No society that values democracy and pluralism can do without a free media. Israel is a country whose media – printed, broadcast and electronic – is powerful and dominant. It should meet professional ethical standards of the highest order to provide the consumer with fair, truly representative and factual news – not views. Moreover, Israel, the Jewish-Zionist state, has by law its heritage and cultural values, which should be preserved and maintained.
It is not a secret that Israel’s major media purveyors are dominated by post-Zionist journalists, editors and producers. They set the agenda through the much-too-influential Haaretz and Yediot Aharonot newspapers, as well as via the most popular Israeli Internet news sites – Ynet, Walla and NRG. Even more so, they arguably control the broadcast media.
Theirs is a contrarian narrative. The Channel 2 TV daily news roundup show is Israel’s most popular, yet its host, Yonit Levy, and its leading commentators, such as Amnon Abramowitz, have little contact with the Zionist ethos which led to the creation of the State of Israel.
Their weltanschauung is, broadly, that Israel is a pariah country due to the “occupation” of the West Bank.
The actions of the Arab world and especially the Palestinians are viewed favorably, or at least neutrally, while anything that Israel or its citizens do which does not conform with their post-Zionist credo receives disproportionate attention, with the “guilty” being called to task.
They attempt to present a humanistic liberal exterior. Any hint of racism, such as calls to Israelis not to sell land to Israel’s enemies, who happen to be non-Jewish, is regurgitated ad nauseam. The fact that selling land to Jews in Arab countries, and especially in the Palestinian Authorityadministered areas, may lead to a death sentence, on the other hand, is a non-issue.
When Jews are discriminated against, for example by being restricted from entering the Temple Mount and prohibited from praying there even when they are allowed in, the same holier-than-thou-attitude at best keeps silent, and at worst blames the Jews for creating unnecessary provocations.
ISRAEL’S POPULATION, however, is not fooled by the media, nor does it follow its advice when it comes to elections. Roughly three-quarters of the Jewish population is Zionist, treats our Jewish heritage with respect and believes that Jews also have rights.
Yet the damage to the state caused by its media takes on strategic proportions.
Europe is identified today with Israel’s enemies. Its boycott practices put it smack in its historical anti-Semitic role. Israel’s media has done much to contribute to this negative image, by repeating the mantra that Israel is an illegal occupational force, practicing apartheid.
It highlights political NGOs who have been caught out, by Israel’s Media Watch and others, time and again fabricating video clips and misreporting events. Yet, these are repeated by the media without proper editorial supervision.
Most “cultural” events in the European sphere having to do with Israel contribute to the image of the “ugly Israeli.” It is not surprising then that Europe is using its Horizon 2020 scientific program to discriminate between Jews and prevent those operating from post-1967 territories from taking part. And this is only the beginning.
There have been positive changes.
Yediot Aharonot has lost much of its monopoly. There is Israel Hayom as a counterpoint. Although the Arutz 7 radio station was closed down, it has been replaced to a large extent by the legal Galei Yisrael radio station. The Educational TV network daily news program has many right-wing journalist hosts. On the Internet one finds influential websites such as News 1, Israel National News (Arutz 7) and The Jerusalem Post, which do not hide their pro-Zionist bias.
Indeed, one may argue that we are in the midst of a revolution, though at times we do not recognize it as such. The Israeli public is today well aware of media manipulations.
The pioneering editor of this newspaper, David Bar-Ilan, with his weekly column “Eye on the Media,” was the first Israeli who had the inner strength to criticize and expose his fellow journalists.
Israel’s Media Watch, established in 1995, was Israel’s first nongovernmental media review organization.
Through its reports and public activities, its battles in Knesset committees and the High Court of Justice, it detailed the biases of Israel’s media outlets. Its continuous defense of Zionism, in Israel and abroad, has led to significant changes.
Israel’s broadcasting legislation, which specifies that the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s mandate is to promote Jewish heritage and the Hebrew language, is a significant victory of IMW over those who proposed a secular, humanistic ethos.
Israel’s Media Watch (IMW) was the pioneer. Nowadays, Israel has a dozen or so media review organizations, most of which promote the Zionist viewpoint.
NOT LESS important is the “democratization” of the Israeli public.
Israelis are becoming increasingly aware of their power as citizens to create change. At the end of the day, the media lives off the public, which pays for the newspapers, whose taxes fund the public media organizations and who enjoy the services of the advertisers.
A prime example of the public’s awareness of its influence is Israel’s Media Watch’s complaint box on its website, which is Israel’s most popular address for public complaints over media infractions. These include among others political bias, discrimination against Jews, the broadcast content of a pro-terror Arab radio station.
Facebook, Twitter and the Internet have changed the rules of the game.
The decision of the Israel Broadcasting Authority to air an anti-Semitic promo two weeks ago was rescinded almost instantly due to public pressure from the bottom up.
A third element is the people in the media. The number of Israelis who have entered the media profession during the past two decades and identify as Zionists has increased noticeably. There is awareness among Zionists that the media and culture are arenas which must not be left only to post-Zionist forces. The social fabric of new recruits to the army’s radio station, arguably Israel’s most prestigious school of journalism, is no longer dominated by the “humanistic” Tel Aviv scene.
There is a fourth leg to this revolution, which is still wobbly. Just last week we read in Ecclesiastes that “money will answer everything.”
Investment in Zionist media and culture lags far behind the public awareness of the strategic importance of the issue. Jews all over the world should realize that the future of the Jewish state and together with it the Jewish people, is at stake.
The combination of the necessary financial backing with the continued determination of many people will ultimately lead to a Zionist media, which knows how to defend Israel in times of need. The nagging question is whether the revolution will occur on time? The authors are respectively vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imw.org.il).