Media Comment: The named and the nameless

Gender discrimination be exposed and dealt with, but it is unfair to put the whole onus on one community.

Beit Shemesh protest 311 (photo credit: (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post))
Beit Shemesh protest 311
(photo credit: (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post))
The last week of December typically lacks news events. The media have a tough time convincing us there’s really something interesting going on we can’t miss out on. But this past week the Israeli media had a ball. Some extreme people wearing haredi clothes kept news outlets busy outdoing each other at the game of “who’s the best haredi basher.”
What actually happened? A psychopath spat at a child. Yes, he had on the garb of a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jew, though his actions were a far cry from the haredi ethos. What else? Some hoodlums and a foolish policeman tried to move a woman from her seat in the front of a bus in Ashdod. The hoodlums prevented the bus from moving, the driver called the police, the police officer, instead of defending the woman, did what he had been taught to do, especially by our media, namely acquiesce to the hoodlums and try and convince Tanya Rosenblitt to move to the back of the bus. She refused, some of the hoodlums stayed off of the bus, the rest of the passengers entered normally and Ms. Rosenblitt stayed in her front seat. Again, the hoodlums had haredi garb on.
The action continued; there were demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, some of which turned violent, demonstrators in haredi clothes hurled epithets at policemen, such as “Nazis,” threw rocks and other debris, and some media people were lightly injured. It would seem as if Sodom and Gomorrah were upon us. The president and the prime minister announced that gender discrimination is intolerable, women politicians gathered together to defend their gender (and also attack each other) and the media continued having a ball.
A movement which calls itself Yisrael Hofshit (A Free Israel) together with a number of other NGOs organized a rally against gender discrimination in Beit Shemesh. It was announced that there would be hundreds of police officers at hand to prevent trouble.
The media advertised the event time and again prior to its taking place – the larger it is, the greater the chance there will be “action” and the media would be able to continue with their big haredi-bashing party.
Sadly(?) the event was rather peaceful! Is this all that happened during this past week? Consider some other events, surely not as dangerous or important to our society.
Some rockets were fired in the South, okay, that’s routine stuff, we all know about it, no need to get excited. Gunfire erupted at a Jewish traveler in Judea and Samaria. Again, who cares; the target was a settler, not an upright citizen from the Tel Aviv area. A Kadima MK was the target of fire bombs in Judea and Samaria, he received his two bits of prime-time news interviews, no need to further belabor the subject.
We all know that there is a double standard here. The media singles out certain communities, while at the same time, in the name of an unwritten code of political correctness, will not dare to mention others. The Arab sector is responsible for almost double its share of traffic fatalities. The previous week saw seven fatalities from road accidents. Did the media report how many came from the Arab sector?
The reckless and lawless driving in the Arab sector kills them and kills others. Yet this is a non-issue, one is not permitted to mention it. Certainly it is less interesting than the ultra-Orthodox community and less threatening (unless G-d forbid one becomes personally involved in such a tragedy).
“Family honor” is another issue with grave consequences in the Arab sector. Just this past week, a 45-year-old woman from the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in Gaza was killed by strangulation. Chief Ayman al- Batniji, spokesman of the Palestinian Police, reported that the perpetrator was the victim’s nephew, who admitted killing the woman to maintain the “family honor.”
One might think many women in the Arab sector would want such information to be put on the public table by the media, to help prevent them from becoming victims. But our media somehow thinks otherwise.
The prevalence of violence against women in the Jewish Ethiopian community is also not part of the “women defense week.” It is considered “racism” to mention that this community, whose skin is dark, has some serious problems, whose solution depends to a large extent on our society’s willingness to face and deal with them constructively.
Did we mention the settlers?
There’s no doubt all the “price tag” actions are the responsibility of the settler rabbis and their ongoing chutzpa in residing in the “occupied territories.” The fact that some misguided national-religious soldiers refused to attend an event in which women were singing was like a Godsend to the story-starved media. The issue has not died down to this day. Contrast this to the Anat Kam story and the fact that Haaretz “journalist” Uri Blau is permitted to continue with his “fact-finding” scoops.
A few months ago, we reported in this column that the Shas-dominated Kol Barama radio station does not permit women to speak on it. This past week, the Second Authority for Radio and Television convened to affirm that the station must – once a week, for a period of one hour – allow women to utter some sounds on air. If utterly necessary they will also interview a woman outside of the slot.
Dr. Dalia Zelikovitch, a member of the Authority, demonstrated against this decision by coming to the meeting with a face cover, but to no avail. Here we have a government institution blatantly upholding discrimination against women yet the media is largely silent.
Even the woman politicians do not dare address this issue. Is there any difference between not allowing a woman to sit in the front of a bus and not allowing her to talk on a radio station? Perhaps yes: even the lunatics allow women to sit in the back of the bus if space is available.
Israeli society is not perfect. It consists of various sectors, Arab, Druse, Tel Avivians, national-religious, reform, settlers, kibbutzniks, etc., each with its own problems. The media’s job is to uncover these. There is nothing wrong with identifying a haredi as such, but only if this is done without malice aforethought and equally for all sectors.
Gender discrimination, whether in the haredi, Arab, Tel Aviv or other communities is a serious issue and should be exposed and dealt with by our society. But to put the whole onus on one community has the odor of other black times in Jewish history in the Diaspora.
The authors are respectively vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch.