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We needed substance, we got slogans

What are the candidates' views on the critical matters facing the nation? Thanks to the media, we don't really know

For the first time in many years, I have the opportunity to view the election campaign from the outside. And I must say, the best days of these past few months, have been the snow days.

I’m sorry to say it, but yes, once again the media is at fault. I followed the U.S. election campaign very closely, as I follow many election campaigns in other democratic countries. Aside from the nonsense that of course, takes place there as well, I also saw in-depth discussions with candidates and relentless demands upon them to grapple with the most important issues. I saw President Obama repeatedly forced to sweat, admitting his errors and giving detailed explanations of his philosophy to his voters.

Here in Israel, I have seen dozens of interviews with candidates like Yair Lapid, whom I really wanted to get to know. Yet, despite the media coverage, I still do not know what his beliefs are on any given issue. The same goes for his Number two, Rabbi Shay Piron, who is actually a man with a very serious belief system, a man I value greatly. But this is because I know him personally from before, and not from anything that has been shared in the campaign coverage. I am not at all interested in one or another candidate’s slip of the tongue, or which pub they visited yesterday, or what ranking they got in the 40th survey taken this week and why it supersedes the results of the 38th survey.

There are questions of such depth on our current agenda. Would you like some examples? Here are a few of the most pressing…

The trend of Israel’s deepening isolation in the world. This situation is beginning to resemble that of South Africa in the 1970’s with all its far-reaching implications for our trade, cultural and security relations with the rest of the world. This is not about morality, justice, or peace, this is simply a fact – and it will affect even the middle class… Has this issue been raised even once during all of these months with Lapid or Bennett?

Nearly a million Israeli children live below the poverty line, even before the budgets cuts about to be made. The largest number of children-at-risk in the western world are going to bed each night, in Israel, without knowing what their situation will be upon waking the next day. Has anyone asked Bibi or Livni what they will do about this? And according to which standards are we going to measure their success?

Three-hundred and fifty thousand immigrants have come to Israel without clearly defined Jewish identities. These immigrants had the nerve to give birth to yet another 100,000 Israeli-born children who were born into the Jewish society here. Their undefined status created a problem that nobody really wanted to deal with, certainly not solve. So, instead, we watched the Shas party’s racist campaign ad with a “conversion certificate by fax.” Did anyone bother to ask the three Shas leaders who is responsible for issuing conversion certificates in Israel? (Hint – Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who actually is known for being very lenient on the issue). So, why are they ridiculing such a serious matter?

I think that some politicians do have answers to these issues (even if not always to my taste), but the media’s conduct has become so “yellowed” that it does not allow us to hear what they are.

And what is even more horrible is that the media is influencing the politicians so negatively that it is causing them to not only speak in slogans but to turn into no more than slogans themselves.

About the Author
Rabbi Michael Melchior is a leading advocate for social justice in Israel, education for all, Jewish-Arab reconciliation and co-existence, protection of the environment, and Israel-Diaspora relations. Through his work, Rabbi Melchior seeks to strengthen Israeli civil society so it may catalyze significant social change in the State of Israel. He was a member of Knesset for the Meimad Party. Rabbi Melchior continues to hold the title of Chief Rabbi of Norway.