publicly discussion of Iran is playing a high-stakes game of “Swami Says” – a phony attempt to predict the future.
Shadow over Likud logo Photo: Marc Israel Sellem
What do people around the world spend billions on every day? What need has
spawned more professions, both real and fraudulent, than any other? The answer
isn’t so obvious but becomes clear once you start thinking about
Predicting the future has been one of mankind’s primary concerns
since the beginning of civilization. It is essential for us to try and be in
control of our destiny and hedge our bets against the inevitable changes are
part of our existence. If you’ve ever considered why people purchase stocks,
insurance or even a lottery ticket, you know where I’m coming
Before you start thinking that I’ve decided to write a column on
philosophy, let me assure you that this need is playing an ever growing part in
the delicate balance between the Israeli government and the media.
start by going back to October. Right after the Tishrei holidays, a leading
Israeli newspaper published an op-ed, a portion of which ran on the front page.
It basically discussed how Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense
Minister Ehud Barak might be planning to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities
without the backing of the heads of security forces and, no less importantly,
with zero public discourse. No sources were quoted.
The day after the
piece came out I wrote a column criticizing the paper for running the story,
especially on the front page, as I felt it did not serve the citizens of Israel.
I argued that there are many other parties interested in having the Iran nuclear
issue shoved to the forefront of the public agenda (I even named a few of them)
but that it was counterproductive for the country as a whole.
at the time decided that I was too critical of the newspaper and killed my piece
despite my objections. Sure enough, within two to three days everyone was
talking about Iran. Just to clarify, I understand that Iran poses a huge
threat to Israel. That said, I believe that publicly discussing all of the
different scenarios designed to put an end to that threat is playing a
high-stakes game of “Swami Says” – a phony attempt to predict the
The Iran agenda has made top headlines not just in the Israeli
press but in international media outlets as well. But why do they all go along
with it? Simply put, it makes for an endless supply of stories. A highly
regarded individual of any party involved in the situation can say something and
it can make the front page. Who knows, maybe another piece of information
or opinion will give us a clearer vision in our crystal ball.
domestically is that the saber-rattling has been so loud it has drowned out the
cries for other important causes. Looking back, it seems to have particularly
hampered the message from the throngs of Israelis who last summer took to the
streets demanding the government change our economic priorities. Who would want
to lead a newscast with a lopsided tax system or the high price of housing when
you could be talking about a possible war or nuclear annihilation?
Now, just in
case the Iran rhetoric is quieting down, the Likud has orchestrated yet another
game of Swami Says for the Israeli public in the form of elections. It started,
once again, immediately following the holidays. The Friday after Independence
Day, an interview with Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin was published saying that
the upcoming parliamentary session will likely be the last of this Knesset. Sure
enough, on Sunday that’s what everyone was talking about and the next day, it
was all but set in stone.
The period leading up to elections is when
media outlets are hypersensitive. Knesset members running for office are out
there campaigning and trying to raise money. That means massive press presence.
Every news outlet wants to get a headline via extensive coverage. We’ll all be
occupied as they look for every mistake, every fight and every juicy tidbit and
report on it.
If we are to believe today’s polls, Likud will win this
election and the status quo will be preserved. But news outlets can’t
just leave it at that. There needs to be suspense and plotlines. Some
parties will lose out while others will gain power. Which ones? We’ll be taken
down the road to the elections. Meeting and revisiting with the people and their
stories. Analyzing every twist and turn and what it might mean for the upcoming
vote. Four or five months of tales from the campaign trail. We’ll be spending a
lot of money to finance a gamble in which Likud has heavily hedged its
That should keep us all busy until after the elections when, like
it or not, at the end of the holidays, we’ll all tune in for another nail-biting
episode of Swami Says. That chapter has yet to be written.
The writer is
an independent media consultant and a former producer at the Fox News Channel in