to provide a platform for a news scoop which comes from the channel.

But this would not explain why Makor Rishon or Israel Hayom remained silent. Perhaps the mufti was on a secret mission for Israel’s security services? Hard to believe, yet who knows? There is, perhaps, a simpler explanation, more logical: lack of solidarity among the media.

Why should anyone give credit to Channel 20 when in fact, all the information concerning Hussein’s visit to Lebanon is freely available on the Internet and Israel’s media should have reported about it in March, not a month later in April? The idea that it is in the interest of Israel’s media to enhance plurality and give credit to an infant news organization seems to have eluded even parts of the conservative media.

There are other aspects that could have played a role in the story being ignored. One is that in March, when Hussein’s visit took place, too many other internal Israeli stories were on the agenda of the news outlets, such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s investigations, political infighting or other items. A second is that anything to do with the Temple Mount, the Wakf officials and their activities is usually seen through the prism of “Jews.” More specifically, Jewish “fanatics” or “extremists.”

To step back and see the nefarious machinations of the Muslims there seems to be outside the scope of how reporters and editors view that situation.

Arabs there, invariably, are simply reacting to Jewish moves. They are considered to be the legitimate occupiers of the Temple Mount. They are under threat from the Jewish “fanatics” and therefore the actions of Sheikh Hussein were perhaps not nice, but easy to accept and overlook.

Yet, this is not enough.

Channel 20 has reported other stories, not less interesting.

For example, this past Sunday, it related that senior defense officials have recommended that Israel persuade the United States to delay the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem. According to the report, these officials relate the increased violence of the past few months, including Hamas’s attacks on the border with Gaza, to the American move. It would be better according to their assessment if a more opportune time were found for the move. Education Minister Naftali Bennett, member of the Cabinet, was asked to respond. He made it clear that he would not accept such an assessment and that furthermore such decisions are political ones and are not in the realm of the armed forces.

This too, we would think is an interesting story which should have been picked up, at least by a newspaper such as Israel Hayom. But it wasn’t.

If we go back a few years to when Israel Hayom was in its infancy, it, too, was ignored by the mainstream media. So much so that we in Israel’s Media Watch had to pressure the various state-funded media (whose budgets come from the taxpayers’ pockets) to make sure that the paper’s editorials, journalists and content would be treated on an equal footing to those of Haaretz and Yediot Aharonot when headlines were read out or media people were invited to panels being broadcast.

The bottom line is that journalistic solidarity is sorely needed. It is a fundamental component of a truly pluralistic media scene in Israel.


April 13, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: Media-assisted legal irresponsibility

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:42 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Media-assisted legal irresponsibility
We need remind ourselves that all instruments of power, governmental and non-governmental, are never totally free of weaknesses.
Democracy has become a slogan bandied about by our media too often and too frivolously.

Especially today, Holocaust Remembrance Day, we recall that Hitler’s dictatorship was installed with the aid of the democratic process.

We need remind ourselves that all instruments of power, governmental and non-governmental, are never totally free of weaknesses.

Israel’s democracy is strong and vibrant, even if too many journominous signs suggest that strong forces exist which seek to usurp the democratic process for their own purposes. A free and irreverent media should play a critical role in rooting out and exposing these ugly forces. A free media must stand up to power of all types: political, economic and ideological. Sadly, the Alon Hassan affair is an example of the exact opposite.

Hassan was the all-powerful boss of the employees’ union at the Ashdod Port. He did not hide his use and love of power, leading strikes and assuring that the median salary at the port is among the highest in Israel – NIS 28,000 a month in 2014, the year he had to step down. Hassan was not a particularly endearing person – especially if were not part of his union. He made enemies and his actions led to considerable monetary losses for Israel’s economy. According to his March 2016 indictment, some NIS 22 million in bribes were related to Hassan’s actions. On January 22, 2016, Haaretz wrote that Hassan “has come to symbolize corruption and inefficiency in the public sector.”

Yet Hassan, it turns out, was innocent.

Not being lovable is not sufficient reason for the police and state attorneys to step in. But this is precisely what they did.

With great fanfare, the accusations against Hassan were publicized.

As a result, he lost his earnings, his companies and his freedom.

The police and the state attorneys concluded he was guilty of bribery, blackmail, whitewashing finances and more. Serious stuff, enough to break even strong people.

However, last week, some four years later, the truth came out: Beersheba District Court Justice Joel Eden fully exonerated Hassan.

In his words: “After all the checks, there was no evidence of his cheating and a conflict of interest was not proven. Actions taken as part of a job are not equivalent to fraud and breach of trust. Hassan’s actions were necessary for defending the workers. There is no evidence that Alon Hassan carried out directly or indirectly actions meant to encourage contacts with a company owned by his relatives.”

The response of the prosecutor’s office at the Justice Ministry to Hassan’s accusations, as published on Friday in Israel Hayom, was: “The claims that he was personally persecuted and prosecuted are false and misguided. The indictment was presented to the court after passing the scrutiny of many, including the highest echelons of the State Attorney’s office. They all thought that the evidentiary material was sufficient for [a high chance] of conviction.”

Hassan was an elected official.

He had to step down because some police and Justice Ministry officials used their power, and public funds, to crucify him. Who are these officials? How much money did they waste in terms of salaries, research and other legal necessities, not to mention the court employees, at the expense of the taxpayer? We do not assume for a moment that these officials were settling personal scores, but it is very clear that their professional judgment was and is impaired, to say the least.

In the United States, prosecutors are elected officials and any prosecutor leading such a complex, costly and lengthy case and losing would certainly have to step down. That is true democracy. But here, these same officials will be able to continue using their power frivolously, without any accounting.

The media reported the case broadly, especially due to its implications with regard to the ongoing investigation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family. However it did not pose the necessary questions to nor did it demand personal responsibility from the police, the attorney-general’s office and others. The reaction was quite different from what should be expected.

When Teva announced widespread layoffs recently, the media was in an uproar, especially against the company directors, who refused to accept personal responsibility for the mistakes or return their remuneration to the company. Yet in the Hassan case, although we do not know the exact figures – and this too should be supplied by the State Attorney’s office – there is no doubt that the expense was many millions of shekels. Years of manpower which could have been used to pursue true criminals were wasted. But the worst of it all was that unelected officials used their power to remove an elected one – Hassan.

This is far from being the first time such an event has occurred in Israel. In 1996, former justice minister Yaakov Neeman was just two months in power when he was indicted for giving false testimony and providing illegal consultation to a witness in the Arye Deri case. He was exonerated fully and became Netanyahu’s finance minister. But at that time no one demanded that heads roll in the prosecutor’s office for this unwarranted and unprofessional interference in the democratic process. The lack of media attention gave the police and the Justice Ministry officials the clear message that they were immune from being held personally responsibility for erroneous or misguided actions.

Israeli democracy paid dearly for this media “lapse.” Yom Kippur War hero and former police minister Avigdor Kahalani was another victim. In the year 2000, he was investigated for supposedly obtaining illegal benefits from Ma’ariv publisher Ofer Nimrodi.

He was indicted for exposing secret information concerning the investigation of Nimrodi, as well as breach of trust and obstruction of justice. It took two years, but he too was fully exonerated. Did anyone take responsibility? Did the media demand it? No, they did not.

Perhaps the most egregious example is that of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. He was investigated for a period of over 10 years, with the various allegations changing over time. Not one of them held water and he, too, was fully exonerated. The media, for sure, was responsible for churning up a negative characterization of Liberman but again, with no proof. He was unsavory ideologically to many members of the press – but that is their crime, not his.

He paid not only a personal price but also a public one, and this is frightening. Due to the indictment against him concerning his role in appointing Israel’s ambassador to Belarus, he had to resign his post as foreign minister. The indictment was submitted in December 2012 and on November 6, 2013, he was unanimously acquitted.

The ease with which unelected officials behind closed doors can determinate the fate of innocent people cannot be allowed to continue.

It is high time that even in the hallowed corridors of the Justice Ministry accountability and responsibility become the norm rather than the exception.


March 28, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: Let’s clean it up

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:15 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Let’s clean it up
So now we know that there is too much chametz at the army radio station, why don’t we just clean up? Let’s stop listening to them until they get their act together.
Although she was referring to an incident in which her posterior was groped by an interviewee on live television, what BBC1’s television presenter Helen Skelton said about her reaction could be applied to other ethically problematic facets of the media. She declared, “I felt really awkward… It’s intimidating and you don’t want to be the person who is being difficult… that’s just the culture that television breeds. No one wants to be difficult. You want to bring solutions, not problems.”

In Israel, this is definitely not the case. Our media is urged to bring problems to the fore, but it depends whose problems.

In Skelton’s case, the interviewee would have been immediately hung by the media – provided that he belonged to the “right” camp. Tamar Zandberg, newly elected head of the Meretz Party, was subject to media pressure over her outright lies regarding consultations with right-wing PR adviser Moshe Klughaft for only a short period. Zandberg had denied consulting with him but Klughaft went on record publicly stating that she did.

Zandberg was indeed attacked, and there may still be a legal question, but after 72 hours the issue appears to have died down as far as the media are concerned. Haaretz allowed Alit Karp space to demand she “Go Home!” as she “betrayed voters.” But despite the harsh criticism from Avi Gabbay, head of the Zionist Union, it seems to have ended there.

We are in the midst of the Passover preparations.

Eliminating the chametz from our homes is not only a literal task but a moral one. It implies we should look into ourselves and try to change our habits for the better. For example, our media could try to show more generosity.

Sunday night was a historic evening on the Israeli media scene. A fourth news channel was initiated. TV Channel 20, after years of struggling, finally received the legal go-head to broadcast news. The road was not easy and we reported on the obstacles multiple times in this column. It was only through legislation, aided and supported significantly by Israel’s Media Watch, that the channel received the permit.

One would think that such an event deserved media attention, but on the news of Galei Tzahal or Reshet Bet radio there was no mention. Only the right-wing media – Israel Hayom, Arutz 7, Makor Rishon and a few others – reported on it. The mainstream media kept thunderously silent.

Indeed, the most important comment Arieh Golan gave on Sunday morning was fake news about the Council for Higher Education. Golan claimed that the council had decided to muzzle Israeli college lecturers, preventing them from letting their students know their opinions on current events. The truth is that the council has not decided on anything. It formulated a position paper, which would forbid lecturers from using their lectures as a forum for pressuring students to conform with their personal political beliefs, so as to protect the academic freedom of students to think differently from their teachers.

Golan, had he been a generous, well-meaning person, could have used his radio pulpit to congratulate Channel 20 and note how important it is for Israeli democracy that there exist an additional news channel, one whose point of view differs from all the others, and point out that it will provide sorely needed diversity to our media scene. But Golan only knows how to criticize others. The fact that he usurps the public airwaves for his own political agenda is by now sickening.

So, let us do away with the chametz, for it is our choice to stop listening to Golan. If we want news, not propaganda, there are other, better stations.

Nor is Liat Regev any better. This past Friday on the prime noon news show of Reshet Bet, she had nothing to say about the appointment of John Bolton as the new US national security advisor other than “let’s just see what problems this appointment brings with it.”

Galei Tzahal has been undertaking a special kind of elimination of chametz. It accepted the resignation of journalist Erel Segal. Il’il Schachar, head of news broadcasting, claimed in an interview with Makor Rishon that the reason was Segal’s “insatiable appetite for money” and high salary demands. Unfortunately for her, journalist Kalman Liebskind, Segal’s friend, asked Shimon Alkavetz, the commander of the station, and he denied the allegation, stating that never a word was exchanged with Segal about money. The truth is obviously elsewhere.

Segal is known for his right-wing opinions, of which he makes no secret. In his programs he would attack anything he thought worthy of attacking. His ratings were high, but that was all the more reason to get rid of him – why give a right-winger a position of influence?

Schachar is not new to us. On October 3, 2012, in this column, we reported on Schachar’s blatant unethical behavior.

On November 23, 2011, she provided Galatz’s listeners with a report from Switzerland on a conference of the “Geneva Initiative” which was taking place that week. Her trip was paid for by the Swiss government, a major funder of the Geneva Conference. She knew that a reporter should never receive funding from anyone with interests and especially someone it is her task to report on. But Schachar withheld that information for half a year and divulged it only after being forced to.

Not only was nothing ever done about this, a few months ago she was promoted to heading the news section of Galatz.

So now we know that there is too much chametz at the army radio station, why don’t we just clean up? Let’s stop listening to them until they get their act together.

In a Calcalistech website interview on March 15 on the occasion of their Mind the Teach conference in New York, Randi Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, said, “We need to encourage and support journalism sites that go deep, that are focusing on telling stories, that don’t have clickbait headlines, and that are really doing good investigative journalism.

I think also as consumers we need to be a little more responsible in what we post and what we click on.” That, of course, is advice all journalists should follow from day one in Journalism 101 (that is, if Israel’s media people had actually been required to learn journalism to be able to work).

Zuckerberg’s suggestions are more than just a nice idea. Consider the case of Cambridge Analytica, now in the news for mining Facebook members’ data. It seems that the group was engaged in “psychological operations” – or psyops – changing people’s minds not through persuasion but through “informational dominance,” a set of techniques that includes rumor, disinformation and fake news. What is now termed “psychographic messaging.” Are certain media elites, whether owners of newspapers, directors of companies or senior-level employees working in media outlets, also, in their own way, engaged in similar activities out of an ideological, political or cultural agendas?

Isn’t this, to borrow a simile, the chametz that media consumers need to burn?


March 15, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: Netanyahu and the press

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:00 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Netanyahu and the press
It is this one-sidedness and lack of truth that is helping Netanyahu. Israel, though, is losing.
As more reports originate from the Israel Police appear, some leaked, regarding the investigation into several alleged cases of embezzlement, bribery and government corruption, the contest for the public’s trust between the media and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is both accelerating and increasing in pitch.

Yardena Schwartz, a freelance journalist and Emmy-nominated producer based in Tel Aviv, formerly with NBC News, called Netanyahu a “media puppeteer” in the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review (February 21).

In his public appearances during his visit this month to the United States, Netanyahu avoided any reference to the legal situation he is embroiled in. It was only mentioned through impromptu remarks to the press, such as “we are attacked all the time – every hour, every minute… I won’t keep silent, I will tell the truth.”

It was but a year ago that he declared, “There is no country in the world where the press is freer [than Israel]. There is no country in the world that attacks its leader more than the Israeli press attacks me. That’s fine. It’s their choice. They are free press and they can say anything they want.” It would seem that even Netanyahu is feeling the pressure.

Some pundits have sought to compare his media wars with those of US President Donald Trump, doing so in a negative, even sneering fashion. But there is more to that comparison.

Andrew Klavan, an award winning mystery novelist whose books have been made into films, wrote on February 4 in New York’s City Journal, an urban-policy magazine, that “a press that has shown itself willing to publish anonymous anti-Trump leaks that sometimes turned out to be false – has made it clear that they do not want you to know what they do not want to know themselves.”

Taking a similar position, The Wall Street Journal editorialized on February 7 that “Some of our media friends are so invested in the Steele dossier, or in protecting their Fusion pals, or in Donald Trump’s perfidy, that they want to ignore all this [the FBI’s wiretap application based on a source working at the direction of the Clinton campaign]. But journalists ought to tell the complete story.”

In quality journalism, a good story is a balanced one, with input from all sides and a “fair” representation of facts and opinions. Are we in Israel receiving professional, impartial, objective, ethical journalism? Or does our press attempt to use its power to forbid us to even think that our editors, reporters and analysts could be, like their American counterparts, less than fair, objective and even knowledgeable?

Robert Lacey is one person whose approach should put television viewers on the alert. He is the historical consultant for The Crown, the Netflix television period drama, and author of many popular histories and biographies. In her December 18, 2017 Town & Country interview with him, Caroline Hallerman observed, “For Lacey, there can be truth without fact.”

In his own words, Lacey said, “I say, ‘I don’t like the word “false.”’ I’d rather say is it true or is it invented? …History is a truth, but there are other truths that are conveyed in the drama.”

While the specific context is docudrama, this type of thinking has infiltrated “straight” journalism. It is standard practice for “expert analysts” who appear on hard news programs. The framework setting attempts to convince the viewer or listener that the speaker is objective and disengaged from the subject she or he is spouting off on. Moreover, these observers always seem to tell us media consumers what the future will be. Not only are the results unimpressive, but the media never seems to check up on how good their “experts” really are. Never has there been a case of a commentator being laid off as a result of false perceptions or predictions.

There is another problematic aspect to modern media, related to how the public engages with the news.

According to the UK Trinity Mirror’s digital editor-in-chief at its regional titles, Alison Gow, many online readers scan headlines and then go to the comments thread without bothering to read the copy (the facts). “People,” she said, “will actively not read a story because they will have a view… If the news pages are full of the personal opinion of reporters, why are they any better than my opinion?”

The Netanyahu case is a classic example. The Israeli press is stumped: after two years of Netanyahu bashing, with one story after another, public opinion polls show, consistently, that the public is not impressed. If one believes the polls, Netanyahu is electorally stronger than ever. Why?

One answer has to do with the perception that too many people in the media have an agenda and therefore cannot be trusted.
In Israel, the public knows there are certain politicians who are protected by the media. Israelis know that MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) did not divulge his information about the 1999 election campaign funding (the “Amutot” affair), yet the media did not attack the police nor the attorney general for not following through. Herzog went on to become the chairman of the Zionist Union.

Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, has been caught repeatedly “misrepresenting” facts. In the latest case, Lapid appeared in front of a camera with a person disguised as a haredi (ultra-Orthodox). Lapid did not divulge this information. True, nothing illegal, but has the media asked itself whether this is a person who can be trusted?

The media after but a scant few days closed the story about the possible criminal implications of the behavior of judges Esther Hayut and Hila Gerstel. Gerstel claimed she had been asked by a Netanyahu crony whether she would be willing to assure, if she became attorney general, that she would work in favor of the Netanyahu family. She also claimed she had mentioned the matter to Hayut who did not even report the matter to the police. Are justices immune from press criticism? Or are only certain judges, with certain political opinions, liable to be victims of a press onslaught?

Former president and prime minister Shimon Peres was the crony of many millionaires, aggrandized himself while still alive, yet no one clamored for his relationships with financial moguls to be investigated. Many Israeli politicians worked hard to get the daily newspaper Israel Hayom removed from our newsstands, pushing legislation and receiving positive coverage in Yediot Aharanot, yet hardly any of them were called to task.

The Israeli public is wise enough to understand that even if Netanyahu has broken the law, what is demanded from him is unique. Others under these circumstances would go scot-free, especially if, like prime minister Ariel Sharon, they bribe the press with an expulsion of Jews from Gaza and northern Samaria.

It is this one-sidedness and lack of truth that is helping Netanyahu. Israel, though, is losing.


March 1, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: To film or not to film?

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:53 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: To film or not to film?
Israel is on the receiving end of too many negative portrayals.
An important part of the media scene in Israel is the weekend brochures distributed freely in the synagogues. Originally, they were supposed to be a source of commentary on the weekly Torah portion, but rapidly became a money-making machine, attracting advertising as well as providing political news to synagogue goers. Various organizations use this medium to give their viewpoint on current events.

One of these leaflets is titled “Yesha Shelanu” (“Our Judea, Samaria and Gaza”). It is funded and distributed by the Yesha Council. This past week’s brochure was dedicated in part to the issue of social media and the immediate broadcasting of terrorist attacks.

There had been a meeting of the Yesha Council with the IDF Brig.-Gen. Eran Niv, commander of the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division, and leaks of security camera footage of terrorist attacks on social media were discussed. According to the report, Niv claimed such clips harm the families of the victim, who are exposed to them before the tragic information can be provided through official channels. Moreover, he said, the clips are a source of inspiration and even instruction for potential terrorists. The recommendation the council accepted was to call for a halt in spreading these clips.

But there is another side to this issue.

As we well know, Israel is on the receiving end of too many negative portrayals. Our enemies do not hesitate to providing negative pictures of events as soon as they happen. Sometimes their clips are fabricated, in the best “Pallywood” tradition, sometimes they are truthful – but only ever half truthful. Rarely do they provide reasonably objective documentation of events. When such clips go viral, Israel is immediately attacked and our armed forces more often than not blamed for wanton murder of innocents. The world is not sufficiently aware of what our enemies really carry out.

Partly in response to the fake news emanating from Israel, Amotz Eyal founded TPS, Tazpit News Services, which has been providing news in real time to major media outlets about what’s really happening in the field. This has not stopped the flow of fake news but at least it has given our friends and supporters a basis on which to refute the false allegations of our enemies.

But this is not enough. Too often, the IDF itself has reacted too slowly to events, allowing the foreign media much leeway to give Israel a black eye. By the time the IDF gives its official version, it is too late. Lately, the IDF has seemingly understood the potential for damage and is making efforts to provide real-time coverage. The case of the downing of the Iranian drone a few weeks ago is one example.

It is true that often, the information in amateur video footage can be harmful and terribly hurtful to the loved ones of the victim. We also accept that some terrorists might be inspired by or learn from these clips, though especially in the case of the murder of Rabbi Ben-Gal there is not much to learn. We also note that many clips from the period of car-ramming terrorist attacks in Jerusalem were released to the public by the police relatively shortly after the events happened.

But one should also think about the victim and potential future victims. One may guess that if anything, the victim would want his or her tragedy to be the last and so would do everything possible to use it to defend others against the terrorists. Such defense is also part of these clips. For example, the very fact that these clips exist carries with it a lesson that not only should one always be alert to one’s surroundings, but also serves as a warning to terrorists – you are being observed. Such videos could be crucial in preventing a future tragedy. Additionally, by showing the world what actually happened, one undermines the very effect that these terrorists seek to achieve.

Indeed, such clips also lead to negative situations, such as in the Elor Azaria case, where video footage showed the death of a terrorist after he had been arrested by IDF forces. On the other hand, if a crime is committed by a soldier, that fact should emerge – a crime is a crime, and should not be left unpunished.

If Brig.-Gen. Niv is correct, that video clips can motivate future acts of terrorism, one might question why there were no copycat extra-judicial killings of wounded Arabs after the Azaria footage was aired. Is it possible that it’s not the videos that are the problem, but the mindset of our enemies?

In most cases it is the IDF which is on the receiving end. Organizations such as B’Tselem have provided the media with clips that they edited, manipulating thereby IDF actions, showing them in the worst possible light.

The cellphone and its built-in camera is a weapon. It can be – and is – used for offensive purposes by interested parties who wish us ill. It should also be used as a defensive weapon.

Yes, people do get hurt, but that always happens in war. The defense of Israel is more important than the harm along the way. We urge everyone: always have your cellphones ready. Use them – if you don’t, someone else, seeking our harm, will. Use them responsibly, of course. You, the person on the spot, are all too often our best defense.


February 14, 2018

Media Comment: Breaking the silence

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:33 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Breaking the silence
The past few weeks have demonstrated the wisdom of our Sages.
Silence was venerated by our sages. Proverbs 17:28 teaches us: “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” The Talmud elaborates on this in Tractate Pesachim, concluding that “silence is becoming for the wise.” A deep connection exists in rabbinic literature between wisdom and the ability to hold one’s tongue. Thus the sage Avtalion warned in the Mishna of Avot 1:11: “Wise people, be careful with your words.” He especially was concerned that lack of care would result in misinterpretation which would cause the desecration of the name of the Lord.

The past few weeks have not only demonstrated the wisdom of our Sages, but perhaps also raised the possibility that, in reality, those some of us think are wise, or rather who want us to think they are wise, are not precisely so.

Let us begin with Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich. He started his tenure two years ago on the right foot. He announced that there would be no more leaks from the Police and for a year actually succeeded in keeping his deputies, and especially the most senior police officers, rather quiet. The media was very angry. So much so that veteran journalist Matti Golan, recipient of the Israeli Prize for Media Criticism, praised Alsheich in the Globes newspaper on January 4, 2016: “Alsheich is bad for the media since it needs talk. Not necessarily information, but talk. It needs people who manage to pass the time between advertisements. Talk which enables journalists to express their thoughts, to give the impression that they are wise and knowledgeable.”

Alsheich at that time did not deliver. The police during that first year managed to keep themselves out of the limelight.

But at some point, for an unknown reason, Alsheich decided to switch gears. He appointed a strategic media adviser, Lior Horev, known as a political adviser to party candidates, especially during elections. Past clients included Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert, Nir Barkat and Shaul Mofaz. Horev started working for the police in February 2016, and the change came soon after.

During the past year we, that is the public, have been fed outrageous information directly from police investigations. This has included transcripts, rumors and what have you. Reporters tell us when the police next expect to interview a suspect, usually a high-profile figure, and how many more interviews are required.

Horev was doing his job: the Israel Police was almost daily in the news. The media was ecstatic, the public perhaps less so.

Horev left his job in November 2017, due to harsh criticism from Likud circles over his appointment. The Israel Police, it was felt, does not need an adviser with political connections, not to mention to politicians suspected of crimes.

Seemingly, though, Horev was eventually very influential. During his tenure, Alsheich himself largely kept mum. This changed, drastically, during the past few months. So much so that Alsheich, in perhaps a frivolous decision, allowed himself to be interviewed by Ilana Dayan, Channel 2 television celebrity. Dayan, a highly experienced interviewer and often too easygoing with regard to ethics, was not a good choice.

Dayan admitted in a radio interview that she was quite well aware that this was a critical time, given the imminent recommendations of the police regarding the suspicions against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She purposely aired the interview now since her selfish goal was to maximize her own ratings.

The viewing audience heard Alsheich criticizing those in power, who were, according to him, using their power to pursue senior police officers. The prime minister and his people happily pounced on this, demanding that Alsheich, instead of talking post facto, should have initiated an investigation into such severe allegations immediately.

Of course, this would imply at best a bias in the police investigation of the prime minister – they have recommended he be indicted – and at worst, false accusation by Alsheich against the prime minister. There is no question that the police, the public and everyone involved would have been better off had Alsheich known to bite his tongue and keep quiet, all the more so if he has no proof.

He is not alone. For many years, the unwritten code of ethics of the Supreme Court was that justices do not express their opinion on political issues in public. This includes both those on the bench and those retired. Former justice Menachem Elon, for example, who was very concerned in 2000 about the dangers of having Jerusalem divided by then prime minister Ehud Barak, refused a request from one of us to make his opinion known publicly.

This unwritten code is wise. Justices are supposed to be impartial and sufficiently ethical to be able to disassociate their personal opinion from their decisions. By making their personal opinions public they call into question their legal rulings and diminish the public trust in the court. Former chief justice Aharon Barak was extremely controversial during his tenure. Many have criticized him for usurping power from the Knesset and the government and turning the Supreme Court into the center of power in Israel. For many years, Barak kept mum.

But either age or a need for publicity have finally caught up with him. As reported in Makor Rishon on January 6 by Yehuda Yifrach and as widely reported in the media, Barak spoke at an event honoring the late IDF chief of staff and minister Amnon Lipkin-Shahak. Barak considered limitations on the Knesset even when it legislates fundamental laws. His conclusion was that the Knesset is restricted by the Declaration of Independence.

In other words, not only are some of the recent laws of the Knesset not legal, since they do not abide by Barak’s version of democracy, but in the future, for example, a law annexing Judea and Samaria would be annulled by the Supreme Court since some people, including Supreme Court justices, may presume it violates the human rights of the Palestinians. Did Barak increase the public’s trust of the court?

A final case is that of Rabbi Yosef Kalner from the Eli pre-military yeshiva. His words of wisdom concerning women were: “they [women] would sit and crochet, until their brains were poisoned… They are weak-minded. They just babble… Yes, there are some CEOs here and there, ‘girlillas.’” Of course, his rantings were recorded, came out in the media and Avtalion’s fears materialized. The media furor against the Eli Yeshiva was not pleasant. One can only wonder why none of the boys who heard Kalner stood up to him on the spot and put him in his place.

There is a fine thread that connects Alsheich, Barak and Kalner. All three men did not heed the wisdom of our sages. Are there no wise men among us? Breaking silence is not good strategy.


January 31, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: A bastion of democracy?

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:07 pm by yisraelmedad

A bastion of democracy?
They are the ones who are not aware of the important role of the media as a bastion of democracy. Sadly, too often the media itself does not really understand what this concept implies.
The media, in Israel and the world over, portrays itself as a bastion of democracy, preserving freedoms, standing up to power and corruption and revealing the failings of those who hold high office. The new Hollywood film on The Washington Post’s Katherine Graham is a recent example of how media personalities, deservedly so but sometimes not quite, are cast as cultural icons.

In the name of preserving democracy, more often than not the media provide special care for those ranks of the elites of society who extend protection to the media. At the same time, those who dare to find professional faults and unethical conduct in the media will be the butts of fierce attacks. After all they are attacking the bastion of democracy.

Consider the case of Kevin Bleyer, fired as head writer of the Megyn Kelly Today program in mid-January earlier this year. His description of the administrative workings of a media outlet even if only partially true, is shocking. He wrote, “the executive incompetence continues – as does the dysfunctional management, abusive treatment, maddening hypocrisy, staggering inefficiencies, acidic and deficient communication, and relentless scapegoating.”

That, we remind our readers, came from the belly of the beast. Bleyer had also previously worked for Jon Stewart, Bill Maher and president Barack Obama, and had all the correct ideological credentials.

But he dared criticize the holy industry. Worse, it was an insider’s criticism. The two producers who were Bleyer’s targets were defended by an NBC News spokesperson who said they “are being attacked unfairly. They are both excellent and experienced producers.” Blyer lost his battle. There was no change, only he was out of a job.

Here in Israel, a cultural icon, Yonatan Geffen, found time to write a short poem dedicated to Ahed Tamimi. Tamimi is nicknamed “Shirley Temper” for her years of rambunctious, even violent, behavior in confronting IDF soldiers when they were attempting to quell stone-throwing actions and worse, by residents of her home village, Nabi Salih. The village was vividly described as a hotbed of foreign-promoted NGO “resistance” by German journalist Tuvia Tenenbom in his book Catch the Jew.

Geffen’s “artistic work” ended in a comparison of Tamimi to Joan of Arc, Hannah Szenes and Anne Frank. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman thought that the logical consequence would be Geffen no longer being invited to Galatz Army Radio studios. Liberman, the outsider, attacked Geffen, the darling, the insider. Geffen, however, was defended by media personalities across the spectrum, including those identified with the political Right. No one thought it outrageous that the Holocaust was exploited to aid Ahed’s struggle, who was quoted in interviews expressing support for suicide bombings.

No one raised the point that all three of Geffen’s heroines had been executed and asked him if he was suggesting Tamimi should be “martyred.” One can only imagine what would happen if right-wing columnist Kalman Libskind wrote an article comparing Baruch Goldstein to Jews who paid with their life for defending the state. Geffen, however, is “one of ours” so he must be defended at all cost.

American Vice President Mike Pence’s Knesset speech, a paean of love and appreciation for Zionism and Israel’s accomplishments, was criticized in certain media outlets as the rantings of a Christian Evangelist and therefore unacceptable. After all, he did not attack the “occupation” claiming it is illegal. He was not politically correct. And so the liberal media attacked him. The fact that he was extending assistance and recognition to Israel’s diplomatic standing in the world was irrelevant. Quoted in The New York Times on January 24, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya political communications Prof. Gadi Wolfsfeld, known for his rather extreme left-wing views, said in response to Pence’s visit, “The news cycle has become shorter and shorter. Today it’s Tuesday? By Sunday it will be a non-issue, if not before that. The overall impact on politics here will be next to zero, or zero.”

Was that his opinion when president Barack Obama also spoke to thousands at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center in March 2013, lashing out at Israel’s effort to resettle Judea and Samaria?

Another example is the career of Moshe Negbi. Negbi, who died last week, was a lecturer at the Hebrew University, a lawyer and for decades the sole legal commentator on legal matters for Radio Kol Yisrael, with frequent appearances on Channel 1 as well.

It took a campaign led by Israel’s Media Watch to force the executive producers of his weekly program to appoint an editor to supervise his broadcasts. Until then, against all ethical standards, Negbi was the sole voice on legal affairs, he selected the guests on his program (who overwhelmingly represented an echo chamber for his own opinion) and set the agenda. Little pluralism and less objectivity were his program’s characteristics. No one dared criticize his record, for that is the fate of those who “belong” and are considered to be pillars of the democratic process.

George Neumayr, former media fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, writing in the January 19 issue of The American Spectator, pointed to another aspect of the elites and their support for “democracy.” He claimed that America’s media engages in acts that facilitate the normalization of “the unruly Left.” “The media,” he writes, “is in a disruptive mood… The [same] media which refuses to ‘normalize’ the unconventional behavior of Trump indulge the unruly behavior of the [Left].”

That observation could be applied to the way the media covered Attorney General Avichai Mandlebit being harassed outside his synagogue on Saturday evening, January 20. Arriving at the synagogue to recite Kaddish for his mother, he was confronted by several demonstrators who demanded he prosecute Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for supposed crimes of corruption. The demonstrators gained favorable coverage with little critical comment in many media reports of the incident, and even more on reporters’ Twitter accounts.

Consider, too, a story by Yossi Verter in the January 20 edition of Haaretz. Verter informed us that the American pollster of the Zionist Union’s Avi Gabbay, Stephan Miller, had conducted a survey for Gabbay. One finding that “stunned” Gabbay dealt with “name recognition”: 17% of Zionist Union voters said that they didn’t know his name when asked to identify him. Among the general public, the situation was worse: 27% didn’t know who he was.

Most of those questioned by Miller, Verter continued, who said that Gabbay was not known to them, were young people who serve in the army or are about to be drafted. In short, first-time voters. Gabbay concluded that his problem was a media problem. We conclude the same. It is a media problem.

Those who do not watch the TV news and current events shows, and don’t read newspapers, are the ones unfamiliar with the Labor Party chairman and Zionist Union leader. They are the ones who are not aware of the important role of the media as a bastion of democracy. Sadly, too often the media itself does not really understand what this concept implies.

The authors are members of Israel’s Media Watch (


January 18, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: Suggestive Journalism

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:33 pm by yisraelmedad

Suggestive Journalism
Journalism can be simply a business, egging on its subjects so that it can make money, or fame, out of the resulting developments.
At last week’s Golden Globes Awards ceremony, Oprah Winfrey noted a phrase heard repeatedly this past year: “We know the press is under siege these days.” Of course, that should work both ways; politicians in multiple countries also feel besieged.

The real difference between the two groups is that the media a priori assume that it is only the siege they feel threatened by which is the evil one.

They claim that it’s the job of the press to be the “watchdog of the people,” so any criticism against them is illegitimate. The latent suggestion is that morality and ethics are possessed solely by journalists, editors and owners of newspapers, radio stations and broadcast studios. In contrast, the politician is considered guilty until the press declares otherwise.

Usually, the adjective “suggestive” implies more often than not something sexual and/ or indecent. We, however, wish to apply the term to a category of unethical journalism.

Suggestopedia is a holistic model of learning and teaching developed in 1978 by Bulgarian psychiatrist and educator Dr. Georgi Lozanov. He intended it in the sense that positive suggestion would make the learner more receptive and, in turn, stimulate learning.

A relaxed but focused state is the best learning environment. To create this relaxed state in the student and to promote positive suggestion, suggestopedia makes use of music, a comfortable and relaxing environment, almost a memorization séance.

In the media, music is replaced by noise.

Media noise is created in many different ways.

A prime example is the leaked-for-money audio tapes of the probably inebriated “me Rambo” ramblings of Yair Netanyahu, son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He offered to fix up his friend with his then-girlfriend to pay off his debts, threatened to murder the bodyguard and bragged that his dad had just arranged for his friend’s dad a $20 billion oil-field deal.

We need go no further than to Janet Aviad’s letter to the editor published Wednesday a week ago in Haaretz. Dr. Aviad, a founding member of Peace Now, who cannot be suspected of being a Netanyahu supporter, was appalled by the airing of the tape and the subsequent newspaper tom-tomming of its contents. This was “unfit to print,” she wrote, adding, “shame on the media… you are losing your credibility.”

Why was it that the media avoided the real news item in this affair? The media, which poses as in principle anti-government, or at least extremely suspicious of it, claims that it is the institution that is able to stand up to power and speak the truth, or report it. Any truly professional and ethical editor would have been interested more in the following questions: did a Shin Bet (Israeli Security Agency) agent record Yair? And if so, did he do it legally? Does the Shin Bet have other tapes? And more importantly, if yes, where are they and are they to be used as a future “deep government” blackmailing sting? This is the true story, not the silly ramblings of a drunken young man.

US President Donald Trump’s announcement that UNRWA, which funds Gaza’s “refugees”, might not be receiving American donations as it did previously made some news here. But where have the mainstream media been for the past decade and more? The careful research of especially David Bedein regarding educational materials from schoolbooks as well as video clips of UNRWA “teachers” who are poisoning the minds of Gazan children have not merited media coverage commensurate with its news value.

To be sure, pictures of Hamas-run summer camps which engage in military-style training of future terrorists have received broad exposure. The link, however, between UNRWA and the Gaza reality has remained at best in the background. The only exceptions came when UNRWA installations were damaged by Israel counter-terrorism strikes and even then, the issue of cessation of funding was not mentioned. This was but another example of the media suppressing an important issue.

On December 28, the media informed us that 63 teenagers, on the eve of their induction into the IDF, signed a letter in which they asserted that “the military carries out a racist government policy that violates basic human rights…We therefore have decided not to participate in the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.”

Many similar letters have been published over the years, starting with the 1970 “Shministim” (high school seniors) letter expressing the same ideological position.

This recent letter merited coverage in all the media. A letter signed by 1,500 youths and addressed to Prime Minister Netanyahu asking that he not permit the planned destruction of houses in the community of Netiv Ha’avot was also sent this past week. Did it garner publicity? Not really, and certainly not in any proportion to the left-wing letter.

In late November, reservist comrades of a soldier who lives in Netiv Ha’avot and whose carpentry was then to be destroyed signed a letter of support. That, to be fair, did make it into some news sites.

But the media’s selectivity in creating the agenda in these cases basically suggested to the media consumer that the opposition to “occupation” is more prevalent and important than support for Jews residing in Judea and Samaria. This is but another example of unethical, suggestive journalism.

George Monbiot, in his Guardian column of January 10, writes “that a healthy media organization, like a healthy university, should admit a diversity of opinion… should also seek opposing views and publish them too, however uncomfortable this might be…newspapers that claim to be so incensed about no-platforming are not above seeking to deny people a platform.”

This viewpoint is not prevalent within the Israeli media.

In an article we referred to at the time, titled “The unbearable smugness of the press” and published on November 10, 2016, on the CBS News site, Will Rahn, politics editor for CBS News Digital, lashed out at the media behavior we observe in Israel: “There’s a place for opinionated journalism; in fact, it’s vital. But our casual, profession-wide smugness and protestations of superiority are making us unable to do it well.”

We opened with Oprah Winfrey and we’ll conclude with her.

Last Wednesday, Dutch political scientist Cas Mudde, an associate professor at the University of Georgia, published his thoughts on Winfrey’s media-driven candidacy for office in the Guardian. He noted how it had “become the dominant narrative in the media, which function as the megaphone of the most radical politicians, while ignoring the fewer and fewer remaining moderates.”

He pointed a finger at journalists who “want loud and outspoken politicians of ‘opposite camps’ [and at] the same time, they will decry this [polarization], dismiss politicians, and fan the interest in political outsiders who can ‘save’ the system.”

That, too, is suggestive journalism at work.

And it resonates with the biblical story in 2 Samuel 2:14, when Avner says to Yoav, “Let the young men arise and compete before us.”

Journalism can also be simply a business, egging on its subjects so that it can make money, or fame, out of the resulting developments. It should not try to claim the moral high ground.


January 4, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: Still impotent

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:03 am by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Still impotent
Our sages always admonished us: “Wise people, be careful with your words.” But there is some distance between expressing yourself strongly and being suspended.
It is a government’s duty to rule for the benefit of its citizens. Elected officials should be making the important decisions that affect our everyday life.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in Israel. Our government in certain areas is impotent, or at least seems to be. Consider the saga of TV Channel 20, which we have commented on more than once in this column.

The channel received a license to broadcast only via cable and satellite TV. This means that the channel is subject to the whims of the regulator, the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Commission (CSBC). The original license limited its broadcasts to Jewish programming. To survive, the channel knew that it must provide a broader spectrum of programs. Subsequently, in 2014 it received in principle the right to broadcast news, but in limited form. This was re-certified in 2016, but not implemented formally by the regulator.

In fact, Dr. Yifat Ben-Chai Segev, the CSBC’s chairperson, seems to be having the time of her life bullying the channel and forcing it into a Kafkaesque existence. At least this seems to be the conclusion of a recent Ma’ariv article by Kalman Liebskind, who also has a job at Channel 20. He described how Segev uses almost every opportunity to fine the channel. For example, it was fined for broadcasting too many news programs. It was fined for not giving the Reform movement sufficient attention. It was fined for violating the ethics code in a satirical program.

And the list goes on.

We all know that there is nothing original here.

Such violations were and are bread and butter for channels 2, 10 and 11. Satire in Israel is a holy cow – all the ombudsmen always defend it, claiming that even the sharpest satire is sacred – hallowed by the principle of freedom of speech. Only when the satire comes from the Right does it become unethical and do the fines fly.

Given the unflinching, firm character of the regulator toward the channel, it is facing closure. It cannot make ends meet by broadcasting religious rituals from Reform temples or by allowing the head of the Conservative movement in Israel to make speeches to fill the quota of programs demanded of it as per CSBC requirements. To survive, it must broadcast content which interests viewers. This includes news programs, satire, sports, general culture and much more. But the regulator nixes it all.

Ergo, closure.

Left-wing journalist Uzi Benziman wrote a scathing piece against the channel on the 7th Eye Internet media review site. He compared it to the settlement movement. The latter, he asserted, used any means to further its goals. It would receive a permit for an archaeological dig and lo and behold! The dig turns into a new town. Similarly, according to his perverted thinking Channel 20 took a license for Jewish broadcasting but never really considered for a minute that this was its goal. It used the license to create facts on the ground, Benziman wrote, and become a right-wing broadcaster which would compete with channels 2, 10 and 11.

Benziman suffers from amnesia, it seems. It was TV Channel 10 that committed itself to financial terms which it never intended to fulfil. The channel owed the government a billion shekels. But everyone (except for us), including Benziman, defended that channel and declared that the government must prevent its closure.

There is only a small difference between channels 10 and 20. The former is left-oriented while the latter is right-wing. Right-wing media organs seemingly do not have a right to exist, they should be closed, as in the case of the Arutz 7 radio station.

Left-wing organs, on the other hand, are the essence of democracy and must be supported even when they blatantly violate their legal obligations.

There is a fine thread connecting the crisis at Channel 20 and the recent Irit Linor soap opera.

President Reuven Rivlin was in the eye of a storm over what was apparently his call to the public to protest publicly against the corruption which supposedly typifies the present government. In truth, as also testified to by Makor Rishon correspondent Orly Goldklang this past Friday, his statement was misinterpreted and taken out of context. Given the public protest, Rivlin reiterated that he was not calling upon the public to demonstrate against a specific agenda.

But Linor, who works for the army radio station Galatz, and also Channel 20, reacted to the story Wednesday a week ago by castigating Rivlin. She said on air: “I will tell you what is intolerable, Mr. President. You are not a political player and when you were in politics you were a failure. The best you could do is become a minor minister. As a president and a symbol of Israel you call upon the citizens to go to the streets? For what? You are an insolent piece of work. Who are you? There are elections. Ruby Rivlin did not succeed to see the successful side of elections since he is such a failure. You should be ashamed.”

The reaction was swift. Shimon Alkabetz, the new officer in charge of the army radio station, suspended her for a week without even giving her a chance to apologize or explain. There was a public outcry.

Even the left-wing Citizens Rights Movement called upon Alkabetz to rethink the suspension, to no avail.

For sure, Linor’s words were sharp. Our sages always admonished us: “Wise people, be careful with your words.” But there is some distance between expressing yourself strongly and being suspended.

Linor, the recipient of the Israeli Media Criticism Prize in 2002, admitted that she should not have used such strong words, but so what? She attacked Rivlin from the Right, and the Right, as we know, does not have freedom of expression. After all, when it attempts to exercise that right it is invariably portrayed as obstructing the liberal left-wing democracy which is, the media tells us, so essential for this country.

Is this the first time a high official in Israel was publicly and fiercely criticized? Of course not. The prime minister is daily ostracized. On January 12, 2016, for example, TV Channel 2 “celeb” Amnon Abramovitch equated Netanyahu to North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un. Relating to primaries within the Likud which had only one candidate for prime minister, he noted: “You know this does not exist in any country, except maybe North Korea. This is Kim Jong Bibi, very strange.”

Did any official even dare say a word to Abramovitch? Of course not, for he belongs to the “enlightened” camp, along with Yair “mezuzah kissers” Garboz and others.

The conclusion? Democracy is but a one-way liberal street. Israel’s conservative camp remains unable to counter the unelected demagogues of the Left. If it could, Channel 20 would be the most popular TV channel in Israel and Abramovitch and his followers would be has-beens.


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