Newsworthy?

If we go back a few years to when Israel Hayom was in its infancy, it, too, was ignored by the mainstream media.

By ELI POLLAK
April 25, 2018 22:54
Newsworthy?

Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Muhammad Ahmad Hussein (R) shakes hands with Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople during a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (C) in the West Bank city of Ramallah in 2014. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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On March 11, a slew of Lebanese news agencies and online portals reported that the “Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestinian Territories,” Mohammad Ahmad Hussein, had arrived in Beirut to participate in the 4th International Forum of Solidarity with Palestine, organized by the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine. At the meeting, Hussein presented a special citation to the Forum coordinator, Sheikh Yusuf Abbas, for his efforts on behalf of Palestine.

This same Abbas, in his speech at the convention noted that the slogan of the Forum is “Jerusalem is the capital of all Palestine without borders.”

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Another participant was deputy secretary general of Hezbollah Sheikh Naim Qassem. He is a terrorist. The former chief Hamas terrorist, Ismail Haniyeh, addressed the meeting via satellite.

Sheikh Hussein is no babe in the woods. Last July, in the wake of the terrorist shooting on the Temple Mount in which two Israeli policemen were murdered, he was arrested.

As reported by the Galatz army radio station, “in his sermon, Hussein called on Arabs and Palestinians to gather en masse for the sake of Jerusalem, and against the closure of the compound.” The Kan news network, the Israel Broadcasting Corporation, also referred to his arrest, saying that Hussein had been delivering his Friday sermon outside the Old City’s Lion’s Gate when he was detained.

The story of Hussein’s visit to Lebanon was aired on TV Channel 20 news on April 10.

The news item brought with it responses from advocate Yotam Eyal, a member of the Legal Forum for Eretz Yisrael, who noted that the actions of Hussein are “criminal and serious.”



He further stated that “for years the mufti incites against Israel and its citizens and in this case even met with heads of terrorist organizations who work night and day to destroy Israel.”

On the face of it, Hussein violated Israeli law on a number of counts, such as entering an enemy state, contact with foreign agents and aiding and abetting terrorists. One can be assured that the Israeli security services knew about his trip, yet Hussein was not arrested upon returning to Israel.

Being that our main interest is the media, we note that the press and networks as well as almost every other outlet quashed the story completely.

This is known in the journalism world as “spiking a story.”

Israel’s mainstream TV channels, radio stations and websites reported nothing about it.

It was, we can only surmise, not “newsworthy.” Even the conservative newspapers Makor Rishon and Israel Hayom did not report it. Why? Was it indeed not newsworthy? Are we, perhaps, wrong in our estimation of what happened in Beirut last month? Compare to some of the “important stories” that surfaced on Israel’s Remembrance Day and Independence Day. A female soldier was not allowed to participate in an official army singing event and graffiti appeared in Samaria against the local army commander.

These events were reported on rather extensively.

Consider what would happen if a member of the Israel’s far Right participated in a neo-Fascist, not to mention Nazi, support rally in Europe.

Would such an issue remain quiet? So, what happened here? We can only guess.

Our first surmise has to do with the status of TV Channel 20 news. It is a threat to the other TV channels, 11, 12 and 13. Indeed, thus far the ratings of Channel 20 news are on par with those of TV Channel 11, which belongs to the Kan Israel Broadcasting Corporation. The left-wing media is afraid that Channel 20 will become Israel’s Fox News and outperform all the others. The last thing it would want to do then is to provide a platform for a news scoop which comes from the channel.

But this would not explain why Makor Rishon or Israel Hayom remained silent. Perhaps the mufti was on a secret mission for Israel’s security services? Hard to believe, yet who knows? There is, perhaps, a simpler explanation, more logical: lack of solidarity among the media.

Why should anyone give credit to Channel 20 when in fact, all the information concerning Hussein’s visit to Lebanon is freely available on the Internet and Israel’s media should have reported about it in March, not a month later in April? The idea that it is in the interest of Israel’s media to enhance plurality and give credit to an infant news organization seems to have eluded even parts of the conservative media.

There are other aspects that could have played a role in the story being ignored. One is that in March, when Hussein’s visit took place, too many other internal Israeli stories were on the agenda of the news outlets, such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s investigations, political infighting or other items. A second is that anything to do with the Temple Mount, the Wakf officials and their activities is usually seen through the prism of “Jews.” More specifically, Jewish “fanatics” or “extremists.”

To step back and see the nefarious machinations of the Muslims there seems to be outside the scope of how reporters and editors view that situation.

Arabs there, invariably, are simply reacting to Jewish moves. They are considered to be the legitimate occupiers of the Temple Mount. They are under threat from the Jewish “fanatics” and therefore the actions of Sheikh Hussein were perhaps not nice, but easy to accept and overlook.

Yet, this is not enough.

Channel 20 has reported other stories, not less interesting.

For example, this past Sunday, it related that senior defense officials have recommended that Israel persuade the United States to delay the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem. According to the report, these officials relate the increased violence of the past few months, including Hamas’s attacks on the border with Gaza, to the American move. It would be better according to their assessment if a more opportune time were found for the move. Education Minister Naftali Bennett, member of the Cabinet, was asked to respond. He made it clear that he would not accept such an assessment and that furthermore such decisions are political ones and are not in the realm of the armed forces.

This too, we would think is an interesting story which should have been picked up, at least by a newspaper such as Israel Hayom. But it wasn’t.

If we go back a few years to when Israel Hayom was in its infancy, it, too, was ignored by the mainstream media. So much so that we in Israel’s Media Watch had to pressure the various state-funded media (whose budgets come from the taxpayers’ pockets) to make sure that the paper’s editorials, journalists and content would be treated on an equal footing to those of Haaretz and Yediot Aharonot when headlines were read out or media people were invited to panels being broadcast.

The bottom line is that journalistic solidarity is sorely needed. It is a fundamental component of a truly pluralistic media scene in Israel.

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