Media Comment: Our great media

enjoy your Purim holiday. Buy a newspaper, turn on your radio and press your TV remote control, sit back and enjoy the freedom of the press.

TV 311 (photo credit: Hemera)
TV 311
(photo credit: Hemera)
In the spirit of the Book of Esther being read today throughout the Jewish world, and tomorrow in Jerusalem and other walled cities as is the custom, we dedicate this column of ours to Purim.
As we all know, the Book of Esther includes several references to media activity. In those ancient days, communications were facilitated by letters (mentioned in 1:22; 3:13 and 9:20, 30) and the broadcasters were riders on swift steeds (8:10). Editorial decisions were signified by the imprint of a ring. Even the agra, the television license fee we pay, has its roots in the levying of a tax by the king (10:1). Thus, firmly ensconced in the Purim custom, let us praise our local media.
Israel’s media is a leader of the free world’s press, a prime example of how the media should act. It has been outstanding in its demonstration of how the enlightened few keep those of us who belong to the dark Middle Ages from misusing the democratic process.
First, let us consider the Supreme Court, the court of last resort in cases involving media misbehavior. Some parliamentarians, basing themselves on facts gathered by various organizations, have come to grasp that the Court does not truly reflect the plurality of Israel’s society, is not sufficiently balanced by the government in the composition of its public bodies and misuses its powers to impose its will with impunity.
Our press raised a huge outcry. It is unthinkable that representatives of the Likud and other right-of-center parties would even dare consider changing the makeup of the Supreme Court. It belongs to the elites, it has consistently upheld the power of the press to assure that the age of enlightenment is not followed by an age of darkness.
Our legal experts, former judges, commentators and everyone with a bit of journalistic sense in their heads rightly exercised their power to raise such a media outcry that our prime minister saw the light.
There are those in Israel who, in dealing with one of the most central elements in the media narrative, somehow have been misguided enough to believe that Israel has an historical right to Judea and Samaria, and that Jews have the right to reside there.
These ignorant people even believe that a Jew should be allowed to buy real estate in the midst of the local population.
Some of these primitives even dare to claim that the media terminology employed is incorrect, both legally and historically; they assert that Judea and Samaria are not occupied territories but rather disputed territories.
Our valiant press has made sure that not only Israelis realize the fallacy of such arguments, but has managed to convince the world that Israel is an occupying power.
Some of the press is so outstanding the copy they publish merits quotation by some of Israel’s most ugly and prejudiced opponents. Using well established agenda-setting methods such as the selection of onesided panels and “experts,” they have all but convinced Israelis that if it weren’t for those “settlements” and “settlers” we would be at “peace.”
Freedom of religion is fundamental to an enlightened society. It is therefore of utmost importance to assure that Muslim muezzins be allowed to call the faithful to prayer without regard to the decibel level.
The very idea of limiting the volume is an affront to our democratic society, which prides itself on its tolerance of other religions.
In fact, our press is so dedicated to upholding the freedom of religion, it will do so even if it comes at the expense of our own. There is no doubt that those among us who want – heaven and the Chief Rabbinate forbid – to pray on the Temple Mount have no respect for the Muslim tradition and should be stopped. Our press has done a great job of upholding the right of the police to prevent a few warmongering Jews from praying on the Temple Mount by characterizing them as messianic extremists.
It is true that once every few years Israelis ignore the admonitions of our men of letters, our intellectuals and cultural icons, and vote for the wrong parties. But have no fear, this occurs only once every few years, and in any case its sole purpose is to reassure the masses that they are important and that their opinion matters.
Elections are a boon to dried-up journalists with nothing else to write about, but that is as far as the matter is allowed to go. The press is always on hand to make sure that even if the populace makes a mistake and votes for the wrong people, true democracy – that of the editors and producers – will prevail.
Our government tried to implement conservative fiscal policies, which unfortunately have made it difficult for some of our journalists to make a living. The press made an issue of explaining to those of us who do not understand economics that it is the government’s duty to distribute funds. Not to the really poor and needy, or those with large families, whose sons and daughters willingly serve in the army, but to those poor people who cannot afford to pay for a cappuccino when they go to the opera. And yes, they succeeded! The government, led by our astute prime minister, with whom the admonitions of the press carry much more weight than the misguided advice of the Governor of the Bank of Israel, promptly lowered the tax on fuel.
So, enjoy your Purim holiday. Buy a newspaper, turn on your radio and press your TV remote control, sit back and enjoy the freedom of the press.
The authors are respectively vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch,