Last Monday Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz gave an interview to Channel 2’s
news anchor Yonit Levy during the prime-time news broadcast. Levy began the
interview with a revealing “question.”
Oozing professional probity, Levy
said, “I assume you came here armed with wonderful data about the drop in
unemployment and rising economic growth, but I want to ask you, Mr. Steinitz if
for all your data you’ve forgotten the people, you’ve forgotten an entire class
of working people who can’t live?”
Not that she has an opinion.
question encapsulates the pathology of the Israeli media and the public
discourse it engenders. In the case at hand, it is true that the facts show
Israel has never been economically better off. But how about “the people”?
and her comrades want to discuss abstractions, not facts. Abstractions like the
amorphous “people,” are attractive because they are meaningless and are
therefore subject to politically correct interpretation. Facts are unattractive
because they contradict the media’s effectively uniform worldview and
Due to this uniformity, for the past three weeks Israel’s
public discourse has been dominated by the media-supported “social justice”
protesters. Three weeks ago fewer than a hundred protesters set up tents along
Tel Aviv’s tony Rothschild Boulevard and demanded lower rents in Tel Aviv –
Israel’s highest priced real estate market.
Ignoring the basic laws of
supply and demand, the media immediately embraced the protesters as “the
authentic voice of the nation.” And so Israel’s newest “social revolution”
And it has all been downhill from there.
If the protesters’
initial demand for government intervention in the Tel Aviv rental market was
simply dumb, their current demands are little less than a declaration of
economic war against Israeli prosperity.
The protesters’ are effectively
demanding no less than the destruction of Israel’s free market and a reversion
to the state-controlled economy that doomed Israel to economic sclerosis for its
first 45 years of independence.
They want the state to determine rents
and nationalize housing construction. They want the government to get more
involved in price controls than it already is. They want free day care and
medicine. And they want cheap gas, cheap electricity and low taxes. And they
want to punish the rich. Oh, and they want to live in communes.
To get a
sense of just how economically deranged their economic views are, it suffices to
consider what they claim is their most pressing demand. The leaders of the
protests, (more on them later), announced on Monday that from their perspective,
the first order of business is for the government to cancel its legislative
program to reform the Israel Lands Authority.
That plan involves
streamlining the process for approving construction tenders and removing most of
the hidebound bureaucratic obstacles that make it nearly impossible to build
anything in this country. By removing government barriers to increasing the
supply of housing, the government aims to reduce housing prices, in accordance
with the basic laws of supply and demand.
But the protesters will have
none of it. If construction increases, that means that contractors will get
rich. And that, they maintain, is unacceptable. From their perspective, the
government has to lower housing prices without increasing supply.
doesn’t take a degree in economics to recognize that this argument is complete
nonsense. But most Israeli news consumers do not realize how fundamentally
ridiculous the protesters are being. They do not realize it because the media
are not in the business of providing facts and data. They are in the business of
And in the eyes of the media, the protesters are the good
guys and the government is the bad guy.
Aside from ignoring the absurdity
of the protesters’ economic demands, the media have joined them in demonizing
Prime Minister Netanyahu and his haredi and nationalist political partners. The
latter are castigated as parasites who exploit the “nation,” (of which they are
apparently not a part), for their own selfish ends.
For instance, on
Channel 2’s Sunday newscast, senior economic commentator Nehemiah Stressler
argued that in order to pay for all the new welfare programs the good people on
Rothschild Blvd. are demanding, the government must stop giving away money to
the haredim and the settlers.
Stressler claimed that haredim are able to
purchase their apartments “a quarter the price.” Although he didn’t explain what
price he was referring to, presumably he meant a quarter of the price of housing
in Tel Aviv. But Stressler failed to mention that most of the building for
haredi communities is in inexpensive, peripheral towns like Beitar Illit, not in
As for the settlers, it is difficult to see how they are
treated well. In 2009 the government banned all Jewish construction in Judea and
Samaria for ten months.
Since the ban was lifted, housing starts have
still been few and far between. Moreover, this politically motivated act had
negative repercussions for the national housing market. As Globes reported in
January, until 2009, housing starts in Judea and Samaria constituted 4-5 percent
of the national total. By then end of last year, they comprised less than a
third of one percent of total housing starts. Consequently, families who would
have purchased homes in Judea and Samaria were forced instead to compete with
families who wanted to buy homes outside the areas, thus artificially raising
the overall price of housing.
The media’s contemptuous dismissal of
reality in favor of misleading slogans and scapegoats goes hand in hand with
their active steps to deceive the public about the identity and agenda of the
A poll released on Monday showed that 75 percent of
the public supports the protests. The main reason that the protests have managed
to garner sympathy from the general public is because with the help of the
media, the protest leaders have hidden their identity and agenda from the
At every opportunity, the protesters claim they are apolitical
and the media go along with them. Yet as a handful of bloggers have shown, more
than eighty percent of the protest leaders are professional far Left activists.
For instance, Maariv bloggers Uri Redler and Rotem Sela researched the
affiliation of all the speakers at the July 23rd rally in Tel Aviv. They found
that out of 27 speakers, 21 are known leftist activists affiliated with Hadash,
the communist party, with Meretz, with the New Israel Fund, with the Nationalist
Left proto-party, and with the anarchists.
Redler and Sela also exposed
that several “grassroots,” leaders are in fact professional political operatives
affiliated with communist politicians and radical pressure groups. For instance,
an activist named Tzika Bashour announced on Facebook that he would begin a
general strike on August 1. Yediot Ahronot and Ynet covered his move as an
authentic call of distress by an Average Joe.
The papers failed to
mention that Bashour is a public relations executive who ran communist MK Dov
Hanin’s campaign for the Tel Aviv mayoralty.
The media’s manipulation of
the public in the service of their political agenda is nothing new. For the past
two decades every disastrous strategic initiative Israel has adopted was the
product of massive media campaigns.
In 1993 the media rallied unanimously
behind the Rabin-Peres government’s decision to embrace the PLO and give Yasser
Arafat and his terrorist armies land, political legitimacy, guns, and money. The
more than one million Israelis who actively participated in demonstrations
against this disastrous decision in subsequent years were demonized as the
Israeli equivalent of Arab terrorists and potential assassins.
when a handful of European Union financed activists formed the Four Mothers
organization calling for the IDF to surrender southern Lebanon to Hezbollah, the
media heralded the group as a “true grassroots movement.”
blocked out all voices – including IDF commanders – that warned an IDF
withdrawal would serve as a springboard for a Hezbollah takeover of Lebanon and
lead to war. They demonized opponents of surrender as warmongers with the blood
of IDF soldiers on their hands.
Had it not been for the media, the Four
Mothers’ campaign would have ended before it began. But due to media
manipulation, within three years, a majority of Israelis became convinced that
it made sense to surrender to Hezbollah.
In the lead-up to Israel’s 2005
withdrawal from Gaza, the media again demonized the more than one million
Israelis who actively opposed the plan. Voices warning of the dire strategic
consequences of surrendering Gaza were silenced. Politicians who opposed the
plan were attacked as warmongers. The media gave voice to those calling for open
warfare against opponents of the withdrawal and violence against the plan’s
opponents was openly encouraged.
Since the Lebanon withdrawal, the media
have repeatedly led campaigns demanding that Israel bow to Hezbollah and Hamas
demands and release of hundreds of terrorists in exchange for live and dead
Israeli hostages. Opponents of such releases are demonized as heartless
In the aftermath of the Second Lebanon War, reservists
released from service began marching to Jerusalem demanding the resignations of
then prime minister Ehud Olmert, then defense minister Amir Peretz and then IDF
chief of general staff Dan Halutz for their failed leadership of the war. The
media scuttled the reservists’ protest by demonizing them as closet right
Israelis stereotypically boast that we are nobody’s
suckers. And yet, the very same people who refuse to be suckers have been
suckered into repeatedly supporting the most devastating policies any democracy
has adopted in modern times.
This makes sense. After all, how is anyone
to be expected to understand what is happening when the media systematically
hide the truth from the public? How can anyone be expected to recognize they are
being hand when, as Yonit Levy made clear in her “question” to Steinitz, the
media are happy to dismiss facts when those facts contradict their interests as
The only solution to this situation is competition. Israel’s
media market is able to operate as a closed guild because government regulations
on media licenses have placed the same people destroying our discourse in charge
of deciding who gets a broadcast license and what broadcasters can
This has to end. Just as Israel’s economic success owes to the
government’s withdrawal from the markets, so Israel’s ability to have a
rational, truthful, fact-based public debate is entirely dependent on a
government initiative to deregulate the media.
But it better act fast.
For if the government does not act quickly, as we see today, the media guild
will manipulate the uninformed public that our best bet is to destroy our
prosperity, just as they convinced us before to destroy our
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