Ayoob Kara: A Study In Media Distortions
We have all heard stories about how the media twists stories around and produces fake news. How often do we have the opportunity to see it in action ourselves? Here is one example I chanced upon two days ago.
On Tuesday morning (10 January), I was driving down to Tel Aviv, listening to Galei Zahal on the radio, as is my habit. The programme “Ma Bo’er” was on. Razi Barkai interviewed Deputy Minister Ayoob Kara and bereaved father David Einhorn regarding the fact that no MK or Cabinet Minister had come to any of the four funerals of the young soldiers killed in the latest terror attack in Jerusalem.
A mere ten minutes later, at 10:00, part of Einhorn’s interview was replayed on the hourly news, as was part of an interview with Minister Yoav Galant, that was heard earlier on Boker Tov Yisrael. My curiousity was sparked by the fact that the interview with Kara had disappeared as if it had never taken place. An hour later, on the 11:00 news, listeners heard only Einhorn.
The evening news programme on Mabat also carried an item lambasting the government for not having had even one single representative at any of the funerals. Deputy Minister Kara was interviewed in his car and this time he said something that sounded to me quite different from what he had said in the morning on the radio. I set out to understand what had happened between the morning and the evening. First, let me present clips of the radio and television interviews and the 10:00 radio news broadcast [in Hebrew, translation below].
First Barkai interviews Einhorn, who lost his son in the second Lebanon War in 2006. Einhorn is complaining that elected government officials only appear at events that are good for the public relations value that they provide. He argues that the army takes kids and, without asking their parents, sends them off to whatever missions are required, that it is only right that representatives of the government take the time to show respect to the fallen and their families.
Razi suggests that perhaps some politicians are reticent to appear at funerals because they are exposed to boos on the part of the funeral party. Einhorn rejects this argument by raising the fact that even memorial events held in the Knesset, away from the masses, are not well attended by members of the Knesset.
You are an elected official so you take responsibility for your actions. You send our sons to war, you send our sons to serve in the army . . . I am sorry, you don’t have an hour to spare to come and take part in the family’s bereavement?
Einhorn went on to talk about his sense of shame caused by the fact that nobody attended any of the funerals.
Razi moved on to interview Ayoob Kara.
Razi: You also did not attend any of the funerals, but you tried to go, you asked to go. What response did you get, Ayoob?
Kara: Look, I am talking as a bereaved brother, a member of a bereaved family, who lost 2 of his brothers, not one, and a wounded veteran and officer. I leave my official title aside and I, personally, and all of Israel can hear me, there is no family to which I can attend either the funeral or the shiva and I do not do so. Yesterday, as well, I tried to go, but regarding two of the funerals to which I intended to go I was told “no media” and the significance of that is that they do not want public officials. . .
Razi: One moment – you checked with the two families. There were four funerals but regarding one funeral, I know the family requested that it be private, without the media.
Kara: Regarding other funerals, it was also made clear they wanted them to be private. Yes, in any case I asked the Knesset Secretary, and the regulation is, in fact, the army is responsible for these funerals [unclear]. Yesterday, the prime minister . . .
Barkai remarked that surely the army would not prevent a politician from attending a funeral and Deputy Minister Kara talked about his sensitivity to the families and intention to visit all the families where they will be sitting shiva. He explained the fact that the government is responsible for funerals of terror victims and the army for funerals of soldiers. Here the situation fell between the two. The government left these four funerals to the army given that, while the fallen were victims of terrorist acts outside the battle field, they were soldiers.
Kara: I don’t want to be in the position that I arrive at a funeral and am told that politicians are not welcome; this has happened to me in the past. . . . There is no bereaved family that I do not visit. Very simply, I wanted very much to be there yesterday, but to my chagrin, the regulations need to change and I promise you that from this day forward you will see me at every funeral because of what happened yesterday when I thought that perhaps it was better for me not to be there.
On the news a few minutes later, we only hear David Einhorn talking about his shame on behalf of the government ministers and MK Yoav Galant admitting to having made a mistake that should not have happened. An hour later, the news broadcast included only Einhorn’s statements of shame.
I wondered where Ayoob Kara had disappeared to. Why was his interview not mentioned – why was it deemed unimportant to hear that he had struggled with the idea and then purposefully decided not to attend out of sensitivity to the families?
I might have let it go at that.
However, on the Channel 1 evening news (link no longer active since the Israel Broadcasting Association closed its doors), Deputy Minister Ayoob Kara was interviewed on this same topic after it was declared in the item prepared for the broadcast that “no government minister felt it necessary to attend any of the funerals”. This harsh statement was repeated in an interview with Eli Ben Shem, Chairman of Yad LeBanim.
It’s a disgrace that the State of Israel, that takes children 18 years of age from their mothers and fathers, doesn’t ask them what they will eat and where they will serve and where they will do battle and returns them in a coffin and nobody sees fit to come and pay respects to the family in its most difficult moments.
All that Deputy Minister Kara said in his interview clip was:
I regret the fact that I was not able to be there because I thought, mistakenly, that perhaps members of Knesset and ministers were not welcome.
While that does hint at the fact that Ayoob at least gave some thought to attending, it makes it seem like a glib response, something said out of necessity to appear like a nice guy and not very sincere. That is quite different from the impression I got from Ayoob’s interview on the radio in the morning, in which he appeared to struggle more between his wish to go and express solidarity and respect to the bereaved families and his wish not to impose himself where he is not wanted. This is a legitimate dilemma, I think, and I can only wonder why his television interview would be cut so short as to eliminate the opportunity for us to see one of our representatives in a very human moment.
I had the opportunity to speak with a source connected with Deputy Minister Kara. He informed me that the interview for Mabat was, indeed, longer and that they had edited out everything but the sentence above.
Is there a valid reason for allowing an apparently thoughtful and sensitive politician (in spite of the fact that these are three words that do not seem to belong together in the same sentence) to come across as superficial and insincere? Was there an agenda here, either against this particular individual or against the current government?
While this particular instance is perhaps minor, and may cause you to wonder why I would invest so much energy and words in writing about it, I suggest that this small example very clearly demonstrates how what is presented to us as news is so easily twisted and how we are so easily mis-informed by the very news upon which we rely to inform us.
At first I thought the reporting might be reflecting something against Ayoob Kara himself, but as I wrote it, it became clearer to me that this was just another way to bash at the government. I noticed on the TV news item that only members or past members of the coalition parties were interviewed. Sitting MKs, even if they are members of the opposition parties and still claim to be Zionist, such as Yesh Atid or the Zionist Camp, could be equally chastised yet none of them were asked to speak to the camera. Was this just another jab at making the current government look bad?
News programmes are supposed to boil things down to a size the public can digest because the amount of news events happening each day is overwhelming and we cannot keep up with it all on our own. News programmes are not supposed to boil things down so much that the context is no longer available and the kernel of truth is perhaps rendered unrecognizable.
[Feature Image Credit: Jusmine, via Wikimedia Commons]