Michalei throws water at Majadele 311.
(photo credit: Knesset Channel)
It started with a discussion about school. Someone was speaking when someone
else interrupted. “Shut up,” the speaker snapped. “No, you shut up,” the
interrupter retorted. It became a shouting match that escalated in tone and pace
until the interrupter stood and began to walk away. But then she turned, coolly
filled a glass with water and flung its contents in the speaker’s
“She’s crazy,” was all the drenched speaker could say at
A person exposed just to the description provided above might be
forgiven for thinking the players were hormonal teens in a high-school
cafeteria. If you see and listen to the footage, however – and you can, because
it was broadcast live, with the video clip speedily going viral – you’ll see
that these were not merely adults: The speaker was MK Ghaleb Majadle of Labor
and the interrupter was MK Anastasia Michaeli of Israel Beiteinu, lawmakers
entrusted with exercising Cleisthenes’s gift to the world. And this did not
merely take place in the Knesset; it was in a session of its Education
Majadle has been known to be rude and even crude. And Michaeli
has been known to get physical. In 2010, MK Haneen Zoabi, an Arab, like Majadle,
was leaving the Knesset podium after explaining (to little comprehension and
much anger) why she had been aboard the Mavi Marmara.
The Israel Beiteinu
MK stepped forward and – again, in a live broadcast – took a swing. I have my
doubts that Michaeli, a blonde former beauty queen in her native Russia and
later host of a show on Israel’s Russian-language cable station, was ever voted
Miss Congeniality, but she sure knows a TV camera when she sees
WONDERFUL THING, television – it brings the world into our living
room. Yet it has its detractors, and when people say it can be a bad influence,
especially on our youth, it’s possible they have the Knesset Channel in
The channel began broadcasting in May 2004 (although previous
incarnations were on the air long before that). According to the Knesset
website, it “reveals, with full transparency, the activities of 120 Knesset
members and provides the public with a high level of familiarity with the
Knesset’s work.” Indeed it does.
Although it tends to get bogged down on
the tedium of legislation and the endless rhetoric of so many windbags, the
Knesset Channel, like war, which is nine-tenths waiting and one-tenth sheer holy
terror, does have its great moments. I mean, here are 10 dozen men and women,
each with a specific worldview and a healthy dose of ambition and ego. On any
given Monday to Wednesday while the Knesset is in session, there’s a one-in-10
chance that in committees and the plenum you’ll get “with full transparency”
anything from raunchy poetry and outlandish props to heated table-banging and
boisterous shouting matches (if not the occasional Full Michaeli).
it Law and Disorder. Or, perhaps, the Israeli version of Jerry
An openly gay left-winger with a decidedly secular outlook on
life within spitting distance of a cadre of bearded and blackclad men who say
that homosexuality is an abomination and calamity God’s way of letting us know?
Kahane’s progeny in the same room with Zoabi, who seems to think her
constituency extends to the Arabs of Gaza and the West Bank, or with MK Ahmed
Tibi and his strange love for the perverted Arab notion of martyrdom? Wait till
one steps up to the rostrum. Then shout right out that this person has the IQ of
a toaster and people like him or her will lead the country straight to hell.
Call the program Ruby! Of course, there’s also the Knesset as sitcom, although
it’s been years since the genre’s glory days, when MKs such as Yosef Ba-gad and
Shmuel Flatto-Sharon, like Jerry Seinfeld, successfully brought standup and a
roomful of wacky cohorts to the small screen.
Flatto-Sharon, if you don’t
remember, was on the lam from French authorities for fraud and used his Knesset
seat as immunity.
He was so recently off the boat that he needed a
translator to figure out when to raise his hand during plenum votes. Bagad, a
yeshiva principal and very nice man although a bit gabby even for an MK, often
opened his mouth without engaging his brain, like the time he mistakenly
announced – in a live broadcast – that a soldier had been kidnapped. Instead of
garnering an Emmy, the blooper sent tens of thousands of panic-stricken parents
running for phones and we were left to wonder whether he wasn’t heavily invested
in Bezeq or one of the then-nascent cell-phone companies.
Yes, it’s a
good argument that the Knesset Channel broadcasts just as much garbage as the
next. But look at the bright side: No one seems to watch it – only one reader of
The Jerusalem Post wrote in about the Michaeli incident, and it was to complain
that her punishment – a four-week suspension from Knesset committee meetings and
plenum sessions – was unfair when compared to the punishments meted out to other
MKs for poor behavior.
(Yes, the letter writer was referring specifically
to Arab legislators.) Of course, the Knesset Channel does have an upside, for if
our children discover that parliamentary goings-on can be as sobering as Law and
Order, as weirdly compelling as Jerry Springer, as hilarious as Seinfeld and as
action-packed as Nikita, complete with blonde liquidators, they’ll at least know
they have a Knesset, and that’s the first lesson in teaching democracy (although
from then on it would be wise for the teacher to look elsewhere for source
The rest of us will just have to keep trying to convince
ourselves that it’s only television.