Israeli talk show suspended for labeling MKs 'terrorists'

Keshet chooses to skip one episode of 'Ofira and Berkovich' after outcry.

MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List) was removed from the Knesset after shouting out that the Nation-State bill is racist. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List) was removed from the Knesset after shouting out that the Nation-State bill is racist.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A popular Israeli talk show was suspended for one week after one of its hosts referred to Israeli-Arab MKs as terrorists.
The Keshet 12 show Ofira and Berkovich – which is pre-recorded – aired on Friday evening, and included a portion where one of the two hosts, Ofira Assayag, said that no Israeli-Arab MKs had agreed to come on the program that week.
“Don’t come,” her co-host, Eyal Berkovich replied. “Don’t come. I don’t want you here. If they come, I’m going to get up and leave,” he added. Berkovich later continued: “It’s not because of racism. They’re simply haters of Israel. They’re simply terrorists, sitting in Knesset.”
Berkovich’s statement caused an outcry among many viewers, including some of the MKs in question.
“As someone who was personally hurt by being called a ‘terrorist hater of Israel’ by Berkovich, I don’t intend to sit idly by,” wrote Meretz MK Esawi Frej on Twitter on Sunday. “I intend to prepare a libel lawsuit against Berkovich including a demand for compensation to be determined in consultation with lawyers. The time has come for Berkovich to pay for his dirty mouth.”
In response to the uproar, Keshet chose to suspend the show for a week – essentially one episode.
“The things said on the program crossed the line of free speech which is championed by society,” Keshet said on Sunday. “Because of the severity of the statement, we have decided to dedicate the next few days to examining our rules and procedures, and therefore the program will not air on Friday.”
The Second Authority for Television and Radio said Monday that it received around 30 complaints over the program. A representative for the authority said it had reached out to Keshet for a response.
The pair of TV hosts are no strangers to controversy, though this is the first time the show has been punished over their behavior. The program only hit airwaves in November 2017.
In December, they interviewed Meni Naftali, the former Netanyahu housekeeper who has testified against the Netanyahu’s, accusing them of reckless and excessive spending.
During the interview, Berkovich shouted at Naftali that he is “not a man,” that he’s a liar and he is using his position to launch a political career. Naftali walked off the show after Berkovich told him to leave.
Assayag later apologized to Naftali, an act which so enraged Berkovich that he quit the show, though he quickly returned.
In January, after appearing on the show, transgender model Stav Strashko said the interviewers mistreated her.
“I feel like I was harassed on the Ofira and Berkovich program,” Strashko wrote on Facebook after the experience. “They asked me penetrating and intimate questions that they would never ask a model or actress who feels that her gender is compatible to the sex she was born as.”
And just earlier this month, Assayeg came under fire for an interview she conducted on Radio Tel Aviv with Hapoel Raanana owner Asher Alon.
Assayeg yelled at Alon for criticizing former Hapoel Jerusalem owner Eli Tabib, who is a close friend of the TV and radio host.
Assayeg yelled “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?” and then cut off Alon and kicked him off the program. In response, the Second Authority for Television and Radio said it was investigating whether the incident violated broadcast regulations, and would determine if the station is liable to pay a fine.