For almost a decade, since his 2008 story on the travel arrangements and expenses of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, investigative reporter Raviv Drucker, current star of Channel 10 television, host of its investigative reporting magazine Hamakor (“the Source”), has been trying to haul Netanyahu before criminal proceedings.
The history of their mutual animosity is long and complex but it has not only become a local story. It has also attracted foreign media attention especially those who seem to delight in portraying Israel as undemocratic or akin to dictatorships.
’s Udi Segal recently told The Guardian
’s Peter Beaumont that Netanyahu is in “a win-win situation because he manages to have a chilling effect on the media outlets while portraying himself as a victim.” Of course, it could be just the opposite: that the media, while portraying itself as a victim, is actually attempting to frighten or chill the prime minister with, so far, baseless reporting of his supposed crimes and illegalities.
Even Drucker himself, in that same December 1 Guardian
interview, admitted, “I don’t think we’re on the slippery slope towards Erdogan and Putin. In Russia and Turkey people like me were already behind bars years ago.”
What is new is the extent to which Drucker and his fellow journalists, such as Ilana Dayan of Channel 2 television, are willing to bend ethics for the sake of their crusade to bring the “Bibi era” to an end, as well as distort Netanyahu’s personal responses on social media platforms.
At the beginning of November, Dayan, who hosts the investigative reporting Uvda program, after unsuccessfully attempting to smear Netanyahu through the actions of his wife, read out the response from the Prime Minister’s Office word-for-word for over six minutes. That response was sharp, biting, and it labeled her a “leftist.”
In Drucker’s case, Netanyahu took to Facebook and wrote, “by means of daily brainwashing the public and character assassination against me and my family, the [media] hope to distract the public’s attention from the core issues of the political debate in Israel.”
Some journalists, like Greer Fay Cashman, are wondering if Drucker is “carrying out a vendetta against Netanyahu and members of his family.” As she wrote last week, “when Drucker can’t find any real dirt to hurl at the prime minister, he starts on Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, and son Yair...
This week Drucker really went overboard [in reporting on the Netanyahu family’s relations with Australian James Packer].”
Yoav Yitzhak, an award-winning investigative journalist in his own right claimed in a November 21 Galatz radio interview that Drucker had been misleading the public when he “exposed” the “conflict of interest” in the purchase of German submarines, involving David Shimron, who also happens to be Netanyahu’s personal lawyer and confidant. Yitzhak used rather strong words with respect to Drucker: “He misled everyone; false information, simply a blood libel.”
The seeming vendetta against the prime minister even reached the Saban Conference in America last week where part of his video recorded message echoed a Facebook post Netanyahu published a week ago: “It is also amusing to hear the media’s cries of dismay and its double standards when I respond to their smears. They hold freedom of speech to be a preeminent value – as long as it is reserved only for them.”
Drucker’s crusades are not limited to the prime minister. This past Sunday, journalist Erel Segal interviewed Oded Svorai, a lawyer, on his Galatz radio program. Svorai is a personal friend of Brig.-Gen. Ofer Winter, formerly a commander of the Gaza Division’s Northern Brigade and currently the chief of staff to the GOC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Roni Numa. Svorai related that in 2012, Drucker sent a soldier with a concealed recording device to try and entrap Winter, by getting him to admit to giving an order to shoot an innocent Arab boy. Winter not only was not trapped, he offered to provide the soldier with psychological help.
To defend his actions, Drucker, on his Facebook page, insisted that the soldier had initiated the matter and that he (Drucker) was simply using normal methods of obtaining evidence. As reported in Walla, according to Svorai, the soldier, when caught with the recording device, claimed that Drucker sent him. “Drucker understood that you would be appointed to head the Givati brigade and we decided to prevent that from happening.” Winter, a religious soldier, drew criticism for his biblically phrased battle order to the Givati Division at the start of Operation Protective Edge, as well as his later Hannibal Order, aimed at preventing Israeli soldiers from falling into the hands of Hamas.
The prime minister himself was angered at the method Drucker employed. Using Facebook, a platform which nowadays is replacing newspapers, televisions and radios, he attacked Drucker, posting, “If this is true, it is just shocking.” He then launched a frontal assault, adding, “The people of Israel know full well that Channel 10 is taking part in the smear campaign led by [Yediot Aharonot publisher] Noni Mozes, Raviv Drucker and others... Channel 10 airs libelous propaganda against me and my family every night, with the goal of toppling a Likud prime minister, but apparently Channel 10 and Drucker think that is not enough. [Will] Drucker, the darling of the New Israel Fund... be investigated as well?” As we have noted previously, it was as though Netanyahu himself, who knuckled under media pressure and, despite Channel 10’s enormous debts of unpaid financial broadcasting license commitments to the state – to the tune of over NIS 60 million – permitted them to continue to broadcast.
For over ten years, Channel 10 created an ethos of unethical relations to the state.
This creates a lack of respect for law, order and ethics.
Netanyahu’s weakness as well as those of many other politicians in facing off against a media corporation has aided and abetted this atmosphere.
This lack of respect surfaced again on Drucker’s Hamakor program on Tuesday evening. Evidently, Winter’s ethical reaction to Drucker’s setup was strong enough to prevent Drucker from even attempting to use it directly. But this did not deter Drucker or his partner Baruch Kra from trying to give Winter and General Sami Turgeman (Winter’s boss) a black eye. The central accusation was that they dared to try and solve sexual problems that were disclosed over two years ago within the Givati Brigade on their own without going to the police. The program was a rehash of known stories, nothing really newsworthy in them except for muckraking, innuendos and unsubstantiated accusations.
We should add that Turgeman and Winter’s “guilt” is that they are excellent soldiers who continue to make significant contributions to the security of the State of Israel.
But this does not deter Kra and Drucker.
Kra used the summary at the end of the program to describe Winter’s behavior as “disgraceful.” Winter was not even asked to respond. We should pity Drucker. His legacy is the attempt to give people a black eye from the bully pulpit. Truth, ethics and honest journalism are beyond him.
The authors are members of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imediaw.org.il).