Judging from last weekend’s less than impressive turnout for the nationwide social-justice protests, it seems that much of wind has been sucked out of the sails that billowed so impressively in the summer winds. Of course this is not entirely unexpected. After all, only the hopelessly gullible could have believed that what took place on the streets in August was a genuine reflection of socioeconomic distress across a wide cross-section of Israeli society.
For it was never an authentic cry of the “have-not” underclasses, but rather a carefully choreographed demand by the “want-more” middle classes.
Indeed, with the number of Israelis vacationing abroad reaching record highs, and unemployment figures at record lows; with new cars sales soaring to new highs; with domestic hotels and recreations sites filled to capacity over the recent holiday season; with Israel’s sovereign credit rating being upgraded, while those of the US, Italy and Spain were downgraded, the endeavor to portray the intolerable socioeconomic plight of the average Israeli as the most pressing problem on the national agenda has a distinctly hollow ring.
Indeed, in light of the findings of a survey conducted by a leading polling institute a month ago, in which almost 90 percent (!) opined that Israel was a good place to live, it borders on the absurd.
To make matters worse, almost exactly at the time the renewed demonstrations were about to begin, the volleys of Grads missiles from Gaza made claims that security should be relegated in the nation’s order of priorities look – at best – wildly unrealistic.
That’s the thing about reality. It always seem to raise it unwelcome head at the most inopportune moments, despite the best laid – and funded – attempts to divert attention from its more unpleasant aspects.
But with growing sections of the public (according the previously mentioned poll almost 70%) expressing growing disbelief in the possibility of peace – ever – with the Palestinians, some alternative way to denigrate a government detested by significant portions of the county’s opinion-makers was sorely needed.
Accordingly, the mindless clamor for an egalitarian “utopia” where everything is free makes for a handy – albeit temporary – alternative.
The biased coverage of the social justice demonstrations together with the Schalit saga, are but two instances of massive media manipulation to which the public has been subjected in recent months, without any regard for the effect on the national interest.
There have been and continue to be other cases of scandalous abuse of position, power and privilege to promote the political preferences of influential media personalities.
These have inevitability involved the promotion of Chamberlainian concessions to the Arabs/Palestinians and the portrayal of appeasement of tyranny as the epitome of enlightenment.
It is one thing to use one’s access to the public to argue for (or against) a particular position on the basis of its merits. It is quite another to omit, to downplay, or to distort facts and events because they might raise doubts as to the validity of one’s personal political perspective.
But since the dawn of the Oslowian debacle, this betrayal of journalistic integrity has become a common and openly acknowledged feature of the mainstream Israeli media, both electronic and written.
Thus, David Landau, then-editor of Haaretz, who found nothing inappropriate for a person in his position to call for his county to be “raped” into submission by a foreign power, openly admitted that he intentionally blocked the publication of reports of inappropriate conduct by prime minister Ariel Sharon so as not to undermine the implementation of the disengagement from Gaza in 2005.
Astonishingly, when asked how Haaretz, “the crusader against corruption in this country for decades,” had given Sharon “almost carte blanche” on his legal and ethical problems, Landau was quoted as saying: “I consciously have subjugated those values to the overriding advantage I see for Israel’s democracy.”
So according to this “Landauwian” logic, democracy is best advanced by keeping the demos in the dark?
‘Haaretz’ in the broader sense of the word
This culture of capitulation, and its promotion by a doctrine of duplicity, was and is not confined to pages of Haaretz.
According to Israel Media Watch, the former editor of Ma’ariv, Amnon Dankner, confessed, “I wasn’t right in what I did by misleading the public on the Oslo process.”
Really, wrong to mislead? However, apparently unrepentant – despite “severe [post-Oslowian] disappointment” – Danker conceded that his paper tried to mobilize sentiment in favor of the disengagement: “We were for it from day one. I think we helped in preparing public opinion for it.”
Yediot Aharonot’s Yair Lapid has consistently used his Friday column to push positions later conceded to be mendacious manipulations. Thus, on the eve of the disengagement (June 24, 2005), he published a caustic castigation of the opponents of unilateral withdrawal.
He warned darkly of the dire consequences and the unbridgeable rift that would result if they succeeded in persuading the public that expulsion of the Jews from Gaza should be aborted. Menacingly, he declared that Israelis were tired of sacrificing their lives for the sake of the religious settlers and that for the majority in the country, disengagement “appeared to be the last chance for us to live a normal life.”
However, barely a year later (October 13, 2006), when the catastrophic failure of the disengagement was apparent for all to see, Lapid published a breathtakingly brazen follow-up, titled, “Things we couldn’t say during disengagement.”
In it he admitted it had all been a giant ploy: “It was never about the Palestinians, demography, and endeavor for peace, the burden on the IDF.”
No, revealed Lapid, the real reason for imposing the deportation of Jewish citizens and the destruction of Jewish towns and villages was to put the settlers in their place, to teach them “the limits of their power” and to show who them really calls the shots in this country.
Similar lapses in professional ethics have occurred in the electronic media. One of the most blatant was that of Channel 2 political commentator Amnon Abramovich, who publicly called for his colleagues to shield Sharon from all adversarial coverage of his behavior – to treated him like a well-padded Succot citron (etrog) – lest the implementation of the evacuation of Gaza be jeopardized.
Yet none of these – and other – appalling cases of journalistic abuse, of purposeful concealment of information, of gross misrepresentation of the truth, has produced anything of the outrage that created by the cost of cottage cheese.
Uneven scales of justice
This bias appears prevalent in other walks of public life in the country. One of the most important and sensitive is in the judiciary.
In his book Towards Juristocracy (Harvard University Press, 2004), Prof. Ran Hirschl cautions as to the ongoing practice of judicial rulings that appear to contravene the public’s understanding of justice and the prevailing values of Israeli society: The damage of the judicialization of politics to the Supreme Court’s legitimacy is already beginning to show.
“Over the past decade, the public image of the SCI [Supreme Court of Israel] as an autonomous and political impartial arbiter has been increasingly eroded, as… political arrangements and public policies agreed upon in majoritarian decision-making arenas are likely to be reviewed by an often hostile Supreme Court.”
He goes on to observe: “As a result, the court and its judges are increasingly viewed by a considerable portion of the Israeli public as pushing forward their own political agenda.”
Moreover, the political bias of the judiciary seems to be reflected in more quantifiable parameters as well. A statistical study conducted by the Regavim movement and The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel regarding petitions filed with the Supreme Court between 2005 and 2009 against the law enforcement authorities in Judea and Samaria suggests a disturbing imbalance.
The study focused on measurable factors such as the length of time allowed for a response, the number of court sessions held, the span of time between each session, the makeup of the court and the issuing of interim injunctions and orders nisi.
It found blatant bias in favor of leftwing/ Arab petitioners relative to right-wing ones, irrespective of the substantive content of the petitions.
In the words of the report: “In an era in which the Supreme Court appropriates more and more authority to interfere with the workings of the legislative and executive branches, these blatant political overtones, expressed in the decisions and rulings of the judges, are cause for great concern.
They effectively turn the High Court into a weapon in the hands of one particular side of the political map.”
A cause of public outrage? Apparently not.
And in the ivory tower
The sentiments expressed in the citation from Tel Aviv University’s Uri Hadar at the start of this column dovetail well with those of his colleague Oren Yiftahel of Ben- Gurion University.
In The Jailer State (January 18, 2009), the good professor states: “Palestinian violence, and particularly the shelling from Gaza, should also be perceived as a prison uprising… suppressed with terror by the Israeli state.”
In her meticulously researched and documented ‘Tenured Radicals’ in Israel, Prof. Ofira Seliktar traces the ongoing activities of academics who exploit their positions to promote the delegitimization of Israel. This is becoming evermore prevalent not only in academic research agendas but also in the content of courses taught and of conferences/ seminars held, as well as an increasingly weighty factor in the selection of faculty.
Seliktar describes how the “Zionist endeavor” is routinely portrayed as a “colonialist enterprise” in which the Jews have no any more rights to Palestine than the British had to India.
According to her study, Israeli academics support petitioning the International Criminal Court against IDF officers, and Israeli academic institutions are depicted – by those employed by them – as an indivisible part of an oppressive state, which has perpetrated unforgivable crimes against the Palestinian people.
Numerous Israeli scholars endorse the boycott, sanctions and disinvestment measures against Israel and even support sanctions against the very universities paying their salaries – salaries that they are somehow loath to “boycott,” despite the fact that they come from the coffers of the iniquitous racist state they decry.
Might this not be cause for the average Israeli to ponder the use being made of taxes deducted from his hard-earned income?
A real reason for revolution
The conceptual foundations underpinning the Zionist enterprise are being deconstructed; the ideological edifice embodying the notion of Jewish political sovereignty is being eroded. This deconstruction, this erosion, is being carried out by those who should be entrusted with the maintenance of those foundations and the enhancement of that edifice – those charged with dispensing justice, imparting knowledge and conveying truth.
They have been found wanting. They have devoted themselves to defanging the Israeli military and debilitating Israeli diplomacy. They have turned away from their duty and at best seem in dire need of a refresher course in “Jeffersonian insights.”
At best, they have subjugated form to substance, “absurdly sacrificing the ends to the means.”
The Israeli experience has been hijacked by those who would empty it of its intrinsic value, distort its unique substance and demean its vibrant nature. They must be confronted, countered and curtailed. The Zionist narrative must be reclaimed and resuscitated.
That – not cheaper cheese – seems a real reason for revolution.