The disengagement: A media lesson

1 July 2015 / By Israel Fried

Last year, journalist Kalman Libeskind conducted an interview on Galey Yisrael with attorney Dov Weisglass, who, as an adviser to the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, was one of the leading figures in the formulation of the Gaza disengagement plan.

“We estimated the Palestinian Authority wouldn’t have difficulty maintaining its rule in Gaza despite the opposition of Hamas, whose numbers back then were only in the hundreds, perhaps thousands,” Weisglass said. “We were not wrong, but this is the Middle East.”

Next month is the 10-year anniversary of what some in Israel refer to as the “disengagement” and others call the “expulsion.” These two terms highlight, in the most useful way, the importance of terminology and the power of the media during times when fateful actions are being conducted.

Today, in light of the security situation in southern Israel and Israeli public opinion, the fact that most Israelis once supported the disengagement and backed the leaders of the country at the time sounds almost unbelievable. The nearly complete mobilization of the Israeli media in support of the disengagement and the well-crafted effort to influence the public and establish the legitimacy of uprooting Jews from an entire area is what made the move possible.

Media warnings were not about terror that would emanate from Gaza the minute we withdrew from it, but rather about the threat of violent resistance from Gush Katif residents that could escalate into civil war.

Needless to say, this did not happen and the thing the media should have really warned us about ended up blowing up in our faces sooner than expected.

Since then, new voices have joined the Israeli media and there are more religious Zionists in the media than there were before, as well as a wider range of political views among top media figures. However, the political ideology of those setting the media’s agenda is still mostly painted in a single color.

The recent election campaign with its mobilization of whole media outlets on behalf of or against one candidate has proved just that. The voices of entire sectors of Israeli society, such as the ultra-Orthodox, new immigrants and residents of periphery communities, are still hardly ever heard in the media.

Established five years ago, the Galey Israel radio station aims to represent a different mindset and agenda. So far, three appeals have been submitted to the High Court of Justice against us, in a bid to silence our voice.

Currently, the same media outlets that sold the public on the Gaza disengagement are telling us that the whole world is against us and that we must submit to the demands of the Palestinians. And those who supported Sharon a decade ago are now telling us that our relations with the U.S. are doomed unless we commit to establishing a Palestinian state within two years.

Even after Ben-Gurion International Airport was nearly shut down due to rocket fire during Operation Protective Edge, no one has demanded the media be held accountable for its tales back in 2005 about how the disengagement would benefit our security.

The media is well aware that no one will demand an explanation in 2025 when the actions it is promoting today yield the same negative results.

When the media speaks with one voice, democracy is jeopardized.

Media pluralism is vital for making the right decisions, both for the people and the government. The public is wiser than one might think — it just needs all the information before making a choice.



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