On Thursday next week, Israel will celebrate its 68th birthday.
A birthday, yes, but not yet really an independence day.
Over 2,000 years ago, the prophet Jeremiah admonished Judea: “And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? Or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river?” (Jeremiah 2:18). Too often our media, with its exaggerated bragging, considers itself to be the modern prophet of the people of Israel. But in fact it is a far cry from the honesty, and the political incorrectness, of our prophets of old, and kowtows mainly to money and power.
Our electronic and written media will be full of praise and adulation for the immense achievements of our country next week. The media will as usual criticize our political leaders for not doing enough to prevent the next war. Already this week, the media went out of its way to publicize the “scoop” of Der Spiegel, namely that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is upset with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his statements concerning Merkel’s “understanding” the Israeli point of view. Netanyahu was roundly criticized this past year also by our self-appointed prophets for his public disagreement with US President Barack Obama’s Iran policies.
The general tenor is that Israel is losing international support both in Europe and the US, due to the government’s policies.
A similar fate was met by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who dared to suggest that Israeli law should also be implemented in Judea and Samaria. The false prophet Moshe Negbi immediately went on air to warn of the international outcry which this would raise.
This is the precise opposite of Jeremiah’s admonitions. The prophetic testament is that for Israel to survive it must go in the righteous way, it must maintain its morals instead of following or becoming subservient to the world powers of the time. Indeed, Netanyahu, in his first speech to the US Congress, on July 10, 1996, initially followed this sage advice. Among many other topics, he also had this to say: “We are deeply grateful for all we have received from the United States....
But I believe there can be no greater tribute to America’s long-standing economic aid to Israel than for us to be able to say: We are going to achieve economic independence.
We are going to do it. In the next four years, we will begin the longterm process of gradually reducing the level of your generous economic assistance to Israel. I am convinced that our economic policies will lay the foundation for total self-reliance and great economic strength.”
Will any one in our media raise this issue and publicly ask the prime minister why, after 20 years and especially today, when Israel has indeed become an economic powerhouse, doesn’t he celebrate this Independence Day by announcing our true independence from American funding? Will he be asked why he doesn’t pre-empt the criticism coming from US presidential candidate Donald Trump and announce a five-year plan for ending Israel’s debilitating addiction to US aid? Perhaps some negotiations with the next US president could barter our US aid in exchange for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem? This would be a step toward real independence.
Our media, instead of endlessly repeating the dire predictions that if Israel does not implement the so-called two-state solution and enter talks with the Palestinians its good relationship with the Western world will come to harm could for once act like the prophets of old and urge our government to bring about true independence.
Our media totally ignores the fact that the European Union has de facto divided Jerusalem, with the acquiescence of the Israeli government.
All official EU representatives are not permitted to enter so-called “east Jerusalem” from the Israeli side. They need to receive the blessing of the Palestinian Authority. If the Israeli media would take this issue and put it on the agenda the next time that the prime minister or any other government official announces that Jerusalem will remain unified for eternity, then perhaps it would truly contribute to our independence.
Independence is not only about politics. Our society is dependent on money. Ecclesiastes claimed that “money is the answer for everything” (10:19). But independence means also understanding that there are issues that are sometimes more important than money. Israeli society is becoming increasingly Americanized and this is also part of Jeremiah’s call not to follow the powers that be.
In the US, Independence Day is a shopping holiday. Israel is unhappily emulating this trend. Our media plays an essential role in this. If an ultra-Orthodox person does not respect the day, the media will pounce upon him or her with glee. But if a greedy merchant takes advantage of the crowds on the street and illegally opens up the store, nothing happens.
Although commerce is illegal on Independence Day, advertising is not only permitted but reaches dizzy heights. Even the public media outlets such as the IBA and Galei Tzahal have not voluntarily ceased to carry advertisements on Independence Day.
A major indication of independence is language. One of the miracles of the Zionist revival is the rebirth of the Hebrew language, a rebirth which experts predicted was impossible. For 100 years the experts were proven wrong, but during the past decade it has been becoming evident that they were actually right. Hebrew is no longer the dominating feature of our culture.
It is slowly but surely being replaced by English.
This happens first and foremost in our advertisements and business names. Some ignoramuses in advertising have decided it is easier to sell a product or a business if it has an English, or even better, American name. The media plays along. Israeli sportscasters seem to get their job on condition that they emulate Americanisms. The result is obvious.
Our youth especially are exposed daily to this mixed-up jargon and do not remember at all that our language is Hebrew. We would guess that nine out of 10 youths do not know how to count correctly in Hebrew. A proud Israeli media, which truly believes in independence, not only in the freedom to make money at any cost, would take Independence Day and turn it into a festival of preservation of the Hebrew language.
Independence Day also is a celebration of tradition and a cultural legacy. One outstanding element of the day is the broadcasting of songs of “old Eretz Yisrael.” Why cannot more of these songs be heard in proportion to the rest of the music our youngsters are exposed to? There is no need to eliminate music from abroad but on the other hand, the music of the pre-state days, oriental or Mizrachi music or the genius of Naomi Shemer and Moshe Vilensky, for example, should not be shunted off to a corner of broadcast time.
Independence is not just a shopping list for media directors and editors but must be nurtured.
The authors are vice chairman and chairman respectively of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imediaw.org.il)
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