Toeing the line
Readers should be aware that news coverage is likely to be colored by political bias of a paper, which in turn is influenced by its ownership.
Man reads newspapers in Jerusalem. Photo: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post
Most Israeli newspapers tend to take political stands, especially ahead of
national elections. They don’t just report election news. Often, just like the
campaign ads launched in the media this week, they convey a political message to
their readers, telling them – overtly or indirectly – for whom they should be
voting or not voting.
Thus, Israel HaYom – the Hebrew free daily
newspaper owned by American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a strong backer of
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – is almost always supportive of Netanyahu’s
Likud Beytenu list.
Yediot Aharonot, on the other hand, seems to find any
way it can to bash the prime minister. This was most evident last Friday when
the Hebrew tabloid splashed what was termed “The Diskin Document” on its front
The backdrop to the sensational comments made by former Shin Bet
(Israel Security Agency) director Yuval Diskin (2005-11) to Dror Moreh was the
latter’s new documentary called The Gatekeepers which features candid interviews
with Diskin and five other former Shin Bet directors.
After promoting the
story for several days, Yediot unleashed an unbridled assault against Netanyahu
less than three weeks before the January 22 elections. In the article, headlined
“Netanyahu is afraid, zigzags,” Moreh first establishes Diskin’s apparent
credibility (“Diskin, a self-professed patriot and war hawk who insists he has
no political agenda, served the defense establishment for 38 years”), and then –
in his own words – “paints a disconcerting picture of how Israel’s most
sensitive decisions are made.”
Diskin tells Moreh how the prime minister,
together with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and then-foreign minister Avigdor
Liberman, held high-level consultations on Iran’s nuclear program, smoking
cigars while waiting for chefs in white hats to serve a splendid
“My colleagues and I were very unsure whether Netanyahu and Barak
could lead an Iran campaign,” Diskin says. “We didn’t trust their motives. We
were worried that they might pursue various moves that would compromise Israel
based on irrelevant considerations or via underhanded ways. We had a feeling
that they were trying to sneak something under the radar.
my feeling – and many others in the defense establishment share it – is that in
the case of Netanyahu and Barak, their personal, opportunistic interests came
The Prime Minister’s Office said in response: “Diskin’s
ridiculous statements, made by a man who until six months ago wanted to be head
of the Mossad, have been recycled at this time for political reasons and stem
from his own frustration with not being named director of the
But why has Yediot, which is not considered a leftist newspaper,
become so anti-Netanyahu? One explanation is that this is the response of its
major shareholder, Arnon Mozes, to the serious competition posed by Israel
HaYom. Since 2010, Israel HaYom has surpassed Yediot as the country’s most read
newspaper, according to the Target Group Index annual survey.
about Israel’s other major newspapers? When you read Haaretz, you know you’re
reading a paper that generally supports left-wing parties, particularly Labor
and Meretz. Haaretz, whose primary shareholder remains the Schocken family, has
strong historical ties with the labor movement and leftist elites.
Shlomo Ben-Zvi took over Ma’ariv last year, it has moved in the direction of his
other paper, Makor Rishon, backing the right-wing Bayit Yehudi party of Naftali
The Jerusalem Post and its Hebrew sister publications, Israel
Post and the new Sof Hashavua, owned by Eli Azur’s Mirkaei Tikshoret, strive to
present a balanced picture, free of political considerations. We don’t toe any
party line or back any candidate, and we provide a platform to columnists
representing a wide range of political parties.
But where do the
political affiliations of other papers, in print and online, leave their
readership? For one thing, these readers should be aware that the news coverage
is likely to be colored by the political bias of the newspaper, which in turn is
influenced by its ownership.
In order to make informed decisions before
they cast their ballots, voters are urged to keep this in mind when they read
Consumers must maintain a healthy skepticism while
they digest the daily news, and ask themselves if they agree with the direction
in which a writer – or newspaper – is taking them.