Media Comment: You can never be right

The sad conclusion is that we the public cannot trust its journalists to provide us with facts or even well thought-out commentary.

Newspapers (photo credit: Wikicommons)
(photo credit: Wikicommons)
From the outset, and on the basis of proper disclosure, we wish to make it clear that we believe that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s proposal, and the subsequent government decision, to release murderers is misguided, both morally and politically.
It was a wrong move in the 1985 Jibril exchange, in 2003 when Elhanan Tennenbaum was released and in 2011 when, in exchange for Gilad Schalit, 1027 terrorists, responsible for the deaths of 569 Israeli civilians, were set free. Not only do these actions undermine the trust of Israel’s citizens in those responsible for its security, it is very difficult to stop the descent on the slippery slope created by these releases.
Our main concern is media review, in this case the way Yediot Aharonot treated this issue caught our attention.
The paper had the story rather differently.
For years Yediot was one of leaders of the media calls for the release of Schalit, whatever the price. It is also home to a radical left-wing viewpoint.
It is a newspaper that has severely criticized Prime Minister Netanyahu for not going down another treacherous path, namely negotiating an agreement with the Palestinian Authority, something that Yediot, along with almost all media, refers to as a “peace agreement.”
Thus one might have thought that in the name of intellectual honesty the paper’s columnists would have supported the prime minister’s recent move, for after all, he is entering into negotiations with our Palestinian enemies. But no, that is more than Yediot could swallow. Whatever Prime Minister Netanyahu does is wrong.
Amnon Abramowitz, the left-wing commentator for Channel 2 news, also writes regularly for Yediot. His is held by the media clique to represent the moral high road. In a column headlined “Satan’s Test,” he argues that releasing Israeli Arabs as part of the agreement sets “a new category in the history of the laws of nations – an insane one. Inclusion of Israeli Arabs in the batch of those released makes a joke of Israeli citizenship.”
Abramowitz, who in the past defended prime ministers for freeing terrorists and who was an important supporter of the Oslo accords, which involved numerous releases of terrorists, has all at once become holier-thanthou.
His argument is quite interesting.
The 1985 Ahmed Jibril release of over 1,000 terrorists for three Israeli soldiers led within a few years to the release of members of the “Jewish Underground” group convicted for terrorist acts against Arabs. Is Mr.
Abramowitz’s memory so short? Or could it just be that he is a racist, who sees a fundamental difference between releasing Arab Israeli or Jewish Israeli terrorists? But he is not alone. Another icon, who even received the Israel Prize for his brand of journalism, is Nachum Barnea. His headline was: “If they don’t give, they will get,” a play on a previous position Netanyahu had promoted in the 1999 election campaign.
Netanyahu announced at the time that he demanded reciprocity and only if the Arabs “gave” would they “receive.” Barnea responds in his column to Netanyahu’s apologetic letter to the citizens of Israel, released last Saturday, for his decision to free murderers.
In Barnea’s words: “The letter expresses no remorse for his past fiery speeches against such deals. It has no explanation about what Israel receives in exchange.
The Palestinians, this time, didn’t give a thing [and we ask: did they ever give anything in the past, Mr.
Barnea?]. Netanyahu is entering negotiations, not for the purpose of reaching an agreement, but to legitimize his government in the eyes of the West. This is a legitimate consideration; it is, though, a shame that Israel’s citizens know nothing about it.”
Netanyahu is carrying out precisely the instructions given to him by Yediot Aharonot in the past. He is undertaking extremely dangerous negotiations, which Israel’s Left has been vociferously advocating for years.
Even opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich has praise for Netanyahu’s “courage,” but not so Barnea.
To complete the picture, Yediot, on the same day (Monday) also ran an opinion article by Shimon Schiffer.
This one was titled “They bluffed us.” Schiffer, too, parrots the racist claim that “the worst principle to be violated is Netanyahu’s willingness to include prisoners who are citizens of Israel.
This is a fundamental violation of Israel’s sovereignty...
an announcement that the 1948 Arabs are part of the Palestinian people and that Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] is their leader.”
During the past few weeks, the Israel Hayom newspaper, which strongly supports Prime Minister Netanyahu, has been running daily articles delineating what that paper believe are the lies, betrayals and just generally poor reporting in Yediot. The two papers are bitter rivals, with Israel Hayom at present having the upper hand when it comes to circulation figures.
It would seem that Yediot’s treatment of Netanyahu justifies the severe criticism.
At the end of the day, though, the real loser from all of this is the Israeli public.
Yediot has again amply showed that it cannot be be fair, or intellectually honest.
The sad conclusion is that we the public cannot trust its journalists to provide us with facts or even well thought-out commentary.
Yediot’s reporters and columnists are no better than Netanyahu: all of them have caved in to outside pressure – the prime minister to American pressure and Yediot’s trio to the paper’s pressure to ridicule Netanyahu. One would hope that the Israeli public realizes this and treats Yediot just as it treated Haaretz – with disdain and reduced readership.
But the loss is ours; Israel desperately needs good leftwing newspapers.
The authors are, respectively, vice- hairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch (