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Journalists or Propagandists?

By Michael Freund
4/27/2005, 12:00 AM

For years, the right-wing has been complaining about the partisanship and lack of balance in the Israeli media, pointing to the near total domination of this important medium by people who are politically-driven and overwhelmingly left-wing.

These allegations were almost always met with a dismissive sneer and a wave of the hand, despite overwhelming evidence to back them up.

But now, one of Israel’s top journalists has come along and essentially confirmed what we knew to be true all along: that the media in this country is agenda-driven, and aggressively so.

Speaking at a conference held at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, Amnon Abramovich, who is considered one of the country’s leading commentators and investigative reporters, had this to say about the role of Israel’s media in the run-up to the proposed Gaza withdrawal: “I think that we need to protect Sharon like an etrog [a citron fruit used by religious Jews on the Sukkot festival which requires special care and protection]”.

In case anyone did not understand the thrust of his remarks, Abramovich added, “The person who established the settlement enterprise is Sharon, and if a good spirit has come over him toward the end of his life and he is ready to tear it down, then in my opinion we need to protect him not only from political obstacles but also from legal obstacles too” (Maariv, April 26, 2005).

Hmmm – so according to Abramovich, now that Sharon is carrying out the policies of the left, the job of the media watchdogs is no longer to monitor him and serve as a check on his power, but to “protect” him and enable him to fulfill his political agenda. Silly me – I thought that newspapers were supposed to report the news, not try to shape it.

Some of Abramovich’s media colleagues were quick to dispute his assertions, obviously dismayed that he would dare to reveal one of the deepest and darkest secrets of their trade – namely, that Israel’s newspapers are manned largely by propagandists, not journalists.

Cat_out_of_the_bag But the cat, as they say, is now out of the bag – Israel’s major papers are little more than partisan broadsheets, and they can no longer deny it.