Senator Barack Obama owes the mainstream media (MSN) credit for a big assist in his election victory. And the U.S. media will, in turn, owe a round of applause to the Israeli media for its pioneering efforts to determine the outcome of national political debate and elections.
In the 1996 election pitting Binyamim Netanyahu against Shimon Peres, Ha’aretz’s political reporter Orit Galili described the press as “completely mobilized for Peres.” On the eve of the elections, Peres responded to Israeli Arab criticism to Israeli bombing in southern Lebanon, “Those stupid Arabs.” Given that Peres’ chances of being elected depended on a large Arab vote in his favor, the spontaneous outburst was tantamount to political suicide. Realizing that, the large cohort of journalists present decided among themselves to kill the story and it went largely unreported. Suppressing damaging utterances of its favorites was by then already reflexive on the part of the Israeli media. When then Court President Aharon Barak told a group of reporters that the Supreme Court could not add more Sephardi justices without diluting it professional quality, the slur went virtually unreported by the mainstream media.
After Binyamin Netanyahu was elected prime minister in 1996, Maariv’s Ron Meiberg confessed “as journalists and as opinionated people, we were never so mobilized to bring down the Prime Minister and to hold up him up for ridicule.” Those efforts included the Israeli Broadcasting National News editing almost a minute out of tape of Netanyahu speaking to Betar Jerusalem fans to make it appear that he was smiling and waving in response to chants of “Death to the Arabs,” even though those chanting were out of his hearing range.
But by then faked tapes were almost a habit with Israel’s media, including public broadcasting. Just prior to the Rabin assassination, the Israel Broadcast Authority broadcast what purported to be an initiation ceremony for a radical right-wing group. But as the Shamgar Commission investigating the assassination determined, the swearing in ceremony was entirely staged “and anyone who was there had to be aware that it was staged.” Yet the journalist responsible for filming the ceremony continued to be employed by the IBA long after the Shamgar Commission Report, and the fake clip to be shown by the IBA as an example of right-wing incitement leading up to the assassination.
What is most astounding about the Israeli media is the total lack of shame of journalists about their efforts to use their positions to determine the public debate. Veteran IBA news presenter Chaim Yavin once boasted, “Without the Israeli press, there would have been no peace process. Without the Israeli press the Intifada would not have led to Oslo.” Prior to the Gaza withdrawal, Aharon Avramovitz, one of IBA’s principal commentators, said publicly that the media must protect then prime minister Ariel Sharon like “an esrog” from the various corruption charges swirling around him.
"Luke Ford reports all of the 'juicy' quotes, and has been doing it for years." (Marc B. Shapiro)
"This guy knows all the gossip, the ins and outs, the lashon hara of the Orthodox world. He’s an [expert] in... all the inner workings of the Orthodox world." (Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff)
"This generation's Hillel." (Nathan Cofnas)
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