Grapevine: A Political Retreat

National Library discussion on journalism; Indian ambassador hosts Republic Day.

India’s 64th Republic Day370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
India’s 64th Republic Day370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
POLITICS IS everything in Israel, and it also gets in the way of everything. Jerusalem based venture capitalist Erel Margalit had planned to host President Shimon Peres on Tuesday at the JVP Media Quarter, an innovation incubator that Margalit created in a successful effort to combine creativity and innovation with the aim of providing young start-up companies with a unique platform that enables them to focus on the product rather than on administrative tasks. Peres was scheduled to watch a filmed workshop produced for his visit by AnyClip and to subsequently lead a discussion with 100 hi-tech experts, students and other youth.
But the fly in the ointment was the realization of another ambition of Margalit’s, which was to be elected to the Knesset.
Although Margalit, ranked No.10 on the Labor list in last week’s Knesset election, has yet to make his declaration of allegiance, Peres’s legal adviser, Udit Corinaldi- Sirkis, didn’t think it was exactly kosher for Peres to be accepting Margalit’s hospitality at this time. The visit was shelved on Monday and, if it is rescheduled, it will be one of Margalit’s partners who will be doing the hosting because Margalit will have to suspend his interest in JVP for the duration of his Knesset service.
■ RACISM IS alive and well in Israel. Almost every week, newspapers carry stories of people denied entry into night clubs because of the color of their skin or because they have an Arab surname.
Racism is ugly at any time, but is ugliest in demonstrations by some of the fans of the Beitar Jerusalem football team.No matter how frequently the team gets punished for the sins committed by its fans, the fans just don’t seem to learn. It’s gotten so bad that Ehud Olmert, who is known to be of the team’s long-standing and most enthusiastic fans, has announced that he’s not going to any more Beitar matches.
The latest incident was the angry reaction to the disclosure by Beitar’s owner. Arcadi Gaydamak, that he plans to sign on two players from Chechnya’s Terek Grozny team – Dzhabrail Kadiyev and Zaur Sadayev – who both happen to be Muslims.
The fans were more than vociferous in their opposition, causing the Chechens to have second thoughts about coming to Israel.
Arab players have long been banned from the Beitar team, regardless of any laws against racial and religious discrimination.
Now the belligerent Beitar bigots have taken their blind hatred a step further to include all members of the Islamic faith.
Just imagine the reaction if Jews were banned from football teams, universities, stock exchanges, etc.
Gaydamak has supposedly been trying to sell the team for a long time, and something has always gone wrong before anyone could sign on the dotted line. It was thought early this month when his good friend, Russian billionaire Telman Ismailov, who happens to be Jewish, displayed more than usual interest in acquiring the team by sponsoring a friendly match between Beitar and Terek Grozny in the Chechen capital of Grozny. Ismailov flew the Beitar team to Chechnya at his own expense. It was quite a risk on Beitar’s part to agree to play in the predominantly Muslim war-torn region, but whatever else can be said about Beitar players, they’re not cowards. In fact, they chose to ignore a National Security Council warning not to go to Chechnya. They received VIP treatment and saw more of Grozny than just the football field. They also visited the new synagogue and met with Chechnya’s President Ramzan Kadyrov. At the football field, there were posters denouncing terror and lauding the Israeli team. It was a totally unexpected welcome. The match ended in a tie, but according to Gaydamak, the visit by Beitar scored an important goal.
Gaydamak may have second thoughts about selling. He’s taken to once again attending Beitar matches, which has sparked rumors that he may invest more money in the team. Meanwhile, Eli Tabib, the former owner of Hapoel Tel Aviv, who has fluctuated between hot and cold over acquiring Beitar, seems to have rekindled his interest, and another Israeli businessman who lives in Miami, and whose identity remains secret, arrived in Israel a couple of weeks ago to test the waters. He, too, has previously shown interest in buying the team, but he still has to be convinced that it can be restored to its former glory and that it will be able to sustain star performance.
After this most recent display of blatant racism on the part of Beitar fans, it’s possible that no one will be interested in buying the team. Gaydamak may continue to try to find boosters, but a lot of players who are not Muslims may nonetheless be hesitant about joining the team. Maccabi Umm el-Fahm. which has so often been the butt of racist outcries by extremists among the Beitar fans and which played against Beitar last night, has declared that it wants to keep politics out of sports and to just focus on the game.
Meanwhile, racism is also rampant in the South. Former MK and current Omer Mayor Pini Badash is fuming over the cabinet’s decision on Sunday to legalize some of the Beduin villages that have sprung up over past 64-plus years on land that allegedly belongs to the state.
These Beduin villages have never been recognized. Now that the government has decided to act on a recommendation of Minister Benny Begin to accord formal status to Beduin settlement in the Negev and to confer recognition to Beduin villages, Badash is ready to burst a gut. In an interview on Israel Radio, he was literally screaming with rage. He didn’t mind if the government gave the Beduin financial compensation to move, but he didn’t want them in his back yard under any circumstances. His discriminatory attitude was particularly immoral on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Admittedly the Jews were far worse off under the Nazis, but the Beduin have been victimized by the Israelis for more than six decades. A little over two years ago, Badash had Beduin students struck off the high school list in Omer even though the students had passed all the required tests and had even attended the first day of school. In most of his campaign speeches, Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett stressed the importance of doing away with hate. It’s a slogan that should become a guiding light of the 19th Knesset.
■ WHEN HE quit the Labor Party soon after gaining third place in the party primaries, political pundits attributed his move to sour grapes, claiming that former party chairman Amir Peretz, who had brought Shelly Yacimovich into the Labor Party, was a sore loser.
Peretz denied this, saying that he’d left because Yacimovich cancelled meetings with him and would not listen when he asked her not to deviate from Labor’s traditional position with regard to the peace process. Now, after failing to live up to Yacimovich’s declarations that Labor would bring about a political turnaround in the elections, Yacimovich, who more or less ditched Peretz during her rise to power, is getting a dose of her own medicine as Labor activists begin to air the party’s dirty laundry in public, charging that Yacimovich had ignored or gotten rid of veteran party stalwarts, refused to listen to their advice and had preferred to be a one-woman show instead of a team player.
Anyone who listened closely when Yacimovich used to anchor Hakol Diburim (It’s All Words) on Israel Radio would have detected this trend in the way she dealt with her interviewees. Then again, there was the possibility that her radio persona was a deliberate contrivance. Media interviews with disgruntled and disappointed veteran Labor activists who were pushed to the sidelines or totally ignored by Yacimovich suggest that sooner or later there will be a putsch designed to oust her. She may follow Ehud Barak’s example and pre-empt such a move by forming a new faction, leaving Labor with even fewer seats than it has already.
History seems to have a habit of repeating itself in Labor. In 2004, Shimon Peres, who was then chairman of the Labor Party, brought breakaway politician Amir Peretz and his One Nation Party back into Labor. In 2005, Peretz ran against Peres for party leadership and won, and Peres left to join Ariel Sharon’s new Kadima party. Peretz, in turn, brought Yacimovich into the Labor Party with great fanfare. In June, 2007, Peretz lost the Labor leadership to Barak but was confident that he would regain it after Barak left to form the Independence Party. But Peretz lost the 2011 leadership race to Yacimovich and, a little over a year later, following the Labor primaries, he left to join Tzipi Livni.
■ MORE THAN a week after the Knesset election, political pundits are still analyzing Yair Lapid’s success.
Former Sderot mayor Eli Moyal, who is a member of the Likud Central Committee said in an interview on Israel Radio that both Likud and Labor had fared badly, not because of the manner in which Lapid had conducted his campaign, but because they had abandoned their basic ideologies, thereby losing traditional voters.
■ AT AN age when most people are thinking of retirement, veteran broadcaster Rafi Ginat has started a new phase in his career. Ginat, 64, who is best known for his investigative consumer program, Kolbotek, has been appointed CEO of Channel 10, taking over from Yoav Haldman, who was acting CEO for the past few months.
Haldman will remain with Channel 10 as chief financial officer and executive vice president.
Channel 10, which was in danger of closing down, was refinanced by Ron Lauder, one of its major shareholders. Channel 10’s board of directors along with the Nana website decided that only someone with Ginat’s talents and vast media experience could lead the ailing channel on a new path.
Kolbotek which is one of the longest-running programs on television, was first launched on Channel 1 in December 1974 with Ginat as editor and producer and the genial Daniel Pe’er as presenter. Ginat took over the presentation of the show in 1979.
He took it with him when he joined Channel 2 and is now transferring it to Channel 10.
Ginat also has print media experience, having served for two years as editor-in-chief of Yediot Aharonot. When he went to Yediot, Ginat had to give up his 20-year-plus role as basketball stadium announcer for Maccabi Tel Aviv. He is also a singer who has released several CDs.
Ginat has always been a controversial figure, who has allegedly used his show to promote the interests of his friends and to come down like a ton of bricks on his enemies. But none of the controversy has had a lasting negative effect on his career. Even after he was indicted in 1990 on two minor counts of bribery with regard to receiving significant discounts on the purchase of three motor scooters and receiving free parking permits from equally controversial parking lot owner Reuven Gross, Ginat continued to be a television king-pin despite the fact that the district attorney stated that Ginat had received these favors in the full knowledge that he was getting them because of his job in television and his ability to help or hinder sales.
When it was made public in October 1989 that there were bribery allegations against him, Ginat was not even temporarily suspended, but instead was given an extended leave of absence.
The only real punishment he received was to be deprived of his second program, Police Investigation, because at the time, he himself was being personally investigated by the police.
Instead he was appointed director of Channel 1’s entertainment department, from which he was suspended during his trial. He was reinstated in April,1990, over the objections of then-state attorney Dorit Beinish, who had requested his suspension when the bribery allegations first surfaced.
Arye Mekel, who was then director-general of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, refused and preferred to honor a request by the National Federation of Israel Journalists that Ginat not be suspended.
More recently there were allegations that he had used Kolbotek to promote the interests of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who is among Ginat’s personal friends. Ginat is obviously a Teflon man to whom nothing sticks. He has weathered all the storms and this may well be one of the reasons, aside from his professional abilities, that he has been chosen to lead Channel 10, whose board of directors this week announced that Golan Yochpaz has been appointed to head its news division. A veteran journalist, Yochpaz was previously the editor of Channel 2’s weekend news roundup, Ulpan Shishi, and also presented his own current affairs program on Army Radio. Yochpaz has previously worked with Ginat as an editor of Kolbotek.
■ GINAT IS not the only person in his age group with new employment prospects. One of his former colleagues, Dalia Mazor, 63, who for 40 years was a news presenter on Channel 1 from the time that it was known as Israel Television and who resigned a couple of years back, demonstrated her dancing prowess on Channel 2’s Dancing with the Stars and then took up an offer for a breakfast show program on politics, culture and more, had a romance of several months with Alex Giladi, who had also been a colleague at Israel Television and has now been offered a job as a presenter for internationally known cosmetician Ronit Raphael. Raphael, who specializes in the science of skin-care, has for quite a few years now selected well-groomed, good-looking older women to promote her products.
It’s no big deal when a woman under the age of 30 has glowing skin and looks good. But when a woman of 50, 60 or 70 looks good, there has probably been some help from products such as those manufactured by Raphael.
■ JERUSALEMITES EITHER prefer forms of night time entertainment other than lectures and panel evenings, or they have a sixth sense about the ones that are going to flop. That would explain why the event held at Beit Avi Chai on the Polish influence on the Knesset attracted so few people, with the result that the auditorium was only half full.
There was a similar situation at the National Library this week at a discussion on journalism in celebration of the library’s acquisition of the archive of Shalom Rosenfeld, one of the founders of Maariv, who later served as its editor and was the first person to be awarded an Israel Prize in the field of journalism. More interesting than anything that was said at the event was an exhibition of documents and photographs from Rosenfeld’s archives spanning a period from 1934 to 1979. Two photographs in the exhibition were particularly interesting – one of the group of journalists that in 1948 defected with Azriel Carlebach from Yediot Aharonot to form what was originally Yediot Maariv; and the other taken at Geula Cohen’s home in 1966 at a gathering that she hosted of heads of underground movements. Everyone in the photo was a member of a rightwing organization with the exception of a very happy looking Shimon Peres, who sat next to Menachem Begin.
The National Library’s Hezi Amiezer told the audience that the library is in the process of digitizing all newspapers ever published in Israel, so that they will be permanently and easily available to anyone who wants to read them or who is doing research. He also paid tribute to Rosenfeld’s contribution to the preservation of Yiddish, particularly his efforts to assemble a Itzik Manger archive that he presented as it came to hand to the National Library. After the Holocaust, said Amiezer, Rosenfeld made it his life’s mission to remain in contact with surviving Yiddish writers and to encourage them to keep writing. The main thrust of the discussions was on journalistic integrity and how it has changed over the years, especially in an era of social media.
■ MODERATOR Dalik Volinitz was obviously ill-prepared for the function at Beit Avi Chai and cracked some lame Polish jokes, provoking a woman in the audience to call out, “We don't need you to tell us Polish jokes. We’re Polish. We came to hear about the Polish influence on the Knesset.”
Unfortunately, it barely got to that because Volinitz decided to open the discussion on what it means to be Polish, and even former Knesset speaker Szewach Weiss went off on a tangent from which he never returned. Israel Radio’s Aryeh Golan, who was born in Poland and frequently returns there, was in the audience and made a couple of polite suggestions but refrained from any form of interference. Several people in the audience would have preferred him to be the moderator and made no secret of the fact.
■ SOME WOMEN in Israel’s Indian community wear saris all year round. Others wear them only on special occasions, including Republic Day, which was hosted at his residence last week by Indian Ambassador Jaideep Sarkar and his wife. Nearly all of the 400 guests were of Indian background, and almost every woman in attendance was wearing a sari in colors and fabrics that collectively represented a sea of splendor. Indian restaurateur Reena Pushkarna, who always makes a point of assisting each Indian ambassador in presenting a genuine Indian aura, provided authentic Indian food for the brunch, which was catered by her Tandoori Restaurant.
■ MORE THAN 1,000 people came to the Oranim Sports Center in Ramat Hasharon last Saturday night for the Zumba Party in Pink organized by Stacy Zimmerman Shani, who is a firm believer in doing things with total commitment.
The Party in Pink is an annual zumba-thon that gets whole families rocking to raise money for the One in Nine breast cancer research fund. Everyone who came was partially or entirely dressed in pink as a sign of solidarity with the cause, and for an hour and a half people in age groups spanning four generations rocked the stadium with solid zumba fun.
Headliners for the night were Israeli zumba educational specialist Mario Gutierrez and Israeli jammer May Mor. Zumba teachers from around the country flocked to the event not only to have fun but to also pick up a few pointers that may have previously eluded them. Some of them also danced on stage.
“Party in Pink is an opportunity for Zumba Israel to show everyone that zumba is not just another dance-fitness class, but rather a family affair... a family that pulls together to help their community,” said Shani, who noted that zumba teachers from all parts of the country sold tickets to the event and also had a chance to be onstage. “There was no room for egos here... Everyone came to groove for the cause! It was amazing to see zumba instructors dancing with their students, enjoying the evening together.”
Shani is thrilled that this year’s event was even more successful than last year’s, when 800 zumba enthusiasts showed up, and she’s hoping that there will be more next year. “It’s a truly great feeling to be dancing for a cause,” she said.