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Friday, March 13, 2009

Why Israel needs a Hebrew-language blogosphere

Friday's YNet has a great piece about how Israel's mainstream media is manipulating the public over the price to be paid to Hamas for the release of kidnapped IDF corporal Gilad Shalit. The article is actually written by one of their own: Yaron Dekel, a Channel 1 and Israel Radio political analyst and the host of "It's All Talk," a mostly political talk show that runs on Israel Radio's second channel (Reshet Bet) from 10:00 am - Noon Sunday through Thursday.
The Israeli media has already decided: Gilad must be released, at any price, and the earlier the better. As such, the media has devoted itself to the family’s campaign, while choosing to forget that the story is more complex and less simplistic than the abduct soldier’s family wishes to present it.

To the press’ credit, we can say that it is conducting itself consistently. During the campaign to return the bodies of IDF casualties Regev and Goldwasser, may they rest in peace, the media did not remain on the sidelines either. It pressed the PM and government ministers until the deal was executed. It also refused to highlight the fact it was aware of for a long time: We were dealing with bodies, rather than living soldiers. Indeed, we saw reports about it here and there, but they were washed away in the immense flood of news that swept through the country. These reports were unable to prevent the national surprise that materialized when the two black coffins were presented.

In the months before the deal, the media knew the truth. It was aware of it, but remained silent. After all, it was clear that if we were dealing with dead soldiers, it would make for a smaller news story. Needless to say that full disclosure of the facts may have changed the deal’s outcome.

What happened back then is again happening now. Gilad’s eyes are featured on the front pages of newspapers, while the headlines scream: “Parents of terror victims call for Gilad’s release.” However, the media betrays its duty when it presents only one side of this painful story – the Shalit family’s side. It willingly takes part in the effort to bring tears to our eyes.

Gilad’s childhood photos, as well as the prominent coverage of the words uttered by Tami and Yuval Arad and well as Karnit Goldwasser heightens and highlights the drama, and the rating figures. Those who object to the deal are only marginally mentioned compared to the media festival and live coverage from the Shalit family’s protest tent. Is it any wonder that populist politicians who seek short-lived glory are rushing to the tent? They do understand the concept of rating.

They forgot the victims, and the counter protest tent of those opposed to a deal was dismantled within 24 hours.
Read the whole thing.

This could not happen in the US and it probably could not happen in England either. In the US, the blogosphere and talk radio would make sure that the other view got out there, and even within the mainstream media there is some diversity of opinion (compare Fox with CNN and MSNBC). Even in England, al-Beeb is not all-controlling. But here in Israel, nearly all television and radio is a cabal. If it's not part of the government-operated network, it's allocated by government auction that ensures that the same groups remain in control. People with politically Right views almost don't exist (and for the most part they are systematically excluded but that's a subject for another post and involves some confidences I cannot disclose).

Most of the Israeli blogosphere blogs in English. My own audience is probably 70% US, 20% Israel and 10% everyone else. I suspect that the other big Israeli bloggers have approximately the same distribution. When we had the bloggers' conference in August, it was nearly all English-speakers. We all spoke in English.

Israel desparately needs a Hebrew language blogosphere to break the stranglehold the Left has on the mainstream media here. Don't look at me. My spoken Hebrew is excellent but my written Hebrew is nowhere near as good and it would take me 5-10 times as long to type posts in Hebrew. I spend too much time on this blog as it is.

If any native Hebrew speakers want to take my posts and translate them into Hebrew, please feel free. But what Israel really needs is native Hebrew speakers, especially on the political Right, who will blog in Hebrew. A Hebrew-language blogosphere.


At 8:16 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Israel needs a conservative Hebrew-language blogosphere. The situation is marginally a little better than a decade ago. But a right-wing Israeli government will find virtually little to no support from the people make and present the news in the country. A lot of work has to be done to change the picture.

At 9:07 AM, Blogger Rafi G. said...

there is a very large and active Hebrew blogosphere. we anglos are not that familiar with it, but I have started following some hebrew blogs.
So far I have found the hebrew blogs to lean more to the left, but maybe I am just following the wrong ones so far...

At 3:51 PM, Blogger LB said...

Rafi - you're right about the size and activity, however from what I've seen the Hebrew blogs are by and large apolitical, and the majority those who are political - lean so far to the left, they are not representative of Israel in any way (there was a poll that was done of major Hebrew bloggers - a huge percentage said they were voting Hadash or Meimad/Green - only a tiny minority named any Right-wing party).

At 4:22 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Yep. For some reason, conservatism has never caught on in Hebrew. Even though the Torah and traditional Judaism embody that spirit. The Torah and Talmud speak of obligation and not the language of rights and entitlements. I suspect though Israel's Hebrew bloggers are in the main secular individuals and this creates an imbalanced and distorted view of what the mainstream Israeli public thinks.

If you exclude Kadima, in the election last month, the combined Left fell under 15 seats. In 1992, Meretz alone had 12 and the Labor Party had 44 so its quite a sea change, even with the stranglehold the Israeli Left has on the Hebrew language media in Israel.

At 12:49 PM, Blogger David said...

I don't know about Hebrew blogs, but there are a few high quality independent news sites that are not left leaning.
They include

At 6:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand why there should be such a hebrew-writing blog community. Especially the international communtiy wants to know what Israelis think about and talk about and if there would be a stronger hebrew-typing blogosphere, that would exclude a broad readership.
During the elections only the webpage of Netanyahu was available in English, all the other parties were running only Hebrew-written pages.
Of course it is interesting that most of the Hebrew-bloggers are more or less left-wing, but I would call the way to a Hebrew blogosphere a step away from the international audience. It would keep Europe and the US away from Israel and what's going on there and the left-wing English blogosphere would control the public opinion in the non-Hebrew world.

At 12:46 AM, Blogger LB said...

tjolp - A Hebrew language blogosphere is not for the rest of the world. It's for Israel. If real discussion, debate - true renaissance - is to happen in Israel, then it's not just for the rest of the world - it's an internal process. Letting alone the intrinsic value of Hebrew to the Jewish people, most Israelis do not have complete command of the English language, and for such a process to occur, it needs to be done in a language in which Israelis are comfortable.

Additionally, whistle-blowing of the kind blogs around the world do from time to time, has to be done in the language of the press, the language of the government - Hebrew.

Yes, I understand that the rest of the world would want to know more, and I see that as a good thing. But that is not the ultimate goal. And there is a pretty active Israeli blogosphere in English already (albeit, mostly run by "Anglo" Olim).

Lastly, you mention the Israeli parties' websites being only in Hebrew. Due to the multi-language voting constituency in Israel, that is a problem, however, English would not be at the top of the list.
Israeli political parties cater to Israelis - most of whom who speak Hebrew, and then a large number speak Russian, Arabic, and only then English (how many French speakers are there). In a generation, this will change, but right now, with regards to elections campaigns, Russian is a far more important language than English.


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