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A Familiar, Unproductive Anti-Media Refrain

Israeli and American politicians alike are using the same playbook — attacking the media and often diverting attention from the real problems at hand.

In U.S. politics, GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich gave a stunning rebuke to CNN anchor John King during the South Carolina Republican debate last night, drawing applause and a standing ovation from the largely conservative crowd.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu might have done the Israeli equivalent, as news reports suggest that he pegged the New York Times and left-leaning Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz  as Israel’s two greatest threats. (While Netanyahu’s alleged comments have been denied, the anti-media rhetoric is most certainly real, as has been demonstrated by a letter from the Prime Minister’s Office declining an invitation to submit an op-ed to the New York Times last year.)

That’s right. Israel, a country surrounded by enemies that want nothing more than to push its citizens into the sea, is scared of “left-wing” journalists. Israel, a nation who’s only regional friends — such as Egypt and Turkey — are quickly turning their backs on it, is terrified of editorial writers. Israelis, a people who have overcome adversity and built a thriving, democratic and Western country in less than a hundred years, is trembling at the thought of a mustached columnist.

The contention that the press and the influence of the media over populations are Israel’s biggest threats is patronizing to Israelis, diminishes the country’s successes, and understates the very real challenge of ensuring bombs don’t rattle Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Galil and the Negev at any second.

The New York Times is clearly the “paper of record,” but it has a challenge to overcome its alleged left-wing bias to garner credibility. While Ha’aretz  only captures approximately 6 percent of the Israeli audience, it has a far wider international reach and credibility. The paper is distributed along with the International Herald Tribune, which is, effectively, the international New York Times. Further, Ha’aretz visually looks similar to many credible U.S. papers — like the Washington Post and New York Times — and unlike it’s main competitors Yediot Achronot and Ma’ariv, which both have extensive pictures, graphics and more New York Daily News-type feels.

Ha’aretz and the New York Times clearly have in-roads with the U.S. and international communities and influence public policy, which can impact aid to Israel, pressure on the Arab world, and the prospects of interventions preventing the development of an Iranian nuclear warhead. Therefore, the true threat of these publications are their impact on public officials, which could lead to major changes in Israel-related policies.

However, the allegiance between Israel and its closest friend, the United States, is still rock-solid, where U.S. policymakers have overwhelmingly expressed their support for a safe and secure Israel. Both the New York Times and Ha’aretz have been in business for quite some time and been unable to derail that relationship.

Israelis for decades have been forging that strong bond, which is based on shared values and mutual interests. To suggest that all that hard work can be unraveled by editorial bias discounts the long-standing relationship and mutual concerns, effectively characterizing the two countries’ bond as superficial — which it most certainly is not.

Further, Israelis transformed what was once largely swamp and desert into a thriving economic and military powerhouse that has maintained freedoms and democracy. That achievement, forged from the sweat of the first kibbutz worker to the blood of today’s most recent army draftee, will not be decimated by a few choice journalistic words or the influence of a snarky columnist. Israelis’ perseverance will continue defeating all odds, even if so-called liberal publications sway opinion.

Lastly, the perception of fear from these publications largely undercuts arguments that Iran, terrorists, and Muslim extremists are very tangible threats that could cause the deaths of hundred or thousands of Israelis. From extremists in Egypt transforming a former Israeli ally into a threat to the prospects of a nuclear Middle East to rockets from terrorists on Israel’s borders, the country faces substantial security challenges. Solutions to those problems, whether military or economic, would benefit from policymakers’ accurate understanding of these threats, which are far more dangerous than a bad pun or a critical headline.

The declaration of the “liberal” media being more threatening merely diminishes the correct assertions that these very real dangers could jeopardize Israel’s security at any minute.

Elected officials’ obsession with attacking the so-called liberal media merely skirts the real issues of today, and threatens to downplay the most serious threats facing their country.  Netanyahu has thus far been a champion building international understanding of the true threat Iran and Muslim extremists face to Israel and the world at-large.  He should maintain that path and not let political kowtowing unravel his year’s of effective advocacy on behalf of Israel.

 

 

Author

Ben Moscovitch
Ben Moscovitch

Ben Moscovitch is a Washington D.C.-based political reporter and has covered Congress, homeland security, and health care. He completed an intensive two-year Master's in Middle Eastern History program at Tel Aviv University, where he wrote his thesis on the roots of Palestinian democratic reforms. Ben graduated from Georgetown University with a BA in English Literature. He currently resides in Washington, D.C. Twitter follow: @benmoscovitch

Areas of Focus:
Middle East; Israel-Palestine; Politics

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