Israel’s media knows that it can flex its might, especially with a rightof- center government.
Conservative politicians have an incomprehensible fear of negative reporting. The Rami Sadan brouhaha, over supposed remarks made by the new Channel 10 news oversight committee chair, is but one of many. It should be clear that Sadan did nothing illegal. His job is that of a regulator and his powers are limited.
Even so, some of the people at Channel 10 are afraid of a regulator who lived many years in Gush Etzion, has a kippa on his head and in the distant past worked for the prime minister.
Since Sadan is one of the founders of Israel’s Media Watch, we will not say more about his case, except that we believe that his detractors will be surprised at how well he carries out his job.
Ran Baratz was nominated in November 2015 by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be the director of communications in the Prime Minister’s Office, a job held previously by former editor of The Jerusalem Post David Bar-Ilan. True to form, the media searched, found a Facebook comment by Baratz relating to President Reuven Rivlin: “He is a peripheral person. One can send him with a paraglider to the Syrian Golan controlled by ISIS [Islamic State]. Just take him.”
Baratz did not violate any law. He made a negative comment, which one may or may not disagree with.
The damage, though, was done. To this day, no one has filled the job.
The prime minister is very sensitive to such criticism.
From 2000-2010, Danny Seaman was the director of the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO). From there he went on to become the deputy director general for information at the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs. Seaman was a veteran official, but his vast experience did not help him when in August 2013, he made the following Facebook comment about the Japanese: “I am sick of the Japanese.... holding their annual self-righteous commemorations for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims... instead they should be commemorating the estimated 50 million Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Malay, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Indonesian, Burmese and other victims of Japanese imperial aggression and genocide.”
True to form, Haaretz not only publicized his comments, it made sure that there would be international trouble for Israel by requesting the official response of the Japanese government to the criticism. This created a crisis in Israel-Japanese relations and the result was that in January 2014 Seaman resigned. Since then he is retired, no longer contributing his expertise for the sake and good of Israel as a government official.
Another example is the failed appointment of Danny Dayan, former executive director of the Yesha council, as Israel’s ambassador to Brazil. Extreme left-winger and Israel basher Alon Liel, a former Foreign Ministry director general, took it upon himself to block the appointment. He went to Brazil to convince the corrupt government of Dilma Roussef to veto the appointment. Liel is a private citizen, and can do what he wants, although we think his actions were treasonous. But the Israeli media just went ahead and publicized the issue.
It did not roundly criticize Liel for his actions, making it impossible for him to further show his face here in public. Quite the contrary, he is still considered an expert for example on relations with Turkey, due to his stint as Israeli charge d’affairs there from 1981-1983 and his PhD thesis, “The Dependence on Imported Energy and its Impact on Turkey’s Foreign Policy.”
He is sufficiently “respectable” that the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya is proud to have him mentioned on its website as a faculty member of the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy. Consider what would have happened had Ariel University employed Baruch Marzel as a lecturer on Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Haaretz would be the first to go on a McCarthyist binge against the university, calling for its closure. The rest of the media would then follow suit. But Liel? He’s untouchable as he is an extreme leftist.
Consider a more recent case, that of Gen. Yair Golan, the IDF deputy chief of staff since 2014. On May 4, 2016, Golan infamously compared Israel to Nazi Germany, saying: “Revolting processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then – 70, 80 and 90 years ago – [are] among us today.”
Were his words at all comparable to the comments of Seaman or those attributed to Sadan? Of course not.
Yet there were those of the media who praised him.
When in response to the expulsion from Gaza in 2006 some people wore yellow stars of David they were severely criticized for daring to equate the expulsion with the Nazi era. But Golan not only continues in his job, he is hailed for his courage to speak out. Religious high-ranking officers, who dared pray publicly to the Almighty that he should help them out in their combat mission, were in contrast tied to the stake and burned alive.
Truly, McCarthyism is alive and kicking in the Israeli media. Sadly, Israel’s majority is not capable of putting it in the wastebin.
The authors are vice chairman and chairman respectively of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imediaw.org.il).