Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Teves 5760 - December 29, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
A Biased Press is Unhealthy for a Democracy

Unfortunately, in Israel it is not only the courts that are unhealthy, democratically speaking. The press is also behaving in a way that is not compatible with its generally assigned role in a healthy free society. The free media are supposed to bring to light the truth about the events that are taking place, and to highlight instances in which things are not being done as they should. Instead, the press, which is almost 100% behind the idea of making peace with Syria and giving up the Golan even before it knows what the terms of the deal are, is trying to advance this goal and it covers up any hint that things are not moving as it would wish.

We do not hear anything uncomplimentary about Barak, nor have we gotten any behind-the-scenes reports of what went on in the first round of talks. We remain fully in the dark -- as Prime Minister Barak prefers.

A case in point, that shows clearly how the press is guided more by the propaganda needs of the campaign to give up the Golan rather than the public's right to know the truth, is the front page headline coverage that was given to remarks of Avi Zeira, one of the heads of Golan Heights Residents Committee and its former chairman. He was quoted as threatening to blow up houses and bridges if forced to leave his home. For two days the media were full of condemnations of the threats of violence.

In fact, Zeira told Yated's Arye Zusman, "The Ha'aretz reporter is a friend of mine. We joke around a lot about all sorts of things. That's what happened when he asked me about my reactions to a withdrawal [from the Golan]. . . . I answered, jokingly of course, `What do you mean? We'll blow up bridges and houses. We'll blow it all up to heaven.' I did not imagine that he would take me seriously and suddenly he quotes me in a front page headline. Go and prove that you did not mean it. . . . It is ridiculous that I would do something against our own interests and threaten to blow things up. [To threaten so] is simply not in our interests. . . . The press is against us. They are all agents of Barak."

Sadly, this gloomy assessment of Zeira's was almost explicitly confirmed by no less than the editor of Ma'ariv. Introducing Barak before a policy speech the latter made to 150 members of the press, the editor said, "Ehud Barak as prime minister is, for many of us, the fulfillment of a goal. . . . But the final goal will be reached only if he manages to do all the things he promised us, the voters and citizens."

Only one voice was raised to protest that they were not there for an election rally but a professional meeting. For most, these remarks expressed their deepest convictions.

Yated cannot effectively serve as the crusading press. We have neither the resources nor the clout to perform this role.

We are quick to add that we take no position on the desirability of withdrawing from the Golan in exchange for a hypothetical peace offer from Syria whose terms are as yet unknown, at least to the public. We do not speculate about what the gedolei Yisroel will decide to recommend. But it is clear that we are all poorer if the press does not do its job and we do not receive the information that is needed to make a fully informed decision.

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