This past week one of the more high-profile news stories our media reported was
that of two women who were raped in the north (there were additional rape
stories). The rapists were arrested, but Michal Galperin complained to the
Israel Broadcasting Authority about the omission of the identity of the
They are Israeli Arabs. She received a prompt reply from Elisha
Spiegelman, the ombudsman of the IBA, explaining that the policy of the IBA is
not to identify criminals as “religious,” haredi,” “left wing” or “right wing,”
and in accordance with this policy the suspected rapists were not described as
Spiegelman’s attitude is commendable, in principle.
should not associate a body of people with the criminal acts of any
This principle is found in the Bible, when Moses replies to
God: “if one man sins, shall you be angry with the entire congregation?”
(Numbers 16:22). But theory and practice do not always coincide.
January 29, Moshe Finkel complained to the same ombudsman that on the IBA’s
Reshet Bet radio station, reporter Assaf Pozailov and anchor Yigal Ravid let us
know that the suspects in the desecration of graves in Ashdod were
Mr. Spiegelman’s answer on that occasion was: “the police
suspected that the perpetrators were haredim... your claim that the report
throws suspicion on the whole haredi community is unjustified as the report was
only about a few individuals coming from that community.”
described above typifies the attitude of the Israeli mainstream media to two of
the most important minority groups in Israel – the Arabs and the
Tons of ink have been spilled to describe the threats to Israeli
society emanating from the haredi community.
Last summer during the
“social demonstrations” and following the actions of the government, the media
claimed that haredim were receiving cheap governmental housing, while the
mainstream Israeli middle class was struggling to afford suitable
But consider the Arab sector.
Some of them, most notably
the Beduin communities, solve their housing problems by simply having complete
lack of respect for the law. Tens of thousands of illegal structures exist.
Judging by the attitudes of the mainstream Israeli press one would think that it
is better to violate the law via illegal construction than use political
influence to legally and democratically obtain housing for your
The now-defunct “Tal Law” has also been and continues to be
a “fruitful” source for filling up newspaper pages and air time. The very
sensitive issues of having the haredi community participate in Israeli society,
help carry its burdens, whether military or social, and participate in the
economic sphere are justifiably topics of media discussions.
haredi community comprises only nine percent of Israeli society, while the Arab
section makes up 20%.
It too, largely does not serve in the IDF and does
not volunteer en masse for national service. Their rate for paying state and
local taxes is comparable, if not worse, than the haredi sector. They, too, in
general, do not stand at attention on Independence Day, a standard item in the
media every year. The legality and the moral justification of the Arab sector’s
abstention from military service is not less questionable than that of the
PARAGRAPH 36 of the Armed Services Law states that the
defense minister may exempt anyone from military service if he finds this to be
The grounds for such an exemption are: “the size of the
regular forces needed for the IDF; educational needs; security or economically
related settlements; family reasons or other reasons.”
In other words,
the defense minister can exempt anyone from military service and this serves as
the basis for exempting the Arab population.
But for this purpose he has
to provide some rationale.
The Tal Law is known to all, but the legal and
moral basis for exempting the much larger Arab population is unknown, and the
media does not attempt to obtain from the defense ministry the formal rationale
behind the very broad exemption given to the Arab population. The legal and
moral aspects of the exemption of Arabs from military or national service is
hardly an issue in the eyes of our media.
Israel’s Media Watch has
recently undertaken a study of the extent of TV coverage allocated to various
minorities in Israel. The bottom line is that issues dealing with the Arab
sector receive somewhat less than 6% airtime, much less than their percentage in
the population. This statistic includes IBA’s Channel 33, which has special
programs for the Arab sector. If one does not take this special programming into
account, the percentage is much lower. On a daily basis, the Arab sector is
simply a non-issue in our media.
The statistics concerning the Arab
minority shout for attention.
Crime statistics for 2007 show that it is
more than double in the Arab sector relative to the Jewish one. In 2008, the
percentage of Jewish students who finished high school with passing marks in
their matriculation exams was 54%, in the Arab sector it was only
The size of black market transactions in the Arab sector (as well as
in the haredi one) is known to be very high, skewing national statistics, which
show a very high level of poverty.
The Arab sector receives substantial
subsidies from the state in various forms. Their “contribution” to traffic
accidents is approximately double the relative size of their
The lack of serious discussion of what really happens within
the Arab sector, within their newspapers, mosques and educational institutions
leads at the end of the day to the present distancing of the Jewish population
from the Arab one.
Instead of a consolidated media effort to integrate
them, the opposite happens. By ignoring them and not worrying about the
democratic process within the Arab sector, our media contributes to the
exacerbation of the problem.
The fact that the Israeli Arab political
leadership largely does not recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state does
not reflect the attitude of all Arab citizens.
Why is it, then, that they
do not manage to elect a different kind of leadership? Could it be that the
Israeli media colludes by not paying sufficient attention and so allows those
politicians whose respect for the law and the democratic process is lacking to
dominate them? The authors are, respectively, vice chairman and chairman of
Israel’s Media Watch, www.imw.org.il.