October 19: Readers have their say about IBA English news

With the demise of IBA TV news in English, anglophones here are deprived of an understandable information service that is essential in the current situation.

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
For many years now, I – and, I am glad to learn, others like me – have been complaining about the need for more public diplomacy, not less. So how does our wise government approach the issue? By eliminating totally all local English-language news broadcasts on TV (“Fade out for IBA English news,” October 13).
The policy seems to be: “Let the bastards find out for themselves, and then, if they want facts and opinions, let them ask Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for his views.”
Does our government not realize how important it is to tell our story in English? Hebrew is not exactly a worldwide language.
Apparently, the government thinks it is.
It seems I shall have to make do with the excellent reporting and commentary provided by The Jerusalem Post. But this is not the same.
Tel Aviv
Why has the IBA English news been discontinued? Are English speakers not numerous enough? Are they not eager enough to know the news?
Do English speakers not contribute enough to the neighborhood and country? Are they not loyal Israelis? Do they not vote in elections? Do their children and grandchildren not serve in the army?
Is the IBA discriminating against English speakers? It certainly feels that way.
After a long period of teetering on the brink of closure, the IBA English news is history.
I do not know the logistics or politics that led to its demise, but with a large English-speaking population in Israel (not all of whom understand Hebrew), the lack of the broadcast is more than unfortunate. One can watch other channels that show what is happening here, but often somewhat biased. What a pity that the people involved could not reach a compromise; even following the news on channels 1, 2 or 10 with an English version would suffice.
I hope the stalwarts of the defunct broadcast, like Erin Viner, Laura Cornfield, Arieh O’Sullivan and their guest contributors, can find new positions in which their talent can be utilized.
Kfar Saba
In 2010, colleagues and I recommended that the government close down radio and TV frequencies granted by Israel to the Palestinian Authority. The PA used these frequencies to promote the inciting motifs of the 5 Ds – dehumanization, demonization, delegitimization, disinformation and (Holocaust) denial.
For five years, our recommendations went nowhere. Finally, two weeks ago, decisive action was taken – the Israel Broadcasting Authority closed down its TV news in English! Worse, it fired the chief of its Arabic Desk, a world-famous authority on the phenomenon of incitement in school textbooks throughout the Arab world.
These acts of folly can only lead us to call upon the government to start being serious about being a role model for implementing a policy of zero tolerance for incitement in the PA. Do the following: Reopen the IBA English news and Arabic programming sections, and use the frequencies now used to promote hate to promote life, respect for life and human dignity.
Declared policies have no meaning unless acted upon.
The writer, an MD, heads the Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention and is affiliated with the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health and Community Medicine.
The “wise men” who decided that English-language TV news is no longer necessary are perfect examples of a saying that all immigrants to Israel hear at one time or another: Israelis are happy with aliya, but don’t like olim.
It can take a few years until a new oleh can understand the rapid-fire Hebrew spoken by the Hebrew-language newsreaders.
And how about the diplomatic corps? Shall we rely on foreign language sources to present our news to foreign envoys? These are just two of the questions raised by this ridiculous decision.
So the IBA English news is dead and buried. Once again, we are shooting ourselves in the foot by ignoring the importance and influence of the English language.
No one is gaining from this decision; there are only losers.
Heading the list is the State of Israel, which can’t get the facts out to the world at large. Second is the diplomatic corps, which is less able to gauge public opinion without recourse to English-language media. Third are the tourists and other visitors who have a minimal idea of what is happening in the country. Finally, there is the general English-speaking public in Israel and abroad, people who do not speak Hebrew and have lost a major resource of important information.
How on earth can we expect the truth to be spread around the world, in English, when we have no official means of communicating our factual stories?
With the demise of the IBA English news on television, and now talk of eliminating the English-language news on the radio, one wonders why the English-speaking community in Israel has been chosen to take the brunt of the IBA cut backs.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently said at the UN that the world body supports Israel with a deafening silence.
Why should we be surprised? If I am not mistaken, the common language used throughout the diplomatic world is English, so any diplomatic mission wishing to hear the news from an Israeli point of view might be interested in either watching an English-language Israeli news broadcast on TV or listening to an English-language Israeli news broadcast on the radio.
Due to the security situation in this part of the world, there is always a large number of foreign journalists here. But in the eyes of the IBA, all of them are good Hebrew, Russian or Amharic speakers, as those are the newscasts that seem to be unaffected by cuts.
Apart from the diplomatic community and news media, what about all those thousands of olim from English-speaking countries who, whether they have been here for one month or 40 years, find it comforting to hear the local news in their mother tongue?
With the demise of IBA TV news in English, anglophones here are deprived of an understandable information service that is essential in the current situation.
This affects not only older people who are unable to master effective Hebrew, but also tourists, new olim and, most important of all, the huge number of foreign journalists arriving with their preexisting biases, eager to report on our “use of excessive force” against “Palestinians” and the “execution” of teenagers peacefully attacking any man, woman or child who crosses their path.
Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, through their own TV stations, are only too ready to supply the foreign press with juicy news bites.
I am surprised that in these stressful days, The Jerusalem Post has not instituted a campaign for the return of the IBA English news. In light of the thousands of English speakers here who have not acquired adequate Hebrew to follow the news, not to mention people around the world, this must be one of the worst decisions ever made by the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
It seems that news in Amharic and Russian continues to be broadcast, although the number of English speakers worldwide who miss the IBA news must be enormous.
I am sure that a campaign by the Post would be successful.