December 18, 2019

MEDIA COMMENT: Media consumer, beware

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:02 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Media consumer, beware

Whatever the outcome of the court proceedings involved in Case 2000, anyone reading this transcript must realize that Yediot Aharonot is not an objective bystander, simply reporting on what it sees.

The Wall Street Journal expressed surprise at its colleagues in the press recently. Dealing with Rep. Adam Schiff – who obtained data from private telecom companies without any judicial order, seemingly abusing his power – the newspaper’s editorial bemoaned that he was not being criticized by the media. Schiff, in an interview, baldly declared “the blowback has only come from the far Right.” On that admission that he was benefiting from a biased media, the paper’s December 8 editorial read: “The same media that howled when the Bush administration gathered metadata to hunt for terrorists is silent when Democrats gather and release it against a conservative journalist and Republicans. Keep this double standard in mind when you next hear media lectures about violating democratic and institutional ‘norms.’”

This criticism can also be found in Great Britain. Writing in The Telegraph, Andrew Newman railed against the reality that “the Left continues in control of all of the commanding heights of our political culture,” pleading with newly-reelected Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “fight the battle for British political culture, a struggle…ducked since the fall of Margaret Thatcher…Why is every BBC show so painfully politically correct?…Why does the Civil Service only ever leak in a pro-Remain way?…”

Sadly, this same criticism is valid here in Israel

Back on December 13, 2014, Benjamin Netanyahu and Amnon (Noni) Mozes conducted a telephone conversation. According to the transcript documents submitted to court, Netanyahu, threatened by Mozes that his Yediot Aharonot media conglomerate would work against him, said, “I will not remain apathetic. If it is your mission this or that way to bring about my fall, to the defeat of the Likud…what do you think I will do? Are you leaving me any choice? I’ll need to open up with all the instruments at my disposal…I will not fight back?”

Whatever the outcome of the court proceedings involved in Case 2000, anyone reading this transcript must realize that Yediot Aharonot is not an objective bystander, simply reporting on what it sees, hears or what was surreptitiously passed on in the form of leaked documents or recordings. The “take-and-give” arrangement, whereby a reporter is provided with information and is then expected to find ways to support the supplier, is well-known and its existence has long been admitted.

There is, however, a concern that has sharpened the issue of media bias. The unprofessionalism of journalism nowadays is compounded by the political rigidity of its practitioners. As Tim Black noted in “Spiked,” following the British election, there is an “odd behavior of the mainstream media.” The “basics of journalism – sourcing and verifying stories – have been eclipsed by something else: a thirst for immediate sensation; a hunger for manufactured confrontation; and – most important and unforgivable of all – a staggering credulity. A willingness, that is, to believe something has been said or has happened because it confirms journalists’ prejudices, because it fits their narrative.”

Black continues and bemoans that “members of media establishment have abrogated to themselves the mantle of respectable, truth-seeking journalism” although fake news “has come from the heart of the media establishment.” Worse, they “have forgotten the role of the journalist. They are no longer reporting and analyzing the news. They are making it. And, all too frequently, they are actually making it up.” And if they aren’t, as Alan Rusbridger wrote in last Saturday’s The Guardian, “you’ll be amazed how readily even the best journalists will repeat unattributable fictions”.

Is it damaging to the democratic fabric of a country to harshly criticize the media, especially a public broadcasting service as is claimed here in Israel? Is the press sacrosanct? Well, again, we look to England. There Andy McDonald, the Labour shadow transport secretary, declared in an interview on BBC this Monday that while he “treasure[s]…the BBC…they have trespassed with regularity during the course of this campaign into an area that they should not trespass into” and asserted that BBC reporters had deliberately slanting coverage to increase the chances of a Conservative victory. He added, “the way [BBC] people have gone about their business during this election does not fill me with confidence.”

In Britain, one could read, as published in the Financial Times on December 12 that “Tory hopes of decisive majority in doubt.” The Evening Standard’s December 12 headline read “Election becomes ‘too close to call’ as Tory lead shrinks”. A London School of Economics poll published on December 10 revealed that “A new expert survey suggests the UK’s general election will be tighter than expected” and the same day, The Independent informed that the “Tory majority [is] halved “. Yet again, many election opinion polls were wildly off and incorrect.

Public opinion polls are but one of many explicit and implicit methods for influencing the public rather than keeping it informed. As proclaimed time and time again, polls are not predictive, but measure an instantaneous opinion. Today’s poll does not reflect upon tomorrow’s. In other words, adding five polls taken on consecutive days does not increase their accuracy or predictive power. At best, they can reflect a trend.

But especially disconcerting is the error. When measuring anything with say, N random choices, the overall error will go as 1/sqrt(N). So, for a sample of 500 the error will be roughly 4%. But the error is much larger when attempting to predict whether a party will garner the 3% votes needed to pass the threshold for getting a seat in the Knesset. With 500 people polled, 3% is 15. An error of 5 is very likely, so the percentages will be somewhere between 2 and 4%, how can one seriously use these figures to tell whether a party will or will not cross the threshold? We may assume that the parties themselves conduct much deeper and broader polls, but these are not made public. The next time you hear that party A will cross the threshold and party B won’t, don’t only disregard the message, but more importantly, understand that the medium passing it on is not reliable and so reduce your trust in it.

Here in Israel, with both Likud internal primaries and the upcoming general election being the subject of polls, the media consumer is faced with a dilemma. Should he pay any attention and will he or she be influenced to vote simply by poll results rather than issues? Should politicians? Will the reporting become fixated and notoriously off-target polling?

One example of ethical journalistic conduct in this election period is the decision of Geula Even-Saar to remove herself from hosting with Yaron London, a current affairs culture program broadcast over KAN’s Channel One television. Her husband, Gideon, is challenging Netanyahu in the Likud internal primaries. Her move is in stark contrast to that of Galatz’s political reporter Michael Hauser-Tov, who we mentioned in our November 20 column.

The bottom line of all this is that as we enter the third election campaign, we call upon the media consumer to pay attention to reporting but not propaganda. The decision in the polling booth should be based on the issues, not on passing fads and unreliable polls.

^

December 6, 2019

MEDIA COMMENT: Needed: Media rehabilitation

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:29 am by yisraelmedad

Needed: Media rehabilitation
The media are generally not fair and for the most part should not be trusted, not in the United States, not in Great Britain and not in Israel.

By YISRAEL MEDAD, ELI POLLAK DECEMBER 4, 2019

Trouble may ensue when the media engage in reporting what will be, rather than what was and why it happened.

On the eve of Thanksgiving, Newsweek magazine’s Jessica Kwong informed her readers, out of pure speculation, that President Donald Trump would be, as the headline proclaimed, “tweeting, golfing and more.” Trump, however, ended up in Afghanistan on Thanksgiving to be with US troops. To her (dubious) credit and even less to that of her editor, the body of the story did contain the word “probably.” but that didn’t halt the deluge of opprobrium she honestly earned.

Kwong was fired. However, that did not contribute positively to any claims that the media are generally fair, factual and objective, nor to any public perception that the media are to be trusted.

The media are generally not fair and for the most part should not be trusted, not in the United States, not in Great Britain and not in Israel. Too often the media are biased, professionally unethical and used as a tool to influence readership, listeners and viewers to accept outlooks and positions rather than make their own decisions based on facts.

Paul Chadwick, The Guardian’s readers’ editor, suggested last month that there are four purposes of journalism: to help civil society to cohere, to facilitate democratic processes, to lubricate commerce, and to make and mix the culture. This idyllic description is just not realistic, certainly not in Israel. Too many of Israel’s media professionals seem to have adopted a special strategy in covering Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As described by Chemi Shalev in Haaretz last Friday, this strategy is to depict Netanyahu as someone engaged in a “self-centered, scorched-earth war against democracy and the rule of law.”

Shalev went further in his pillorying of Netanyahu. In the wake of ugly actions by a small minority of participants at the rally in support of the prime minister at the Tel Aviv Museum, he accused Netanyahu of engaging in “the indoctrination and exploitation of the masses as a key to gaining and staying in power.” Shalev then gratuitously added, “This was the modus operandi of most of the fascist and totalitarian upheavals of the 1920s and 1930s.”

The past branding Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin with a Hitler-tinged brush was resurrected by Shalev as he called our era a “contemporary Sodom and Gomorrah.” Lower-level media employees of such outlets cannot help take notice of the editorial line and fall in with the prejudicial framework within which they present the news.

Netanyahu, ever since 1996, has served as “He-Who-Must-Be-Hated” (with apologies to Hilda Rumpole) by Israel’s media. We only need recall Ari Shavit’s December 27, 1997, article, “Why We Hate Him [Netanyahu]: The Real Reason.” It opens thus: “I walked up the street to buy a few things I needed for Shabbat, and on the wall near the delicatessen it said “Down with Bibi the detestable murderer.”

He added that the “hatred of Netanyahu [is] a crusade that is gradually taking center stage in our lives.” Shavit’s long article contains dozens of examples of vitriolic abuse expressed by the media. This is the same Shavit who was summarily dismissed by Haaretz after sexual allegations were leveled against him. Today he works for the right-wing Makor Rishon newspaper.

That was 22 years ago when Netanyahu had been in the Prime Minister’s Office a mere one-and-a-half years.

CHIEF POLITICAL analyst and anchor of Channel 12’s Saturday News Dana Weiss was interviewed by Nissim Mishal for Radio 103FM on Friday. Answering a question relating to the prime minister’s reliability, Weiss declared that Netanyahu was a “danger to Israel,” as he might make security decisions based on his personal legal situation. The opinion is legitimate, but Weiss is an anchor and analyst whose veracity and value lie in her keeping her opinions to herself. Given her prejudice, can we trust her reporting or the content of her interviews?

The same Ms. Weiss was described as “one of Israel’s most trusted and decorated journalists” in the recent 71st Annual General Meeting of the International Board of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot.

One way for the media consumer to be apprised of a reporter’s or commentator’s trust quotient is to search their Twitter feeds. As we have noted in the past, these tend to reveal a consistent and persistent vicious critical view of Netanyahu. The slights, the cynicism, the sarcasm, as well as not a little pathological hatred for him, are all there to read.

It is an accepted principle that the media guard citizens against the authority of government. That is what many of our media claim when forced to defend their negativity toward Netanyahu. But something doesn’t pass the smell test. Many of the same reporters also find it necessary to defend problematic sectors of government which are obviously derelict in carrying out the demands of their jobs.

For years the reporters covering the IDF have been accused of simply regurgitating the IDF Spokesperson’s announcements rather than critically following the army’s actions, as if they are an echo chamber. Similarly now, those charged with covering the actions and decisions of the State Prosecutor’s Office are uncritically channeling but one version of the legal proceedings surrounding the prime minister’s various criminal cases. They have become the de facto mouthpieces of the prosecution

To be sure, we do not take lightly the seriousness of the various charges that have been brought Mr. Netanyahu. Nevertheless, the conduct of the State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and his lieutenants, among others, includes unethically pressuring witnesses to turn state’s evidence, authorizing illegal police actions, and even asking sitting judges to perform publicity acts on behalf of the prosecution – not exactly the model of an exemplary public servant.

Yet, too many legal-affairs reporters and commentators appearing on television and radio panels have been vociferously defending these aberrations of conduct, notably Avichai Glickman, Guy Peleg and Baruch Kara. This is troubling. They are taking sides. Worse, they denigrate other reporters such as Yoav Yitzchak, Kalman Liebskind and Shimon Riklin, who dare point out some of the deficiencies of the Justice Ministry. Such behavior does not help the public understand the issues.

To compound the problem, Case 2000 revolves around the largest, and arguably, the most influential media complex: Yediot Aharonot. It involves recorded conversations between Netanyahu and Yediot Aharonot owner Arnon Mozes. The criminal charge brought was that Netanyahu sought favorable media coverage, for which he would advance legislation that could negatively affect Mozes’s main competitor, Israel Hayom.

The media did discuss the criminal aspects, both pro and con. Yet the fact that the MKs who actually advanced the legislation – led by a Labor Party parliamentarian – were not charged, raises serious questions. As Oren Persico writes in The Seventh Eye, the anti-Netanyahu campaign of Yediot Aharonot in 2015 was a direct outcome of Mozes’s frustration with Israel Hayom’s success. Netanyahu was a victim. His opponents were molly-coddled by the media.

The New York Times’ November 30 editorial read in part, “The press needs to be scrutinized. Its mistakes should be called out, its biases analyzed and exposed.” We agree wholeheartedly.

The media powers have much damage to repair and many social injuries to rehabilitate. They should get busy.

^

November 29, 2019

MEDIA COMMENT: The trust gap

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:47 am by yisraelmedad

MEDIA COMMENT: The trust gap
Our justice officials are very concerned about conflicts of interest.
By YISRAEL MEDAD, ELI POLLAK

NOVEMBER 20, 2019

This last Friday, the Israel Hayom newspaper published results from their latest public opinion poll. It showed that 53% of those polled had a low opinion of the media, and as for the Justice Ministry Prosecutor’s Office, 44% had a low opinion. Only 20% had high trust in the media and 28% in the prosecutor’s office.

At the Haifa conference of the Israel Bar Association (IBA) last week, Ms. Dina Zilber, the deputy attorney-general (Counseling), complained about the public’s low trust – and what she claims is an orchestrated attempt to denigrate Israel’s judicial system on the backdrop of the investigations into the alleged criminal actions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In harsh words, she hit back at the “fake news” she hears on the radio about her place of employment as it pollutes the public conversation. She believed there was a concerted campaign to “alter the [system’s] checks and balances… and public servants are being maligned and smeared on a daily basis.” She was, we can presume, referring only to non-elected government employees.

The mistrust of the public in both these institutions is well deserved. Instead of using any of the high profile stories related to the prime minister and his aides – as well as the newly-developing story of State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan’s letter sent to sitting judges, who will probably be dealing soon in the Netanyahu cases – we will unroll a small story, but one that exemplifies why this mistrust runs so deeply.

Our justice officials are very concerned about conflicts of interest. Anyone who has had to fill in the forms requested when being appointed to a governmental council – for example, the Council of Higher Education or the former IBA’s Public Council – must detail any conflicts of interest, such as relations to politicians, affiliations with political parties, etc. The idea behind it sounds good – it would prevent politicos from appointing their cronies to governmental jobs. But the process has become extreme.

One of us (Eli Pollak) was appointed three years ago as a member of the Council of Higher Education. At the same time, he was chairman of the Chemical Physics Department at the Weizmann Institute of Science. He was forced to sign a document stating that he would not deal with any topic in chemical physics as long as he is chairman. That is stupid, one may say. The candidate happens to be a world-renowned expert in the field of chemical physics, but the legal advisers prevent him from using his expertise since he might use the position to further the interests of his department.

LET IT BE CLEAR: Any member of the council cannot participate in issues dealing with his or her home institution, and this is fine. That would be a clear conflict of interest. But to be disallowed from using their expertise just because the person is chairperson of a department in the same field? A bit farfetched, we think.

But what happens when someone is a journalist and happens to be the daughter or son of a politician? Should those journalists be allowed to serve in a public media organization in the capacity of political correspondents who directly cover, among other subjects, the actions of their parent’s or spouse’s political party?

This is not a hypothetical question – and we are not referring to Geula Even-Sa’ar, wife of MK Gideon Sa’ar (Likud), who resigned as KAN’s nighttime news anchor. Our focus is on Michael Hauser-Tov, the son of Blue and White Party MK Zvi Hauser. He also happens to be the political correspondent of the army radio station Galatz.

On May 15, Ziv Maor, Israel’s Media Watch chairman, wrote a letter to Shimon Elkabez, the station’s commander, noting that its own ethics code states that, “An employee will not be in a position of conflict of interest between the commitment to the public as an employee of the station and any other interest… any employee, she or he or any of their family members, who might have a personal, business, public or political interest, directly or indirectly in any topic, will not deal with that topic and will bring this to the attention of the chief editor.”

Maor wanted to know how the station is dealing with Hauser-Tov. It took over a month, but on June 20 the answer came: Hauser-Tov did not cover the election campaign, but after it ended he was reinstated to his job as political correspondent.

The April elections were followed by the September elections – and even today, elections are a central news topic. All political parties are seeking ways to further their interests and present themselves well to the public. This includes the Blue and White Party. Hauser-Tov continues as the political correspondent and, almost daily, reports on his father’s party. Maor did not relent. A second letter was sent on October 15, but to no avail. No one is willing to take responsibility, certainly not the legal adviser of the Israel Broadcasting Corporation, which by law is responsible for overseeing Galatz.

So, what have we? Conflict of interest is important, but when it comes to a blatant case of politico father and son in the media, there is silence from Ms. Zilber. There is no conflict of interest when it comes to the media – or is there?

Are we too unnecessarily suspicious of the media and what we perceive as its propensity to be biased? Are we too critical?

Let’s cast a glance at what Tim Shipman, the political editor of Britain’s The Sunday Times, has written. Shipman’s 2016 book, All Out War, which reviews the Brexit referendum, touches of course on the relationship with the press. As he notes, the Tory Party’s campaign was based on a simple playbook: Winning elections requires “an environment where the print media was sympathetic, but this time their natural allies were hostile.” Not only hostile, but strongly unsympathetic to giving the Tories a fair hearing.

Shipman adds: “Their arguments [were] distorted, the facts so hideously disfigured in their opponent’s favor that they were unrecognizable, or blatant falsehoods by the opposition [were] taken seriously. These were not only rules of engagement to which they were unaccustomed – they were rules under which they could not compete.”
As for the BBC, Shipton quotes one of David Cameron’s closest aides, relating to the 2015 election saying, “the BBC [expletive] up… it was totally [expletive] journalism. They… misunderst[ood] what impartiality actually means… they have had a demonstrable impact in a negative way.”

That template is one with which every Israeli, from whichever political camp, is quite familiar. Media bias occurs in Britain, in the United States and in Israel. The lack of trust in the media is well deserved. In the case of Hauser-Tov, it would have been easy to turn him into the foreign affairs correspondent and prevent any conflict of interest. The Justice Ministry should have stepped in, or at least the local legal adviser. The lack of willingness to do the obvious is just another bit of fuel for the lack of trust in these institutions.

^

November 6, 2019

MEDIA COMMENT: The art of silence

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:39 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: The art of silence
By YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK
11/06/2019
Liberman had no choice but to sue Yitzchak, which he promptly did on October 24, not as a personal libel case but as a demand from the Justice Ministry that they prosecute him for libel.
Media ethics codes usually concentrate on what should not be written, said or broadcast. But silence is an old practice used to manipulate news and keep the public in the dark. The case of Yoav Yitzchak vs. Avigdor Liberman is a classic example.

On October 8, on his News 1 website, Yitzchak published an article titled “Liberman has a hysterics attack.” The gist of the article was that Liberman fears investigations by various authorities in Israel; the discovery of serious suspicions; that his business and bank accounts are being reviewed in Israel and abroad; and that even a senior police officer revealed to him sensitive information from within police investigations.

This was then followed by an additional scathing article published on News 1 on October 21, this time titled “Liberman’s Trap.” Yitzchak described what he claimed were some of the reasons underlying Liberman’s politics as of late. According to Yitzchak, Liberman was offered a rotation of the prime minister’s post if he would form a right-wing government with Netanyahu, but that Liberman could not accept the ensuing far-reaching mutual coalition concessions.

The main thrust was that Liberman understands he cannot enter a political agreement which would make him prime minister of a right-wing government, since that would force the Justice Ministry to open up a myriad of investigations against him and his family members. The cases include, according to Yitzchak, illegal funds; the Yisrael Beytenu file where many of the leading members of his party were accused and found guilty of bribes; the relations of his sons to one Moshe Yeshayahu; his relations to businessman Shmuel Chaik; the appointment of his son-in-law Jonathan Gallun to the lucrative job of head of projects and fund-raising in the British branch of the Jewish National Fund; and much more.

Yitzchak, calling Liberman a “mafioso,” claimed that the media are doing all they can to safeguard Liberman from investigations, since he serves the purpose of many within the media, which is to get rid of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. If he would do the opposite, that is, join forces with Netanyahu, his honeymoon with the mainstream media would end, and all of his legal cases would surface – and quickly.

Liberman had no choice but to sue Yitzchak, which he promptly did on October 24, not as a personal libel case but as a demand from the Justice Ministry that they prosecute him for libel. What exactly that libel is, is not known to us, since only the first page of the brief to the lower court in Petah Tikva was publicized. Besides this scrap of information, the mainstream media have ignored the essence of the case, a lesson in the art of silence.

The media have been doing all they can to convince the public that a third election campaign would be disastrous. Yet, Liberman, who holds the power in his hands to prevent a third election round this year, is not questioned about what Yitzchak asserts are his true motives.

IN A DIRTY election campaign in which the left wing claimed it was all about morality and trust violated by Netanyahu, one might expect that the claims of a respected journalist such as Yitzchak, who was instrumental in bringing former prime minister Ehud Olmert to justice, would be aired and discussed. But no, nothing – and, as claimed by Yitzchak, Liberman is getting the same “etrog” treatment as Ariel Sharon. As long as his politics serve the “correct purpose” – that is, removing Netanyahu – his actions, although problematic, are silenced. The public does not know. If it did, then one might expect that Liberman and his Yisrael Beytenu Party would disappear in a third election round.

The art of silence is almost a daily practice. When youths in Yitzhar attack the IDF, the headlines are big. When left-wing organizations attack a farmer in Mehola in the Jordan Valley, there is no comparison to the media “noise.” When “settlers” are accused by Palestinians and so-called human rights organizations for destroying olive trees, we are all informed. But when trees are destroyed in Efrat, the story is treated with virtual silence.

We are in the month of left-wing Rabin assassination festivals when the Right is bashed more than Rabin is remembered. But the silence surrounding the questions having to do with the assassination itself, and the lack of fervor in at least having some of those responsible for the lapse in security face justice, is deafening. Dr. Mordechai Kedar publicly stated that Amir was not the assassin, and the hue and cry was great. How dare he spout such nonsense?

However, do we really know everything surrounding that tragic act? We at Israel’s Media Watch were ourselves victims of silencing at the Justice Ministry when we demanded an investigation of the IBA for allowing Shin Bet agent Avishai Raviv to incite to murder the prime minister in the weeks prior to the assassination. All our attempts at that time to raise public awareness of the issues were stonewalled by the media.
Kedar did get to be interviewed by several mainstream media outlets, but the interviewers were aggressive and demeaning of him promoting a “conspiracy theory,” thereby ridiculing him, as if he had no right to advance his thinking.

CONSPIRACY THEORIES did not originate with Kedar. Think of Abraham Lincoln. Think of John F. Kennedy. Conversely, there are other “conspiracies” that the media do blindly accept, such as the meme of a “rightwing/rabbinical incitement” that led to the assassination.

On October 12, at the new weekly series of protests near Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s home, now sponsored by pro-Netanyahu groups, it was reported that several people were arrested. Channel 12 silenced the fact that they were leftists, opposing the demonstration.

Are we being too harsh on our media and the practices of media stars?

In England, expert witnesses appeared before a parliamentary committee reviewing complaints against The Jeremy Kyle Show, asserted that Kyle used a “bullying methodology” and “abusive language” to provoke participants on his program. The show was the most popular program in the ITV network’s daytime schedule for more than a decade. As recently reported, ITV is accused of “corporate failure of responsibility” over its treatment of its participants.

While this is what is termed as tabloid-style entertainment television, it is an example of the power media people possess. To be truthful, some of what we view and hear on Israel’s media echoes those charges of unethical behavior. When the practice of browbeating is employed together with assuring a disproportional amount of attention and coverage one item will receive, that is wrong. But arguably, a disproportional silence is even worse, for the media are acting against the public interest.

Silence is a dangerous weapon. The media must make daily decisions as to which items to report and which not. But sometimes, the decision to downplay an item is not good judgment but rather media manipulation. In the long run, especially due to modern social media, one would hope that the effectiveness of silence decreases. We predict that Yitzchak’s research will, if correct, significantly impact Israeli politics, silence notwithstanding.

^

October 23, 2019

MEDIA COMMENT: A third round – good or bad?

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:17 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: A third round – good or bad?
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK
10/23/2019
The politicians toed the line, playing the blame game.
Israel’s media, in the main, have been messaging that a third election round in Israel is to be avoided at all costs. Haaretz, for example, on September 17, in the aftermath of the second election round, headlined an article by Noa Landau as “Everything must be done to prevent the national disaster of a third election round.” Adrian Filot, on September 21, writing in the Calcalist economic newspaper which belongs to the Yediot Ahronot media conglomerate, played on the economic cost of a third campaign. Its headline was “A third election round will bring with it economic disaster.”

Yuval Karni’s article in Yediot Ahronot on September 18 was headlined “Going to a third election round sounds like a bad dream.” David Horovitz, Times of Israel editor, called a third round a “nightmare” in his September 20 article. On September 23, Nahum Barnea on Ynet declared that a third election “in a year is not an option.” The Manufacturer’s Association let it be known on November 10 that the bill for the consecutive national ballots would be “as high as NIS 12 billion in 18 months.”

And so, the die was cast by the mainstream media: All must be done to prevent a third election round.

There were a few dissenting voices. For example, Yakov Bardugo, in an October 5 Israel Hayom op-ed titled “Who is afraid of a third round?” was of the opinion that it is a necessary evil. But he was in the minority. The message was so dominant that President Reuven Rivlin, when announcing that he had again asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a government, stated that his decision “does not reduce by an iota the responsibility of both candidates [Benny Gantz and Netanyahu] as well as all the political parties to create the conditions necessary to solve the political deadlock.”

The politicians toed the line, playing the blame game. At present, Netanyahu, Gantz and Avigdor Liberman are competing among themselves to shift the responsibility for the “disaster” of a third election round onto each other. The perception, cultivated by the media, is that the public does not want a third round and, as Rivlin stated, the politicians must find the solution. But is this really so? Is a third round really a “disaster”?

A thoughtful educated media should have attempted to bring both sides of the question to the fore. A third round is not a “disaster.” It is not an earthquake in which many may lose their lives and their belongings. In fact, the real possibility of a massive earthquake in Israel should strike terror in our hearts much more than this supposed “third-round disaster.” Yet the media do very little to try and influence our politicians to do everything possible to assure that when such an earthquake occurs, the consequences will not be “disastrous.”

Let us first consider the tenet that the politicians must get us out of the deadlock. This is in some sense an anti-democratic statement. The deadlock was created by the people in a free election. This is the true power of democracy. Instead of playing the diplomatic game, the politicians must reckon that the true power of governing lies in the population, and it is Israel’s citizens who must decide what the country needs and where it is going.

A CENTRAL CONTENTION in the previous two elections was that Netanyahu’s central interest is to save his skin rather than that of the country. But if a third round were to take place, this would occur probably in February 2020, by which time according to all the pundits, the attorney-general will have decided whether he will pursue a trial for Netanyahu and on what charges, if at all. In other words, such a third round would provide a clear opportunity for the electorate to state whether they do or do not want Netanyahu to be reelected. Moreover, if people are truly fed up, they will not come to the polls – and that, too, would have repercussions regarding the deadlock.

But what about the economic cost? The Israel Hayom newspaper on October 17 published a long article by Zeev Klein outlining the cost of such a third round. The article was headlined “Another election round will impose a 1.6 billion shekel cut on the budget.” Actually, that is not such bad news, however the true amount might just be a bit lower. The actual direct cost of a third election round is approximately 700 million NIS in the form of a budget for the election committee and the various political parties. In actuality, at least a third of that sum comes back to the government in the form of taxes, and not one of the economic forums dealing with the election cost brought this aspect into consideration.

Moreover, as also discussed by Arye Green in a June article on the Mida website, there is a positive side to the recurring election: The present government cannot waste money on all sorts of goodies to its supporters and coalition partners; it must work within the limits of the previously approved budget and cannot, as all governments do before elections, waste dear money to garner votes.

That is a central difference between elections that occur every few years and the present one, where the government has had the status of a caretaker government already since April. Indeed, a third round would imply that Israel will have had an interim government for almost a full year, and the budgetary savings far outweigh the added direct cost of NIS 700 million.

But, so goes the argument, the indirect economic cost of an additional vacation day is much higher. Israel’s GDP is some five billion shekels per day. The additional vacation day must be paid for by the employer, by the private sector or by the government on behalf of the public sector. True enough. But not all economic activity comes to a standstill.

Many businesses continue to operate and, in fact, Election Day is a wonderful day for the retailers. But, of course, more seriously, the true issue is one of productivity. The productivity of Israel’s workforce is on the low side of the OECD. Its number of vacation days is also on the low side, while the number of working hours is on the high side. This is not the place to discuss in-depth Israel’s productivity crisis, but having an added vacation day can also lead to higher productivity.

In other words, there are many unknowns when considering the economic costs. One thing that is certain is that a third election is not a “disaster” and is a situation much less than the havoc and financial loss created by some of our workforce sectors, such as the transportation employees, when they strike.

What does approach being a “disaster” is the one-dimensional drumming by the media that elections would be a “disaster.” Where is the discussion of all the voices and opinions on the issue?

^

October 10, 2019

MEDIA COMMENT: A new age of pluralism?

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:57 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: A new age of pluralism?
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK
10/10/2019
We will not retract our previous conclusion that KAN is a burden on the Israeli taxpayer and should be closed. But we do note that currently, it is much more balanced.
As this article is being written in the days prior to Yom Kippur, it would be appropriate that we continue in the spirit of our September 12 column. Instead of criticism, we will report on what has been done that is good. The main message is that Israel’s media has changed and seems to progress with time. One aspect is the increase in media pluralism.
We have been critical of the KAN conglomerate, the Hebrew cognomen of the Israel Broadcasting Corporation (IBC). We have noted time and time again how its reportage did not bring to the forefront the different aspects of a story, or how its reporters used the microphone as their personal property, and other violations of the professional ethics code. We will not claim here that all this has been corrected. We will also not retract our previous conclusion that KAN is a burden on the Israeli taxpayer and should be closed. But we do note that currently, it is much more balanced and presents a broad spectrum on the issues.
In days past, a right-wing journalist such as Emily Amrussi could not get a foot in the studio as an employee of the public broadcaster, as she would have been considered to be too “right wing.” The same holds true for her colleagues Kalman Liebskind and Amit Segal, who host news programs on Reshet Bet radio. Going back to the old IBA, it was unthinkable that such “extremists” would receive a slot. It would have been considered unethical and not suitable; the branja media clique would have vetoed it. The IBC today even has a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) news presenter – Yaakov Eichler.
The foreign news magazine has been returned to the more popular afternoon hours. The 5-6:30 p.m. Reshet Bet news magazine is no longer dominated by one person: It invariably has two people, usually including the former Shas MK Yigal Guetta. Even KAN’s TV Channel 11 has a daily news program with Kalman Liebskind and Erel Segal – the latter had to leave the army radio station due to his hard-hitting, right-wing views.
A similar change is occurring in the army radio station Galatz, no longer a left-wing monopoly on the news programs. In fact, the evening news show, from 5-6 p.m. has a “star” presenter, Yaakov Bardugo, who has raised the wrath of extremist left-wing organizations calling for his dismissal. Another haredi journalist, Kobi Arieli, shares the hosting of the 11 a.m.-noon program – “The Last Word.” National Zionist journalists Sivan Rahav-Meir and Yedidya Meir continue to present the Friday noon program, even though they are presently ambassadors of the World Mizrachi Organization in New York. Ehud Banai, star singer and a “returnee” religious person, also has a Friday program between 2 and 3 p.m. In preparation for Yom Kippur, the station had a full-hour broadcast with Rabbi Yuval Cherlow.
This pluralism extends also to the cultural and entertainment fields both in the form of the identity of presenters, guests and the programs. We also see many more reporters from the religious community such as Zev Kam, Yair Shriki, Uri Revach, Sarah Bek, Roi Sharon and Akiva Novick. Obviously, the campaign spearheaded almost two decades ago by Israel’s Media Watch – highlighted by the late Uri Orbach in his 1987 call, “the best to the media,” and pushed by the editor of Nekuda, Israel Harel – has led to the positive result that wearing a kippah or a modest dress is no longer a bar to being a successful journalist, rather than an occasional guest columnist. Israel’s media only gains from this pluralism.
The right-wing Makor Rishon newspaper has also been criticized by us in other venues for its too close association with the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI). Until 2014, it had published some excellent magazines, especially “Justice”, which exposed the ever-increasing bias in our judicial system and perhaps had a pivotal influence on the actions of former justice minister Ayelet Shaked to change it. It was edited by Yehuda Yifrach, and discontinued in July 2015. But then in October 2017, a special “Justice” supplement appeared, which was funded by the IDI and clearly biased in their favor. NGO-funded supplements are legitimate when they appear explicitly as advertisements, as for example are the occasional supplements of the Women in Green, which promote the annexation of Judea and Samaria to the State of Israel. But two years ago, and then again in March 2018, in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the state, the paper contained supplements which were joint publications with the IDI and were not presented as advertisements.
GLADLY, WE report that this, too, has changed this year. In its Rosh Hashanah edition, the paper again published a “Justice” supplement edited by Yifrach, which was free of any interested partners. The difference was striking. This year’s supplement, titled “Walls of Despair,” documents the mishandling of people who are arrested on suspicion of illegal actions, ranging from sexual violations to political ones. It is an important document, spotlighting the immense power of the police and Justice Ministry, which too often prevents a fair judicial process.
Any Israeli media consumer will readily recognize the following description:
“These two presenters have never made any secret of their left-wing and anti-Trump bias… [with]… eye-rolling and looks of exasperation when reporting on news stories… personal commentary on controversial news stories is surely going too far… They are employed as presenters, not political commentators, and as such should at least feign impartiality.”
That was excerpted from a complaint about remarks made by two BBC presenters. Indeed, infractions of media ethical standards are the norm, and not only in Israel.
This example is but one aspect of how the media circumvents logical and longstanding rules of professional ethics. Consider another one. Recently, a public figure, while expressing his support for “media freedom [and] objective, truthful reporting” as the “cornerstone of democracy,” nevertheless accused parts of the media of “waging campaigns against individuals with no thought of the consequences.” He declared that “the only thing to do is to stand up to this behavior, because it destroys people and destroys lives. Put simply, it is bullying, which scares and silences people. We all know this isn’t acceptable, at any level. We won’t and can’t believe in a world where there is no accountability for this.”
If you presumed that was Yair Netanyahu defending his father through Twitter tweets, you are mistaken. Those were the words of Prince Harry, explaining why he and his wife were instituting a lawsuit against the UK’s Daily Mail. And, he added, “There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious.”
Indeed, the continuous arguing, bickering and personal opinion remarks between presenters on various media outlets – as well as their use of the microphone to further personal pet causes – is still a serious issue and demands attention. But at least the pluralism we’ve described above is a blessing which we should all appreciate.
^

October 2, 2019

Yisrael Medad vs. Revital Amiran

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:46 pm by yisraelmedad

Here is the full exchange between Revital Amiran and myself that took place in August/September in the pages of Fathom Journal, published in England.

It starts with her piece, to which I replied. It continues with rejoinders and responses and a final P.S. from me.

IsraelVotes2019 (2) | The Zionist Left Is Renewing Itself

by Revital Amiran

If the public leans left, how come it keeps turning its back on the left at election time?’ asks Revital Almiran, a journalist at Maariv and former deputy director of the think tank Shaharit. She argues that while the Left will not achieve an electoral breakthrough in 2019, it is laying the foundations for its long-term political renewal. It is facing up to the challenges posed by identity politics that separates the left from its natural base, and a rising populism that delegitimises it. If, once again, the Left embraces a liberal, secular, anti-racist agenda, advances social democratic economics, and proposes a two-state solution with security, it may yet claim the future.

For twenty years, the Zionist Left in Israel has not won an election. In recent election campaigns, many have expressed fears that the Labor party (Haa’voda) and Meretz, the formal successors of the powerful labor movement that established the state and dominated its politics for decades, would vanish altogether. On 9 April, the Left won only 10 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, 6 for the Labor party and 4 for Meretz. So, what is the problem of the Zionist Left in Israel? I suggest we look at the role of identity politics and rise of populism which represent the largest obstacles to the revival of Zionist Left. Though, there are signs that the Left is finally finding the confidence to fight back.

IF THE LEFT HAS WON THE ARGUMENT, WHY DOES IT LOSE THE ELECTIONS? IT’S THE IDENTITY, STUPID

Despite the weakness of the political parties of the left, the agenda of the left remains resilient because it is still in line with the aspirations of most Israelis. Despite a long period in which the right has been in power, the Left’s moderate, conciliatory stance towards the Israeli-Arab conflict, and its commitment to social justice values, remain popular.

While the two-state solution is less popular than in previous years, the most recent INSS poll on issues related to national security (2018) showed most respondents (62 per cent) are interested in an agreement, be this a ‘permanent’ agreement (40 per cent) or ‘interim agreements toward a permanent agreement’ (22 per cent). Moreover, 58 per cent support a two-state solution; only 9 per cent expressed interest in annexing Judea and Samaria, and only 15 per cent support maintaining the current situation.

In the social-economic realm, the demand for social justice, expressed in the largest social protests in Israel’s history in 2011, has not gone away. And nor have the demonstrations, albeit now on a smaller scale. Whether we are talking about stipends for people with disabilities, pensions, the provision of public housing, the basic request of the Israeli citizen is for the state to take responsibility for their economic security, not leave them to the brutality of the free market.

During its short history, Israel transformed from a welfare regime reflecting social democratic principles to a one emphasising neoliberal principles. The gradual liquidation of the welfare state and privatisation and commercialisation of its services started in the 1980s. The shift included a reduction of state investment in education, health, housing and social services. According to The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies, the expansion of the economic gaps and the sharpening of social inequality were a direct result of the neoliberal agenda. Since the early 2000s, the percentage of Israeli families living in poverty, and degree of inequality between citizens, have remained among the highest in the OECD.

Israeli Jews, according to the JTA’s survey from 2016, look to the government to better their lives. Nearly 60 per cent of them prefer a ‘Scandinavian model’ economy, with high taxes and a robust welfare state, over an ‘American model’ with lower taxes and fewer government services. Nearly half of Israeli Jews (45 per cent) say they want more government involvement in the economy. Majorities of Israelis also want the government to spend more on the following sectors: health, police, education, academia, transit, welfare and housing.

So, if the public leans left, how come it keeps turning its back on the Left at election time? The main answer is the historic, ethnic resentment of the lower classes, especially the so-called ‘Oriental’ (Mizrahi), towards the well-to-do classes, mostly characterised as ‘western’ Jews (Ashkenazi). Even though ethnic origin no longer predicts class as clearly as it once did, Labor and Meretz have not managed to break out of their traditional circles of support and link up to the oriental public which, since the victory of Menachem Begin in 1977, has been committed in its great majority to the Likud party.

This rift between Mizrahi and Ashkenzi Jews goes back 70 years. In the 1950s, the left in power only established a very partial welfare state. While the communities of Ashkenazi Jews benefited from social services, social security and respect, the communities in the periphery, usually inhabited by Mizrahi Jews, had to be satisfied with less support and experienced discrimination and alienation. In the 1960s and 1970s, due to a Mizrahi campaigning, the welfare state was broadened. But still today, after 20 years of the right in power, the resentment at what is perceived as the ‘left-wing establishment’ continues to take a toll. The old feelings of fury have not been healed.

The right, especially Likud leaders during election times, make cynical use of this fury and seize every opportunity to stoke it. Moreover, in recent decades, the left has dropped its social democratic ideas, collaborating with the process of dismantling the welfare state and privatising health, education and other social services. Little wonder the left became identified with a well to do Ashkenazi class.

While the Likud does not provide the Mizrahi lower classes with significant economic mobility, it knows how to compensate them with a powerful sense of pride and belonging.

POPULISM AND INCITEMENT: A SURRENDER WITHOUT A FIGHT

And this brings us to the second obstacle standing between the Left and a return to power: the populist turn taken by Israeli politics. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been the chief importer of American political culture into Israel these last decades, inserting populist rhetoric into Israeli public discourse. Following Trump and other populist leaders such as Orban and Erdogan, Netanyahu has promoted the idea that the majority of Israeli public is undermined and exploited by a small, leftist elite that controls the media and the court system. This elite also persecutes Netanyahu personally and will not be satisfied until he is driven from office. It is framed as operating as a state within state (a ‘deep state’), with hidden networks working against the right and Israeli majority ( ‘the people’). His complicated personal legal situation (Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, announced that he planned to indict him on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust pending a hearing) is equated with the victim-like situation of his supporters.

Netanyahu’s populist rhetoric goes beyond turning the Left into a hated ‘establishment’ and enemy of the people. During his years in office, ‘leftists’ have been made into the ultimate scapegoat, responsible for all troubles, and labelled as ‘anti-Zionist’ or even ‘traitors’. Everybody remembers the statement he whispered in the ear of the late Sephardi kabbalist Rabbi Yitzhak Kadourie in 1997, which was caught on camera: ‘the left forgot what it means to be Jewish.’ In the 2016 campaign in a video on Facebook, he warned that ‘the right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are going en masse to the polls. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them on buses.’

Bibi’s populist campaign against the left is not only rhetorical. In 2016, Israel’s parliament passed the ‘NGO Law’ that stigmatised left-wing and human rights organisations in Israel as agents of foreign powers that try to impose on the Israel public notions alien to it. The law applies only to organisations that are funded mostly by foreign state entities (not by foreign individuals), forcing them to prominently declare their foreign funding in any publication or public engagement such as media appearances or events. One should bear in mind that Israel already had very strict transparency laws and that most leftish organisations are supported by European sources. Indeed, of 27 organisations affected by the law, 25 are left-wing or human rights groups.

Netanyahu’s populist rhetoric is consistently backed up by envoys in the media and by some semi-intellectual publicists who provide it with a ‘theory’ of sorts. One should keep in mind the major role played by Israel Hayom, a daily newspaper founded in 2007 and distributed free of charge. Known as Bibiton’, (a combination of Benjamin Netanyahu’s nickname ‘Bibi’ with the Hebrew word for newspaper, ‘iton’ ), it is funded by Sheldon Adelson, Netanyahu’s billionaire supporter. Studies published in The Seventh Eye revealed Israel Hayom‘s coverage was biased in favour of Netanyahu in most editorial decisions, and that the paper chooses to play down events that do not promote a positive image for Netanyahu, while inflating events that positively promote Netanyahu and the Likud.

Netanyahu reinforces his audience’s self-image as a disdained and persecuted majority and their sense that their great victimiser is ‘the Left’. Consequently, ‘left’ has become a curse word in Israel, a synonym for weakness and for cooperation with the enemy (mostly Arabs). According to a ‘Hatred Report’ (Hebrew) from the Berl Katzenelson Centre on expressions of hate and incitement on the internet, in 2016, 50 per cent of hate speech was directed towards the Arabs, 20 per cent towards ‘leftists’.

This long process of delegitimisation found no effective response on the Left. Perhaps this camp never really recovered from the political assassination of its leader, PM Yitzhak Rabin. Some say the problem of the Left began then when, instead of fighting back against the horrible incitement coming from the Right, it first mourned and then felt it had to pursue reconciliation. Whether the problem started 24 years ago or more recently, one thing is for sure: the Left has not developed a strategic response to populism.

Worse, some recent Labor party leaders have even internalised the bad image the Right attached to their camp and have run away from core leftist ideals. Each was trying to win over right-wing voters but, in doing so, they collaborated with the Right’s project of making the Left ashamed of itself and demoralised.

The Right’s narrative, according to which the Oslo Accords were a huge mistake and social democracy archaic, oppressive and irrelevant, was never given an effective reply. After the failure of the Camp David summit and outbreak of the Second Intifada, the Left remained mute and left-wing voters wandered off to a series of ‘centre’ parties with blurred agendas such as Kadima, Yesh Atid and, now, Kachol Lavan.

THE LEFT AND THE SEPTEMBER POLL

Israel is going back to the polls in September after Netanyahu failed to form a new government following the April election. The Left has another chance and it seems it has learned some lessons. It is now represented by two joint slates: one is composed of the democratic Israel headed by former PM Ehud Barak, Meretz Chair Nitzan Horowitz, the green movement, and Labor MK Stav Shafir. The second is the union between Amir Peretz, the new head of the Labor party, and Orly Levy Abekasis’s party, Gesher, which at the last elections made its pitch to lower social economic layers, especially the Mizrahi Jews living in the periphery. Both Levi Abekasis and Peretz are Moroccan-heritage Jews who have lived their whole life in the periphery of Israel. Levi Abekasis is the daughter of David Levi, an ex-Likud and one of its great symbols of its supposed Mizrahi, working class orientation.

Many hoped to see one big left-wing party, but Peretz slammed the door on that idea, saying ‘merging with Barak and Meretz will deter certain populations from joining us and being part of the revolution.’ Many on the left have expressed their fury at Peretz’s decision to unite with Levi Abekasis since she was formerly a member of a very rightist party, Yisrael Beiteinu. Others were uncomfortable with the new, oriental branding of Labor. As a result, many leftists announced that they prefer giving their vote to the democratic camp. Peretz sees this behavior as proof that Labor is detached from those who should really be its authentic voters.

NEW FOUNDATIONS: LABOR’S ECONOMICS, THE DEMOCRATIC CAMP’S COURAGE

Two weeks ago, the Labor-Gesher joint slate presented a revolutionary economic program, differing themselves sharply from the ‘Bibi’s piggish capitalism’ and ‘Lapid’s (a main leader of Kachol Lavan) compassionate capitalism’. This ambitious plan is the core of their campaign and would cost 30 billion shekels. It includes raising the minimum wage to 40 shekels an hour, a ban on contract workers, reform of the housing market under which the government would build 200,000 apartments, free education for children at all ages, governmental investments in healthcare, a minimum 6000 NIS pension and more. ‘The voters of the Likud’, Peretz said, ‘are not the problem, they are the solution’. In accordance to this, he keeps tweeting videos in which inhabitants of the periphery state for the first time in their life why they are not going to vote for the Likud, but for the Labor-Gesher joint slate.

The democratic camp, has taken on the task of rejuvenating the Left’s self-respect. Without doubt, the return of a bullish and enthusiastic former commander in chief of the IDF, Ehud Barak, has ignited the Left with passion to fight back against any attempt to delegitimise it. Unsurprisingly, the core word in the democratic camp campaign is ‘courage’. It appears over and over again in their billboards, videos and tweets. Once again, the Left is proud to hold a liberal, secular, anti-racist agenda as well as being committed to the two-state solution.

Moreover, by adding Rabin’s grand daughter Noa Rothman to the list, the democratic camp is seeking to give back to the word Shalom (peace) a new respect and relevancy. Recently, Barak introduced a plan for ‘regional arrangement and negotiation or separation’, emphasising the need for a strong Israel to strive for separation from the Palestinians, or, at least in the short term, to set a border that would preserve the separation option for the future. ‘The rightish path of one state is the only existential threat for the future, identity and security of Israel. Worse than terror and even from the Iranian threat’, Barak warned in Ha’aretz.

The democratic campaign’s main focus is to raise the alarm about the danger of the country being dragged down an anti-democratic, populist slippery slope by the Right. The majority of Barak’s tweets, videos and interviews are dedicated to showing Bibi and the far right destroying Israeli democracy and weakening its gatekeepers. Recently, Barak and members of the democratic camp showed up to the demonstration against corruption taking place near Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s home in Petach Tikva. The protest is ongoing and provocative. The activists demand that Mandelblit move to indict Prime Minister Netanyahu in the corruption cases into his affairs. The democratic camp came to show solidarity with the protestors after the police arrested and treated some of them aggressively a week before.

In these last days of August, the election campaign is still sleepy. Many Israelis are on vacation and for many it is just too hot and humid to pay attention to politics. Hence, the polls are stable. A Channel 12 News poll published on 23 August shows Kachol Lavan winning the same projected seats as the Likud (30). The left parties are slated to win 13 seats (seven for the democratic camp and six for the Labor–Gesher), three more mandates than in the April election. For sure, this is far away from a renewal of the Left, and once the national campaigns of Kachol Lavan and the Likud get into full swing during the last two weeks before the 17 September poll, both left coalitions may be squeezed.

Still, Peretz and Barak have managed to make authentic left ideas shine again, and Haa’voda-Gesher and the democratic camp were the only parties that welcomed the head of the Joint List Ayman Odeh’s historic statement that he is willing to enter a coalition. At this point, everything is open. One thing is for sure, the political left has now laid the foundation for its revival.

 

IsraelVotes2019 (2) | ‘The Left is finished in Israel.’ A reply to Revital Amiran

by Yisrael Medad

Yisrael Medad writes a weekly media column for the Jerusalem Post and serves as a foreign press spokesperson for the Yesha Council of Jewish communities. In this reply to Revital Amiran’s argument in Fathom that a radical, egalitarian left promoting the two-state solution can win, if not today then in the future, Medad argues that Amiran denies the harsh reality, which is that the Left is now viewed, in the eyes of the majority of the voting public, as outside the Jewish political consensus in Israel.

If Israel’s Left ‘embraces a liberal, secular, anti-racist agenda, advances social democratic economics, and proposes a two-state solution with security, it may yet claim the future’ concluded Revital Amiran in Fathom. She added, confidently, that ‘the agenda of the left remains resilient because it is still in line with the aspirations of most Israelis.’

Both assertions deny reality.

The Left has been suffering a decline in its parliamentary representation for decades and it now has very little influence in government. If it weren’t for its leading role in the cultural and literary fields, and in the media, its voice would be entirely negligible. Moreover, this outcome has been produced by the Left embracing the policies Amiran suggests.

As for a ‘two-state solution with security’ (which I would posit is a contradiction in terms) that has been the (failed) policy of all governments, in one form or another, both pre- and post-Oslo. Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as making a 2009 speech in which he acknowledged a ‘demilitarised Palestinian state’, later agreed to an almost year-long moratorium on construction in the Jewish communities in the disputed areas of Judea and Samaria to facilitate negotiations with the Palestinians. None of it was enough to persuade Abbas to seriously negotiate. Why should it now? As for security, based on their experience, the idea of the Left promoting it is a non-starter for a majority of Israelis.

As harsh as it may sound, the brute fact is that the Left is now viewed, in the eyes of the majority of the voting public, as outside the Jewish political consensus in Israel. Netanyahu’s 1997 remark to the Kabbalist Yitzhak Kadouri, that left-wingers ‘have forgotten what it means to be Jewish’, while particularly intemperate, was simply a case of noting the path chosen by Israel’s Left.

Shimon Peres’ remark, ‘the Jews voted for Bibi’ affirmation in 1996 (based on the Likud’s campaign slogan sponsored by Chabad, that ‘Bibi is good for the Jews’), and Yair Garboz’s 2015 taunt about ‘amulet kissers, idol-worshippers who prostrate themselves at the graves of saints’ do not appear to be evidence of the Left’s resilience but of the Left’s increasing disconnect from Israel.

While Benny Gantz seemed to be striving to avoid such pitfalls, we have witnessed the Democratic Party’s Ram Ben-Barak’s ‘black-them/white-us’ misspeak. It is easy for non-Left voters to believe that nothing has really changed for the self-annointed elitist elements in Israel’s political system. Ben-Barak reinforced what many in Israel perceive as the non-Jewish-identity element of the Left.

Amiran blames Netanyahu for the left’s isolation, arguing that ‘during his years in office, “leftists” have been made into the ultimate scapegoat, responsible for all troubles, and labelled as “anti-Zionist” or even “traitors”’. But she ignores not only the Left’s failure to respond adequately to the needs of Israelis but also the harsh Leftist rhetoric aimed at Netanyahu personally, and the Left’s degrading treatment of those who vote for him. To insist that ‘the Left’s moderate, conciliatory stance towards the Israeli-Arab conflict, and its commitment to social justice values, remain popular’ is to be, if I may employ a pun, blind in Gaza.

The Left in Israel has allowed itself to become the maidservant of foreign forces, further distancing itself from the Israelis whose support they need to be elected. There was the OneVoice V15 campaign in 2015, not only imported from America by leftist Jews on both sides of the Atlantic but paid for by Barack Obama’s State Department. The plethora of NGOs, while dealing with needed social services, are perceived by the majority of Israelis as not only acting as foreign agents through their EU-sourced budgets, but as advancing the interests of communities for whom the Jewish state of Israel is not an important value, as well as boosting groups that are divisive rather than consensus-building. And to all that we can add the monthly contretemps at the Western Wall, toward which even the most non-religious adopt a nonplussed attitude, especially as a new separate prayer space was provided.

The Left now hopes that Avigdor Lieberman’s personal hostility to Netanyahu may force a unity government with Gantz. This would seem to be quite self-defeating for the Left. Lieberman’s defense and security policies are opposite to theirs, while his history with the courts and charges of financial misdoings (from which he has been cleared) uncomfortably parallel Netanyahu. If the Left should embrace him to gain power one thing is for sure; it would not at all represent what Amiran proposes is the left’s route to power.

Employing ideology to alter reality is quite normal. But for Amiran to use her ideology to hide the Israeli reality is abnormal.

 

IsraelVotes2019 (2) | The Robbed Cossack and the Imaginary Reality of the Right: a rejoinder to Yisrael Medad

A sharp rejoinder from Revital Amiran to Yisrael Medad’s critique of her Fathom article ‘The Zionist Left is Renewing Itself’.

The response of Yisrael Medad, the foreign press spokesperson for the Yesha Council of Jewish communities, (‘“The Left is finished in Israel.” A reply to Revital Amiran’) to my Fathom article, is soaked with kind of populism that the Israeli Right often uses to delegitimise the Left and to manipulate the public.

Thus, like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Bibi) and others right-wing leaders, he tries to frame the Left outside the Israeli consensus, and does not let reality disturb him. That reality, reflected in the several studies and polls I mentioned, is that the Left’s agenda is still popular. These polls were ignored by Medad. Furthermore, he failed to acknowledge the fact that Kachol Lavan (Blue and White) is basically a Left party that supports negotiating with the Palestinians and, in the long run, the two-state solution. As such, it has magnetised many Left voters.

The plain fact is that, in the last election, the Right didn’t do much better than the Left. Do not forget that Bibi didn’t manage to form a coalition. Another fact: the religious right (The Union of the Right joint slate) ended up with only five mandates. The New Right headed by Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett didn’t even cross the threshold. Recent polls published at the weekend showed Kachol Lavan and the Likud winning the same number of mandates (32), and Yamina (the rebadged New Right) getting fewer seats (nine) than the Democratic Camp and the Labour-Gesher slate (11 in sum).

Medad’s populism doesn’t stop with his twisted perception of reality. In accordance with the message the Right has used to pave its way to office, he also takes advantage of the rift between the Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews. But the sense of solidarity and pride the Right offers the Mizrahi Jews is mostly faked and manipulative. Everybody remembers the anger of Miri Regev, the minister of culture and sports, after Netanyahu excluded her and another Mizrahi minister from the campaign selfie picture of the Likud leadership. Actually, Netanyahu has nothing to do with the Mizrahi traditional life and culture. He belongs more to the Ashkenazi elite than do some of the current leaders of the Left.

There are many problematic sayings that are attributed to him and to his wife regarding the Mizrahi Jews. Thus for example, Meni Naftali, Netanyahu’s family former housekeeper, claimed Sara Netanyahu used to talk down on him. Once she told him: ‘We are sophisticated Europeans. We don’t eat as much food as you Moroccans.’ Naftali sued the Prime Minister’s Office in 2014 for alleged ‘unreasonable requests and deplorable attitude shown’ by Sara Netanyahu. In 2016, the court ruled he should receive compensation to the tune of 155,000 NIS.

Besides Bibi’s attitudes, one may notice the right-wing elite in the settlements is pretty much white. Last term their representative in the Knesset initiated and passed the admission committee law enabling big settlements to keep filtering resident nominees and so keep their specific Ashkenazi character.

Another populist claim of Medad concerns the ‘leading role the Left has in the media’ that he claims keeps the Left alive. This claim is false and an example of the old Jewish adage about the ‘Robbed Cossack,’ the perpetrator who pretends to be the victim, the robber pretends to be robbed. The truth is that the media is full with rightish leaning journalists, newspapers, and radio and TV channels. Indeed, some platforms mainly recite Bibi’s messages. Journalists who do their job professionally and so sometimes criticise the government, or expose solid information about Bibi’s investigations, are automatically blamed for being ‘leftists’. A week ago Channel 12 News assigned a bodyguard to one of their journalists after he received threats due to excerpts he had aired from Netanyahu’s police investigation.

Finally, a word about Judaism and the Left. Despite the attempt of the Right to tag leftish as ‘anti-Judaism’ and as ‘not patriots,’ one should remember that the Right does not have a monopoly over Judaism or over the love of Israel. Judaism doesn’t mean living according to the Halacha. Instead, the Left tends to see Judaism in moral terms, according to which what is really out of the consensus is an ideology that exalts controlling people without giving them basic political rights as well as trying to form an alliance with former Kahanists, proud fascists, in order save themselves from the opposition benches.

 

Revital Amiran and Yisrael Medad: A Final Exchange on the Israeli Left

The following exchange brings to a close the dispute between Revital Amiran and Yisrael Medad on the standing and prospects of the Israeli left. It began with Amiran’s ‘The Zionist Left is Renewing Itself’ to which Medad responded with ‘The Left is finished in Israel.’ Her rejoinder, ‘The Robbed Cossack and the Imaginary Reality of the Right’, now has a response from Medad, which in turn provoked a short last word by Amiran. Fathom editors are very keen to publish more back and forths of this kind between right and left and we encourages readers to consider offering short, civil, and informed responses to Fathom content.

 

YISRAEL MEDAD: A RESPONSE TO REVITAL AMIRAN’S REJOINDER

Revital Amiran’s ‘sharp’ rejoinder to my response to her piece is quite remarkable if mainly because her accusations and charges are weak and hollow (to borrow a 2006 David Grossman term) but also because of a problem with definitions.

 

By ‘Left’ I, of course, did not include the Blue-and-White list but the ever-shrinking Labour Party, by whatever name it now goes by, and the Meretz Party, now known as the Democratic Camp (admittedly, the Arab sector is in its own category with its Jewish Communist voters). Those two parties in the April elections for the 21st Knesset gained 10 seats, which total .083 per cent. Incidentally, for Meretz, its Arab support was crucial to enable it to pass the threshold, as Tamar Zanberg admitted. And yes, I consider that they are ‘outside the Israeli consensus’, whether Amiran, decrees otherwise and whatever polls and studies she quoted (Shimon Peres famously quipped that polls are like perfume, smelling good but poison to drink).

We now have the almost-but-not-quite final results of the elections for the 22nd Knesset and the Knesset web site as I write shows those two lists did not manage to gain more than 10 per cent of the vote.

I based my opinion on a fact: the Left’s agenda is not popular and does not have any significant public support.

As for her treatment of Blue-and-White, to suggest it is ‘basically a Left party that supports negotiating with the Palestinians’ begs two questions. The first: is Moshe Yaalon, Tzvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel Left? Is Gaby Ashkenazi? When Yair Lapid was a government minister under Binyamin Netanyahu, and who was supposed to become a rotated Prime Minister per pre-election agreement, did Amiran consider him Left? And as an additional testimony, I see that in Haaretz on 17 September, Dmitry Shumsky, a darling of the Left, wrote ‘Blue-and-White is aiming to obliterate the Left’.

The second question is if ‘negotiating with Palestinians’ is a leftist characteristic, since the Likud continuously declares its willingness to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, has in the past negotiated and even had accepted a moratorium on construction in the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, can we assume, a la Amiran, that the Likud is, or at least, was… Left, even a bit?

To be clear, by Israeli Left, one means a near total territorial compromise, a less-than-assertive defense posture, intense secularism and disestablishmentarianism of the Rabbinate, opposition to ‘piggish’ capitalism and a willingness to involve in Israel’s societal fabric European defeatism and American radical progressivism, through financial infusions to the multiplicity of NGOs operating in Israel’s society.

I will admit that I really do not know what she means by ‘populism’ nevertheless, I do expect her to know what I meant by ‘popular’: actual results and not polls. However, I do know what an elite is and I thoroughly and disdainfully reject her post-modern neo-racist slur in writing ‘one may notice the right-wing elite in the settlements is pretty much white’ – as if the kibbutz movement, past and future, is any different. If Ms. Amiran wishes to import Western progressive thought and linguistic constructs, as well as bandy about Stalinist phraseology like ‘proud fascists’, similar to when David Ben-Gurion called Jabotinsky ‘Vladimir Hitler’ and Menachem Begin a ‘Hitlerite’, not only is she not in the consensus but I would place her outside the Pale.

 

REVITAL AMIRAN: A SHORT RESPONSE TO YISRAEL MEDAD

My only response to Yisrael Medad is: The elections results speak for themselves. Kachol Lavan ends up with more mandates and more recommenders (thanks to the historic decision of the joint slate). The Israeli society said no to populism, no to incitement against the Arab population, no to annexation and no to the destruction of democracy. The extreme right is out of the Knesset, with high chance that Bibi (who lost 300,000 voters) is about to leave the political arena, Yamina with only seven mandates is heading to the opposition benches and Trump’s deal of the century is knocking on the door. In this way or another, the Israeli left agenda is renewing itself and it’s only the beginning.

_________________

P.S.

Just to point out:

Likud & Kachol Lavan in the final tally ended up with 35 mandates each and the Likud received more recommenders.

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September 26, 2019

MEDIA COMMENT: Election aftermath

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:41 am by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Election aftermath
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK
09/25/2019
Reviewing the media and the reactions to it in the wake of the elections
Elections are over. Well, at this moment they seem to be over.

One way of passing judgment on the performance of some of the media during the last few months is to mull over an excerpt from a column penned by Tony Koch. It appeared in the May 9 issue of The Guardian, bemoaning Australian newspapers. If we substitute the Likud Party in place of the Labour Party in the piece, can we hear an echo of our own situation in Israel?

Here are some excerpts with the replacements made: “No editor I worked for would have put up with the biased anti-Likud rubbish that, shamefully, the papers now produce. Gone is the requirement for balance. One has only to look at the story selection and headlines on the front pages of the papers each day to see that an anti-Likud angle has been taken, however contorted had been the literary gymnastics required.

“How infantile is it of the management of these organizations to fool themselves into believing that what they are producing is being accepted by readers as quality product…. Probably the most blatant example of bias and low-grade coverage is the employment of most of the [weekly] columnists…. Their observations are, in the main, predictable, weak, un-researched and juvenile.”

Consider the reporting on the Likud claims of voter fraud in last April’s election. Haaretz headlined its coverage on September 8 by stating that only one out of 100 claims were legitimate. That would convince anyone who had thought the Likud had a strong case that it was, after all, all a fake. However, Kalman Liebskind of Maariv actually called 82 of the Likud’s polling station observers who had submitted complaints to the police and it turned out that only two had been contacted by the police.

So who was at fault? Did the Likud make false claims? Was there voter fraud? Did the police mishandle the investigation? More importantly to us, are our journalists professional? Did Haaretz send its journalists to actually check the facts?

Do too many in Israel’s media share the negative characteristic Victor Davis Hanson of CNN wrote in the National Review on September 17 that the station is broadcasting “everything but the news”?

Last Saturday afternoon, several outlets reported that the Joint List of four Arab parties will recommend to President Reuven Rivlin that Benny Gantz of the Blue and White list be charged with the task of forming a government. The source was anonymous. Within two hours that item of “news” was discounted, then disavowed. Did the journalist who first reported it make it up? Did he know it was false but wanted a headline? Was it an internal leak of one Arab party trying to embarrass another? Was the item checked by a responsible editor? In the end, only 10 of the 13 MKs recommended Gantz.

An item with similar ethical and professional issues appeared on September 19, when the public learned that the state’s prosecution office was willing to entertain a plea deal by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That had no basis. The next day, again, the public learned that there was a reach-out to the president to accept the idea of a pardon that was denied. That item was not sourced. The media consumer had no credible way to judge whether the news was true, floated or maliciously spread. Was it a case of media-ratings-promoting speculation? Can we trust what passes for news in so many of Israel’s media outlets?

ALREADY IN June 2018, and earlier, in January 2017, Netanyahu described the media as “Bolshevik” in character, “simply engaging in Soviet-style propaganda,” and recently uploaded a clip wherein he repeated the charge with a vengeance, accusing a reporter, Guy Peleg, personally, and naming Channel 12 senior editors and owners as systematically spreading fake news and false electioneering content. Could he have been correct?

David B. Rivkin and Lee A. Casey note in the September 3 edition of The Wall Street Journal that whereas advocacy organizations working against a political candidate are regulated by campaign-finance statutes, as they are engaged in electioneering speech, those laws do not apply to the media, unless they are owned by a political party or candidate. This favored treatment is justified by the powers that be who claim that the media have a “unique” role in public discourse and debate. But as the US Supreme Court observed in a 2010 opinion, “The line between the media and others who wish to comment on political and social issues becomes far more blurred.”

What if Netanyahu was correct and the people he charged were interested in him not being reelected? That supposition is not entirely outside the realm of possibility, for journalists indeed have their own political outlook and they can be biased.

Take the example of Menashe Raz who appeared on the Kalman and Segal Channel One television interview program two weeks before the day of elections. He was invited to talk about the petition he initiated to defend the above-mentioned Peleg. Liebskind did his homework. He spiritedly attacked him for not coming forth when two other reporters were actually physically assaulted in the past year. He asserted that Raz was playing a hypocritical game since his sympathy was with a fellow left-of-center colleague (the two attacked were right-wingers). Liebskind did not mention, though, that Raz had left the former state-sponsored Israel Broadcasting Authority to be spokesperson for the Central Party back in 1999 and then later, sought to be a candidate for Knesset on the Kadima list. Raz is a politician, not a journalist.

As Nathan Robinson wrote on September 10, also in The Guardian, “There can’t be such a thing as a neutral journalist. We all have moral instincts and points of view. Those points of view will color our interpretations of the facts. The best course of action is to acknowledge where we’re coming from. If we show an awareness of our own political leanings, it actually makes us more trustworthy than if we’re in denial about them… the public doesn’t trust us, and we need to think about how to slowly get people to see journalists as their allies instead of as duplicitous, faux-neutral propagandists.”

Another media-related issue was the camera surveillance legislation proposed by the Likud. We couldn’t find any commentator relating to the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network study on the matter, with its pros and cons and reviewing the practices in the seven countries where cameras are employed. What we did find strange was the argument that camera use would intimidate voters. Can you imagine politicians attempting to employ that excuse for banning news cameras from their meetings and conferences?

We are but a few days from Rosh Hashanah, and besides wishing our readers well over the coming year, we ourselves need to correct an error we committed. On August 15, we wrote that Tel Aviv University Professor Yossi Shain “consistently voted against anything having to do with Ariel University.” In fact, there were occasions when Shain did vote in favor of the university’s needs. We apologize for the use of the words “consistently” and “anything” and stand corrected.

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September 20, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Getting the world to sign off

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:53 am by yisraelmedad

Book review: Getting the world to sign off
By YISRAEL MEDAD
09/18/2019
A masterful chronicling of the battle for global support for Israeli independence.
Continuing his previous trenchant and detailed history of the Palestine Mandate which covered the years 1933-1939 in his 2014 two-volume Palestine in Turmoil: The Struggle for Sovereignty, Monty Penkower – former professor of Jewish History at Rutgers University, Bard College, Touro College and New York University – now allows the reader again to be able to grasp the intertwined elements of the sub-history of that era. We are led along as the British Mandatory ruler, facing a post-Holocaust reality (the Holocaust period was covered in an earlier 1994 volume, The Holocaust and Israel Reborn), a determined and increasingly militant Jewish community in the Jewish Yishuv community and its need to maintain proper relations with the United States as well as balanced ones with the Arab world. Ultimately, it failed to maneuver itself to a successful conclusion of its administration of the territory the international community decided in 1922 would be the reconstituted Jewish national homeland and awarded it rule over Palestine.

Penkower’s trilogy has marshaled the facts from the documents, memos, diaries and newspaper reports of the time as well as providing an up-to-date collection of the historical research that has been published. We are presented with off-the-cuff remarks, protocols, speeches and the more cached away notations at the time.

This volume, as with the others, is tightly framed in a chronological procession. Month by month, week by week and day by day, Penkower has his reader delve into the at times frenetic and at times frustrating attempts by all the major actors to push their policies, most times in a competing and contradictory fashion. Penkower, to his credit, does not allow the reader to lose the greater picture and provides analysis in an objective style of relating history as it happens.

If there are major lessons to be derived for those wondering what is happening today, the book reveals the utter reversal of British policy from the League of Nations intent in that senior British officials not only reformulate their 1922 charge but express horrible anti-Jewish views in complete opposition to the events they were caught up in.

Here, for example, on April 28 1948, is UK foreign minister Ernest Bevin in the presence of Clement Atlee, the prime minister, telling US ambassador Lewis Douglas that “all this aggression came from the Jews” and “after all, Palestine was an Arab country.” Three years earlier, on October 22 1945, Bevin had declared himself “against a Jewish state” (p. 90) and shortly thereafter, cursed Harold Laski, Labour Party chairman, who retorted, “you hate me because I am Jewish” (p. 100-101). He couldn’t accept a “religious state” and Jewry is only a religion (p. 348). And to think Jeremy Corbyn is a new phenomenon in British socialism.

Another quotation that brings history to life are the words of General E. Barker, British army commander of Palestine, to his paramour Katy, widow of Arabist George Antonius, “your people do not appreciate their problems with a Western mind. A pity.” That situation has dramatically altered with the West having lost its linguistic mind.

AS THE theater of operations increasingly moved to America, what becomes obvious from Penkower’s account is that the Zionists faced a double challenge in their maneuvering. Besides antisemitism, Penkower writes that there were on the one hand many powerful anti-Zionist Jews, such as Joseph M. Proskauer and The New York Times’ A.H. Sulzberger, while on the other, the senior Nahum Goldmann consistently ran his own independent and, at times, seriously divergent diplomacy with the US administration leading to clashes with the Zionist camp.

Penkower does not skip over the “little people” such as Samuel Danziger who was killed by German police at the Stuttgart DP camp on March 29 1946. Danziger, his pregnant wife and two children all had spent four years at Auschwitz and other concentration camps. He also mentions Asher Itzkowitz, beaten to death after mistakenly entering the Temple Mount during Passover 1947 (p. 395).

The role of the pressure brought to bear, especially in the case of Eleanor Roosevelt, by the situation of the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust behind fences in Europe and the resulting heroic clandestine immigration-by-boat campaign are given proper treatment, which also buttresses the attention played by the Jewish armed resistance operation, whether by the Irgun and Lechi or by the United Movement which was joined by the Haganah and the Palmach.

Penkower’s crescendo is the careful following of the UN deliberations throughout 1947 and 1948. The visits to Palestine and the subsequent reports, the plenum debates, procedures, the committee meetings and the inevitable lobbying behind closed doors, of both sides, Jews and Arabs as well as the US State Department’s opposition, which US president Harry Truman eventually quashed.

What is clear from the presentation of the cumulative work of his years of research is that Jewish pressure, insistence and, despite all odds, a belief in the justness of the cause they were pursuing – that is, the reestablishment of a Jewish state among the nations – were the crucial elements that led to the May 14 proclamation of the state of Israel.

I should note that one more proofreading effort was needed to catch several unnecessary errors as an “is” instead of in (p. 102), or Gadi instead of Gidi (p. 244) and Kimchin in place of Kimchi (p. 326). In addition, I found “reigning in” instead of reining in (p. 565) as well as “commend” instead of command (p. 646). And I would take issue with terming the Acre prison break of May 1947 “greatly flawed” (p. 416).

In the end, Penkower’s retelling is the best account for those seeking to relive history as it was accomplished.

The writer is a research fellow at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem.

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September 13, 2019

MEDIA COMMENT: Why not positivism?

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:39 am by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Why not positivism?

By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK

09/12/2019

 

Instead of throwing dirt, it would be far more useful to report on what has been done that is good. Of course, “good” may be in the eyes of the beholder.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the present election campaign for the 22nd Knesset is its negativism. Some political parties cannot refrain from sullying their competitors, presumably thinking voters will take this into consideration when casting their votes. In the media particularly, this negativism has reached a crescendo, with nary a positive word on any of the political parties. Is there nothing positive to report?

Some journalists would argue that they are just doing their job. We disagree. What is their job? Promoting negativism? Informing the electorate? Instead of throwing dirt, it would be far more useful to report on what has been done that is good. Of course, “good” may be in the eyes of the beholder. Nonetheless, we shall try, with elections mere days away, to present a positive example by providing an informative picture of the various parties.

The Arab parties have shown a measure of maturity. Instead of two or three parties running against each other, they have a unified list. This can only provide the Arab population with sorely needed representation. After all, in a democracy, if you do not have someone to represent you in the governing circles, your ability to defend your rights is diminished. One sees in the past few years an attempt by the Arab MKs to move away from the harsh political pro-Palestinian rhetoric toward a platform that defends the individual rights of their constituency. This is laudable.

Continuing to the Left side of the political spectrum is the Israel Democratic Party. Here is another example of willingness to overcome differences and pool resources, not only to bring in more voters, but also to provide its constituency with meaningful actions. Some of its MKs have excelled in initiating ideas such as the social justice caucus, caring for tenants’ rights, increasing governmental transparency, representing the disabled and more. The party is a staunch defender of the “two-state solution,” supports the Israeli judicial system and the Supreme Court. When you vote for the Israel Democratic Party, you know what you are getting.

ALSO ON the Left, but to the right of the Israel Democratic Party, one finds the Labor-Gesher alliance. Labor Party leader Amir Peretz had the guts to create a coalition with Gesher Party leader Orly Levy-Abecassis – who does not identify with the political Left – to present a social-oriented party that will do whatever it can against the prevalent capitalist policies. Peretz, a former leader of the Histadrut labor federation, has a track record as a defender of the poor and downtrodden. The Gesher Party’s positive statements are aimed at convincing those whose life is not all too good that the union with Labor will bring about change.

The Blue and White Party is characterized by an impressive expertise in military affairs. It is a broad home to many parts of Israeli society, bridging gaps between right-wing religious representatives and deep secularists. The party contains those who support a two-state solution and those who abhor it. Its faction includes socialists and capitalists. In contrast to the first three parties, it is very young. But here, too, its leaders managed to overcome differences, exemplifying its ability to bring rational compromise to Israel’s political scene and governing bodies.

The Likud has been the governing party for the past 10 years. It has led the country with a steady hand, creating a capitalist-oriented society that many feel has made Israel an affluent country where most of its citizens are happy to live. It has moved away from the two-state solution, as most of its members do not believe in it. Its right-wing policies have led to an increase in the population of Judea and Samaria. The Likud Party has found ways to bridge differences between secular, religious and haredi (ultra-Orthodox) sectors of society. It has immeasurably increased government financial support for Arab cities and towns, improving infrastructure and education.

To its right one finds the Yamina Party. Its leaders have also found a way to compromise and create a larger right wing, without becoming an exclusively religious party. Its members have changed the Supreme Court and the justice system, bringing to them greater pluralism and cultural diversity. The party has shifted Israel’s education more toward STEM-oriented (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) training, while at the same time creating a deeper appreciation of Zionism to younger voters. In the same sphere, Yamina has enabled the establishment of a new medical school at Ariel University, providing many of our best youngsters with the chance to practice medicine without needing to study abroad.

UNITED TORAH Judaism and the Shas haredi parties have systematically represented their constituencies, providing funding for their school systems, defending the right of Torah scholars to continue their studies without the need to serve in the IDF, and defending both Ashkenazi and Sefardi haredi culture. They have done all this while at the same time partaking in important processes that are of great importance to the general public, such as health, immigration policies, social justice and more.

Our readers will note that there are a few parties we did not mention. This is not an oversight. We simply could not find it possible to present them in a positive light, as we are unaware of any positive contributions they have made in recent years

Some media outlets actually did, to some extent, provide the various parties with the ability to present themselves and their agendas. The right-wing Israel Hayom newspaper, in its recent weekend editions, published long interviews with some candidates, and not only those from the Right. However, the same newspaper, with elections a week away, used many pages to cover the brouhaha surrounding the proposed camera bill.

On Monday, though, following the government’s decision to allow photo coverage of the elections (nixed by Yisrael Beytenu), discussions on radio were largely limited to differences of opinion between Left and Right on this issue rather than anything substantive.

Another poorly handled media topic was how the various political parties are preparing their tactics for Election Day. One might think this is what concerns the Israeli public. If the polls are correct and close to 50% of voters are still undecided, the media should have risen to the challenge, providing information that would help people make up their minds, instead of merely explaining what the parties are doing in the polls.

But no, our media follow the general trend, providing little more than shallow coverage of the real issues. It is much more difficult to deal with these topics than it is to run catchy headlines.

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