Grapevine: News making news

THE BATTLE for the honor of Sara Netanyahu was taken up by Israel HaYom, the paper owned by magnate Sheldon Adelson, which wages a daily campaign against Yediot Aharonot publisher Noni Mozes.

Peres speaking at conference 370 (photo credit: Sarit Font )
Peres speaking at conference 370
(photo credit: Sarit Font )
The Israel Broadcasting Authority is very much in the news these days for a variety of reasons.
Among them is the pulling of a Yediot Aharonot weekend promo regarding an interview with ‘first lady’ Sara Netanyahu’s brother, Hagai Ben-Artzi; another is the decision by Communications Minister Gilad Erdan and Finance Minister Yair Lapid to freeze the signed agreements between the Association of Israeli Journalists, the Histadrut labor federation, the Finance Ministry and the IBA management, which will allow the long-delayed IBA reforms to be implemented.
In fact, Erdan has proposed that the IBA be closed down and reopened under a new format. He has also given the green light to HOT cable and YES satellite television channels to begin broadcasting news – which in view of his desire to close down the IBA, is tantamount to the kiss of death for public broadcasting.
In the past, the communications minister was responsible for commercial television and radio, but not for state-owned television and radio.
Erdan is the first communications minister to hold both portfolios.
Meanwhile, Labor MKs Isaac Herzog and Eitan Cabel, who were each at different times the ministers responsible for the IBA, have taken up the gauntlet on both the possible closure issue as well as the stifling of the Yediot Aharonotcommercial. This was the first time in the IBA’s history that a regular commercial promoting an interview in the paper’s “Seven Days” supplement had been canceled after it was initially broadcast.
All of the daily’s Thursday and Friday promos are somewhat more bombastic than the actual stories being promoted, and the interview with Ben- Artzi was relatively tame.
Basically, Ben-Artzi said he didn’t like the way his little sister’s personality had changed, and without going into much detail, stated that that change had created rifts in the family. He was complimentary about how close she was to their parents, but said he thought that his father had been better off living alone than when Sara Netanyahu moved him into the Prime Minister’s Residence – where she resides with her husband, Binyamin Netanyahu. The interview was in tandem with the release of Ben-Artzi’s book about his family, which he wrote as a catharsis after his father’s death several months ago.
The censoring of the promo for the interview, at the alleged request of the Prime Minister’s Office, prompted Cabel to ask State Comptroller Joseph Shapira and Erdan to investigate the matter. Cabel went so far as to ask whether the IBA had become an organ of Pravda, the Russian political newspaper associated with the Communist Party. In demanding an investigation, he was joined by fellow Labor MK Miki Rosenthal.
On the other issue, Cabel doesn’t want to close down the IBA, but he does want to get rid of its management and install what he calls a rescue team to breathe new life into the authority.
■ THE BATTLE for the honor of Sara Netanyahu was taken up by Israel HaYom, the paper owned by magnate Sheldon Adelson, which wages a daily campaign against Yediot Aharonot publisher Noni Mozes. This time, they interviewed several physicians from Hadassah University Medical Center, who testified that Netanyahu was constantly at her father’s side during his illness and had familiarized herself with every detail of his treatment.
It has to be admitted that with the exception of Israel HaYom, Netanyahu has been the dartboard of the Israeli media, which has gleefully reported on allegations of her mistreatment of staff, her interference in government decisions, her spies in the Prime Minister’s Office, and her abuse of the public purse.
There have also been nasty reports about the way she dresses and how she pushes herself into photographs with visiting dignitaries and celebrities. How much of all this is truth and how much is speculation is hard to tell, because in Israel, gossip is so frequently treated as gospel.
It is true, however, that 17 years ago, she obtained a court injunction to prevent her former husband Doron Neuberger– to whom she was married for seven years, and who she divorced in 1987 – from publishing a tell-all book about her. She has been the subject of negative speculation ever since.
■ THEN AGAIN, there are incidents that contradict the gossip-mongers.
One of the stories related to Netanyahu concerns her alleged jealousy of Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, whose appointments with the prime minister were allegedly listed under the name of a male so as not to arouse his wife’s ire. Yet at the opening of the Maccabiah Games last week, the two women kissed each other hello and sat near one another. Does that scotch the rumors, or was it merely camouflage?
 ■ MEANWHILE, BACK to the IBA and its possible closure: Veteran broadcaster Aryeh Golan this week quoted a New York Times report on the reopening of ERT, the Greek state television network, following its closure a month earlier and the dismissal of 2,700 employees. The paper described the reopening as a bare bones version of the former service, with old movies and documentaries and very sparse content.
In quoting from the Times report, Golan said he hoped that the prime minister, the finance minister and the communications minister were listening. “Who wants us to be like Greece,” he declared and promptly interviewed Herzog, who as head of the Knesset lobby for public broadcasting has become a favorite interviewee on The Voice of Israel’s Reshet Bet.
Herzog came out sharply against Erdan’s proposal to close down the IBA, and warned that if it is closed, it will never open again. Worse, he said, the closing of state-owned enterprises will start with the IBA and will then continue on to other stateowned entities. No one will be safe.
The MK said it was a travesty on the part of the government not to honor agreements it had signed.
In a less direct fashion, Yehoram Gaon, in his weekly program on Reshet Bet on news developments, scoffed at the idea of HOT and YES being granted licenses to broadcast news. Most broadcast outlets relay the same few news items over and over throughout the day, he said, so there’s no real competition – and therefore no need for additional outlets if we’re going to get more of the same.
■ NOT EVERYONE shares that view.
Israel’s answer to Al Jazeera opened up slightly behind schedule last Wednesday with the launch at Jaffa Port of I24, which is dedicated to broadcasting news of the Middle East and showing a somewhat different perspective of Israel.
Ever since word leaked out that I24 was getting its act together, out-ofwork journalists or working journalists who wanted to change their place of employment for something seemingly more glamorous, have been bombarding colleagues who might have possible connections with I24 and could help them get a foot in the door.
Financially backed by Patrick Drahi, an international media tycoon who also has the controlling interest in HOT, I24 – which broadcasts in English, French and Arabic – was the brainchild of former French diplomat Frank Malloul, who is now the station’s CEO. The station will depend on Channel 2 for archival material, and Channel 2’s former Gaza correspondent, the charismatic Suleiman al-Shafi, will be one of the familiar faces on I24 – with the difference that whereas he broadcast in Hebrew on Channel 2, he will be doing so in Arabic on I24. Other wellknown Arab broadcasters are Lucy Aharish and Nadine Hamed, who will serve as anchors.
Journalists employed at I24 include Jews, Muslims, Druse and Christians, who collectively provide yet another example that harmonious coexistence is feasible.
■ DO PRESIDENT Shimon Peres and Binyamin Netanyahu know something about the outcome of the trial of former prime minister Ehud Olmert that has thus far been withheld from the public? Each of them in his address at the opening of the Maccabiah Games, in listing various dignitaries, included Olmert not just by name but by title. Olmert has been present at numerous other events attended by either Peres or Netanyahu or both, and has been all but ignored by them – although it must be acknowledged that when Olmert’s legal troubles began, Peres defended him when speaking to the media, saying that in Israel a person remains innocent until found guilty by a court of law.
It is known that there is little love lost between Netanyahu and Olmert, so if both the president and the prime minister included “former prime minister Ehud Olmert” in their greetings, there must be something in the wind.
■ ONE LAST word about the prime minister: Everyone knows that he is a first-class communicator. What is less commonly known is that he’s also a great impersonator. In an interview that Yoav Ginai conducted on Channel 1 with husband-and-wife team Moti Gilad and Osnat Vishinski – who are both excellent impersonators and satirists, and often meet the Netanyahus socially – Giladi said that Binyamin Netanyahu, “who is a movie freak with an incredible knowledge of films,” does fantastic impersonations of actors Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable.
■ WHAT A nice, slightly delayed birthday present former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk received from US Secretary of State John Kerry. Indyk celebrated his 62nd birthday on July 1, and if media reports are correct, just under three weeks later found himself in an almost tailor-made role as mediator of the renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
■ IT’S A sad reflection on how we play the game that so many contestants for leadership roles tend to badmouth their rivals when trying to win votes and support. But not all of them are like that.
Interviewed last week by Ayala Hasson on the It’s All Talk radio program, Rabbi Tzion Shalom Boaron, one of the candidates for Sephardi chief rabbi, refused to be drawn into any discussion about the other contenders, saying that while he was willing to discuss his own platform, he was not prepared to say anything about his rivals.
On the other hand, after Moshe Lion finally confirmed this week that he was running for mayor of Jerusalem, current Mayor Nir Barkat released a statement in which he said he found it strange that Lion had just recently changed his place of residence from Givatayim to Jerusalem, having never bought a house in the capital before this, neither paying taxes nor educating his children here.
Barkat chose to ignore the fact that Lion had spent some 15 years working in the capital, first in the Prime Minister’s Office, then as head of Israel Railways, and currently as head of the Jerusalem Development Authority. In all three posts, Lion made a point of attending events held by various economic and cultural organizations within the capital, so he certainly knows what’s going on and has also contributed to the city’s development.
There is also a precedent for moving house to qualify for a position.
Amram Mitzna, who had previously been mayor of Haifa, moved to Yeroham and turned the city around; and Meir Nitzan, the former mayor of Rishon Lezion, improved city affairs in Lod after his appointment as transitional mayor. So there’s nothing really strange about Lion moving to Jerusalem, where he actually spent more time than he did in Givatayim – except on Shabbat and holidays.
Incidentally, while Lion was announcing his candidacy for mayor, Barkat was being honored as Yakir of Religious Zionism by the B’Sheva media group. The presentation was delivered by the respective candidates for the positions of Sephardi and Ashkenazi chief rabbis, Shmuel Eliyahu and David Stav – who each, ironically, has been a subject of enormous controversy. Barkat said in response that religious Zionism was a full ideological partner in the continuing process of the building of Jerusalem.
■ THIS PAST year seems to have been Israel’s year at the UN, be it directly or indirectly. In September of last year, Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the UN General Assembly.
In January, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor addressed the General Assembly on International Holocaust Remembrance Day; in March, Rita performed at the body; and this week, the UN turned to a leading Israeli nonprofit, the Ra’anana-based Beit Issie Shapiro, for advice on the inclusion of people with disabilities.
Delivering Beit Issie Shapiro’s firstever presentation to the UN, executive director Jean Judes spoke about community-based rehabilitation and the organization’s innovations that are designed to facilitate the inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream society. Among these is Park Haverim (Friendship Park), Israel’s first inclusive and accessible playground, in which children with and without disabilities can play together.
“Beit Issie Shapiro is proud to develop innovations to make life easier for people with disabilities,” said Judes. “For example, thanks to a challenge grant from the Ruderman Foundation, we are currently researching the benefits of using iPads for children with communication disabilities such as autism.”
In her presentation to the UN, Judes spoke of the importance of developing and providing inventive services, and also of changing attitudes within the community. She shared the results of a new study into children’s perceptions of disabilities, which showed that while both children with and without disabilities do hold negative perceptions of disabled youngsters, there is hope that attitudes can be changed through education.
The kids, she said, were very honest in their responses.
For example, they said they wouldn’t invite a child who uses a hearing aid to a party, because they wouldn’t be able to hear the music or talk with them. “Their perceptions are based on a lack of understanding, so the good news is that these barriers can be overcome through education.”
Beit Issie Shapiro, which is known worldwide for its advanced therapies to make life easier and more inclusive for people with disabilities, was awarded Special Consultative Status to the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) last July – only the 13th Israeli organization to hold this status.
“At a time when boycotts of Israel are on the rise, I am proud to represent our great country,” said Judes.
"Israel is a country with a wealth of talent and a big heart,” said Prosor.
“Beit Issie Shapiro shows all that can be accomplished with Israeli innovation, professionalism and leadership.
We are very proud to have them as a partner at the United Nations, sharing their expertise to improve life for the 780 million people who live with disabilities around the world.”
Andrei Abramov, head of ECOSOC’s NGO branch, recently visited Beit Issie Shapiro and agreed that the organization “has much to offer the world through ECOSOC, by sharing its expertise and incredible innovations.”
■ IF ANYONE is an example of third age energy, it’s Peres, who is off to Lithuania on Sunday and will return to Israel on Thursday – just in time to celebrate the real date on his 90th birthday, on August 2. Peres has been receiving birthday greetings from around the globe for several months now.
Speaking on Tuesday to athletes and officials of the Maccabiah Games, who also wished him happy birthday, Peres said that it was customary among Jews to say “Until 120.” They still say it sometimes, he said, but now they add the rider, “Hurry up to 120.”
But Peres got a more generous greeting from Sheikh Muhammad Kiwan, the imam of Majd al-Krum in the Galilee, who at the Iftar dinner that Peres hosted for Muslim leaders on Sunday, wished him “Until 140.”
The seemingly tireless Peres, who thoroughly enjoyed himself at the opening of the Maccabiah Games last Thursday night, on Friday morning was off to the Negev to join 3,000 members of Hashomer Hatza’ir in celebrating the group’s 100th anniversary. Hashomer Hatza’ir is the oldest global Zionist youth organization.
One of its most famous leaders was Mordechai Anielewicz, credited with being the leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943.
■ CONSIDERING THAT they move in similar social circles, it is not unusual for former defense minister Ehud Barak, and his ex-wife Nava, who is now married to Shalom Zinger, to be invited to the same event. On Monday, they both had a vested interest in showing up at Shablu on the Tel Aviv Port, for a performance by Anat and Yoed Nir.
Anat, a singer, songwriter, pianist and arranger, happens to be their daughter, and Yoed, a talented cellist, is their son-in-law. The Nirs live in New York, but both both being in high demand, are more often performing elsewhere in the US or in Europe. The couple met through Yoed’s cello professor, David Sela, at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. Sela had been Anat’s music teacher in high school.
Anat inherited her musical talent from her father, who likes to play the piano at every opportunity. Tonight, it will be her turn to applaud him when he receives an honorary doctorate from the Academic Center of Law and Science, at a ceremony to be held at Kfar Hamaccabiah. Other honorees include Education Minister Shai Piron; human rights activist, Canadian legislator and former justice minister Irwin Cotler; Nobel Prize laureate Prof. Aharon Ciechanover; Maccabi World Union president Guiora Esrubilsky; advocate David Marcos Katz; and hi-tech innovator and entrepreneur Dov Moran.
■ FRENCH AMBASSADOR Christophe Bigot, before going on vacation prior to winding up his affairs in Israel next month, found time to confer the French Legion of Honor on former national security adviser Prof.
Uzi Arad of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, in recognition of his many years of collaborative work with the French government and French academics. The ceremony was held at the ambassador’s residence in Jaffa on Monday night.
Bigot was interviewed in his office last week by a team from The Jerusalem Post that included intern Joshua Lipson, who was actually there to look and listen but felt the urge to ask a question. When he apologized that he was just an intern, Bigot’s spontaneous response was: “We were all interns once.”
■ YUNG YIDISH stalwarts may remember an American university student by the name of Sharon Bernstein, who through a senior citizen that she used to visit in the US had developed a love for Yiddish songs. Bernstein, who is now a cantor and Yiddish singer in San Francisco, and is also a composer and accomplished pianist, is currently back in Israel. She will be performing tomorrow night in the YUNG YiDiSH premises in the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station, and on Tuesday night in the organization’s cellar in Jerusalem’s Romema neighborhood.
When she was in Israel as a student, Bernstein used to haunt the National Library for copies of the songbooks of the American Jewish Workman’s Circle, learning the songs by heart and adapting the music. In those days she was a frequent performer at YUNG YiDiSH in Jerusalem; the nonprofit established its Tel Aviv branch some time later.
Bernstein’s repertoire by far exceeds that of most Yiddish singers, and she loves to teach the songs to her audiences and get them to sing along with her.
■ JAPANESE FOREIGN Minister Fumio Kushida is currently in Israel to meet with Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian counterparts engaged in the Corridor for Peace and Prosperity, through which the Japanese are helping the Palestinians improve their economy. He will meet this morning with Peres to update him on developments, and will subsequently visit Yad Vashem. There, he will participate in a memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance, and pay tribute to Japanese Righteous Among the Nations Chiune Sempo Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who in defiance of orders from his home country, issued documents that saved many Jewish lives during the Holocaust. The tribute for Sugihara will take place beside the tree planted in his honor.
■ IT HASN’T all been fun for the Australian contingent at the Maccabiah Games. The shadow of the 1997 bridge disaster in which Yetty Bennett, Elizabeth Sawicki, Greg Small and Warren Zines lost their lives will forever haunt the memories of Australian Maccabiah teams.
Last week, accompanied by Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma, the Aussies went on Tisha Be’av to pay their respects at the modest monument in Ramat Gan that perpetuates the names of the victims of the tragedy. Small’s son, Josh, attending his second Maccabiah Games, was with them.
“My life, that of my family and the lives of the Bennett, Sawicki and Zines families, changed dramatically 16 years ago. I stand here representing all of us,” he said. “Like my father, Maccabi has played an important part of my life. This is my second Maccabiah Games in 10-pin bowling, just like my dad, Greg.”
“In fact, I’m wearing my dad’s bowling shirt. In this way, I’m continuing the tradition started through my parents,” he said, adding that his sister is heavily involved in Maccabi Junior Carnival in Australia and would love to attend future Maccabiah Games.
Sharma, an athlete himself, told Josh he was sure that his father would have been very proud of him.
Maccabi Australian president Lisa Borowick and Australian delegation head Harry Procel had each been involved in the 1997 games, and decided to continue the legacy of their four deceased teammates – even though the trauma still lingers. However, what rankles as far as the Australians are concerned is that two of the people responsible for the bridge disaster, Yoram Eyal, who had been chairman of the organizing committee of the 1997 Maccabiah Games, and Ronald Bakalarz, who had been president of the Maccabi World Union, are still connected with the MWU.
Eyal, who was convicted of criminal negligence, is currently manager of the Maccabiah Village, and Bakalarz – who following intense Australian pressure and a Knesset inquiry, resigned in 2000 – is chairman of the board of the Maccabiah Village. The Australians see it as spitting in their faces, but they haven’t allowed it to interfere with their enthusiasm for sport.
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