Summer vacation is upon us, the High Holiday Days are still a month away and it is quite hot. Our media, however, remains as active as ever. Too much of it is colored by the political persuasions of the personnel who bring us our news, leading to avoidable errors.
As we have highlighted previously, when even the supervisory systems of the regulatory bodies lack the will to set things right, correct what’s wrong and punish malfeasants, Israel’s media consumers bear the brunt and our society’s democratic fiber suffers.
A few vignettes from the past week or two are instructive.Torching at Duma vs. Eli’s Gas Station
The horrific crime in the Arab village of Duma on the evening of July 30 was “naturally” assumed to be the work of “Jewish extremists” and/ or “price tag youth.” Official government and police spokespersons didn’t even take the trouble to make the usual, if laconic, announcement we have heard dozens of times in the past that “police are investigating all possible avenues.” From our review, no reporter pressed the police or politicians on this at question time.
Of course, ever since the Rabin assassination many fear being tarred as promoting conspiracy theories.
Nevertheless, no one thought the fact that the father, who has since died, was transported to Beersheba, bypassing three Jerusalem hospitals, while the rest of the family were flown to Sheba Hospital in Ramat Gan, was worthy of a query. There could be very good medical reasons for such a decision but it does seem odd that no question was asked.
On the other hand, this past Friday night, the gas station near the Binyamin region community of Eli was torched. Given the fact that it was Shabbat and the station was Jewish-owned, one might suspect the perpetrators were not Jews. But while the media had no problem establishing a specific ethnic identification for the Duma crime, in the case of the Eli gas station most mainstream news sites did not suggest that Arabs could have been involved.
Chaim Levinson vs. Emily Amrousi
Emily Amrousi writes a column in Israel Hayom and has appeared in the recent past as a regular panelist on Channel 10 and more recently Channel 20 television. After posting on her Facebook account that she had introduced her nine-year old son to elements of the subject of sex, she discovered that Haaretz’s Chaim Levinson had not only disparagingly parodied her post but had done so in an obnoxious, pornographic and misogynist fashion. She felt, she responded, verbally sexually abused.
She was also astonished to learn that many of Levinson’s friends, some highly placed, after learning of her intention to file a complaint with police contacted her to persuade her no to do so.
Here was a classic case of a woman being victimized for her gender in a very public place – but Amrousi is religious and resides in the Samaria community of Talmon. The incident was treated more as a situation to be observed rather than one in which the media actually becomes involved. Haaretz did not even report it while NRG/Ma’ariv and Makor Rishon did. The media was divided along clear ideological lines.
As it happens, over in England this week, Mark Latham, a former Labor Party leader who became a regular columnist for the Australian Financial Review resigned. The behindthe- scenes buzz is that he was forced to do so. The suspected reason, as reported by The Guardian, was that he maintained a parody account on Twitter which contained not infrequent “derogatory remarks [aimed] at numerous prominent women.”
Among those targeted, the Guardian mentioned journalists Anne Summers, Leigh Sales, Lisa Pryor, Mia Freedman and Annabel Crabb.
Latham’s punishment was swift.
The liberal press knows how to deal with men who attack women – unless the victim is an Amrousi: quick-tongued and sharp, with a political orientation the media doesn’t share.
The Temple Mount
One of the activities associated with the struggle for Jewish rights on the Temple Mount is the monthly “Walk Around the Gates.” The several thousand participants do not enter the Temple Mount but very much demonstrate their desire for Jewish rights to be protected within.
The “walk” is described by the mainstream press as just another one of those fanatical episodes, endangering the “peace” on the Temple Mount. The fact that the walk is legal, is a defiant call against the trampling of human rights, is at best ignored.
This week, though, an announcement sponsored by the Jerusalem Municipality appeared informing all and sundry that between the dates August 25 and August 28 a new public artistic “festival” will be held, in the shadow “of the Temple Mount/Haram E-Sharif.” The festival’s organizers specifically note that instead of the normal discourse relating to the Mount which is “political and religious,” a “new voice” will be heard, one that is a “square of creativity and art.” The festival will spotlight not only the site’s sacredness but also issues such as “occupation.” It remains to be seen whether it receives fair treatment by the media.
Beitar Jerusalem vs. Hapoel Tel Aviv and the swastika
The supporters of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club, notably the “Familia” gang, are notorious for their violent behavior. The team has often been penalized; fans were barred from games, translating into a significant financial loss. Epithets of a racist nature are sometimes heard in the stands and although they are noisy, they still are not the majority.
The media has devoted documentaries to the phenomenon. Political figures make comments, prompted by reporters, and the condemnations are part of the folklore.
This past Sunday, at a game between the local Hapoel Tel Aviv club and its guests from Maccabi Petah Tikva, several signs were seen in the stands aimed at foes of the old Ussishkin stadium, now dismantled, who are members of the municipal Tel Aviv council. The letters “aleph” in their names were written in a distinct font, one that resembled a swastika as well as the SS insignias worn on the lapels of the Nazi uniforms.
The police were called in but “accepted” the explanation of the fans that the Hebrew letter was not written to echo any Nazi symbols.
Oddly, the aleph in the name “Ussishkin” appeared quite normal.
In this case, the fans were not tarred and feathered by the press.
The incident was simply reported in a straightforward manner. Would Beitar, the darling of Jerusalem’s Mizrachi and nationalist camps, have been treated with such understanding? We haven’t even touched upon the general attack on the appointment of Danny Danon as our new ambassador to the United Nations.
All these examples and many others lead inexorably to the day when the public will simply shun those whose journalism is not professional.The authors are respectively vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imw.org.il).