Media Comment: The double whammy

Too many in our media are post-Zionists to whom anything Jewish is considered dangerous, outdated, anti-democratic and other such slogans.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens to Zeev Elkin during a committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem in June. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens to Zeev Elkin during a committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem in June.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Our media, by large, does not like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. During Operation Protective Edge, however, he was hailed as a moderate, a careful and thoughtful prime minister. This volte-face is easily explained by the fact that in not immediately reacting to Hamas’s war with full force, he fit the media’s perception of how the country should be run.
But when it comes to news, memory is short, and his “responsible” actions during the war have already been long forgotten. What is remembered is that he comes from the Likud, a right-wing party. Any action of Netanyahu’s which is deemed as promoting a right-wing cause is immediately described as kowtowing to the right wing, trying to gain their favor because elections are around the corner. Of course, any action which is perceived by Israel’s Right as moving to the Left is considered by pundits to be “wise,” “courageous leadership” and whatnot.
Too many in our media are post-Zionists to whom anything Jewish is considered dangerous, outdated, anti-democratic and other such slogans.
Especially when it comes to legislation, left-wing lawmaking such as attempting to dissociate the State of Israel from its Jewish roots is considered by these individuals to be serving Israel’s democracy, as forward- looking and exemplary. Legislation aimed at preserving the Jewish character of the state, on the other hand, is “reactionary,” “primitive,” “discriminatory” and so on.
This week, the media types described above have had a ball: Prime Minister Netanyahu was guilty of two outrageous acts. The first was his insisting that Israel should have a basic law establishing the Jewish character of the state. The second was that Netanyahu was promoting what they consider reactionary, right-wing legislation of extremists such as the chairman of the Knesset’s foreign affairs and defense committee, MK Ze’ev Elkin. That this specific legislation has both an overt Jewish character to it and is right-wing politically makes it a double whammy.
A leading left-wing progressive thinker is Professor Moshe Negbi, the legal guru of our public broadcaster, who, similar to some rabbis, has a pulpit. His weekly radio program is audaciously titled Law, Values, Democracy and Everything In Between.
Showing his respect for democratic ideals, Negbi invited three people to voice their opinions about the “Jewish Nation law.” All three – one of whom was himself – stated in no uncertain terms that the suggested legislation is anti-democratic and harmful to the Jewish character of the state. Who needs it, they asked, when our Declaration of Independence and the UN resolution of November 28, 1947, established the Jewish character of the state? Negbi, who spoke in the name of democracy, did not have the decency to air a single dissenting opinion, such as for example that such a law has become necessary due to the Supreme Court obligating state institutions to prefer the Basic Law of Equality over Jewish values precisely because there is no basic law establishing the proper position of Judaism in our state.
Neither Negbi nor his editor, Orit Barkai, allowed any other participant to note that this proposed law has come in response to the trend among too many to distinguish between being Israeli and being Jewish. It is asking too much to have someone note that by identifying Israel with its Jewish character, the prime minister was undermining those anti-Semites abroad who are only against Israel, not against the Jews.
Negbi’s alter ego, Keren Neubach, with her morning radio program broadcast on Kol Yisrael’s Reshet Bet, is of the same ilk. Her introduction and all that followed was one big hurrah for anyone who criticizes the “Jewish law.” Another member of this crowd is Arieh Golan, who knows how to ask all the “right” questions. When it came to MK Ofir Akunis, who was attempting to defend the legislation, the questions came thick and fast: Don’t you think that the law is discriminatory? Why do we need it at all when we have such a Jewish Declaration of Independence? And, most importantly, are we going to elections? In the summary following the 8 a.m. news on Monday morning, Akunis was quoted only on his point that any minister voting against would have to leave the government. His pointed comment that both Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid lead undemocratic parties and so have a little problem in arguing that a law is undemocratic was not included. But others, such as Health Minister Yael German, did have their points quoted, in German’s case that the proposed law would change the character of the state. This statement was so admired by the public broadcaster that is the only citation to appear on the website as headline.
Assaf Lieberman, the presenter of the Army Radio station’s morning news bulletin, is not much better.
On Tuesday, he interrogated Minister Bennett, who tried valiantly to explain why he supports the legislation.
Bennett noted that part of the coalition agreement was that the legislation would pass. But Lieberman would hardly let him finish a sentence.
We note that no one accused ministers Livni and Yair Lapid of violating a coalition agreement to which they were signatories.
Much of the media’s coverage of the proposed law is actual disinformation.
For example, the media charged that the law is discriminatory and would leave Israel’s non-Jewish population second-rate citizens. This is of course unadulterated nonsense. Even if the Elkin version of the law is passed, a non-Jewish person could become prime minister of Israel. The only discriminatory aspect of the law is that it stipulates that Israel cannot become, for example, a Christian state or an Islamic state. This is no more nor less discriminatory than the US Constitution which separates state from religion, but who cares about facts? Another accusation is that the legislation would undermine Arabic as a legitimate language in Israel.
Elkin’s suggestion was to include two paragraphs in the bill that state: (A) Hebrew is the official language of the state; (B) the Arabic language will have a special status, its speakers will have the right to access state services in Arabic, as will be detailed by law.
The pundits here succeeded, for this paragraph was deleted in the present version of the bill.
Our media, however, is not so much worried about the Arabic language, but much more about the English language.
One of the symptoms of post-Zionism is a need to systematically destroy the Hebrew language, by anglicizing it. This is because a basic law which preserves the special status of the Hebrew language might just make it more difficult to forget that Hebrew has its roots in the Bible, whose grammatical rules dictate how Hebrew is to be spoken.
At this point it would seem that the pundits will succeed. Either the Likud will back down (the preliminary vote has already been delayed by a week), or the vote will not pass and we will have new elections. A third scenario is that the vote will squeak by but then will languish in committee long enough for it to die naturally. The big loser will be the state.
The authors are respectively vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch (