What is the thread that connects between the funeral of Nelson Mandela and the
icy weather Israel experienced during the past week? In both cases, the media
had a ball. Finally there was something significant and well worth reporting.
But in both cases, part of Israel’s media demonstrated its lack of ability to
provide the public with an objective and comprehensive report of the
Consider the case of Nelson Mandela. As rightly mentioned by
Michael Freund in this newspaper, notwithstanding the South African situation,
Mandela was a terrorist who caused the death of innocent people. His best
friends were some of the most cruel, vicious and avaricious dictators of the
20th century. At the same time, for sure, he was the figure identified with the
termination of apartheid in South Africa and the creation of a modern democracy
that replaced white-supremacy rule.
Indeed, in this connection, the
Globes newspaper published an op-ed article by extreme left-wing historian
Moshe Zimmermann of the Hebrew University of
Zimmermann in his article defends Mandela’s terrorism by
claiming that Mandela considered Menachem Begin’s career as a precursor to his.
In other words, in Zimmermann’s view Begin was a terrorist who made good and so
was Mandela. It just so happens that Begin took pains to prevent innocent
deaths, but who cares about facts? Zimmermann considers Mandela as a light-tower
of wise and moral statesmanship and asks how is it that the whole world thinks
so, yet Israel did not recognize his greatness? TV Channel 2’s reporter Arad
Nir, sent especially to South Africa to cover the memorial ceremony had this to
say: “If Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu would have participated in the
ceremony... the local Jewish community would have raised its head in pride. But
Netanyahu is miserly and the South African Jews had to make do with Knesset
Speaker Yuli Edelstein, a symbol of Israeli rule who resides in Neve Daniel in
Gush Etzion. Not exactly the flag of the “other Israel” which the local
community wants to wave against a South African government which is resolutely
against the occupation.”
It doesn’t even occur to Mr. Nir that there is a
case to be made for limiting Israel’s presence in a funeral that is attended by
some of the world’s most oppressive rulers. Nir does not take into account the
case of the Dalai Lama who did not attend because the South African government
is fearful of Chinese wrath and has refused him a visa twice in the past. Should
Israel’s prime minister not consider this immoral policy of South Africa? The TV
reportage was just as shallow. Channels 1, 2 and 10 all had special reports
whose common theme was the Israeli delegation, and the heads of state and celebs
attending the ceremony. Channel 10 brought a report from the former jailer of
Mandela, which was all glowing about the peace loving personality of Mandela.
None of the channels related to the problematic aspects of his past.
of the Internet sites provided similar bland reportage.
A welcome change
was to be found in Nadav Eyal’s commentary on the NRG website, where he related
fully to Mandela’s violent past, criticizing it, yet at the same time giving the
context and the reasons that seemingly led to it.
article in Haaretz, similarly tried to put Mandela’s history as well as Israel’s
problematic relationship with the Apartheid regime into context. His conclusion
is that “the true Nelson Mandela can and should be a lodestar for
But these are the exceptions. Most of Israel’s journalists have
colored glasses and find it very difficult to go against the stream.
same type of limited reporting was to be found in the coverage of “the storm”
that preoccupied us for the past week. On Sunday evening’s news, Channel 10’s
report was about Safed and Jerusalem and its surroundings, west of the Green
Line. Judea and Samaria were not even mentioned.
Channel 2’s news had
reports from Safed, Jerusalem and the Galilee. Ohad Ben-Hamo reported briefly on
the isolation of the Gush Etzion region but had a long filmed report on the
effects of the storm in Ramallah and the Gaza Strip. Only the IBA’s Channel 1 TV
news gave a comprehensive report on the damage, which included Jewish towns in
Judea and Samaria.
The lack of reportage did not go unnoticed. At
Israel’s Media Watch we received numerous complaints about the indifference of
the mainstream media to the actual suffering of many people in Judea and
Samaria. A typical example is the letter of Daniel Alkalay from Jerusalem who
complains about the main Saturday night news program on TV Channel 2: “The
program related to the storm and resulting damage in almost all parts of the
country except for the settlements in Judea and Samaria. The suffering of the
residents who have no electricity, news, water since Thursday is hard to
describe, yet this seemingly does not interest Channel 2 news.”
one can almost divide the news purveyors by ideology.
Israel Hayom, Arutz 7 all had in depth reports on the sad state of affairs in
Judea and Samaria.
Especially Arutz 7 brought some of the hardship of the
residents to light. On December 15 it mentioned a family evacuated from Haresha
due to hypothermia. Other websites reported two miscarriages that occurred in
the Yitzhar area. 100 hilltop families were totally disconnected from water,
electricity and phone services. Personal blogs of residents describing the
hardship were also brought to light. But all of this and much more could only be
found on relatively obscure sites.
It was hard to find empathy in the
“mainstream” purveyors of “news.” They did report that homes were disconnected
from electricity in the various townships, but the colorful and empathetic story
that would serve to humanize the settlers was seemingly too hard to swallow.
Only towards the end, when there was not much other news available, some of the
mainstream media gave some color to stories emanating from Judea and Samaria,
such as a birth given on Highway 443 by a woman from Givat Ze’ev, due to the
blockage of traffic.
Sadly, too many of our journalists consider it their
job to bring all the news that they see fit to print. The idea that journalism
is a demanding profession whose call is to provide the public with the broad
picture, irrespective of personal prejudices, has seemingly not yet become part
and parcel of Israel’s journalistic practices.
The authors are
respectively vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch