Josef Olmert

Pravda, Izvestia=yedioth, Israel hayom

In the old soviet union ,there were two official newspapers. One was the Party’s outlet-Pravda [truth], one was the government Izvestia[news]. The joke was, that there was no truth in Pravda, and no news in Izvestia…well, look at the Israeli media and the current campaign, which luckily enough is coming to its end in a matter of hours.

Right Wingers in Israel always complained about the media being pro-left, not so different ,by the way, from the constant complaints of American conservatives about the Liberal bias of the main stream American media. The days of a partisan media , so popular in Israel of the 1950’s, are long gone. So no more ”Davar”, ”herut”, ”Al Hamishmar” and others. For many years, Yedioth Aharonot and Ma’ariv filled the gap, and provided the Israeli reader[and Israelis are avid readers] with good , centrist approach, with Ma’ariv slightly Right of center, and Yedioth slightly Left of center. Ma’ariv declined , and so Yedioth has assumed disproportionate influence in a democratic country, controlling bout 70% of the readership . Huge, and not healthy, something which we learnt about way back, with a monumental movie such as Citizen Kane about the Hearst media empire in the US, but in fairness, the ruling family of Yedioth acted very differently from William Randolph Hearst, regardless of repeated complaints from Likud supporters and their leaders. In my Likud years, I was a regular contributor to the op-ed page of Yedioth, most of the time with an editor who can be defined as belonging to the ”national camp”, and there were others like me, as well as the so-called ”Lefty” page of Friday, when the likes of Amos Keinan, Boaz Evron and Silvi Keshet who gave  the usual dose of ”yes to PLO” stuff.  In the end of the day, it was really impossible to determine whether Yedioth was Right-oriented, Lefty, or simply a very good newspaper, one which connected with the ordinary Israeli[in itself a problematic definition-”ordinary Israeli”…]. When did it all change and why, is not so clear to me. The appearance of the TV concessions and issues of over ownership , the sense of people in Yedioth that they could, perhaps should use  their power to advance a political agenda,  a sudden burst of ideological animosity towards Likud, the Netanyahu version, or all the above  put together is beyond me.The fact is , that Yedioth has become the anti-Netanyahu outlet. Even that is not unusual in a democratic country, but then, the ferocity, the absolutism of the coverage and commentary make it a real issue. Netanyahu, as my readers in this blog have already realized, is not my political cup of tea. Yet, where there are so few newspapers left, I can expect even the anti-Netanyahu outlet to do it more intelligently, less virulently, perhaps simply professionally. But Yedioth in this campaign has broken al records of ethics, a shame. A fine collection of great journalists, some even brilliant[did we mention Nahum Barne’a?…], and yet the coverage is ,to me , at least, a reminder of another system. Whether Pravda or Izvestia is less important, but in that vicinity.

Then there is  Israel Hayom, the Netanyahu family Hinamon[without pay…], a ”newspaper” of sorts, a pamphlet of sorts, something which does not fall into the accepted norms and ethics of decent , professional media. Still, as I wrote here previously, the way to fight them, is not by shameful , anti-democratic legislation, as the one promoted by M.Ks from the Left. This organ serves a purpose, as it enables the Likud to have its own outlet, something that should have put to rest the repeated complaints about the main stream media. Now, the Israeli Right Wing has in its possession the most popular newspaper in the country[and why not, no charge…], so why the outcry?

Well, being anti establishment has traditionally been the forte of Likud, particularly under Netanyahu, who personally really harbors a strong sense of being the target of a personal media campaign[ remember ”they are all afraid ” from 1999?…]. Being in power and complain about the elites and establishment is one of Likud original contributions to modern day political science, and it is not totally without foundation. However, the complaints they have are given surprising backing by the performance of Yedioth. If a great newspaper like Yedioth with YNET on the side, have become SO biased, henceforth SO unprofessional, then Israel Hayom is in good company, but a bad company to the media consumer who want to believe that the written media, at least[and there is a lot to say about the electronic media, but not this time] , is indeed the watch dog of democracy, and with the two media empires of Israel being so one-sided, they are not fulfilling their mission. They do not give us a good service.

The elections will be over in few hours, but the bad smell of media outlets turned partisan P.R agents is here to stay. Bad news for Israeli democracy.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina