Fundamentally Freund: The media’s denigration derby vs. Netanyahu

Instead of scripting articles, the media is slinging mud, competing in a denigration derby aimed at bringing down Netanyahu.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
With just seven weeks to go before voters head to the polls, Israel’s largely left-wing media has gone on a rampage.
Tossing aside any pretense of objectivity, a slew of prominent journalists and media outlets are doing everything in their power to demonize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and evict him from office.
No method is regarded as too malicious, nor is any criticism deemed too cruel in the battle to bring down Israel’s premier.
Netanyahu’s critics have adopted a slash and burn attitude, and woe to anyone who stands in their way.
Put aside for the moment your own personal feelings about the prime minister, positive or negative, and consider the incessant, implacable and hypocritical attacks on the man and his character that we have witnessed in recent weeks.
After the terrorist attacks in Paris earlier this month, Netanyahu flew to France to take part in the march of unity that captured the world’s attention. It was a moment that should have inspired pride in the heart of every Israeli, as our head of government walked arm in arm with the French president, the German chancellor and other world leaders.
But the cynics who fill our screens were having none of it. Instead, they tried in every way possible to tear Netanyahu down, criticizing him for everything from the cost of his flight to the look on his face.
Writing in Yediot Aharonot, columnist Nahum Barnea took the prime minister to task, bemoaning that “he elbowed his way into the front row.” Of course, Barnea neglected to mention that according to French protocol, heads of government were supposed to be in the front row of the march. But why let facts get in the way of a cheap shot at Netanyahu? Ben Caspit of Ma’ariv was no less mean-spirited. He called the premier “vulgar” and accused him of “behaving as if a march of mourning was an election parade.” And just what, you might be wondering, did Netanyahu do to warrant such criticism? He raised his hand to acknowledge a bystander who called out “am yisrael chai” (“the people of Israel lives”).
Others aimed their barbs at the prime minister’s decision to call on French Jewry to make aliya. Imagine that: the leader of the Zionist state calling on Jews to move to Israel. What an outrage.
The Paris visit was a classic case of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” Had Netanyahu stayed away from the march, his critics in the media would have pilloried him mercilessly for not participating in an international event of such magnitude. And yet, when he does the right thing by attending the rally, respecting French protocol and highlighting Zionist values, they pillory him anyway.
Worse yet, the disparagement has now extended to just about everything that Netanyahu does besides continuing to breathe.
When Israel reportedly carried out an attack last week against senior Hezbollah figures in Syria who were planning an assault on the Golan, some observers accused Netanyahu of doing so for political purposes. And when the prime minister accepted an invitation from Rep. John Boehner, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, to address Congress on the growing threat from Iran, this too is denounced as electioneering by the cynics and nay-sayers in Israel’s press.
What do they expect Netanyahu to do? To abdicate his responsibility to defend the country, sit at home with his hands folded and hope for the best? Nonetheless, despite the media’s best efforts, Netanyahu has been rising steadily in the polls.
And so, in a move that is nothing less than morally obscene, the attack dogs have turned their pens on Sara Netanyahu, the premier’s wife, in a desperate attempt to score points against her husband.
Citing allegations made by disgruntled former employees at the prime minister’s residence, Yediot Aharonot and other outlets had a field day assaulting Mrs.
Netanyahu’s character, accusing her of drinking excessively “on a daily basis” and being prone to outbursts of rage.
It is simply scandalous that in the midst of an election campaign the media would sink to such a level. You don’t like the guy running for office or the policies that he has pursued? Fine, criticize him. But to go after his wife and sully her reputation? Even the American mafia had an unwritten rule against targeting family members.
By engaging in outrageous invective and trafficking in slurs, the media is betraying its responsibility to the public and openly trying to tilt the outcome of the electoral process. Instead of scripting articles, they are slinging mud, competing with one another in a denigration derby aimed at bringing down Netanyahu.
Their behavior brings to mind the Talmudic dictum (Kiddushin 70a) that “haposel b’mumo posel,” meaning that when a person seeks to nullify another, he does so with his own shortcoming.
Or, as a modern psychologist might put it, the media’s obsessive fault-finding with Netanyahu says a lot more about those who hurl the criticism than the target of their odium.
The writer served as deputy communications director under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from 1996 to 1999.