As soon as St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit had returned from Hamas captivity, multiple
media outlets – establishment as well as independent – indulged in an orgy of
Nir Wolf of Israel Hayom focused on PR firm employed by
Gilad Schalit’s father Noam. Tammy Shinkman, who was the person involved in
headed the PR effort, defined her “codes of communication” in a Globes interview
as “the empowerment of emotions.” Her strategy was to emotionalize Schalit’s
captivity by turning the soldier into “everyone’s son.”
The role played by the media in aiding the PR campaign
was a hot topic. Globes
media reporter Lior Averbuch interviewed Channel 1 TV’s
Ayala Chason, Channel 2 TV’s Roni Daniel and Channel 10 TV’s Alon Ben-David.
Chason admitted that the coverage of Schalit was “completely not objective...
the media was mobilized. As an example consider the daily countdown in some of
Only Roni Daniel denied that either he or the media were
mobilized in favor of Schalit. Alon Ben-David agreed with Chason: “Just like
[with] the social justice campaign, the media mobilized itself for
Terminology such as “the son of all of us” or “the child,” and
not “the soldier,” reflected the media’s agenda.
Schalit was not depicted
as the brave warrior defending the homeland but as a tender child in need of
comfort and concern.
It is interesting to compare Haaretz
’s Ari Shavit,
before and after. In an article written two years ago, Shavit supported making a
deal, yet warned of the consequences, noting that it could lead to dozens of
Israeli victims. He repeats this line immediately prior to Schalit’s release; on
October 10 he writes, “There is one overwhelming reason to support the deal –
Israeli solidarity. ...Without the mutual responsibility there is no meaning to
our life here.”
But then, in the aftermath, he writes, “this morning is
the first one after a loss of balanced thinking and panic overtaking us. For
1,940 days and nights, the kitsch dominated us.”
CHANNEL 10’s Raviv
Drucker, on the other hand, was consistent in his criticism of the deal. In an
interview in The Marker, Drucker claimed that “the media... behaved emotionally,
crazily and irrationally. ...It acted childishly, [its message was] return Gilad
,we don’t care how, we don’t want to hear the price.”
Even the Israel
Broadcasting Authority’s complaints commissioner Elisha Spiegelman, in an answer
to a complaint over the biased media coverage, noted that “the media in its
entirety, and to my dismay also the journalists of the IBA, violated all
principles of balance during the past few years.”
The upshot is that some
of Israel’s most important media personalities are coming out after the fact and
admitting that the media failed miserably.
Is this a positive
development? Could it be that some of our opinion-makers’ second thoughts mean
they will behave differently next time? Not really. This type of ex-post-facto
breast beating is a regular feature of Israel’s media scene. As the book of
Ecclesiastes tells us, “there is nothing new under the sun.”
which overwhelmingly supported Shimon Peres for prime minister in 1996, was left
in shock and bereavement the morning after the election, when it became clear
that Binyamin Netanyahu was the victor.
Yet a few days later, media
figures admitted anti-Netanyahu bias. Yediot Aharonot
’s Nahum Barnea, a future
recipient of the Israel Prize, wrote at the time in “The Seventh Eye”: “It is
doubtful whether the majority of the journalists were to be considered ‘with
Peres,’ but they were absolutely anti- Netanyahu... Netanyahu had to overcome a
hostile media. Netanyahu was forced to deal with two fronts – against the Labor
Party and against the media.”
Did such introspection lead to any change?
In the aftermath of the 1999 elections, Ilana Dayan, writing in The Jerusalem
Post stated, “All the publicists and columnists were as one. More out of hatred,
there was a mass mobilization aimed at causing the failure of
Then-prime minister Ehud Barak was lauded for his
“leadership” when Israel hastily retreated from Lebanon in 2000, stabbing its
Lebanese allies in the back and creating the situation that eventually led to
the disastrous Second Lebanon War.
Hanan Naveh, at the time working for
Kol Yisrael’s Reshet Bet, admitted later that three news editors who had sons in
Lebanon had decided that “the army has to leave.”
The media also
safeguarded former prime minister Ariel Sharon from criminal investigation when
he decided on, and then implemented, the unilateral retreat from the Gaza Strip
and northern Samaria.
Speaking on a panel called “A time of forgiveness –
An Israeli reckoning on the eve of Yom Kippur” at Bar Ilan University in 2006,
then-editor of Haaretz
David Landau stated openly that his newspaper “supported
the disengagement... we thought that stopping the greater corruption of
occupying Gaza justifies ignoring the smaller corruption.”
media, the recent social protest movement would have amounted to next to
nothing. As summarized by Sara Beck from Channel 2 TV, the difference between
the protests against the disengagement and the social protests is that it’s
easier when the media supports you.
So, should we take our media
seriously? Is the breast-beating in earnest or is it merely an attempt to evade
responsibility, or perhaps just find another “good topic” with which to fill up
space and sell advertisements? The future will tell, but the prognosis is not
The writers are, respectively, chairman and
vice-chairman of Israel’s Media Watch.
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