Every now and again, some government minister, Member of Knesset or army top brass tries to close down or privatize Army Radio and/or public broadcasting.
In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, the high level of unemployment, the court case dealing with the Netanyahu-Gantz coalition agreement, and the chaos in the education system, Likud MK Dr. Shlomo Karai on Monday of this week submitted two bills calling for the privatization or closure of Army Radio and KAN Public Broadcasting.
In the year in which he has been a legislator, Karai has built up a reputation as a trouble-maker, which was perhaps the best means of drawing attention to himself.
Karai, who lives in Sderot, won the slot in the Likud Knesset list as a representative of the Negev. He was born on Moshav Zimrat a religious settlement in the South of the country, and is the eldest of 17 siblings. He has five children of his own.
Karai has been extremely vocal in calling for the annulment of the indictment against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seeking to limit the powers of the opposition when it seemed as if the Opposition might be headed by Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh, labeling Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich a “populist,” and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid and Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman “irresponsible.”
He has also launched verbal attacks against Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and has characterized the 11-member High Court of Justice panel dealing with the Netanyahu-Gantz coalition as “political players who were never elected.” He also has no tolerance for veteran Likudniks who have voiced criticism as to the direction in which Netanyahu is leading the party, and has proposed that their Likud membership be revoked.
Targets for expulsion include former Likud princes and government ministers Benny Begin and Dan Meridor, former Knesset speaker Dan Tichon and former minister Michael Eitan, who inter alia was the dedicated chairman of the Knesset Constitution Law and Justice Committee.
Karai is now turning his attention to broadcasting, declaring that Army Radio – which costs the state NIS 50 million a year, not counting salaries of station staff – has long ceased to be an IDF station and has become a regular station like any other. He conveniently overlooks the fact that it is the best training ground in the country for current-affairs researchers and broadcast journalists.
As for KAN, the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation, which Karai says costs the State NIS 800 million a year, he sees no justification for it, and claims that it does not fulfill its mission which is to present the diversity of Israel.
He’s apparently unaware of the number of religious, ultra-Orthodox, North African Sephardi, Druse and Arab reporters on prime-time Hebrew news services, or the fact that news reporters cover all sectors of Israel society and geographic areas from the extreme North to the extreme South.
There is a radio station that broadcasts interviews with representatives of diverse Jewish traditions. And on Reshet Bet there is a Hebrew program dedicated to numerous issues within the Arab community. There is a foreign-language station that broadcasts in several languages to ensure that all residents of Israel are updated on news, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
Moreover, social issues – such as the near-criminal isolation of children with special needs and mentally-ill adults who have been unable to receive visits from family members for the past two months, thus causing severe regression in some cases – are causes taken up by public radio, which has also taken up the cause of domestic violence, children at risk, single mothers, help for the unemployed, respect for senior citizens – and more.
Most commercial broadcasting outlets may touch on these subjects but won’t pursue them unless there’s a paying sponsor. Public broadcasting will continue to air these subjects until the problems are resolved.
The Jerusalem Journalists Association has issued a sharp protest against the proposed bills, saying the public has a right to receive all available information about the country’s flaws as well as its achievements.
NOTWITHSTANDING ALL the negative rumors floating around in connection with Sara Netanyahu, few if any could fault her for the loving care that she gave to her parents in the twilights of their lives. Netanyahu has great respect for senior citizens, and was very upset about the isolation, loneliness and separation from their families – especially their grandchildren – to which so many seniors were subjected.
Early in April, she conceived an “Embracing the Elderly” project, and together with the prime minister had a Zoom conference last week with Stav Yaakobi of the Ramot branch of Bnei Akiva in Jerusalem. Yaakobi is a volunteer with the project, and told the Netanyahus of conversations that she had initiated with senior citizens, and of how meaningful these conversations had been to her and to them. After learning about the project through her youth movement, she decided to volunteer, and through her conversations had created bonds that will continue long after the crisis is over.
THE EASING of restrictions in connection with COVID-19 had many more people taking to the streets on Wednesday, including senior citizens, one of whom was President Reuven Rivlin, who visited the technical unit of IDF Intelligence to get a briefing on what the unit is doing to find some technological solution to combat coronavirus.
ISRAEL IS not the only country with election problems. Around the world many local and national elections have been postponed due to coronavirus restrictions. But not in Poland, where present incumbent Andrzej Duda is expected to be reinstated following the May 10 presidential elections, which this time around are by postal vote. However, there is grave concern among his rivals and other Polish citizens who believe in law and order that the elections will not go smoothly.
It is not certain that all eligible voters will receive their bundle of ballots in the mail on time – if at all. There is also a fear that those who do receive ballot papers will be pressured by relatives or neighbors in their apartment buildings to vote for a candidate other than the one that they would choose if left alone, which casts doubt on the legality of the vote.
THERE HAS been a lot of discussion as to whether the world will continue to rely on social media, particularly Zoom, once the COVID-19 crisis has evaporated. Some people say this will be the way of the world from now on. Others say they’ve over-Zoomed and that they can’t take it any more,
The latter arguably has the greater ring of truth. Ordinarily, people tend to go to events in the cities in which they live. Sometimes they will go to another city for a specific entertainer or theater or opera performance. Sports fans will even go abroad to watch an international match and cheer on the team from their home country. But never are there as many clashes of date and time as there are on Zoom.
So many organizations are offering what have become simultaneous global events that making choices has become a nerve-wracking experience, though not so much in nuclear family households in which there are several computers, so everyone can watch what they want, but not necessarily all that they want.
Among the Zoom offerings this past week was an hour-long conversation between Beit Avi Chai director David Rozenson and Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar. Under normal circumstances, Lazar would have been sitting with Rozenson in Jerusalem, or Rozenson would have been sitting with Lazar in Moscow. The two men know each other very well from the 12-year period in which Rozenson was the Avi Chai founding director in Moscow.
The conversation was largely about Jewish life in Russia and President Vladimir Putin’s attitude toward the Jewish community and Israel. Lazar, who has an extraordinarily close relationship with Putin, repeated what he had said about him from the Avi Chai stage in Jerusalem in March 2018: “Putin is surely not antisemitic.”
Putin is the first and only president of Russia to have come to the opening of a synagogue. As for his attitude toward Israel, he has traveled the length and breadth of the country, and each visit, according to Lazar, has been an emotional experience, especially when he meets Russian expatriates.
Russia is having a tough time with coronavirus, he said, but indicated that the elderly are better treated there than in Israel.
“Russia has a lot of respect for elderly people and always looks after them.”
Even though there has been a huge revival of Jewish life in Russia, there is still a very high ratio of intermarriage. When Rozenson asked about this Lazar replied, “We are in a much better place than we were 20 years ago. Everything is a process, but it seems that we are heading in the right direction. A lot of people want to keep Shabbat and to give their children a Jewish education.”
With regard to the attitude of Russian Jews toward Israel, Lazar said it is very strong because nearly every Jew in Russia has relatives in Israel, so they all care about what’s happening in the country.