During the very June 2006 day on which Hamas snatched Corporal Gilad Schalit, Fatah nabbed 18-year-old Eliahu Asheri of Itamar, en route from Betar Illit to Neveh Tzuf. Asheri was shot in the head soon thereafter, though the murder didn't prevent his kidnappers from demanding ransom for his "release" as well.
From the outset, media coverage of the two abductions differed radically. Schalit became a household name. Every reporter's heart went out to his family. Correspondents camped expectantly in front of the Schalit home and described his father as no less than "noble." Asheri was labeled "a settler" and there was no proportionate press pilgrimage to his agonized parents. Nothing like the outpouring of emotion and sympathetic verbiage for the Schalits was even remotely evident in the Asheris' case. Indeed, Eliahu was quickly forgotten and added to the long list of apparently expendable terror victims without whom we can somehow manage and move on.
The disparity both in attention and empathy was so unequivocal that it even inspired an extraordinary discussion on Channel 2's Tik Tikshoret (Media File) program, in which moderator Haim Zisowitz put the question to (Dr.) Ilana Dayan, one of the channel's ratings stars and one of the uncrowned royals of Israel's unofficial ideologically exclusive clique of opinion-molders, on which I dwelt two weeks ago.
By way of answering the many e-mails provoked by that column, I hereby bring Dayan's unabashed response: "Gilad Schalit is the salt of the earth, a soldier and our child," she determined. In stark contrast, however, she noted matter-of-factly that "Asheri is a settler." Zisowitz nonetheless pressed hard: "Isn't Asheri 'our child' too?" Dayan emitted a terse chilling: "No!"
That short exchange goes a long way to underscore the double standard which the left-leaning clique subsequently imparts to the public. There are no other popular perceptions and no real rebuttal, except in esoteric polemics on scarcely read op-ed pages. Average out-of-the-loop Israelis have no alternative avenues for gathering information or forming views. Ultimately they're putty in the hands of pundits who orchestrate the public's affections and abhorrences.
Thus, since the communications clique's odium for settlers is so undisguised, most news consumers will accordingly deny compassion and understanding to those the trendsetters hate.
THIS IS no new phenomenon in this country, despite the proliferation yesteryear of mass-circulation nonconformist periodicals along with party-affiliated dailies. And regardless of cyberspace and privatization, journalists today are more uniform than ever in orientations and inclinations.
That's why no gasps of even mild dismay followed Ronnen Bergman's disclosures in Yediot Aharonot that the late and legendary Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek was instrumental in betraying Revisionist underground fighters (mainly from the IZL) to the British. Bergman based his "scoop" on recently declassified British MI5 material. Yet some (though negligibly few) Israelis knew all along.
In 1965, when Menachem Begin awarded the Jerusalem city council majority edge to Kollek, thereby propelling the Rafi-backed mayoral candidate to victory over his Labor (Mapai) adversary, clued-in "Fighting Family" veterans wryly noted the irony. Anyone who read Shmuel Tamir's massive detailed autobiography, Son of this Land, could find several references to Kollek's "services" for British Intelligence. Moreover, Kollek wasn't the only, nor even the highest-ranking, Jewish informant.
This entire sordid chapter in pre-independent Israel's history was downplayed by Laborite officialdom and its lapdog indoctrination lackeys. It became desirable to dull recollection of the inglorious "Saison" (hunting season) which the Hagana declared against those underground volunteers who refused to bow to its authority or even consider it legitimately licensed when no state yet existed. Kollek functioned with exceptional efficiency in this Saison framework, so much so that the Brits coined a special code-alias for him - Scorpion.
Even after said Scorpion's secret was divulged in the early 1950s, he was shielded by the sanction his Mapai bosses granted his operation. The dissidents were so maligned that they became veritable outlaws, making Kollek and others like him more akin to loyal bounty hunters than to cold-blooded traitors. Their job may have been unpleasant but not immoral. Therein lies the crux of the Scorpion syndrome.
The establishment's propaganda machine effectively removed any stigma from the Saison, as it did from the Altalena episode in which Yitzhak Rabin commanded troops who not only blew up the IZL ship laden with precious arms, which Begin pledged to surrender to the struggling newborn state. Rabin also ordered the Holocaust-survivor immigrants who arrived on the ill-fated vessel shot after they had jumped overboard and became helpless targets thrashing in the water.
The mercilessness of deliberately aiming at vulnerable individuals most likely arose from an attempt to assassinate Begin, once it was discovered he was on deck.
The common denominator of both the Saison and the Altalena was to enforce socialist hegemony, which is also why the Mapai-controlled Jewish Agency refused "certificates" (immigration visas which the British put at Agency disposal) to Revisionist youths in pre-Holocaust Europe, and why illegal Revisionist immigrants were ruthlessly pursued by the pre-WWII Yishuv powers-that-be.
How to deploy the media-clique (whether or not the Left's in power) and whom to exhort the masses to revile was and remains a matter of political expediency. Those targeted are invariably the Left's political rivals. Once they were Revisionists, IZL rebels or Lehi "gangsters." Today it's anyone with a realistic chance of leading the so-called Right to electoral success and, above all, those settlers Peace Now snitches on.
Hence so many comprehensively preconditioned and preprogrammed Israelis didn't mourn Asheri and wouldn't mind setting his executioners loose in exchange for Schalit. Different strokes for different sons of Israel.