Israel’s contemporary media image is markedly left-of-center.
Someone once quipped that if a vote were held solely amongst journalists, Meretz would be the overwhelming victor with the Communists a close second.
And that is no exaggeration. The ideological bias that used to be ignored or excused as the natural curiosity that liberals possess but not right-wingers, as then-IBA head Motti Kirschenbaum once explained to the writers, is now quite evident.
MK Shelly Yacimovich, currently Labor Party head and former Kol Yisrael radio and TV host, admitted that she voted for Hadash in the 1999 elections. The post-Zionism that developed in Uri Avnery's Haolam Hazeh weekly has now settled quite firmly in Haaretz, with Gideon Levy writing on July 4: “One day the Palestinian people will rise up against their occupiers.
I hope this day comes soon... As with other unjust and evil regimes... this regime also will fall... as in Syria... in the Soviet Union, South Africa and Eastern Europe... there is no other way. It would be best that this day come soon; too bad it hasn’t come yet.”
Yediot Aharonot’s antipathy for Binyamin Netanyahu is so irrational that they published a totally fictitious story about a female Beduin comedienne, perhaps lured by the anti-Bibi portions of her stand-up repertoire.
It wasn’t always this way. The Left did not always dominate the media discourse or have the power to set agendas or, like Amos Schocken and Nonni Mozes, own the press outright. Zionism’s most central figures were journalists, many of them right-of-center.
They go from Herzl to Nordau to Jabotinsky as well as firm nationalists on the Left such as Berl Katznelson. Ma’ariv until the 1970s was a home for veterans of the Revisionist movement. Herzl Rosenblum, the three-decades long editor of Yediot Aharonot until the 1980s, was a colleague of Jabotinsky and signed Israel’s Declaration of Independence as the representative of the Revisionists.
A watershed incident, indicating the left-wing domination of the media that occurred since then, was when senior Ma’ariv columnist and editor Shmuel Schnitzer was selected to receive the Israel Prize for Journalism in 1997 for decades of professional engagement and many thousands of articles. He was denied this honor because of one piece on Ethiopian Jews. This was a final generational break.
Why is it that the nationalist camp, religious and secular, despite the talent and the growing numbers, are still proving, it would seem, unable to challenge the left wing post-Zionists when it comes to journalism and media culture? This crisis has become even more evident during this past week. A right-winger and ardent Zionist, Shlomo Ben-Zvi, bought the rights on the Ma’ariv newspaper a year ago. But it would seem that he does not have sufficient funding, or did not foresee well enough the true expense of keeping the paper alive. As of the writing of this article, it is not at all clear whether Ma’ariv will survive the present crisis. Even worse, another Zionist daily, Makor Rishon, also owned by Ben-Zvi, is in deep trouble, as reported in The Jerusalem Post and elsewhere.
Many of its reporters have not been receiving their salaries already for months.
The Latma satirical website (Latma in Arabic is “slap in the face”), founded by Jerusalem Post Senior Contributing editor Caroline Glick, adored by many all over the world for its comical sense, is in deep financial trouble. As reported on Israel National News, Latma is running out of funds and will most likely go offline by the end of this month unless new funding for the site will be found.
It has been negotiating these past two years with the Israel Broadcasting Authority to go on air, but the IBA, even after two years, cannot make up its mind whether to provide Israeli with a satirical program that would successfully compete with Channel 2 TV’s left-wing post-Zionist dominated satirical Eretz Nehederet (“A Wonderful Country”) show.
The Culture Ministry has been overseen by Likud MK Ms. Limor Livnat for the past four years and she continues in that role in the present government. In 2012, her ministry distributed some NIS 100 million to support dozens of theaters and other cultural institutions, most mired in left-wing agendas. As may be found on the ministry’s website, the big recipients are the Habimah theater (NIS 21m.), the Tel Aviv Cameri theater (NIS 12m.) and Beit Lessin theater (NIS 11m.). The Israel Film service is funded by the Culture Ministry. Is it too much to ask that Ms. Livnat find a way to support Latma and keep it alive? Is it not an important cultural icon for Israel? Only last December, the government, dominated by the rightwing Likud and Yisrael Beytenu parties, generously distributed goodies that amounted to hundreds of millions of shekels to the left-wing, junk programmingdominated TV concessionaires, Channels 2 and 10. Channel 10 was threatening closure, Prime Minister Netanyahu panicked and gave in to media pressure. But there is no real media pressure to save either Ma’ariv or Latma. After all, they do not belong to the “right” side of the cultural scene.
The far left anti-Zionist camp knows how to fight. The Galei Yisrael radio station, which broadcasts mainly to Judea and Samaria, has been on the receiving end of three petitions by Gush Shalom to the Supreme Court demanding its closure. All petitions have been turned down, but the expenses needed to rebut such petitions burden the station financially.
Gush Shalom can write down another success to its ongoing cultural war against anything which smells of Zionism.
The post-Zionist domination of our culture is not only a result of governmental ineptness: It also lies deep in the roots of the rightwing camp both in Israel and abroad. There is no meaningful institutional Jewish support for Zionist culture. The fact that only one person could be found – Shlomo Ben-Zvi – who was willing to try and save various publications, starting from the now defunct Nekuda, continuing to the Hazofe newspaper, which was merged with Makor Rishon, and now Ma’ariv is a badge of shame for right-wing philanthropy.
Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson stand behind the successful Zionist Israel Hayom daily. The post- Zionists have been very imaginative in their response. The paper has been criticized almost on a daily basis for being a “bibiton,” that is a mouthpiece of Prime Minister Netanyahu. Legislation has been tabled in the Knesset to attempt to shut down the paper since it is owned by someone who is not a permanent resident of the State of Israel. None of this is considered by them as an attack on freedom of expression, the charge they level at anyone criticizing the Left.
The sad truth is that massive support of Zionist media-related organizations ends there. When it comes to the media, the right wing is poor, its cultural face is pale and its donors almost nonexistent.The authors are, respectively, vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imw.org.il).