(photo credit: Courtesy)
Tensions at the Israel Broadcasting Authority reached a new high as violence erupted on Sunday in the corridors the IBA’s television complex in Jerusalem’s Romema neighborhood.
Indirectly responsible was IBA director-general Moti Sklar, who last week announced that everything was back to normal after sanctions by technicians were suspended after more than a month.
Sklar gave the impression that he was creating breathing space for negotiations that would facilitate the long awaited implementation of IBA reforms.
But then he did something that caused hackles to rise among the staff of the Arabic television service and the IBA English news service.
Sklar appointed Said Moadi of Israel Radio’s Arabic broadcasting services as interim head of Arabic Television, which in effect also gives him responsibility for Channel 33.
Rafi Yehoshua, who heads Channel 33, has been fighting for months for its survival, and once word got out about Moadi’s appointment, there was widespread speculation that he had been given the job of hatchet man – namely to close down Channel 33. The suspicions are in part based on the fact the Moadi is a radio man with no television experience.
When Moadi tried to enter the fifth floor Arabic Television offices on Sunday for his first morning meeting in his new position, he found his way barred by employees. A scuffle broke out between him and Michael Dana, the acting Arabic news director. Yehoshua was already inside the office and did not take part in the ensuing brawl.
Yehuda Cohen, an IBA employee and a member of the executive board of the Jerusalem Journalists Association, entered into an argument with Moadi that quickly developed into a sparring match between Moadi and Dana, with each pushing the other backwards. In the final analysis, Dana fell against a metal door and was painfully bruised.
Dana and Cohen had been standing in the corridor by the elevator when Moadi arrived, and Cohen told him in no uncertain terms that he was unwelcome. He then started to push Moadi back towards the elevator. Then Cohen and Dana both stood in front of Moadi to prevent him from getting to the office. Dana tried to speak to Moadi, but by that time, tempers had flared, and Moadi roughly pushed him away.
Steve Leibowitz, the executive editor of IBA News, was on his way to the meeting, but couldn’t get past the throng of workers who sided with Dana and Cohen.
Moadi lodged a complaint with the police, and Dana is considering filing a counter complaint.
Leibowitz said that Channel 33 is an important vehicle for getting Israel’s message out to the Arabic- and English-speaking world. If it closes down, this will be a severe blow to Israel’s efforts to explain its policy on numerous issues.
The battle for Channel 33 is ongoing. When it seemed as if the IBA News might be one of the sacrificial lambs in the IBA’s cost cutting measures, Yehoshua was extremely supportive of his English-language colleagues, said Leibowitz. “Now it’s our turn to support him, because we’re all in this together.”
A support rally is being planned for the fifth floor on Monday morning in which Leibowitz and other English-language broadcasters will join their Arabic-language colleagues.
The IBA spokeswoman said in response to Sunday’s disruptions that Moti
Sklar is in charge of Arabic television in addition to all his other
responsibilities at the IBA, but the volume of work and the numerous
activities in which he is engaged do not allow him sufficient time to
devote to the needs of Arabic television, which he regards as very
important. For this reason, he appointed an Arabic-speaking, senior and
experienced journalist to take care of content and news related issues.
Quoting Sklar, the spokeswoman said that employees must learn to abide
by decisions of management and to work accordingly. Management will do
its utmost to prevent any further outbreaks of violence, said Sklar.