Media Comment: Israel’s ‘liberal’ media

Our media, which is concerned about the human rights of the Palestinians, is not willing or not able to raise the issue of human rights of Jews.

Orthodox haredi man reads newspapers media news 390 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Orthodox haredi man reads newspapers media news 390
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Liberalism, as defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica, is a political doctrine that views protecting and enhancing the freedom of the individual to be the central problem of politics.
While government is necessary to protect individuals, it can pose a threat to liberty by abusing its power. And so, while democracy is based on popular election, liberalism is primarily concerned with the scope of government activity.
It can be said that while democracy looks after majorities, liberalism cares for minorities. It seeks to assure unrestricted development in all spheres of human endeavor, and governmental guarantees of individual rights and civil liberties. A media which prides itself as being “liberal” should then uphold the cause of assuring unrestricted development in all areas.
Last week the European Union provided us with a test, in real time, of the extent of our media’s liberalism. The EU’s decree to discriminate between two types of Israelis – those that live within the Israeli side of the 1949 armistice lines and those that live outside – is a clear case of a governmental system taking upon itself to restrict the development of a minority group. The EU decided that the individual rights of two types of Israelis differ; the “outsiders” would no longer be allowed to enjoy EU support for their endeavors.
The EU’s decision is not only discriminatory, it is racist. In areas outside the armistice lines, the EU will support Arabs, but not Jews. In the eastern parts of Jerusalem, it will support residents who are bearers of Israeli identity cards – provided that they are not Jews. For example, the non-Jewish hospitals in Jerusalem enjoy EU support (10 million euros in 2012 and 13m. euros in 2013) while Jewish institutions in the post- 1967 parts of the city are out of bounds.
Israel has participated in the past in the EU’s 7th Framework Program (FP7) to the tune of 440m. euros, spread over the seven years of the program. The FP7 program disburses the complete annual budget (50 billion euros) for scientific research purposes. There is no denying that Israel received from the FP7 program more money than it invested, due to the excellence of its science and technology.
Europe is now gearing up toward the continuation of this program, called Horizon 2020, and Israel is expected to contribute 600m. euros to it. According to the new directive, however, Ariel University cannot get any of these funds, and it is questionable whether Hebrew University researchers may participate, since the university has extensive dorms in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamivtar, which is of course an area the EU terms post-67 occupied territory.
Those are some of the facts. The issue we want to delve into is how our media reacted to them.
A classic example is the Ilana Dayan’s interview of Haaretz’s Ari Shavit on her Thursday morning program on the Galatz army radio station. That same morning, Shavit had published an article entitled “Israel’s crash into the diplomatic iceberg.”
He wrote of the “arrogance, complacency and moral stupor” of Israelis as the ship of state “was cruising straight into an iceberg.”
He seemed gleeful about the EU decision, and is entitled to his opinions. Why, though, did Dayan see fit to interview him? What questions did she pose? She began with: “It would seem that there is something urgent and pressing for you more than the usual... I want to go even deeper... you talk about the illusion that the Right has sold us, that we can also be a hi-tech country and an occupier. This is a mirror image of the illusion that the Left has sold us... aren’t you also selling us an illusion?” She pressed him on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry and on whether European pressure could cause Netanyahu to appease Kerry. There was not a single question asked concerning the human rights aspect of the EU’s decision.
By choosing to interview Shavit, Dayan actually made a value choice. It would seem that she, too, buys into Shavit’s thesis that this is just the tip of an iceberg which will sink us unless we end the “occupation.”
Dayan reflects the mainstream Israeli media. The questions asked by the media were: How and why did we get this far? What can Israel do now? Will this pressure continue and what will it do to Israel in the future? All are of course legitimate questions, and of great concern to all of us. But there was nary a word about human rights.
Our media, which is concerned about the human rights of the Palestinians and the fact that we control their lives, is not willing or not able or too narrow-minded to raise the issue of the human rights of Jews.
This is not because they don’t know. At Israel’s Media Watch we sent a letter to the news editors of various news channels pointing out the human rights violations and calling upon them to discuss these.
We even specified some pertinent questions, such as: What are the steps the Israeli government intends to implement to safeguards the human rights of its citizens? Will the government stop transferring money to EU funds which discriminate against Israelis? Would it be imaginable that the Israeli government transfers money to a fund which supports only Ashkenazim? How can the government under these circumstances continue to support the EU framework programs? What is the opinion of the attorney-general with regard to the violations of Israeli human rights? But to no avail. Human rights are only “interesting” when a candidate for the chief rabbinate supposedly calls upon his constituents not to sell homes to Arabs.
The answer to the question we posed is simple – no, our media are not liberal.
They are biased and do not even make an effort to try and deal with issues from all sides. The Europeans know this and they assume they can get away with their antics because our media will go out of its way to make it easy for them.The authors are, respectively, vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch (