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MEDIA COMMENT: Yes, there is left-wing media bias
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK
04/12/2013
The extreme Left is often described as “peace activists,” but it is invariably “Jewish extremists” when considering the Right.
 
In an op-ed rant published in Haaretz on November 24 entitled “This extreme left-wing state,” Gideon Levy angrily asserted that Israel’s “true left has disappeared” and that “Israeli society is becoming more and more right-wing and nationalistic.”

One of his “proofs” was his claim that Israel’s media is not leftist.

Levy considers it rightist. It collaborates with the occupation, adopting “the language of the occupation and all the false versions of its instigators. It represses, deceives, hides, evades and denies,” he writes. Moreover, its quality is all wrong for it “provides mostly nonsense and entertainment, abuses its position, dumbs things down and blinds.”

He then makes an astonishingly Orwellian statement: “this is the way of the Right: To falsely tag people, to extort, threaten, intimidate and afterward to reap the harvest.”

Many dozens of our articles in this paper, in addition to other monitoring groups, put the lie to Levy’s skewed vision. His newspaper is engaged in a crusade against the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria; a strong defense policy; and a proud statement of Jewish religion and culture. This bias dominates both its views as well as the news. The bias starts at home, Mr. Levy.

A former Haaretz editor, David Landau, admitted the paper would restrain itself from over-investigating and over-reporting any of Ariel Sharon’s peccadilloes so as not to interfere with his disengagement project from Gaza. Its reporters have been proven irresponsible with their coverage and fined by the courts. Haaretz’s English-language edition has been accused of numerous errors of translation and fact stemming not from carelessness but from overzealousness to promote a political agenda. These include biased terminology, mistranslations, incomplete facts and omission of information.

For example, on October 14, as noted by the Presspectiva website, Haaretz ran an article titled: “West Bank village inhabited for 3,000 years faces eviction,” referring to the village of Sanuta whose inhabitants are illegally perched on an archaeological site. The Palestinian inhabitants have not been there 3,000 years. They haven’t even been there for 50 years.

Last year it was Gideon Levy himself who had to retract his false accusations, based on a misrepresentation of statistics, that Israel is an apartheid state.

It was Haaretz reporter Amy Klein who suggested falsely that singer Rihanna, performing in Israel, replaced the lyrics “All I see is signs, all I see is dollar signs” with “All I see is Palestine.”

Haaretz is the main offender in this regard, but Yediot Aharonot, its Ynet news site, the Walla website, other mainstream news outlets as well as the three television channels, 1, 2 and 10, as well as Kol Yisrael and Galatz radio have all committed similar “errors” in the past, invariably biased toward a leftist agenda. If there is a right-wing media, it is sectorial.

A critic of what he perceives as left-wing bias in the American media, Warner T. Huston suggests that the media sees itself as becoming “a profession increasingly assuming a national and ideological agenda.” Some of his American examples echo elements we recognize in Israel, which confirm the label of “leftist.”

These include employing phrases such as “violent rhetoric” or “climate of violence” as a scare tactic.

The extreme Left is often described as “peace activists,” but it is invariably “Jewish extremists” when considering the Right.

Relatively minor incidents are magnified disproportionately when they involve the Right.

Reporting on certain social protests that figure high on the left-wing agenda, even when violent, become “suffused with a touch of sweetness” by the media.

Thanks to media over-exposure it is only left-wing journalists who become our oracles, and we think of Ari Shavit, who appears with no counter-balance as the commentator on IBA’s Friday night digest of the weekly program, Yoman Hashavua. His “wisdom” is then magnified by other wise men such as Thomas Friedman in The New York Times. Consider the overwhelming majority of moderators of the discussion programs on television and radio: Yael Dan, Amnon Avramovitz, Moshe Negbi, Natan Zehavi, Rino Tzror, Tal Lipkin-Shahak, Aryeh Golan, Keren Neubach, Razi Barkai, Micha Friedman and more, all of whom express left-ofcenter to far-left viewpoints. Leftwing think tanks, like the Israel Democracy Institute, or advocacy groups like B’Tselem, are routinely referred to in a neutral manner whereas a group like Regavim or the Zionist Institute of National Strategies are always termed right-wing.

The charge of bias is not unique to Israel. In England last August, a report produced by the Centre for Policy Studies found that the BBC is biased toward the Left; it is twice as likely to cover left-wing policy proposals. Left-wing think tank reports are termed “independent” while right-wing research is identified ideologically. Left-of-center bias is expressed in “both the amount of coverage it gives to different opinions and the way in which these voices are represented.”

There is a second level of media bias bothering Uri Misgav, who published his criticism of the cultural “criminalism” he sees in Israel’s commercial television programming on November 22 in Levy’s own newspaper, Haaretz: “Channel 2 is celebrating... [t]wenty years of public and cultural degradation and erosion... [and] a clone channel [10] has flowered in its shadow. The dam has burst and both channels have begun sullying their professional evening news programs.... The public is exposed to every ill wind. Twenty years of corruption, brutalization and pandering to the lowest standards...”

What we face is not only political- ideological bias. Politically the agenda over-emphasizes left-of-center issues, analysis and punditry.

At the same time in the cultural sphere, we are being dumbed down. The media is targeting our minds and numbing them, desensitizing them.

Last week, singer Arik Einstein died. Without detracting from his personality and cultural contributions to Israeli society, one cannot escape the fact that his death was used by the media to define what they believe is “the ultimate Israeli,” spinning it to the Left. These lines from his song “My Little Journalist” are quite a fitting epitaph to Levy’s tirades: “They write in the papers / What they want / Twisting, dirtying / Without mercy / Into the beds they go / They peek through holes / And there’s nothing to be done / No mercy here.... They kill using words / They fooling with a soul / ‘Where to?’ I ask / The love has gone.”

Perhaps what really bothers Levy is that the Israeli public is no longer willing to accept a leftwing- biased media. Perhaps too, nowadays he can no longer get away with his perversions without immediate exposure. Whatever the case, we prefer Gideon Levy complaining than Gideon Levy complacent.

The authors are respectively vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imw.org.il).
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