US campaign and its implications for Israel

Why the media should serve as a free marketplace of ideas

The US presidential campaign clearly demonstrated why the media should serve as a marketplace of ideas instead of allowing itself to be blatantly manipulated. In the campaign for the Democratic nomination one received the distinct impression that Hillary Clinton, along with the Democratic establishment and much of the US media, viewed her nomination as a matter of divine right. Voters were more or less told that she would be elected and that they had little choice but to endorse the coronation. The Democratic primaries became so Orwellian that the overwhelming majority of ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ media outlets staunchly backed Clinton, ignoring the massive outpouring of enthusiasm from supporters of Bernie Sanders. Voters were told from the beginning that they had little choice but to choose Hillary.

Blatant manipulation of the media

The manipulation of the Democratic primaries was so blatant that voters who had previously not been turned off by the former First Lady got the distinct feeling that they had been tricked and were being treated as idiots. What kind of fool wants to choose a president because: the opponent is much much worse, she is a woman (as were the feminists Queen Victoria and Margaret Thatcher), the hero of Wall Street, the savior of the Left, a great American, somewhat pro-Palestinian and also pro-Israel, and the quintessential darling of the highest bidder.

Her loss had nothing to do with demographics. If Bernie Sanders had had a chance, or even if he had been her running-mate, the Democratic candidate would have easily beaten Trump. Those in the media and the establishment who underestimated the average person’s intelligence – as if people did not understand that they were being told whom they should vote for – have no one to blame but themselves.

Implications for Israel and the Israeli media

The victory of the Republican candidate could be of benefit to Israel. Trump is more likely to go further in supporting the Jewish state because he believes in Israel’s right to exist. With Clinton you never know how far she will go for geopolitical gain.

An even greater lesson for Israel is that attempting to control the media can only backfire. Jews are known as the People of the Book and press freedom is part of the Jewish DNA. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu justly points out that attacks on his wife are politically motivated. As a popular prime minister he should not fight “the media” or “left-wing journalists” but all those who engage in personal attacks no matter how they define themselves or others define them. There should be a distinct dividing line between political discussions and personal attacks and gossip. Israeli journalists should agree to a rule of conduct whereby personal attacks should be avoided at all costs unless they are vital to the national interest. Gossip spread by a housekeeper clearly does not fall into this category. Journalists who write about such matters should seek employment by the National Enquirer or Daily Mirror. Digging up dirt on political rivals always detracts from discussions on important issues.

Unity of the Jewish people should transcend political bickering

Another lesson to be gained from the US elections is that the Israeli government needs to appeal to the unity of the Jewish people. A large majority of the more than half a million young Jews who have been brought here under the auspices of Birthright Israel would not, at present, be considered supporters of Trump. However, this does not mean that because many of them are idealistic and socially engaged they do not support Israel. Jerusalem should do more to promote aliya from idealistic Jews who are involved in tikkun olam. Israel and Zionism have much to offer them and vice versa. There should also be a concerted effort to expand hasbara in order to correct the misguided image that many people abroad have of Israel.

About the Author
Asaf Shimoni is an author, journalist and translator who returned to Israel in 2016 after spending 40 years abroad, most of them in the Netherlands. He grew up near Boston, made aliyah while living on a kibbutz (from 1973 to 1976), and graduated from Syracuse University in 1978. He also lived some 5 years in Sicily. He believes that the media should be as critical and truthful as possible.
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