Jerusalem has presented our media outlets with a special problem over the years. As we all know, from viewing, reading and listening to the media, the theme of Jerusalem Day is most usually that the city is divided and we should surrender Israeli sovereignty over the eastern neighborhoods to the Palestinian Authority. They can then have their share of Jerusalem as their capital.
A second theme is moaning over the “terrible state of our capital”; secular residents and young people leave the city, whose remaining social makeup is only Arabs and haredim (ultra-Orthodox). A third theme is that Jerusalem Day is a holiday mostly for the national-religious camp and their Christian supporters.
The biased reportage is well reflected in the visit of Pope Francis to the Temple Mount on May 26, 2014. An agreement was reached between the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Wakf that the IBA would have an IBA van on site to cover the story, but the agreement was violated. The ministry gave in to pressure and the compromise was that the van could enter the Mount – but without the logo of the IBA.
This story was picked up by numerous media outlets.
But only a few bloggers caught on to the fact that the pope was escorted not only by Sheikh Abdul Azim Salhab, president of the Council of the Islamic Wakf in Jerusalem, and Grand Mufti Mohammed Hussein, a preacher at the Aqsa Mosque. Jordan’s Prince Ghazi was also present as representative of his country’s status as the patron of “Jerusalem’s Muslim and Christian holy sites.” This inclusion of a foreign country’s representative in an official state visit was simply not discussed.
No one thought that it appropriate to ask the Foreign Ministry or the Prime Minister’s Office about this violation of Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount. Let us imagine that Israel had not allowed the Jordanian official presence, and Jordan had expressed its “outrage.”
One can be sure that all the pundits would have taken up the cause.
Not less striking was the fact that there was no broad reportage of what Salhab and Hussein said to the pope.
The mufti said that peace has been removed from the city and that, “Our goal is to fight the Israeli occupation of oppression... that wants to wipe out our presence – both Muslims, both Christians... to take control of the holy places... There are ferocious attacks against the holy places... and attempts to change the status- quo... We urge you to prevent damage to holy places and to stem the attacks on al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Hussein added that the mosque is “subjected to aggression and invasions of extremist settlers” and that Israel seeks “to Judaize the mosque and divide it so as to share it, both in terms of time [certain hours] and in terms of the areas [specified places].”
The pope heard that Jews have no rights, history or future in Jerusalem. The Israeli reportage of all this, as exemplified for example by Ynet, was as bland as could be. No one complained about the pope’s silence. Had this information been fully shared with media consumers, perhaps there would have been less amazement at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s words at Ammunition Hill last Wednesday when he spoke of the phenomenon of Temple denial.
Pope Francis in his reply to the two Muslim dignitaries said, “May we work together for justice and peace” and added, “from this holy place I make a heartfelt plea: ...may we respect and love one another as brothers and sisters! ...May no one abuse the name of God through violence!” Was the pope pressuring the Wakf to lessen its provocative and violent behavior toward Jews and Christians who visit the Temple Mount but cannot display religious respect or practice any worship there? That could have been a very big story. But our media is just not tuned in to this side of the story and so missed the opportunity.
Many of our politicians swear, whenever the opportunity arises, that Jerusalem will be unified “forever.”
Our media thinks quite differently. There is an enormous gap between the coverage of national days such as the Holocaust Memorial Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day and even Tisha Be’av, as compared to the media’s relation to Jerusalem Day.
The right-wing Galei Yisrael radio station, broadcasting mainly in Judea and Samaria, dedicated the whole day’s programming to Jerusalem. A very special item was an in-depth interview with Naomi Shemer’s daughter Lalli. She described her influence as well as that of Rivka Michaeli on Naomi Shemer’s “Jerusalem of Gold” masterpiece, which is perhaps the symbol of the reunified city.
She claimed to have brought singer Shuli Natan to the attention of her mother, and that Michaeli’s admonishment to Shemer for not including the Old City in her song led to the creation of the second stanza: “How the cisterns have dried; The market-place is empty; And no one frequents the Temple Mount; In the Old City.”
Compare this to the IBA’s Reshet Bet radio station.
The radio program on Jerusalem Day between 6 p.m.
and 7 p.m. was hosted by Iris Lavie. She had a long item relating to Shavuot, but the only mention of Jerusalem Day was that of the traffic announcer who described the closure of roads in Jerusalem due to the day.
Is this an accident? We believe not. Lavie is also the permanent editor of the weekly left-wing-dominated program of Professor Moshe Negbi. Lavie often identifies with Negbi’s post-Zionist agenda. During the interview with Professor Rachel Elior on Shavuot, Lavie made it a point that she is a resident of Tel Aviv.
Lavie’s program was not unique. Reshet Bet dedicated two programs to Jerusalem Day including one hour covering the official Jerusalem Day ceremony, which took place in the Russian compound in the city. The army radio station Galatz did not do much better, with three programs. The IBA’s TV Channel 1 had six programs relating to Jerusalem Day, TV channels 2 and 10 had none.
The media’s disinterest in Jerusalem is not limited to Jerusalem Day. For example, how many people know that in the aftermath of the Oslo accords, officials of the European Union are not permitted to visit the eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem unless they are hosted by official representatives of the Palestinian Authority? Why is our media so cold when it comes to Jerusalem? We can only reflect that for the avowed secularists of Israel, who have an aversion to anything relating to religion, Jerusalem is the problem. It is the holy city, it does not fit in with their post-Zionist view of how Israel should look. Is it easier for them ideologically if Jerusalem were ruled by the Palestinians who would then eradicate any Jewish connection to the city? Surely, if there were more Zionist- and Jewish-oriented figures in the media, Jerusalem Day would look and sound very different.
The authors are respectively vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imw.org.il).