As we do every year, The Jewish Press Online selected our Man of the Year based on the significant impact they’ve had on Jewish lives. Some of our past picks have been practically prescient. Itamar Ben-Gvir became National Security Minister. Regavim became the major player in fighting for Judea and Samaria. And of course, there was Jared Kushner. Our pick this year is no different. Yinon Magal may appear like nothing more than a rightwing TV show host, but in fact he’s leading a revolution.
On October 7, 1996, Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes altered the face of American television. After decades in which audiences had been treated to the mainstream, left-leaning liberal take on the news, which had been their mainstay in print as well, there emerged a cable channel with some 17 million subscribers that offered a radically different, right-leaning version of reality. By 2018, 91% of US households received Fox News, and on the way, the new channel defeated not only its opponents on cable but also its political rivals.
Like Biblical Jacob who was forced to steal his right of the first-born from his vicious brother Esau, the only right-wing channel on Israeli TV snuck into legitimacy through a back door. In June 2014, it was launched as Channel 20, dedicated by its broadcast permit from the Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting to deliver shows on Jewish tradition, nothing more.
The Israeli establishment takes its freedom of speech very seriously. It must be monitored and when it strays it must be punished.
Channel 20 was disciplined in June 2015 for daring to report live from an election campaign – NIS 100,000. In August of the same year, the channel was fined another NIS 151,000 for running a news flash.
The war was on.
The force behind the fledgling channel is the owner, Yitzchak Mirilashvili, a founding partner in VK, Russia’s largest social network. He lives in Herzliya Pituah with his wife and their two children. An observant Jew, Mirilashvili established the policy that Channel 14 goes dark Friday afternoon and returns to the air after Havdalah. It is an admirable show of adherence to Jewish values, but Israeli media takes a sharp break to the left on Shabbat and Jewish holidays, and no one is there to respond to the “fearmongering channels” as Magal calls Channels 11, 12, and 13.
In July 2017, the Cable and Satellite Council launched a violation procedure against the channel, following an interview with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the channel received full permission to broadcast news.
In August 2017, the Cable and Satellite Council imposed yet another NIS 100,000 fine on Channel 20 over its refusal to invite Reform and Conservative Judaism panelists. The channel appealed to the Jerusalem District Court and was rejected.
On March 25, 2018, Channel 20 launched its regular news show at 8 PM, with a 3.2-point rating, placing it third, ahead of the public TV channel (which used to be called Kol Israel). On November 28, 2021, the channel changed its location on the dial to 14, a move that gave it a new legitimacy, above the main Israeli channels 11, 12, and 13. Their first night on the air earned Channel 14 an overall rating of 4.51.
On Tuesday, February 28, “The Patriots” planted itself in second place in its time slot (8:45 to 10 PM). In first place, way ahead of the competition, came Channel 12, which that night launched its heralded reality program, “Seeing the Voice,” based on a Korean show named “I Can See Your Voice.” Channel 12 took 18.4%, with 528,000 viewers. But second place was grabbed by Yinon Magal’s “The Patriots” which took 6.8%, with 240,000 viewers.
Channel 13’s biggest rating getter, “Moment of Truth,” only scratched 5.5 points, with 163,000 viewers. And Kan 11, the public channel, dragged behind with its prime-time drama “East Side” (about clandestine Jewish real estate purchases in eastern Jerusalem), with only 3.9% and 106,000 viewers.
THE BRUTALIZING OF ARUTZ 7
Things in Israel have not been so bright for right-wing broadcasting.
Even though in 1977, after 29 years of left-wing rule, the right-wing Likud party won its first national election, the vast majority of the media remained in leftist hands, much as the vast majority of the civil service, the courts, the military, and finance remained left-leaning to this day.
In the winter of 1988, a group of activists from Bet El in Samaria enlisted donations from abroad and solicited technical support from a group of professionals working for Kol Israel, which was one of the only two legal radio broadcasters (the other was Army Radio) and launched a pirate radio ship off the coast of Tel Aviv, outside Israel’s territorial water. The Eretz Hatzvi ship with the broadcasting equipment of Arutz 7 parked only a few hundred yards from the Voice of Peace pirate radio ship, which was owned by the legendary restaurant owner turned peace activist Abie Nathan.
But while the Voice of Peace was left alone to serve up rock n’ roll hits to Israeli fans, Arutz 7 became the target of Israeli law enforcement agencies almost from the start.
The national-religious NRP in 1999 passed a Knesset law legalizing the station, which the High Court of Justice promptly struck down in 2002.
In December 2002, while the ship was docked for maintenance in Ashdod harbor, PM Ariel Sharon ordered the police to raid it and destroy its equipment.
It was a timely decision on Sharon’s part, who would have found it much harder to carry out the 2005 expulsion of Gush Katif with an independent radio channel conducting a free debate of his decision, and coordinating resistance to it.
I was reminded of the demolition of the Arutz 7 ship when Caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid demanded the shutting down of Channel 14, a demand that was later repeated by Labor Chairperson Merav Michaeli.
Like the Arutz 7 broadcasts, Channel 14 offers shelter from the consensus media outlets.
Last week I walked into a canteen in Assuta Medical Center in Rishon L’Tzion and the TV on the wall had on the Channel 14 broadcast. I asked the woman behind the counter, a young Israeli without a single religious marker on her person, why she was watching it, and her response was a resounding, “It’s the only channel we watch, here and at home.”
I write for The Jewish Press which has been providing a similar kind of cultural shelter to right-wing Jews in a media atmosphere that is greatly influenced by the left, but in the US, there are many right-leaning alternatives. Israel in the 1980s had no such alternatives, and before Channel 14 and a small number of right-wing radio stations began to take off, right-wing audiences were also mired in an all-left swamp.
Adir Zik Ztz’l was probably the most important component in the Arutz 7 radio success.
A former Kol Israel TV director, Zik served up a Friday morning drive show that combined American shock jock values (Zik graduated from UCLA) with an ideological vehemence that couldn’t possibly grow up in the garden of religious Zionism. He came to Yidishkeit from the left, and therefore did not carry in his brain what he called “the screwed-up chip.” He argued that religious Zionists were holy and admirable folks, but they carried the disease of “mamlachtiut,” a Hebrew word that’s not easy to translate but roughly means national responsibility.
Mamlachtiut is the reason why 8,000 Jews in Gush Katif and hundreds of thousands of their supporters did not set the country on fire in the days leading up to 9 B’Av 2005. Look at the anarchists in Israel’s streets these days – they don’t suffer from the screwed-up mamlachti chip. They identify an enemy and go about destroying him.
Adir Zik passed away in February 2005. I’m not sure the expulsion would have succeeded had he been alive and in front of a microphone.
The moment I laid my eyes on Yinon Magal, the host of Channel 14’s hit show, “The Patriots,” I understood I was looking at a new Adir Zik: no broken chip, a great sense of humor, the ability to switch from sad to happy and back with energy and conviction, great skill with cutting irony and ridicule of the other side, in short: a spokesman for the right-wing downtrodden.
Chaim Levinson, who occasionally co-hosts a morning show with Magal on 103FM mourned back in 2022, when Magal’s new success was taking off, that he should have been a leftist: “A clear supporter of liberal democracy, he has the classic biography of the liberal left: army service, media, secularism. I meet him twice a week for quick chats in the kitchen of the radio station where we both broadcast. Unlike Channel 14’s Boaz Golan and his ilk, Magal is smart, sharp, and witty. He has willingly adopted the pose of defiance and carries it out artfully. Sometimes he is kind, sometimes stinging.”
Levinson was not wrong.
Magal grew up in a secular-liberal home, with dad a career military officer, and mom a medical secretary. He served in the Sayeret Matkal special force (same as both Netanyahu brothers, Naftali Bennett, Ehud Barak – the list is truly long), and worked for the same media outlets he now ridicules twice a day except on Shabbat. He has the instincts of secular Israel, and so on a right-wing playing field he is one of the few who aren’t bothered at all by the virus of “mamlachtiut.”
I asked Magal about Adir Zik’s theory of the NRP’s broken chip which ended up allowing for Oslo and the Gush Katif expulsion.
“There’s something to that,” he says. “You can see that Adir Zik was a baal teshuva, I’m a baal teshuva, Erel Segal left the faith and came back, Itamar Fleishman is a formerly religious person, Yotam Zimri is a massorti secular Jew. In other words, Channel 14, which is very influential on the right, did not rise from the breeding fields of religious Zionism. On the other hand, you can see that people who entered the media from Religious Zionism did not revolutionize anything. They’ve had their influence, some more, some less, but the revolution was carried out by Channel 14, guys who are more related to the Bibistim [Bibi Netanyahu supporters], the Likudniks, the Mizrachi Jews, in the periphery of media reality, not the mainstream and certainly not the classic religious Zionism.”
To put that in plain English, Religious Zionists are still outliers in Israeli society, and as such, limited in their outreach and influence, whereas Channel 14 represents the average, secular-traditional, respectful of religion, more politically conservative Likud-voting Israeli who makes Kiddush at home before heading out to the stadium for a soccer game. Channel 14 is finally giving them a brash voice they never had before.
The names Magal mentioned are of regular panelists on his nightly 75-minute show, “The Patriots” (Saturday night through Wednesday), who are stars of their own shows on Channel 14 and the smattering of right-wing and religious radio stations, including 103FM which features bouts between right- and left-wing hosts, and Galay Israel, 94FM, which is unabashedly right-wing through and through. Journalist and best-selling author Irit Linur has her own morning show on Army Radio. Attorney and journalist Eldad Yaniv used to lead leftist demonstrations calling for Netanyahu’s downfall and had a change of heart. Some of Magal’s panelists also participate in the popular panel hosted by right-leaning Ayala Hasson, who used to be Channel 13’s top ratings getter until the channel decided to go left-only, and she found a new home on Kan 11.
Some of Magal’s panelists appear on Hasson’s show at 7 PM, then speed along Israel’s highways to Channel 14’s studios in Mondi’in to do The Patriots. There are two key differences between the two shows which often treat the same subjects: 1. Magal’s show is orderly and friendly, while Hasson is often the proverbial high school substitute teacher, spending much of her time disciplining her guests; and 2. There are anarchist protesters outside the 14 studios, who on occasion sabotage the works – one time they cut the electricity and the channel went dark for long minutes. Magal and his team made a joke out of the incident, because getting angry would have been what the anarchists wanted.
“In the end, it’s the non-NRP worldview that carried out the current media revolution,” Magal says. “And I, having grown up in an Ashkenazi home, feel that I own this country, just the way the leftists feel. I am the landlord here, I don’t need anyone’s permission, and you, on the left, won’t tell me what to do. This feeling allows me to deal with the left at eye level, without blinking, which is not shared by the Haredim or the religious Zionists. Many Haredim tell me that I represent the Haredi view better than the Haredim themselves. Because the majority of Haredim have an inferiority complex about the left. I don’t have an inferiority complex.”
The thing is, though, that while the other three channels spent many millions on their prime-time shows, Yinon Magal’s show on 14 sticks by the cheapest format, a panel of smart, occasionally angry but also funny media personalities, a responsive audience, lots of pathos and some humor. It’s all about content, and the fact that Israel’s mainstream media have crossed a red line in becoming propaganda channels fighting the government’s judicial reform.
SEND MORE ANARCHISTS
Yinon Magal slams former PM Ehud Olmert who was convicted and served time for corruption only to demand a “civil” civil war.
There’s no doubt that Magal’s show, alongside all of Channel 14’s evening servings, has benefitted tremendously from the success and atrocious verbal and physical violence of the protests against the Netanyahu government’s judicial reform.
It’s as if the leaders of the anarchists who have been at it for several years, trying to unseat PM Netanyahu, got together one day and decided to push up the ratings of Yinon Magal’s “The Patriots,” Erel Segal’s “The Report,” Naveh Dromi’s “Seven,” Shimon Riklin’s “Riklin and Company,” and the main news show with Maggie Tabibi and Sharon Gal.
The protests have meant viewer gold for the country’s only right-wing TV channel.
In June, the channel made broadcast history when its political correspondent Motti Kastel revealed messages from a secret WhatsApp group whose members are the founders of the anarchist groups “Crime Minister,” the Balfour Street protests in Jerusalem, and the Kaplan Street protests in Tel Aviv.
The closed group includes senior government officials, former chiefs of staff, and former heads of government, who were all looking for ways to revive the dwindling protests, including blocking Ben Gurion International Airport on the first day of summer, when tens of thousands of Israelis were eager to escape for a few weeks to Europe and the US. The goal is the same as always: make life miserable for Israelis so they’ll overthrow the right-wing government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Then the channel broke the story about former PM Ehud Barak’s murderous fantasies which he shared, back in 2020, with the core of today’s anarchist leadership. In an eight-minute video excerpt, Barak laid out all the issues, from slogans to civil disobedience and rebellion, the basic methods, the leaders, the general goals of the protest movement, and its ultimate goal. He even said he would pay for the flags, banners, and loudspeaker systems.
And then Barak delivered this smashing line: “A friend of mine, a historian, once told me, Ehud, they will call you when bodies will float in the Yarkon River. I wish to stress: not the bodies of illegally residing Palestinians from the territories will be floating, and not Israeli Arabs. The floating bodies will be of Jews that were killed by Jews.”
The right is numerically bigger than the left in Israel. This gap and the ever-growing pull to the left by the three “mainstream” channels, complete with those channels’ willingness to cater to the madness of the anarchist mobs, is the engine that drives Channel 14’s success.
This should be a delight if your Hebrew is good enough to follow: a seemingly endless string of Lapid statements followed by Lapid saying the exact opposite. The Patriots feature at least one of them every show, and there’s always more for the next day.
Yinon Magal belongs to a new wave of Israeli right-wing TV and radio hosts who use humor and ridicule as a well-honed weapon. After ages of strictly leftist satire on Israeli TV, Magal et al are having fun with their audiences. It helps that on the other side, satirical stars lining up “Eretz Nehederet” (Wonderful Country) and “Zehu Zeh” (That’s it) have turned bitter and angry. Lior Schleien, who used to make fun of everyone and everything, most notably his former boss Yair Lapid, is on YouTube these days, spewing rage. In comparison, Magal is a happy-go-lucky host, always ready to crack a joke, and easily maneuvering between pathos and gossip, rebuke and joy.
Magal has universalized two expressions that have become the sounds of the combative right: “Oy yoi yoi,” which he blurts out like everyone’s stereotypical Jewish mother; and “Host di geheret a mayseh?” which is Yiddish for “Have you heard a story,” both being fun putdowns of the outrageous assertions of the left.
Thankfully, the Israeli left is providing rich, daily doses of white-privileged near-autism, uninhibited racism, despicable vulgarity, borderline violence, robotic choirs shouting “Busha, Busha” (Shame, shame), and squads of women dressed like the handmaidens from the creepy TV show “The Handmaid’s Tale” that turned feminist beliefs into misanthropic projections. The material is so ripe and bubbly, it doesn’t take a genius to use it as fodder for ridicule.
Anything goes between the opening “small talk” segment in which Magal introduces the panelists––usually, one or two right-wing women who have no trouble keeping up with the guys, one Haredi, one leftist, and two feisty right-wingers, who are as fast with the quip and the putdown as Magal––and the final segment, known as “The nightly Lapid,” which usually features a video of opposition leader Yair Lapid, followed by a video of the same Yair Lapid saying exactly the opposite.
Remember the Daily Show with Jon Stewart? For years, millions of young Americans got their news from Stewart and didn’t bother to go anywhere else for their knowledge of political reality.
The same is true for Yinon Magal’s show and right-wing Israelis. Magal delivers the news responsibly, he doesn’t lie, and despite being a sworn Bibi supporter he does not hesitate to criticize the old man when he deserves it. But he never lets go of the “position,” meaning he tells the story from a biased, right-wing angle, and that’s the main reason why his audience keeps coming back and getting bigger.
As a result, Israeli viewing habits are changing, and today lean more rightward, and Channel 14 is taking off as Israelis tire of left-wing propaganda in their news. Over the past six months, “The Patriots” has established itself with a steady 8-point share, give or take a point, which gives them the upper hand over third-place Channel 13 and fourth-place Kan 11, the public channel. Only Channel 12 hovers above its competition.
With its ever-growing audience share, you’d expect 14 to do better than its competitors in ad revenue. This is not happening. The higher the channel’s share, the lower its advertiser base is dropping. In Israel, where everything is political, the banks, car agencies, real estate, and even candy manufacturers, see the rise of the right as a threat and are willing to break the rules of business to bring the demise of 14.
On Sunday, August 2, during a debate on “The Patriots” about the High Court of Justice’s decision to revoke the Teveria Law because it was enacted to fit a specific person, Ari Shamai, the left-leaning attorney who defended Yigal Amir in court after Amir assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, suggested on the show that “if the High Court is against personal laws, it is time to release Yigal Amir, because personal laws were enacted against him as well.”
Everyone who watched the show, including the studio audience, had no doubt that Shamai was not advocating the release of Yigal Amir, but criticizing the court for revoking a law based on the argument of personal legislation when personal legislation is a common practice in the Knesset. But it didn’t matter.
On Monday, Strauss Group Ltd., possibly the largest food manufacturer and distributor in Israel, announced it was suspending all its commercials on Channel 14. Another local conglomerate, Coca-Cola, had already announced it was boycotting the right-wing channel several months ago. Those two were joined by Delek Motors who sell shiny BMWs and Fords to rich Israelis.
There was no doubt that billionaire Ofra Strauss, like so many of her wealthy leftist colleagues (Israel is the only country where the rich rebel against the poor), had been waiting for the opportunity to start boycotting the pesky channel. Yinon Magal responded with a call on right-wing viewers to boycott Strauss products, most notably the company’s prestigious Tami 4 filtered water bar. And for a while, Channel 14 was saturated with commercials for non-Strauss water bars.
Phone operators at Tami 4 received hundreds of cancellations of the service. It got so bad that the company furnished a page with talking points for its phone staff, to be used should a customer call to cancel the service over Strauss’s freezing its advertising on Channel 14. The answer to those pesky subscribers should be: Strauss’s decision to freeze its advertising on Channel 14 is not connected to a political motive but to unity and respectful dialogue… We will be happy to advertise on any channel provided that its messages are based on good values.”
It was a huge, unfair lie. Channel 14 immediately sacked Shamai without a hearing, and issued a heartfelt apology. The host, Magal, did the same. But who needs facts when what you really want is an excuse to bury the only TV outlet in Israel that doesn’t participate in the movement to unseat Netanyahu?
In May, Channel 12 host Galit Gutman said on the air: “How much burden can be placed on a third of this country to keep all these Haredi people who suck our blood.” Yes, she did. And wasn’t punished, never mind sacked on the spot. She showed up the next day, offered a scant apology, and went on with the show. Needless to say, Strauss did not cut its advertising contract with Channel 12 over it.
And on 13, where Strauss owns minority stocks, panelist Natan Zehavi had an anti-Haredi outburst where he said he was hoping that people who put on tefillin would hang themselves with them. Perhaps the phone operators at Tami 4 should say something about the “good values” of Channel 13.
Speaking of values, Strauss Group Ltd. has been in the water bar business with China’s top conglomerate Haier since 2009, supporting the world’s worst dictatorship. But Ofra Strauss is not easily confused by facts.
WILL THE RIGHT ABANDON CHANNEL 14?
Facing so much powerful resistance from the business community which prefers to take a loss rather than let Channel 14 secure its future and pay its employees, Israel’s only right-wing TV channel should receive some boost from the Netanyahu government. After all, whenever right-wing politicians need the home court advantage for their messages, they appear on Channel 14. Netanyahu himself, who has been criticized for going over the heads of the Israeli mainstream channels to be interviewed by ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and Fox, still comes down to the Channel 14 studios in Modi’in to address his voters.
On April 14, Netanyahu was hosted on The Patriots and earned a whopping 9.3 points. The Likud government must come up with a reasonable and legal plan to sponsor this bastion of Zionist hope. Government ads should be diverted to the channel from, say, Haaretz, or 13, which have become bastions of hate for anything Jewish and Zionist.
Finally, one of Magal’s nightly features is a call to audience members to come up and deliver a message to the nation. Often, these are ex-pat Israelis from the US, who are mesmerized by The Patriots’ refreshing message. Turns out the show has a huge following on YouTube, with 21 thousand subscribers. We highly recommend you give it a try – your Hebrew school Hebrew is probably good enough to figure out the jokes.
Yinon Magal is our Man of the Year 5783 because he figured out how to tap into Israel’s silenced majority and gives them a voice in a media environment that suppressed them for many years.