Objective?

I explained to them that "objective" means without opinion. Some of these students are beginning their major in Tikshoret, Media-Journalism, and they hadn't been taught the principle.

Batya Medad,

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A big complaint by Americans exposed to Israeli journalism is its lack of objectivity. There's no fine line, and not even a fuzzy one, in Israeli news reports - whether print, radio or television - between fact and opinion. It's blatant editorializing, propaganda.

As a high-school English teacher, my curriculum requires making my students aware of "fact" and "opinion" in a text. Last week, I was attempting just such a lesson. We read over the textbook's description of a news article versus a human interest story.

My students are Hebrew speakers and I've discovered that I have to be very careful to verify that they really understand the simplest English words. This is especially problematic when it comes to English that has been adopted by Hebrew. I discovered this dilemma a number of years ago when a class had to understand the term "regular hours". "Hours" was easy, sha'ot, but when I asked them to translate "regular", I heard ragil, best translated back into English as "normal" or "unexceptional". That's not the same thing. A job with "regular hours" has set hours, the same schedule every day or week, etc. From their understanding was a misunderstanding.

So, I wasn't terribly surprised when I asked them to translate the term "objective", which was used in our textbook to describe a "news article", as opposed to a "human interest story". With total confidence they all replied: Obyectivi. I asked them to explain what it means. Again, looking at me like I was deaf, senile, crazy or all three, they repeated: Obyectivi! And again, I asked for an explanation in Hebrew.

No great surprise that none of my students had the foggiest idea of what obyectivi or "objective" means. So, of course, I made them look it up in the dictionary, which I'm always telling them is their "best friend." But I was very upset to discover that in this case, their dictionary turned traitor. All that the dictionary said in Hebrew was obyectivi.

Afterwards, I explained to them that "objective" means without opinion. Some of these students are beginning their major in Tikshoret, Media-Journalism, and they hadn't been taught the principle. (Israeli high school students concentrate on a specific subject as part of their graduation requirements.)

"Objective" isn't the only word being misused, at least according to my American sensitivities. "Democracy" is also one. Israel is an elected dictatorship. Even before Ariel Sharon's reign, we felt a bit uncomfortable with the norms of Israeli government and version of democracy. But the past two years have brought us down further than we could have ever imagined.

Especially as interpreted by Israeli liberals, "democracy" means that once the government decides something, everyone has to be in favor of it. It is immoral to disagree. Of course, this applies only when the government decision meets with their approval. If they don't agree with the government, then there's a moral imperative to demonstrate against. If they do agree with the government, then those demonstrating against are "endangering democracy." The liberal civil rights activists see nothing immoral in jailing teenagers for blocking roads to protest Disengagement.

If blocking roads is illegal, then Labor party leader Amir Peretz should be jailed, because he closed down lots of roads as head of the Histadrut, the national labor union. Now that he has reached "big time" in Israeli politics, things should be getting very "interesting".

I wonder what turns Israeli democracy will now take. It will be a real challenge to pick the facts out of the news, which is so obyectivi.




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