Last Wednesday, after the report that the Governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer, intended to leave his position after more than eight years of service but a full two years before the end of his term, Yedioth Ahronoth, once known as the country’s newspaper, ran the following main headline: “No confidence in Netanyahu.” Sever Plocker, Yediot's economic analyst, was the one recruited for the job. Although he could not give a reason for Fischer’s departure, he stated with certainty that it was “a vote of no confidence... even if Fischer himself denies it.” Unbelievable.
A few hours later, Fischer took the wind out of the commentators’ sails by saying that he had intended to leave at the end of eight years. That was the reason. He had done all he could in the position. The economy and the bank are in a good state, relatively speaking. His departure had nothing to do with lack of confidence in the prime minister. But it doesn’t matter what you say, Stan; Sever Plocker knows better than you.
That headline was the thousandth in a series of daily statements of contempt and disinformation that Yedioth Ahronoth has been making against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Neither Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah nor Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has gotten one percent of the hatred that Yedioth Ahronoth directs against Netanyahu, whom the Israeli public chose to be its prime minister for the third time. Doesn’t the man who brought Fischer in deserve at least a bit of the praise Plocker heaped on the governor of the Bank of Israel? Not in Yedioth Ahronoth, which was once the newspaper of the country and is now its enemy.
It is no accident that the headline ran a day after the results of a TGI poll that ranked Yedioth Ahronoth second to Israel Hayom were published. About 37 percent of the population still reads Yedioth Ahronoth on weekdays, and an even higher percentage on the weekend. Add in the Ynet website and you get some impressive numbers. What’s wrong with that? Isn’t it enough? But that’s the whole point. Until a few years ago, Yedioth Ahronoth controlled us, our consciousness, our cultural habits, our politics. It had enormous power. Israel Hayom reduced that power and its attendant corruption.
A doubled-edged sword
The controlling clique of the Israeli media likes to cite the fact that Israel Hayom is given out free of charge as evidence that it is not a true newspaper. Well, here are some more free newspapers − a few examples out of many: Channel 2, Channel 10, Army Radio, Ynet and the Walla web portal. Is print the only thing that counts?
One area that the left wing in Israel (and the world) specializes in is delegitimizing its opponents. It doesn’t deal with the ideology or respond to its content. It merely insults and slanders, and brands any identification or practical response to the foe as treason.
But the general public scoffs at the media pundits, preferring Israel Hayom. The abundance of reader responses shows that we liberated a voice that had long been suppressed and that now has a platform. The alienation of the legacy media outlets toward this revolution is understandable; they are unwilling to own up to their biased nature, which prevailed here for so many years. It is a doubled-edged sword that will end up being aimed at them – no one listens to Amnon Abramovich or Nahum Barnea and their ilk anymore without running their statements through the same political filter they themselves used for their opponents.
After decades of having no voice, Israel Hayom has restored the voice of the majority to the center of the political discourse. This voice, which had been silenced, excluded and ridiculed, is that of all the demons Yedioth Ahronoth had tried to suppress: the religious, the settlers, members of the right wing, members of Likud and Mizrahim.
The television channels vs. Yedioth Ahronoth
This past week, it was reported that Rafi Ginat was appointed director-general of Channel 10. Ginat was an editor at Yedioth Ahronoth. Under his leadership, the newspaper acted as a fist to the belly of the settlers during the destruction of Gush Katif. In order to make the expulsion seem right and proper, the settlers were made into the enemies of society (the satirical television program Eretz Nehederet sealed their demonization). Yedioth Ahronoth blocked all criticism of the disengagement. We all are paying for it. It’s worth paying attention to the intricate relationship between Yedioth Ahronoth and the news company of Channel 2, and now Channel 10 as well.
The burden of proof is now on Ginat. He must prove that he is not a tool in the hands of Noni Mozes, Yediot's publisher and owner. Will Ginat rise above his earlier connections and strive for a more balanced television channel? We can only wait and see.
Eyes wide shut
The old establishment likes to use Israel Hayom as its punching bag. For years, these great heroes were afraid to utter a peep against the tyranny of Yedioth Ahronoth, and that’s without even mentioning how they refrained from publishing investigative reports about the newspaper’s high-ranking personnel or its owners. As in any cult, the old-time media has its own laws and definitions of what constitutes “appropriate” journalism.
The left-wing media’s doctrine is concentrated in the periodical Ha’ayin Hashevi’it – in English, “the Seventh Eye,” which operates out of the Israel Democracy Institute – or, as if you like, the institute that decides for the rest of us what constitutes democracy. It’s an orthodoxy in every way. The newspapers are tested according to purity laws that were drafted by journalism’s council of sages – laws that ignore the history of the Israeli media almost completely.
One of the basic assumptions of Ha’ayin Hashevi’it is that the Israeli media does not practice, indeed has never practiced, political discrimination. Everything was fine until Israel Hayom came along. All right, so be it. We have gotten used to the idea that those who were part of the establishment for many years never experienced this one-sided tendentiousness. What’s interesting is that Ha’ayin Hashevi’it’s officials are frequently put on the radio or television to issue rulings on the laws of the media, as if they themselves were not interested parties with a clear political world view of their own. Two weeks ago I heard Ilana Dayan quote from an article of mine and ask the magazine's editor for his opinion. This is how the system works: she won't ask the writer of the article for his opinion, but she will ask 'the rabbi.'
The director’s disgrace
Documentary film director Dror Moreh began a series of interviews in the American media to try to increase his chances of winning an Academy Award for his film The Gatekeepers. Moreh interviewed six heads of the Shin Bet for his film. For the liberal establishment, particularly its radical component, Netanyahu is a red flag (so is the State of Israel, if truth be told). As far as that goes, Moreh followed in the footsteps of his political fellows, engaging in despicable incitement against the Israeli right wing, and Netanyahu in particular.
At one point, he recycled the lie that during one of the demonstrations that took place before the assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, Netanyahu marched at the front while “behind him there is the coffin of Rabin… I’m absolutely sure that he saw that, he wasn’t naive, he was heading those… some of the rallies,” during some of which “they called Rabin a Nazi collaborator.”
But Moreh’s lie was exposed on a CNN tape of the demonstration that showed the coffin clearly. On it was written: “Rabin is killing and burying Zionism.” The coffin was Zionism’s, not Rabin’s!
Incidentally, that is exactly what the Oslo Accords tried to do to Zionism. Like other members of the left wing, Moreh knows that if he wants to win prizes and a global reputation, he needs to build himself up on the disgrace to his people and his country, and even lie if he must. Hatred of Israel has many more buyers throughout the world than the truth does. Now, look closely at the media outlets Dror Moreh is connected to. Do you remember the interview in Yedioth Ahronoth with former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin that ran a few days before the elections, during which he, too, lashed out against Netanyahu? The interviewer was none other than Moreh.