Media Comment: The incorrigibles

One of the most striking aspects of the Oslo era was the attitude of the media toward those who believed that allowing all Arafat terrorists to come to Israel could only end in disaster.

This poster calls both Rabin and PLO then-chairman Arafat "blood brothers" (photo credit: REUTERS)
This poster calls both Rabin and PLO then-chairman Arafat "blood brothers"
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Twenty years have passed since prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. Rabin’s nemesis, former prime minister and president Shimon Peres, took advantage of the occasion to again raise the issue of the “hatred” against Rabin.
Specifically, he recalled the picture of Rabin in SS uniform, a picture distributed by a Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) informant in an attempt to incite against Rabin. Those worried by Rabin’s policies expressed their concern democratically in innumerable demonstrations. Peres has yet to respect the democratic process. The same goes for our media.
One of the most striking aspects of the Oslo era was not only that the press was enchanted by the agreements with Yasser Arafat. The worst part was the disdain, the ridicule and the holier-than-thou attitude of the media toward those who honestly believed that allowing all the Arafat terrorists to come to Israel could only end in disaster. One might have thought that after 20 years, even if they are too vain to admit it they would understand that they erred, and be more open to people who think differently. But no. It is as if we were still in 1995, with people such as Arieh Golan and Professor Moshe Negbi repeating their shameful behavior of 20 years ago.
Negbi, who presents a weekly radio program at the IBA’s Reshet Bet shamelessly entitled Democracy, values and what comes between them, has repeatedly accused unnamed rabbis as providing Yigal Amir with the ideological justification to perpetrate the assassination. In his Sunday program last week, he went on a rampage: “The issue of incitement and dealing with incitement, in my opinion, reflects and illustrates the terrible fact that 20 years after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, we did not learn how to cope, we have not learned the lesson about the very danger in the existence of incitement and the restraint of the courts towards this incitement.
“And again, I never tire of reiterating what I think I said each of the 20 years since the murder: If it were not for the wild incitement against Yitzhak Rabin that took place especially by religious leaders, specifically by rabbis, it is quite probable that this particular murder would not have taken place.”
Negbi’s accusation is false, as documented by both former attorney general Michael Ben-Yair (who cannot be accused of being a right-wing supporter), the criminal activities unit of the Justice Ministry and the investigations unit of the police, which found no grounds for prosecuting any rabbi in Israel for incitement to murder.
Negbi does not mention by name any rabbi who he accuses of incitement. He is probably not courageous enough, fearing a serious libel case.
Golan is not much different. This past week saw Supreme Court Justice Moshe Fogelman staying the destruction of homes of terrorists. MK Moti Yogev was incensed, accusing Fogelman of playing into the hands of the enemy. Yogev was not the only one who severely criticized Fogelman.
Various ministers joined the fray, but none was as strident as Yogev.
Golan went on a crusade. At the start of the 7 a.m. news program last Friday, he had this to say: “Justice Fogelman just decided to delay...until next Tuesday, that is all. ...[A]nd here the mouths erupted ...Yogev [said] that Justice Fogelman sided with the enemy.” Golan then instructed listeners that “it is highly recommended to listen to the attorney general...when he said that...this is a low point, this harsh criticism, is a low point against which one has to protest.”
If ethics were of any concern, Golan would have been thrown out of the IBA on the spot. The law does not allow for paid advertisement on issues that are of public discourse. If a paid ad is not allowed, why then is Golan allowed to usurp our airwaves for his opinions? But worse, this same Golan, a few minutes later, in the guise of an interview, attacked Yogev, accusing him of incitement that could lead to violence against Fogelman. Fairness? Allowing the interviewee to present his opinion? No, just like 20 years ago, Golan speaks for himself, and no one can stop his crusade. When Yogev, who was not allowed to finish a sentence, meekly noted that: “Your attacks by the way are one sided,” Golan replied: “Sure, someone has to defend the Supreme Court and alas, this also even when one is employed by the public broadcaster.”
Perhaps one can understand Golan’s anger. After all, the only branch of government people like himself can trust to defend their rights is the Supreme Court.
But Golan goes further than that.
He wants to run Israel.
When IBA journalist Peerli Shachar reported on October 25 that former president Peres would not be invited to talk at the central memorial ceremony for Rabin, since the organizers decided that no politicians would be invited, Golan retorted: “That sounds like a bizarre reason.” What bothered Golan most was that in an attempt to make the evening one which spoke to the entire population, the national-religious Bnei Akiva movement was involved in the organization and seemingly it was the source of the demand that no politicians participate.
Perhaps one might argue that both Negbi and Golan are old men by now, incorrigible and set in their ways, but will soon disappear from our airwaves, so just let them be. Unfortunately, the younger generation learns from them.
Asaf Lieberman, who presents the morning news roundup at 7 a.m. on the Galatz radio station, also interviewed Yogev and repeated Golan’s accusation. His interview was not much fairer than that of Golan.
So what have we? A week of mourning for an assassinated prime minister, in which his name was further desecrated by those who have consistently used him to attack the wider public which does not believe in Peres’ messianic predictions.
A true memorial to Rabin would begin with those who let him down, who did not do their journalistic job fairly while he was prime minister, changing their ways. We call upon the IBA to examine the saga of Negbi and Golan as public usurpers of the airwaves.
The authors are vice chairman and chairman respectively of Israel’s Media Watch (