The Crimean affair, a 21st century version of the “Great Game” period of rivalry and conflict some 150 years ago, is playing out dramatically. The Israeli public is exposed now in stark fashion to what is happening outside our region. The drama, the battle of wits between the West and the Kremlin, the weakness of President Barack Obama and his team, are the topics discussed by pundits and mavens. But only one newspaper, Israel Hayom, has headlined one of the obvious implications of this sordid story.
In 1994, the world, led by the Western powers, signed a document assuring the newborn Ukrainian republic that Crimea is part and parcel of Ukraine. This did not come easily and the Ukrainian government was required to give up all nuclear weapons in its possession. The Budapest Memorandum was signed by Bill Clinton, John Major, Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kuchma and promised to uphold the territorial integrity of the Ukraine, with its Article One affirming: “the Independence and Sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.”
Today, 20 years later, this international document seems to be worthless. An international agreement which is not backed by solid interests which can assure that it is kept will not hold water. This, of course, has serious implications on the ongoing negotiations of Israel and its neighbors.
The threats directed at Israel, made recently by EU President Martin Schultz, Secretary of State John Kerry and now President Obama, that it will be isolated unless it signs a peace agreement would seem rather meaningless in view of Ukraine’s current experience.
Signing an agreement seems not to guarantee any security either, especially when a crisis develops. But such news is not fit to print for it does not jibe with the politically correct notion that only a peace agreement and the establishment of a Palestinian state side by side of Israel can guarantee Israel’s future as a Jewish and Democratic state.
On the morning following Netanyahu’s recent meeting with Obama, Arieh Golan of Kol Yisrael posed many questions to Minister Yuval Steinitz. But Golan did not relate to the Crimean affair. Is Golan’s worldview so narrow as to prevent him from asking questions such as: “Minister Steinitz, don’t you think that the recent events in the Crimea should put a damper on Israel’s willingness to sign international agreements?” Steinitz was not asked whether Israel would learn from this experience that, as in the events preceding the 1967 Six Day War, international agreements remain worthless and that Israel must base its policies on its own ability to defend them, rather than expect other countries to do the job for it.
THERE IS much more that is also apparently not fit to print, or discussed in depth, as far as the various media outlets are concerned.
Consider human rights. When Human Rights Watch criticizes Israel, we all get to know about it. But when HRW is exposed as being anti-Semitic by UN Watch, nobody finds out. In fact, most people in Israel have never heard of Hillel Neuer, the executive director of UN Watch, who struggles valiantly and successfully to expose the truth about human rights as practiced in the United Nations and other so-called civil rights NGOs.
In December, 2012, Neuer made it a point to criticize HRW for having Richard Falk, a well documented anti-Semite, on its board.
HRW responded by sacking Falk. Neuer’s struggle to assure that the UN Human Rights Commission would not be controlled by the world’s dictatorships, who have anything but human rights on their agenda, has been quite successful, as also reported in The Jerusalem Post but hardly elsewhere in Israel.
Richard Falk is finally ending his tenure as the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Quite a few Israel-bashers of the Phyllis Bennis ilk (Bennis is quoted as saying, “The Palestinians, they were not Nazis, they were not responsible for the Holocaust, but they were the ones who paid the price”), were hopeful to get the coveted job. But, this was not to be; as reported by UN Watch the nominating board disqualified five such candidates.
Now, one might think that our press, which knows to ask tough questions, especially when Israel is on the receiving side of international criticism, would find that such success is not only worthy of some headlines, but also begs some serious questions.
For example, where is the Foreign Ministry in all of this? Why has it been asleep all these years, why is it that only an independent NGO such as UN Watch struggles against these iniquities? A topic which is very much “in” today is the imminent threat of BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – by a variety of entities abroad. This threat is hailed as a reason why Israel must leave Judea and Samaria. But when NGO Monitor exposes the sources funding these threats, it is ignored.
No one asks the various European ambassadors about their countries’ role in contributing to these anti-Semitic activities.
The representatives of these European countries who are funding what can only be described as subversive activity to undermine Israel’s democracy are treated with fawning respect.
Another well-kept secret is the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), an NGO dealing with Arab affairs in our neighborhood.
Iran is high up on the list of topics discussed in Israel’s media. Yet does anyone here know that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is a Holocaust denier? The Iranian foreign minister tried to deny this allegation, but MEMRI has documented that Khamenei stated the following, in Persian on February 7, 2006: “A very important topic, one which lays to shame the Western culture which prides itself with the freedom of expression, the freedom that they always pride themselves with, it does not allow anyone of them to have doubts about the myth of the killing of Jews, known as the Holocaust. On this topic there is no freedom of expression.”
Is this not of interest to the Israeli public? Shouldn’t information such as this be more prominently publicized in our media? Should not the correspondents based in Washington, London or Berlin be pressing the leaders of those countries negotiating with Iran with some serious questions? And shouldn’t this be done with the same intensity of the foreign media’s pressure on our ministers? Where are our local reporters, such as Ilana Dayan, who confront Israeli officials and politicians with tough questions? Balance and pluralism in the media is not restricted to the number of people appearing, or the social makeup of the various presenters. It is also to be viewed in terms of what is not being asked, and what is withheld from the public.
The authors are respectively vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imw.org.il).