They couldn’t take the truth – not the value, not the concept and not what now unfolded as reality.
Reality was that Donald Trump lost. Truth, as a concept, demanded separating fact from wish. And the professional value which they claimed to espouse – to seize and report the news – meant conceding their candidate’s defeat.
Instead, Fox News claimed that voting machines were rigged in favor of Joe Biden, a blatant lie that the network’s own workers knew was a lie, but still reported, as internal correspondences between them revealed. News, which is supposed to serve truth, was thus perverted to serve the lie – and worse.
Faced with a reporter’s statement that there was no evidence of foul play, anchor Tucker Carlson texted: “Please get her fired... immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.”
The Hebrew adage “one sin leads to another” loomed in all its ugliness: first you abandon truth, then you sell it for money, and then you rob its bearer.
The American network’s guilt became plain last week, when it agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems $787.5 million rather than face its defamation suit in court, a move soon followed by the company’s announcement of Carlson’s departure, in what appears to be a dismissal.
What will happen next with Fox News – which now faces an even bigger suit from another election technology company – is less important.
What’s more important is that this saga is part of what this column calls the War on Truth, and that Fox’s Israeli versions have just displayed a similar inability to accept facts and face the truth.
Two notable writers died this month
THE FACT is that two of Israel’s most notable writers, novelist Meir Shalev and poet, songwriter and satirist Yehonatan Geffen, died this month, aged 74 and 76, respectively, following terminal illnesses.
Another fact is that both were provocative iconoclasts identified with the political Left. Moreover, having hailed from Nahalal, the famously round village in the Jezreel Valley, both could be as tactless as the gruff farmers who founded it 102 years ago.
Recalling, for instance, the state funeral held for ancient Jewish warriors’ bones after former chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren retrieved them from a cliffside cave where he emerged hanging by a helicopter’s winch and cable, Shalev wrote: “This unbelievable funeral looked like an exceptionally fictional Monty Python skit, yet it was totally real.”
Geffen, while performing in front of soldiers during the First Lebanon War, called on them to refuse to enter Beirut, and was summarily taken off the stage. It was but one of many similar provocations that would checker his career.
Fairly enough, some on the Right couldn’t stand both writers. Unfairly, Channel 14 – the Israeli version of Fox News – didn’t even report the death of Geffen, the man who penned, among so many other works, “The Prettiest Girl in Kindergarten,” “How is a song born?” and “A kindergarten closed,” magical songs that millions of Israelis have sung through the decades, first with their parents, then with their kids.
Even so, as Likud lawmaker Tally Gotliv sees things, Geffen “represented drinking, drugs, licentiousness and bohemianism.” Similarly, Channel 14’s Shimon Riklin said of Shalev that he “is not worthy of my attention,” and added: “I never read one book of Meir Shalev’s,” because “whoever detests what I represent is not worthy of my attention.”
That kind of attitude is legitimate for a private person, but for a journalist it is malpractice. Like him or not, Shalev was one of Israel’s most notable and popular novelists, a lover of this land who sculpted in an exceptionally rich Hebrew some of the Zionist project’s most proverbial heroes of innocence and idealism, from A Pigeon and a Boy’s pair of teenagers who fall in love while cultivating homing pigeons, before the boy is killed in the War of Independence, to The Blue Mountain’s Baruch Pines, a teacher in a village, whose dedication to, and understanding of, its pioneers’ children are better than their parents’.
What, then, is the truth about Geffen and Shalev, and why did their detractors find them so frightening?
Geffen and Shalev served in combat units
THE TRUTH is that, unlike MK Gotliv, who did not serve in the IDF, Geffen and Shalev were combat soldiers in crack units, and fought in 1967’s bloody Battle of Tel Faher, under the Golan Heights. Some of the 34 Israeli troops killed there that day were their buddies. After the battle, which included hand-to-hand combat, they helped collect their friends’ bodies, and also 50 Syrian bodies. Some were headless.
Five months later, en route to a nighttime operation across the Jordan River, Shalev’s platoon came under a nearby Israeli unit’s accidental fire. Shalev was hit by four bullets: one above the knee, one under it, one above the thigh, and one in the back, an inch from the spine. Others near him were killed.
Hospitalized for months and unfit for the rest of his days, Shalev didn’t fight in the Yom Kippur War. Geffen did, crossing the Suez Canal with Ariel Sharon, and then fighting in Africa, witnessing yet more carnage and death, and experiencing yet more loss. It was no place for a poet, and he indeed emerged from there an alcoholic, as Gotliv said, though he eventually overcame that condition, as she failed to say.
Yes, war scarred Shalev and Geffen, and left them disillusioned and bitter. Yet decent adversaries would concede that what they gave us, on the battlefield and off it, most others did not. That’s the truth, the truth that some can’t bear, and thus do what Tucker Carlson did when faced with his idol’s collapse: lie.
The writer, a Hartman Institute fellow, is the author of the best-selling Mitz’ad Ha’ivelet Hayehudi (The Jewish March of Folly, Yediot Sfarim, 2019), a revisionist history of the Jewish people’s political leadership.