Media Comment: The positive side

Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon attends the National Front party convention in Lille, France, March 10, 2018 (photo credit: PASCAL ROSSIGNOL/REUTERS)
Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon attends the National Front party convention in Lille, France, March 10, 2018
Nesrine Malik, a Sudanese-British columnist for The Guardian, was quite critical of the liberal media in her Sept. 13 column. Her points of contention were the supposedly hallowed principles and media values of wanting a “vibrant discussion, robust argument, not an echo chamber; ideas should be tested, a debate will expose bigotry and prejudice.” She was upset with the excessive attention the liberal media gave Steve Bannon, the short-lived aide of President Trump.
Her view was that the liberal media erred in inviting Bannon into their studios and onto their pages and airwaves. What concerns them is, “All that is relevant is that he is relevant, that he has become someone of consequence due to his brush with power and seems to be at the center of something.”
Indulging Bannon “is an egotistical misreading of freedom of speech. It is about boasting liberal commitment to the value, rather than engaging with the evils that hide behind it,” she wrote.
While we find it refreshing that someone to the Left of the political spectrum can criticize her own cabal, we find her attitude to be deeply questionable. Ms. Malik’s bottom line is that there are “ideas that need [not]... be ‘exposed.’ We just need to fight them.” Who makes that decision? We in Israel are all too familiar with that overarching “we-in-the-media-know- what’s-best” approach. Israel’s media are as elitist as any other. It uses its power to set out what is and what is not acceptable behavior of interviewers. It alone knows what’s best for the citizenry, who should speak and for how long and with whom. It’s as if the Unetaneh Tokef prayer we recited over the High Holy Days had the line “Who shall be allowed to speak and who shall be silenced.”
For decades we have been clamoring that at least the public broadcasters should con- sult the public and provide information to the public about its various anchors and columnists, but to no avail. This is the point where liberalism sinks its head deep in the mud.
A biased media culture is not a myth nor a right-wing bogeyman. Anne Davies, a 20-year veteran of Australian media, has written of “a distinctive culture–tribal, aggressive and centered around powerful editors” that can and does exist in media corporations. In her September 20 Guardian column, she quotes Peter Fray, the former Sydney Morning Herald editor and former deputy editor at The Australian , who said he had “felt you were part of a particular tribe where the norms and values were set by the chief and their key lieutenants.”
She then quoted, anonymously, a former senior executive at that paper who said reporters and interviewers have at times, “a strange vision of what journalism is about,” and that is “pursuing editors’ own agendas.”
Israel’s media are still non-pluralistic and dominated by the progressive left-of-center views of its directors, editors and reporters. It continues to try to block attempts to assure its ethical professionalism and legal obligation through legislation. It does its best to subvert the regulations lawmakers put in place to assure a balanced, pluralistic and diverse representation of Israel’s society, its elected parliamentarians and the full panoply of the nation’s actions as well as its minorities.
These are harsh words, but backed by too many facts. Take for example the issue of BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. Is it getting the fair coverage it deserves? On the face of it, the media highlight BDS successes. A handful of entertainers decide to boycott Israel and thus gain a headline or two. But is this really covering the issue from all angles? Do the failures of the BDS movement receive equal treatment? This paper has been publishing over the course of the past few months dispatches by Benjamin Weinthal on the situation in Germany. This past week we read that PayPal has shut down the account of a German NGO International Alliance, which maintains links to Palestinian terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Has this been headlined on Israel’s state-run radio and TV? Could it be that the media elite just don’t pay attention to what The Jerusalem Post is publishing? Or does bad news sell more papers and attract more viewers? To us it seems that media-promoted claustrophobia stands behind the lack of success stories in the BDS struggle. The very idea that Israel is internationally successful frightens the progressives. It implies that the present Netanyahu government is not regressive.
Last Friday, Haaretz posted a short news item on its website by Yotam Berger that must have alarmed and dismayed opponents of a Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria. It was headlined “Settlers Establish West Bank Outpost in Response to Israeli-American’s Murder in Terror Attack.” Even worse, it noted that the “Civil Admin- istration recognizes the establishment of the outpost and apparently there is no immediate intention of evacuating it.”
The paper did admit that the slain Ari Fuld z”l had resided in Efrat. What was missing was the fact, which may be verified on the web site of Peace Now, that the site, Givat Eitam, has been within the legally authorized zoning plan of Efrat since 2011. Was Haaretz stirring up international protests and pressure or was it innocently reporting? Were both the editor and reporter in cahoots in publishing the misleading item, or was at least one of them simply ignorant of the background of Givat Eitam, or both? Another positive story Israel’s mainstream media missed was that of Rabbi Pesach Wolicki and Rabbi David Nekrutman of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC) who are helping the Christian Arabs of Bethlehem. They’ve been engaged since 2016 in a “Blessing Bethlehem” campaign which they said helps “the persecuted Christians living in the city of Bethlehem and its surrounding areas.” Food and food vouchers are distributed to 120 Christian families in Bethlehem. Their work needs be accomplished discreetly to protect the recipients.
Bethlehem is a hotbed of anti-Israel media attacks based on the security wall and also Christian anti-Zionism conferences. Israel’s media have failed to highlight the simple fact that Arab Christians are an oppressed minority in Muslim-controlled areas of the region. Here is a case with all the positive elements needed for a “good story.” An oppressed minority, religious coercion, poverty and the “Good Samaritan.” Yet it gets quashed since it would put the PA in a bad light, thus undermining the hope for “peace” in the eyes of the progressives.
Other good stories exist, not only about economic successes but also about the moral high road that typifies the Jewish ethos. We should view these achievements with pride and our media should promote them.
The writers are members of Israel’s Media Watch (