Oren Persico: They do see the destruction, but they don't see the human cost. The result is that Israel is very much still on October 7th.
Brooke Gladstone: For the last three months, Israelis have seen on TV, a version of the bombardment of Gaza without the victims. From WNYC in New York, this is On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
Micah Loewinger: I'm Micah Loewinger. As the war drags on, the debates swirling around it morphed into fights about all kinds of things, including plagiarism.
Will Sommer: Bill Ackman said, this plagiarism, this is like Oppenheimer inventing the atomic bomb. This is going to change the world forever. It's just like, "What? Just because your wife was accused of plagiarism."
Brooke Gladstone: Plus the tug of war over the memory of The Holocaust and who gets to decide what's okay to say?
Masha Gessen: The only way to make good on the promise of "Never Again,” is to constantly be checking whether we are actually falling into darkness.
Micah Loewinger: It's all coming up after this.
Brooke Gladstone: From WNYC in New York, this is On the Media, I'm Brooke Gladstone.
Micah Loewinger: I'm Micah Loewinger. As of earlier this week, Israel's bombardment of Gaza has entered its fourth month.
Speaker 1: Israel is still pounding Gaza, the UN now deeming it "uninhabitable."
Speaker 2: Israel is facing new questions about an airstrike near the city of Khan Yunis that killed two journalists.
Speaker 3: Palestinian health officials say Israeli is offensive has killed nearly 23,000 people.
Micah Loewinger: Nightmarish images of destruction in Gaza have filled the news and social media feeds for months but within Israel, the mainstream media tells a very different story. Oren Persico is a staff writer at The Seventh Eye, an independent investigative magazine focused on media and freedom of speech in Israel.
Oren Persico: Ever since the war started, there's been a huge spike in ratings on TV and radio. It's like two, maybe three times the amount it was before, mostly on Channel 12. That's the major commercial TV channel in Israel. We also have Channel 14, which is a right-wing pro-Netanyahu propaganda machine, which became the second most popular TV channel in Israel even before the war. You have Ynet the digital arm of Yedioth Ahronoth, a very big media corporation in Israel. You have Israel Hayom which is a free newspaper, Haaretz which is maybe more well-known outside Israel than it is read inside Israel.
Micah Loewinger: Yes. People always point to it and see it as a beacon of liberal thought in Israel, but you're saying it doesn't have that much attraction among Israeli leaders?
Oren Persico: No, that's right. It's because the left in Israel is small and getting smaller all the time.
Micah Loewinger: There was a piece in the Guardian from last weekend that reported that nearly half of Israelis get their news from TV channels and that TV in particular has been hugely influential in shaping Israeli opinion after October 7th.
Oren Persico: During the first day, October 7th and probably October 8th and 9th, Israeli television really filled in a void that the Israel state left open. A lot of the Israel establishment, of course, the military, but also the health, the social welfare, the first aid, it really didn't know how to respond. Israeli television really did outstanding work in the first few days. You could really hear live on air, people asking for help from their shelter saying, "We can hear Hamas, jihad terrorists outside. They're shooting." Israeli TV showed that to the public and later helped those people get in contact with their families and loved ones. Ever since, it became a very important factor in shaping the reality in Israel.
Micah Loewinger: It sounds like TV journalists really rose to the occasion. Since then though, I wonder how strong their reporting has been. Former National Security Advisor Eyal Hulata has described a "dome of disconnection" with Israelis increasingly feeling isolated from a world that they feel doesn't understand their pain and their fear of Hamas.
Oren Persico: Yes, I think that's very true. The main two roles of TV journalism in Israel after October 7th was one, to lift the morale of the army, lift the morale of the Israeli public, and the second is to not show anything damaging that's happening in Gaza because of the Israeli bombardment and invasion. The logic here is that if you show civilians in Gaza getting hurt, then a lot of people in Israel will start questioning the legitimacy of the IDF attacks in Gaza. The result is that Israel is very much still on October 7th.
Micah Loewinger: I don't doubt that it would take any nation a long time to heal. I'm surprised though to hear that if you turn on Israeli TV, you would not see what we're seeing in the US media, which is brutal footage, a growing death toll, and reports about starvation, disease. Are Israelis really not seeing that?
Oren Persico: They do see soldiers collapsing buildings and cleaning out terror tunnels that were used by Hamas. They do see streets that are now rumbled. What they don't see is humans in Gaza being killed or wounded, especially women and children. They don't see that at all. Nothing of the human cost, even if you do mention the number of the casualties, you always say, "This is the numbers that we get from the Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza. Hamas is a terrorist organization, and you shouldn't trust their numbers."
What they never mention is past conflicts in Gaza, if you look at the numbers of Hamas and you look at the numbers of the IDF, they're roughly the same. There is a difference if you look at the male casualties, 16 to 50 or something like that, the age where you can be a militant. If you look at the women and children, there's not such a big difference between the numbers that Hamas has and the number that the IDF releases after the war. They just ignore that.
If you do see footage of shirtless men in Gaza handcuffed, they would be regarded as terrorist surrendering and that would be the headline. Perhaps a day or two later, you could see maybe in Haaretz or in the bottom of an article that after interrogation, the IDF found out that most of them weren't terrorists. Most people would get the feeling that the only people still occupying Northern Gaza where the invasion started are now terrorists. There are no citizens there, and that's why you can bombard the area without hesitation.
Micah Loewinger: Okay, but I see TikToks from Israeli soldiers. I see posts from Israelis on social media. Surely Israeli citizens are seeing footage of the suffering of Gazans. It's hard not to find it if you're online. I find it hard to believe that maybe outside of the legacy media; Israelis aren't exposed to this stuff.
Oren Persico: Well, if you don't want to know something, even though it pops out, the TikTok or Telegram channel or whatever, it's very easy to go past it to a video of a fallen soldier's family or the Israeli victims. There's no lack of material that is pro-Israel and anti-Hamas. It's just a matter of your decision.
Micah Loewinger: Ever since October 7th, you've said nearly all mainstream outlets have started to shift towards the right or at least have adopted more propaganda with Channel 14, which is basically an arm of Netanyahu's propaganda machine still being the most extremist. Can you give me some examples of this wider shift?
Oren Persico: Right. Shortly after the beginning of the war, you could hear very extreme guests that you wouldn't see before on the mainstream media popping up, and also the journalists themselves getting more and more extreme calling for harsh retaliation. You could hear there is no innocent people in Gaza. Amit Segal, the most popular journalist in Channel 12, which is the most popular channel in Israel, on his Telegram channel referred to the Hamas terrorists as Nazis, and therefore the people who support them are also Nazis.
Again and again, you could hear the comparison to Dresden. You have to fight like you're fighting the Nazis, and if the ally forces completely destroyed the city of Dresden, then we can completely destroy Gaza because it's 100% good against 100% evil. It's completely black and white.
Micah Loewinger: It's not exactly like Dresden is celebrated today as a discriminant act of warfare, right?
Oren Persico: No, it's exactly the opposite. This is the moment that there was no consideration of human life much like Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That's mentioned also in Israel in the past few weeks.
Micah Loewinger: Saying the Americans did it, so we can do it, too.
Oren Persico: Yes. Who are you to cast doubt on our morality when you did the same when you faced pure evil? That's the logic.
Micah Loewinger: I see. Another example of the shift that you're talking about is Israel's top satirical TV show, Eretz Nehederet. In November, it broadcasts the sketch making fun of pro-Palestinian progressives.
Speaker 4: Hi, everyone. We are live on YouTube with Columbia Untisemity News where everyone is welcome, LGBTQH
Speaker 5: H?
Speaker 4: Hamas from [unison] the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free. Do you know why it's true?
Speaker 5: No.
Speaker 4: Because it rhymes.
Speaker 5: Oh.
Micah Loewinger: There have been other English skits, mocking BBC journalists for how they've been covering the war.
Speaker 6: Israel has bombed a hospital killing hundreds of innocent people. With more details, our Middle East correspondent, Harry Whiteguilt.
Speaker 7: Good evening, Rachel, from the Illegal Colony of Tel Aviv.
Micah Loewinger: This was odd because Eretz Nehederet used to be known for mocking Netanyahu and the Israeli government.
Oren Persico: They're still mocking Netanyahu, but they are mobilized like most of the other people in Israel to support the war effort. If a satirical show needs to do Hasbara, which is Israeli propaganda, then that's what they'll do. They're completely with the mission to explain why the world is wrong, and we are right. You mentioned before the dome of disconnection. People in Israel are shocked that the world doesn't see the situation like they see it.
They are shocked and baffled, "How could anyone be angry at Israel and speaking about atrocities that Israel does, when Hamas butchered and raped and killed so many people in Israel on October 7th?" Because they're still in October 7th, they don't realize that the world saw different images in the past few weeks.
Micah Loewinger: The passion with which you speak makes me think that you inhabit a different kind of ideological perspective. You're consuming different media than the average Israeli. You are a media critic, but I'm just curious to know how common is the perspective that you are sharing right now.
Oren Persico: It's not very common. Like I said, the Israeli left is small and getting smaller, but if you do read Haaretz, you get the information. There's still tens of thousands of subscribers to Haaretz, a lot of them are people in the government, the intellectual elite, but I would say that this point of view is considered fringe in Israel these days, almost treacherous.
Micah Loewinger: In the American media, we've seen reports that Israel plans to scale back some of its offensive, at least in Northern Gaza, following pressure from the American government. For instance, Netanyahu has said that Israel doesn't intend to have, say, a permanent occupation in Gaza, but as many outlets have observed, Israeli media and officials are telling a different story about the next phase of the war. This seems to be a larger pattern of the information that Netanyahu gives to American Western journalists as opposed to what he says to an Israeli audience. What are you all hearing about the coming months?
Oren Persico: Well, our Prime Minister has two Twitter accounts or X accounts. One is very dignified where he published his video of himself saying, we don't want to conquer Gaza or expel the population. The other X account is where all the populist material is published, and he speaks a very different language there and addresses a very different audience, the Israeli audience. We do hear also in Israeli media that there is a new phase starting to evacuate parts of the military reserves that were drafted on October 7th. What nobody's talking about is what will happen in the day after. What would happen after you collapse Hamas?
Micah Loewinger: If that's even possible.
Oren Persico: Exactly.
Micah Loewinger: You've made a strong case that Israelis don't understand what's taking place in Gaza. Is there anything you think that American audiences don't understand about what's happening in Israel that you would like to communicate?
Oren Persico: Well, basically, that Israelis are inside a bubble and are unaware of A, what's going on in Gaza, and B, how is it seen in the entire world. When you speak with your Israeli friend or relative or whatever, you should remind yourself that you're speaking with someone who is a parallel universe who does not see what you see.
Micah Loewinger: Oren, thank you very much.
Oren Persico: Thank you.
Micah Loewinger: Oren Persico is a staff writer at The Seventh Eye, an independent investigative magazine in Israel.
Brooke Gladstone: Coming up, the war at home among the rich and powerful.
Micah Loewinger: This is On the Media.