Media comment: Days of Atonement at the IBA

We hope that by next year’s Day of Atonement, we will be able to look back and say the IBA has changed.

By ELI POLLAK
September 17, 2013 22:22
4 minute read.
Yigal Amir in court [file photo]

Yigal Amir in court 370 (R). (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger / Reuters)

 
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“The Jews, they’re a’comin/Soon the Jews are coming and they don’t have a God/Sometimes I am a hero and at times a murderer/Sometimes an assassin and at times a butcher/But I am a rightwing murderer, a right-wing murderer, a rightwing murderer.”

Those were the words to a song recently uploaded to YouTube. In the background, we hear a popular and well-known children’s tune by Uzi Chitman. The scene is that of people dancing about a tree, and during the song Baruch Goldstein, Yigal Amir and Yona Avrushmi appear. The clip ends with the promise of “soon.”

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Who uploaded the clip? No, not Al Jazeera, not the BBC nor CNN. Not even TV Channel 2 or Channel 10. This was an authorized promo for a new satirical series titled The Jews are coming which, we were informed, is supposed to appear soon on the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s Channel 1 TV, the state-sponsored network.

The IBA obviously took the Day of Atonement seriously. It had time to reflect on its sudden decision – taken after years of deliberation – not to broadcast Latma’s satirical show The Tribal Update (see our column, “The poor Right,” July 7) and realized it wasn’t really fulfilling its public responsibility. After all, is not satire an important part of culture? So the wise men at the IBA (actually an asyet unknown IBA employee) decided it was time for some real satire, the type that would really blow people’s minds. The result is there for all to see. The promo clip uploaded to the Internet contained hatred, pure and unadulterated, promoting, under the guise of satire, a one-sided, vicious attack on half of Israel’s populace and for which, to the best of our knowledge, no one in the IBA hierarchy has yet owned up to.

How did the series come about? Over three years ago, someone had what turned out to be the unpopular idea (at least among the elite group that sets our entertainment norms) of hosting the Latma group’s satirical program at the IBA. In the eyes of some of the decision-makers at the IBA, Latma is but a coterie of extreme right-wingers whose material is not worthy of reaching the public.

However, one cannot come straight out and say, “hey, this is right wing, we can’t show it.” So they came up with a brilliant solution: balance. The IBA would also air a left-wing show. The IBA programming committee was duly presented with this new idea.

However, there wasn’t one left-wing show pitched to the committee, but two (both by the same producer), Peace in the House and The Jews are Coming.



Those on the committee who were in favor of the Latma show agreed that balance was a reasonable request, so they authorized The Tribal Update and Peace in the House. Three years later, when it became apparent that the IBA would actually have to keep its commitment to Latma, the decision was abruptly made to cancel The Tribal Update show and, to maintain “balance,” also the Peace in the House – but not The Jews are coming.

What do the managers of the IBA have to say about all this? Amir Gilat, chairperson of the IBA, claims he was never shown this series and that it was not authorized by the IBA. He does not understand how the promo came about. We have it from authoritative sources, however, that Gilat’s version is less than precise. The series was authorized by the IBA program committee over a year ago.

Yoni Ben-Menachem, the IBA’s director general, responded by taking the promo off the IBA website (you can still find it on YouTube) and promising an investigation into who authorized its airing. In other words, the best-case scenario here is that the IBA management has no idea what’s actually going on under their noses. One wonders in that case why they continue to draw salaries.

But there are some very positive sides to this sordid story. The public response has been angry, and huge. The clip went viral on the Internet. Public outrage was expressed not only by politicians, but by the people.

The complaints overflowed at the IBA’s offices. Gilad Erdan, the minister responsible for the IBA, is looking into the issue.

Another positive aspect to this story is the fact that it showed the true face of some of the people at the IBA. Their hatred of their own people is now in the open, and the IBA is now under enormous pressure to reinstate Latma.

Let us end this column on the optimistic side, hoping that by next year’s Day of Atonement, we will be able to look back and say the IBA has changed, that it understood it needed to be reformed, that it needed to represent all parts of Israeli society. We can also hope that Latma’s show will have become Israel’s premier satire show. That would be a fitting response to those as-yet unnamed IBA employees who seem to despise the Jews they ideologically oppose but who are paying their salary.

The authors are respectively vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imw.org.il),

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