Leo Rennert, a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of
McClatchy Newspapers, recently complained that too many Israel-related stories
were being ignored by such global mainstream media outlets as The New York Times
and The Washington Post.
In April alone, such stories included arrests of
journalists by the Palestinian Authority, various rockets launched from Gaza
exploding in Israel, Muslims rejection of shared prayer areas at the Tomb of the
Patriarchs, armed Arabs, several teenagers, trying to infiltrate Israel for
purposes of terror on two separate occasions, a stabbing of Jews in Jerusalem on
Holocaust Remembrance Day and again on April 26 as well as Hamas’ refusal to
honor any peace treaty with Israel. A defacement of the Ammunition Hill Memorial
was broadly broadcast, but perhaps this was due to the suspicion falling on
haredim (ultra-Orthodox) rather than Arabs.
Some of these stories also
did not make it into the Israeli media, and certainly not with great prominence.
A story that was featured, however, on Channel 10 television news, turned out to
Reporter Sivan Cohen delivered on Sunday what was actually
nothing more than a hoax. Her viewers heard that a nine-year-old Israeli girl
had nearly been abducted at Disney World in Orlando but was shortly after found
by her parents drugged in a bathroom with her head shaved. The parents were
unnamed, no corroborating information was aired either in the form of an audio
interview or a video. By Monday, Ms. Cohen had been suspended and an inquiry is
Cohen was quoted saying, “I spoke with the father and he
claimed that the story was true, and was filmed and recorded. Since yesterday
was Sunday and we knew that there was no one to answer at Disney, we discussed
it at the studio and we attributed the allegations to the father.”
Ms. Cohen the sole person responsible for the story? Did she did not have an
editor? A fact-checker? A foreign-news desk head? Is Israeli professional
journalism, before we discuss ethics, dependent on but one person within a large
news organization? Another story, not quite a hoax, but spun ideologically, was
the item first presented by Haaretz, in its front-page placement, as a gang
rape. An unnamed female employee of the Jerusalem District Prosecutor’s office
was the source for a tale about a beach orgy, so the public was informed, with a
woman out of control and being taken advantage of and incapable of resisting the
advances of the young men. It ran for several days and then, after a police
investigation, turned out to be a “happy hooker” tale of an alcohol-fueled
prostitute on her day off trying to get her boyfriend jealous.
Haaretz wouldn’t let go and began accusing the police of negligence, claiming
they were not interested in arresting the guilty or, worse, simply ignored the
To Professor Steve Plaut’s understanding, “radical feminists
took advantage of the opportunity to lecture the patriarchal male chauvinists
among us on how badly women are oppressed in Israel.” Haaretz was not only
taking its readers for a ride, but taking a ride on this social orientation.
News it was, but truth it wasn’t.
However, Haaretz is not alone in
providing us with inaccurate “news.” Channel 10’s Orr Heller is another purveyor
of questionable stories. His unethical recording of Lt.-Col.
Eisner’s conversation with a third party was not an isolated incident. Heller
acts as a spokesperson for B’tselem. He brings to Channel 10 their edited
For example, as reported on the Latma website, in January 2010
he reported a story of Arab youths demonstrating near Neveh Tzuf. They are
contained by the army through the use of smoke bombs and other standard methods
to break up demonstrations.
Heller described the Arabs as nonviolent even
though a jeep’s mirror was broken, a shed was burned down and the Arabs engaged
in forcible shoving. This is the model of civil nonviolent demonstrations? Then,
some Jewish youths appear on the scene and throw rocks at the
The IDF, according to the report, does nothing to stop
them. To show that it is IDF policy to do nothing against the Jewish hoodlums an
interview is conducted with a lieutenant who “explains” that his job is not to
arrest Jews but only Palestinians.
The clip was a B’tselem production.
The “interview” was old and had nothing to do with the Neveh Tzuf
demonstrations. Did Channel 10 dismiss Heller for presenting a fabricated and
edited clip? Was an investigation initiated? No.
A year later, he
presented another clip, supposedly documenting “how police violently arrest a
Palestinian child.” In fact, the video does not show any violence, only an
arrest of a youngster the police claim was throwing rocks. Again, Channel 10
permitted a “star” reporter to present questionable headlines.
though, the most striking aspect of this whole saga is the dichotomy between the
channel’s reaction to Orr Heller and to Sivan Cohen. Cohen was duped into
broadcasting what was a hoax. Probably motivated to provide a “scoop,” she acted
rashly, as did her editors, and she paid the price immediately. Heller, on the
other hand, is the channel’s “star.” His politically-motivated stories, which
have a common thread of giving the IDF an unjustified black eye, lead to no
reaction, if anything to promotion. It is this kind of unethical journalism
which gives our media a bad name, much more than the silly error of Ms.
Channel 10 pays a price for its folly for the public clearly
prefers other news sources.
Channel 10 News would do well to heed the
admonition of Leo Rennert and work hard to bring to us the “real” news. Yet it
is the public that ultimately pays the price. The channel’s news corporation
does not live up to the expectation of having a third news broadcaster which
successfully competes with channels one and two. The politicians who fought for
its existence, hoping for a highquality news channel, were duped. Isn’t it time
to give the stage to someone else?
The authors are respectively vice chairman
and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch.