Friday, October 21, 2011

Eydar - Soul searching for the Israeli media

Dror Eydar
Israel Hayom
21 October '11

1. It is worthwhile returning to the weekly Torah Portion of the prophet Isaiah (42:7) that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cited in his speech marking the release of Gild Shalit: "To bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house." It is also important to cite the beginning of this portion: "To open eyes that are blind." At the same time as we enjoy the deep and genuine happiness following the release of Gilad, there is a need to look at the prisoner deal with eyes wide open, and importantly, to remove the veil of illusion from the eyes of the public, an illusion that has thickened over the past several years thanks to the irresponsible media campaign surrounding this deal. A campaign which culminated with its end.

2. And then they started speaking about the issue of the deal's price - the anchorwoman who, for years now, has been signing off every one of her broadcasts with the shrill voice of a wailing singer, while lowering her tone to the appropriate level of grief when she tells us the number of days Gilad has spent in captivity. This after she has interviewed yet another supporter of the "deal at any price" camp. And then there is the anchor who has become a regular and comfortable home for the spokespeople of Hamas. And then there was the anchorwoman who pummeled Netanyahu on his "inability to act" and did not agree to give any airtime to opposing views, if only to create the appearance of public debate. Suddenly, the shackled mutedness that was imposed on the public debate was lifted, and, for the first time, we heard balance, and a rational debate about the important consequences of the prisoner exchange deal on society and the country. Suddenly, the media started to do its job. Suddenly, as the very fact of the prisoner exchange deal was announced. Only after the details of the deal were ironed out was it permissable to create the impression of a public debate.

Furthermore, the media did not even have a choice, seeing as the list of prisoners to be released was published, casting a pall over the families of victims of terror, leading some to petition against the release of terrorists at the High Court. Suddenly, the "security prisoners" became "terrorists." The story of Gilad Shalit is an extended Yom Kippur [Day of Atonement] for the vast majority of the Israeli media. The herd of broadcasters, anchors, and editors, who did not receive instructions from anyone, but, wonder of wonders, time and again, appeared as a cartel imposing its veto on any opinion it found unfavorable. The media's lack of national responsibility stood out again in the unrestrained adoption of the one-sided campaign for Shalit's release; the one-sided and single-tracked line we saw this past week. Hamas watched and rubbed its hands with glee. Hamas knows that in the next abduction, God forbid, it can rely on the Israeli media to brainwash the masses with a flood of emotions and suppress any serious public discussion, as well as pressure the government until Israel's balance of deterrence has collapsed. Considering this backdrop, the media's agreement last week to respect the Shalit family's privacy is nothing short of a joke. Is it not possible to trust the media to behave responsibly and maturely? And so, without a written code of ethics or agreement, we are witness to the media closing ranks every day on its way to drugging the public consciousness.

3. The Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin wrote in the 1930s about the efforts of the Fascists to aestheticize politics, in order to blind the eyes of the masses from the horrors of war. Benjamin could not have imagined similar efforts by forces on the opposite side of the political map, who use the same Fascist technique, but in the opposite direction: the aestheticization of the Shalit prisoner exchange deal and channeling it into one emotional direction, a pornography of emotion designed to blind the eyes of the public from examining the price of the deal, and its implications for the public's future. We know the irresponsibility of the media even from the days of the euphoria of the Oslo Accords, when anyone who criticized the Accord as a peppered sieve pockmarked with colossal errors, was crucified on the cross as the lowliest of warmongers. This was true also of the expulsion from Gush Katif. The majority of the Israeli media plays, at these critical moments, an almost one-sided role. By the way, Walter Benjamin said that the remedy to the aestheticization of politics is the politicization of art. Today we may add: the politicization of the media.

4. "Around the noble family and its son there was an unprecedented dance of ghouls. Restrained judgment was replaced by emotional breakdown. The universal discussion was replaced by the personal, private discussion." This, according to Ari Shavit [of Ha'aretz] in a realistic, sober article. Yet his criticism reveals the mistake that he, and those of his circle, are wont to make: the most important word missing from his criticism is "national:" the national discourse was replaced by the personal discourse. The universal discourse was not necessarily absent from this issue - it was present in full force by the one-sided intensification of the rights of the one over the rights of the many. But speaking of nationalism in Shavit's newspaper is like speaking of pornography in an ultra-Orthodox newspaper.

5. A thought about the treatment of Netanyahu as a Litmus test for public opinion. The wreath laid on Netanyahu's head - by those who until very recently wished to tar and feather him in the town square - is a fleeting illusion, a mirage that will dissipate one week after Shalit's release. Then, the media will return to confuse our minds about "bold moves" that need to be carried out, and about our "diplomatic paralysis" and the other well-known expressions from the school for adventures and collapse. Netanyahu knows that many of those who are praising him now have not changed their spots - they are still political adversaries in the guise of journalists advancing a derelict political agenda, and they will revert to type immediately, on the day after. And that type is: pathological hatred of Netanyahu as the representative of the 'other Israel', an alternative elite gradually replacing the previous elite that has degenerated.

6. The next media campaign already started this week: the campaign to humanize Hamas. A campaign which says: Look, we held negotiations with them, and it is possible to trust their promises. Indeed, we can trust their promises, like the promise to abduct more Israelis. To these voices of abandon we should show the Hamas charter, a charter available to all, translated in full on the Internet. The charter was created in 1988 by Ahmed Yassin. This is Hamas' most important ideological document, and its leaders emphasize their total comittment to it as their current political platform. "Jihad is its [Hamas'] path and death for the sake of Allah its most sublime belief." Pity about the partial quote. It is imperative to read the entire charter in order to open eyes that are blind. It is a Nazi document through and through, with the added ingredient of fanatic religious radical Islam. Israel is portrayed there as the central enemy of all Islam, which will not rest until "it eradicates it the way it eradicated others that preceded it." This is the true face of the captors of Gilad Shalit, not the face we were presented with during Channel 10 TV's Shlomi Eldar's flattering interview with Hamas' Mahmoud A-Zahar. By the way, the same A-Zahar stated several years ago, in an interview with Gaza media, Hamas' total commitment to its charter, and emphasized that the organization would not change one word in it. Another verse from this week's Torah portion: "Hear, you deaf; and look, you blind, that you may see." - Isaiah 42:18

If you enjoy "Love of the Land", please be a subscriber. Just put your email address in the "Subscribe" box on the upper right-hand corner of the page.

No comments:

Post a Comment