I’m growing very tired of the Israeli media’s whiny self-pity in writing about why they can’t write about the Anat Kam story. Take a story in today’s Yediot Achronot:
For Foreigners Only
What Does the Shabak Want You Not to Know?
Foreign media outlets publish about an incident whose details you can also discover on the internet. Only Israeli resident cannot know about them.
What citizens around the world are allowed to know is concealed from Israelis: foreign newspapers and media report an incident which cannot cannot be reported in Israel.
Among the foreign news outlets many of the details of the incident and information about the subjects of it are reported. All these details one can find also on the internet if one searches under the keywords “Israeli journalist gag.”
As has been reported here in the past, Israeli courts easily accede to requests from the police and Shabak for gag orders. The gag only impacts one party, the one which investigates.
In a situation like this one, Israeli media outlets have no opportunity to present in a timely way their position opposing the gag order and supporting publication.
If this is such a crappy system, why doesn’t the Israeli press and Knesset unite to amend laws and eliminate the stranglehold that military censorship has over the media? Instead of complaining, why don’t they actually do something?
In many previous similar instances, an Israeli reporter has offered a story to a foreign news outlet. Once reported abroad the Israeli publication can reprise the story. The first part of equation has has already happened. The Independent reported the Anat Kam story. JTA also reported it. As a result of that the Arabic service of the Israeli Broadcasting Authority broke the story in Israel. A few hours ago, the independent Palestinian news agency, Maan, broke the story.
So under conventional terms, this story should be all over Israel–well it is, it’s just not in the newspapers or on the news. Israeli friends tell me that newspapers value their licenses and don’t deliberately court big fines and legal entanglements spanning years in order to uphold freedom of the press. Well, yes I can understand that. But if you take that approach, then you can’t expect anyone outside Israel to praise Israeli’s so-called free press. Because it isn’t really free. It’s fully subservient to the military-intelligence apparatus.
And it’s not just the press, the courts too are generally acquiescent. They don’t probe too closely when cases involve national security, or at least the claim of it from the military or intelligence side.
So my attitude is: if you don’t want to stand up for your journalistic principles that’s a decision you make; but don’t come bellyaching to me like in this Yediot piece. Sorry, but I don’t have any sympathy for it. If you really care, you know what to do. If you don’t, you have no one to blame but yourselves.
Nor am I letting the foreign news outlets off the hook. Why has a story this important languished in obscurity? Yes, I understand why the N.Y. Times won’t report it because of their reluctance to be out front on any story this controversial. But what about The Nation, Christian Science Monitor, the Times of London? Why aren’t they panting after this story and giving it column inches? I’m half tempted to call this entire incident, The Day the Media Slept.
I also wanted to touch on a slightly different subject. The Israeli press is terribly insular. You might argue that this is only natural. But think about it: Haaretz & Ynetnews online English editions derive a major amount of their traffic from the Diaspora. Yet they hardly cover the Diaspora and when they do they do it perfunctorily and often badly (Haaretz’s coverage of the U.S. is a case in point). They hardly ever publish material from Diaspora writers. I’ve had a grand total of one commentary published in Haaretz. Subsequently, the editor told me it was highly unlikely anything further would be published.
In normal times, a news website can get away with such insularity. But in times like these, when the Israeli press can’t do its job, then it has to rely on Diaspora sources like this blog. That’s why Haaretz’s editor yesterday began following my Twitter feed. I’m pleased with this. But I’d like a lesson to be learned. That is, we’re in this together. There should be a dialogue between Israel and Diaspora in the media. But there largely isn’t. And it ain’t because people like me aren’t trying.
If this happened, it could only benefit both sides. It would increase interest in the sites from the Diaspora and would introduce Israelis to voices and ideas from outside their comfort zone. But it probably won’t happen because editors don’t have the vision to make it happen.
H/t to O.A., a journalist doing his part.
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