December 31, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: A very dark screen, indeed

Posted in Media at 11:43 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: A very dark screen, indeed

Weinstein “saved the day” for Channel 10, but it is Israeli society which is sadly paying the price.

Without warning, Channel 10 stopped broadcasting this past Sunday evening. The normal screen disappeared, and all the television viewer could see was a poster, in black and white. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was portrayed using the manipulative low-angle shot, which distorts features and implants a negative image. The poster’s text, published by the station’s employees committee, read: “In three more days, Channel 10 will close.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who serves as Minister of Communications, refuses to find a solution. Due to this, the workers’ committee has decided to cease Channel 10’s broadcasting for the night. We will resume broadcasting at 6:00 a.m.”

On social media sites, another poster appeared, not linked to the workers, which carried another unfavorable pose of Netanyahu and the slogan, “Strong against Hamas, yet afraid of Raviv Drucker.” Drucker has been a particular bane of Netanyahu’s, airing many accusations of improprieties and failings, most of which are mere personal opinions disguised as political commentary. Drucker lost court cases in his battles with the prime minister over the years. Another of the channel’s popular programs, London & Kirschenbaum, carries a regular fare of anti-Right content, notably with Knesset affairs pundit Nadav Perry (not to be confused with another regular, Nadav Eyal) as well as Drucker.

The first frame of the prime minister was so appalling that Channel 10’s director, Yossi Varshavsky, had it changed, announcing that the campaign is not a personal one but aimed at the office of the minister in charge of media issues.

The finger-pointing at Netanyahu was in reality disconnected from the station’s true problems. For over a decade, the station has failed to repay incentives, loans and state-sponsored investment funds. In fact, Drucker himself uploaded a comment which, in part, read: “The station is not requesting an easing of conditions, a delay in loan repayments or a release from return liability, all that’s requested are guarantees that are justified.”

Before dealing with the network’s financial record, a subject we have related to in several of our columns, the timing element should be highlighted, as it constitutes a blatant attempt to blackmail the system during the election period. This is not new. In December of 2012, the Knesset held an emergency session a month before the elections for the 19th Knesset.

Almost around-the-clock deliberations were held in the Knesset Economics Committee.

In the end, Channel 10’s broadcasting franchise was extended for two years and a loan was authorized to cover its debts to the government. Two years later, the situation has not changed for the most part, with the current dispute revolving about NIS 36 million.

Channel 10 has been receiving almost unanimous support this past week from the media and the politicians who have an ax to grind with Netanyahu. On Monday morning, the Army Radio station, Galatz, hosted Matan Chodorov, head of the channel’s employees’ committee. He was not asked to explain why the public should trust any proclamation of the channel, which time and time again has proven to be – and this is putting it mildly – unreliable. The very supportive interview – by Niv Raskin, who himself works for Channel 10 – is characteristic of the media’s attitude when it comes to its own interests.

When Channel 1 TV’s workers’ committee a few months ago also employed the tactic of stealing air time and the resources of the (publicly funded) IBA for its own purposes, the criticism was also rather minor.

The timing of this latest move of Channel 10’s, with election fever high, has allowed politicians and candidates for office to fall all over themselves to comment, keeping the issue not only alive but confusing it for the uninvolved.

Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) said, “Channel 10 is not my biggest fan, but we must not allow it to close. We need to diversify it. Not close it. Not fire hundreds of employees.”

Meretz leader MK Zehava Gal-On said, “Like the last of thugs Netanyahu chooses…

to deal a fatal blow to freedom of speech.” Yair Lapid, lately the finance minister, chimed in, claiming that “Netanyahu is closing personal accounts… a democratic state requires a strong and free press.” There were reactions from the Labor Party, former minister Gideon Sa’ar and a slew of others.

Elections can indeed be a tremendous boon, as the station proved two years ago when the Knesset forgave it hundreds of millions of shekels of debts and commitments.

The pontificating politicos are not being pressed to explain why, if a free, pluralistic and strong press is necessary for democracy, they are at one and the same time supporting legislation to quash the free-distribution Israel Hayom daily. Nor are they being reminded that many of them, or their parties, took Arutz 7 off the air for far more minor misdeeds.

This past week has witnessed a major scandal, as yet unproven, of bribes and misappropriations of public funds. The central accusation is that politicians conditioned their support for certain causes upon kickbacks.

Channel 10 is doing, and has done, precisely the same thing: threatening politicians, especially the prime minister, to extort from them funding for its own coffers. Despite the obvious parallel, no advocate of Channel 10 is confronted with questions about the morality of the channel’s practices.

Three weeks ago, two Knesset committees exempted the channel from NIS 130m. which should have been spent on high-quality programming.

This came after the channel promised that it had a new investor and the reduction was to help the channel straighten out its finances and bring in new investors.

Promises are easy to make, but keeping them is another matter. Channel 10 made many promises and broke quite a few of them.

According to the present law, Channel 10 must receive a operating license from January 1 onwards. But obtaining such a license depends on its having met all its financial commitments. If the channel does not pay its present debt of NIS 36 million, there is no way that it can continue operations.

Too many in Israeli society claimed that closing down the channel implies a blow to media plurality in Israel. We beg to differ: It is the right thing to do. For too long the channel has disregarded its written commitments and promises. Letting it continue and operate makes a joke of the law.

There are two other channels who could take over the space left by Channel 10 if permitted to do so. In other words, closing the channel down would only lead to better TV: more pluralism, fresh voices and higher-quality programming. Might this be why the politicians so vociferously defend Channel 10? Yesterday, Yehudah Weinstein, Israel’s attorney general, himself displayed disrespect for the law in ordering a six-month extension of the channel’s operations, which includes freeing it from having repaying its debt. Weinstein “saved the day” for Channel 10, but it is Israeli society which is sadly paying the price.



December 25, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: Liberman – the new etrog?

Posted in Media tagged at 1:31 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Liberman – the new etrog?


Whatever the reason, our mainstream media has thus far made life rather easy for Liberman. Why?

Left-wing propagandist Amnon Abramowitz, a commentator for TV Channel 2, created the concept of the political “etrog.” Deciding that then-prime minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to evacuate the Gaza Strip needed to be promoted, Abramowitz urged his fellow journalists to do their utmost to safeguard Sharon from criticism and attack until he carried out the mission. Just as an etrog is cherished and protected for the eight days of Succot, so was Sharon of value – as long as he carried out left-wing policies. Have the past few months created a second political etrog? Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman was never the darling of our media. Over the years, he was at the receiving end of quite a few not so complimentary titles. These included: racist, peace obstacle, bully, the big dictator, fascist, and much more. Liberman, who for many years portrayed himself as belonging to the Israeli Right, promoted the idea of re-drawing Israel’s boundaries, creating an exchange of population. He was promptly accused by the media of supporting ethnic cleansing.

His appointment as foreign minister in 2009 came as a shock. How could this person, considered by many in Israel’s media to be the epitome of reactionary politics, be the person whose job it is to represent Israel to the world? Liberman was foreign minister for the past five years, except for a period from December 2012 to November 2013.

Due to his being prosecuted, he had to step down and serve as chairman of Israel’s Knesset defense and foreign affairs committee. He was acquitted and promptly returned to the ministry.

Liberman’s refusal to enter a coalition with the ultra-Orthodox parties was the final straw that led to the end of the tenure of Netanyahu’s government. Liberman, in the midst of Israel’s war with Hamas this past summer, dissolved his ties to the Likud. Now he is running on a separate ticket, portraying himself as a valid candidate for the premiership.

One might think that with this background Liberman would be at the receiving end of the media’s political pundits. Indeed, most leading politicians have not been spared sharp and biting criticism ever since new elections were announced. Last week, we listed some of the harsh words aimed at Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni. This past week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been repeatedly accused of playing politics with the economy in view of his support of zero VAT on fruits and vegetables and increasing the minimum wage of public sector employees. Even Moshe Kahlon was criticized on Army Radio for his performance as social affairs minister.

One person largely exempt from the media onslaught has been Liberman. Why should this be the case? Unfortunately, he has an inadequate record as foreign minister.

Israel’s standing in Europe is abysmal.

In the United States, Israel is at the receiving end of BDS campaigns, anti-Israel demonstrations, propaganda on campuses and much more. Our enemies are working hard to try to change the US attitude toward Israel.

Their strategy is to convince the young generation that Israel is the world’s pariah state. Has Liberman acted in an adequate fashion or even recognized the strategic threat? Liberman’s special status is perhaps best exemplified by Barak Ravid’s headline article in Haaretz yesterday, which read: “Netanyahu’s status quo approach has failed – Israel needs a peace deal.” The headline and article say it all. Liberman announced that Israel needs a regional peace agreement and Haaretz is delighted, viewing this as a real opportunity for unseating Netanyahu, and gives it prime attention.

Perhaps there is another possible reason for the media silence: Liberman is very harsh to his critics. Consider blogger Tal Schneider whose blog The Plog appears also on TV Channel 2’s Mako website. Schneider related to reported instances in which Liberman asserted that he was in contact with a very high-level personality in the Qatari government. Schneider claimed that this was part of an attempt by Liberman to convince the public that he had the ability to promote a regional peace agreement in cooperation with Arab states. This is the same Liberman who recently publicly condemned Qatar’s government for its funding of terrorism.

Schneider, claiming that her information was based on two independent, reliable sources, alleged that Liberman had not in fact met with any Qataris.

Liberman’s reaction was swift. He threatened Schneider with a libel suit and demanded that she retract her attack. Schneider, as of this writing, has not done so and it remains to be seen whether Liberman will go to court in the end. Israel’s journalist association stated that it would provide Schneider with legal assistance. But the true assistance she needs is for other journalists to confront Liberman an ask some tough questions, and such assistance has not been forthcoming.

Another journalist who dared criticize Liberman is Dr. Dror Eydar of Israel Hayom. The Seventh Eye media e-magazine also has taken up the issue.

Whatever the reason, our mainstream media has thus far made life rather easy for Liberman. Why? Is it because he severely criticized Netanyahu this past summer, or because his actions led to the present elections? Is it because he is considered to be someone who would support Herzog and Livni for the premiership as part of the “anyone but Bibi” campaign? Or is it because our media is merely lazy? We don’t know. We can only point out that Liberman seems to be our new etrog.


December 18, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: Did the media single out Netanyahu?

Posted in Media at 12:17 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Did the media single out Netanyahu?


Our observations during the past 20 years support the conclusion that the Israeli media has a distinct preference for the left-wing camp.

The behavior of Israel’s media during election campaigns has historically been rather dismal. Our observations during the past 20 years support the conclusion that the Israeli media has a distinct preference for the left-wing camp. In 2012, Tzipi Livni was the media’s darling. In 2008, the media supported Livni as head of Kadima, in the aftermath of the resignation of Olmert. In 2006, the media was still operating under the euphoria of the expulsion from Gaza and Olmert, the crook, was king.

Traditionally, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been at the receiving end of the media’s antipathy both toward him personally and to the Likud’s right-wing platform. Perhaps the worst display of this was in 1996, when the media used all means at its disposal to present Netanyahu in a negative light. In 1999, Netanyahu publicly indicted the media for this type of behavior, with his famous slogan “they are afraid,” though it didn’t help him. He lost the elections and resigned as Likud head.

Tuesday a week ago, Channel 10 TV made big headlines with its public opinion poll which showed equality (22 percent each) between the public support for Netanyahu and Labor leader Isaac Herzog as prime ministerial candidates. This was, so the line went, a big blow to Netanyahu who just a week earlier, in a November 30 Haaretz poll, had the support of 35% of respondents. Likud minister Gilad Erdan was quick to point out that the Channel 10 poll also had Gideon Sa’ar as a candidate, taking 13%. The poll did not ask what the support would be without Sa’ar, and so could not be compared to the previous poll, Erdan said. Moreover, if one adds the support for Sa’ar to that for Netanyahu one finds that Netanyahu did not fare too badly at all.

But Channel 10’s headlines were that the poll was a blow to the prime minister. It is thus not surprising that the following Thursday Netanyahu publicly accused the media of wanting to overthrow him. Was this accusation justified? Did the media actually pick especially on Netanyahu, or was this simply Channel 10 attempting to create headlines to increase ratings, with Netanyahu happening to be the victim? TV Channel 1’s Ayala Hasson opened the channel’s Friday night Yoman news show with the headline: “Surveys are one thing and reality is another.” She warned that one should handle polls with care and certainly not give them undue importance. In fact, many people within the media noted that the Channel 10 poll itself predicted that Israel’s Right would continue to keep its hold on power, given the prediction that the Likud would get 20 seats, Bayit Yehudi 15, Kulanu 13, Israel Beytenu 11, Shas seven and United Torah Judaism seven – altogether 73 mandates.

The previous week saw the unification of the Labor party with Livni’s Hatnua party, with Labor’s Herzog agreeing to rotation deal with Livni for the premiership. In the aftermath, Herzog faced a rather critical media. Even far-left journalist Amnon Abramowitz did not give Herzog an easy time on Channel 2’s prime Friday night news magazine, making sarcastic comments and roundly criticizing the rotation agreement.

He was not the only one. Danny Kushmaru, on the same news show, pointedly asked Herzog: Why should Livni, whose party does not meet the election threshold, receive the premiership through a rotation agreement? Perhaps this demonstrates your lack of self-confidence? Dana Weiss added: “The public seemingly does not buy the premise that you can lead.” Nadav Haezni asked Herzog: “Where do you differ from Zehava Gal-On? And what are you, Livni or Gal-On?” Last Thursday, Ayala Hasson grilled Herzog on her weekly radio program on the IBA’s Reshet Bet, criticizing the Livni agreement. She also noted that his agreement with Livni could be interpreted as panic, given that Livni’s political base had evaporated. The next day, on the Yoman news program, she interviewed Livni, noting that, “Your merger [with Herzog] looks good. You, how should we put it, played him, with an empty hand: with between zero and four Knesset members you managed to bend him [Herzog].”

In response to Livni’ s assertion that had Netanyahu not fired her she would have continued serving as justice minister under him, Hasson noted: “It sounds a bit like an excuse. You sit in a government that you criticize and believe that it is extremist, yet you hold on to the Justice Ministry. In truth you hardly dedicated yourself to it, but were completely immersed in the negotiations [with the Palestinians], and rightly so….”

Livni appeared also on Reshet’s Channel 2 political humor program The State of the Union and had this to say about Prime Minister Netanyahu: “The truth is that Bibi said we are going to the electorate because of the Zero VAT law, and I thought, there is a zero in this story but it’s not the VAT law.” She continued: “Stop talking about this business called ‘right wing’: it is extreme right-wing, you have to learn to say ‘extreme’ right.” She ended the show by calling upon the electorate to know not to vote for those “busy only with themselves.”

The next day (Sunday) she was roundly criticized. On Army Radio, even Haaretz commentator Barak Ravid commented that Livni’s appearance on the show was embarrassing.

Army Radio’s political commentator Il’il Shachar quoted Minister Yuval Steinitz’s response to her appearance: “My recommendation to Ms. Livni is to stop using low language, even in jest.”

So what have we got? A series of commentators who aggressively attack the union between Herzog and Livni, and journalists who parrot the prime minister’s claim that the media is against him. Of course, Haaretz and Yediot Aharonot are not pro-Netanyahu, but Israel Hayom and Makor Rishon are. So can the prime minister truly assert that “the media” is out to get him? We believe not. At this point in time, the increasing pluralism in Israel’s media has created a situation whereby no one has a monopoly on public opinion. Professional journalism does call for asking the difficult questions of all, irrespective of their political affiliation.

If this past week is a harbinger of things to come, then it was a very positive one. Our media is finally showing signs of maturity. Will this welcome trend continue throughout the electoral campaign?


December 10, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: The Liebskind challenge

Posted in Media at 11:05 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: The Liebskind challenge


Too many people feel their vote is useless, that candidates do whatever they want once elected, campaign promises are not credible and that there is a lack of accountability.

The hallmark of democracy, any average citizen would invariably declare, is free elections. But free from what? Indeed, what are free elections? Clearly, they should be free from coercion, especially threats from state authorities or parties.

The voter must be free of any pressure to choose this or that candidate or party. Free elections are also predicated on a free flow of information. Candidates should have equal access to the electorate, who should be able to freely obtain information about them. Moreover, citizens should be free to be candidates and stand for elections.

Arguably though, one of the most fundamental aspects of the democratic system is that the electorate should feel that the elections were fair. When segments of the population and especially minority groups are under the impression that the electoral process discriminates against them, or that they are underrepresented, democratic society is in for trouble.

An electorate that feels cheated can lead to anarchy. Extremists feed on such feelings. It is precisely at this juncture where the media plays a crucial role.

An election campaign which is covered fairly by the media creates the necessary impression of equality; even the losers know that the game was fair.

If though, as in the past, the media distorts the campaign and favors one side or the other, the result may be disastrous.

In the past weeks, we were fed daily by the press with the brouhaha surrounding the “Jewish state law” and how it negates Israel’s democratic fiber.

The harm to democracy which results from an aggressive and one-sided media is much greater than that caused by any “Jewish state law.” The challenge to our media is whether they will curb themselves and make the effort to create a process which is perceived as fair by the populace.

It is no secret that the percentage of voters in Israel has declined to almost 60 percent.

This is a symptom of an election process that needs fixing.

Too many people feel their vote is useless, that candidates do whatever they want once elected, campaign promises are not credible and that there is a lack of accountability. Here too, the press can and should play a central role.

There is a debate in academic circles as to whether the media have a major influence on the electoral outcome. In our opinion, this is a secondary question and the raging discussion surrounding it cannot lead to a definitive result. Media adoration can perhaps convince some people but at the same time, can also lead to a backlash. The facts in Israel are that even though our media is mostly left-of-center, the majority usually votes right-of-center. The Israeli voter seems to know how to filter the information received from the media and is sufficiently independent and intelligent to reach his or her own conclusions.

Our thesis, though, is that an unfair media which has traditionally propped up left-of-center politicians also has helped to create apathy in the electorate which may become dangerous to our democracy. The media can correct this process by abiding by a few elementary principles.

Former Meretz minister Yossi Sarid recently published a column in Haaretz in which he wrote, “A journalist who is not ‘anti’ in his consciousness and temperament is an anti-journalist.”

He exhorted media people to assume that “the common politician [is]… guilty until proven innocent. He’s a liar until proven pure. Suspect him and suspect him… because these politicians are masters of deceit.”

Election time presents a good test of Sarid’s principle. Will the media present the populace with a record of previous electoral promises and compare them with reality? Will it do this fairly, with equal suspicious treatment to all? Will Israel’s media, for the first time in its history, demand accountability from the various parties, irrespective of their own personal agendas? Such accountability is not limited to the government, but should extend also to opposition parties. The media should question election promises, rather than parrot them, especially if the promises reflect the journalists’ own wishes.

Journalists and pundits are human beings, with their own views, and it is only natural that this is reflected in their work. It is for this reason that journalist Kalman Liebskind of Ma’ariv and the Galei Yisrael radio station presented his fellow professionals with a challenge – let the public know who you voted for in the past elections. This would give us, the electorate, a tool with which to filter the journalist’s opinion and would increase our trust in the information we receive. It would also help the journalists themselves to overcome their impulses and to try to be fair especially to those with whom they disagree politically. Unfortunately, thus far, most of Israel’s top media people, such as Yaron London and Motti Kirschenbaum, who interviewed him on their TV program, have not risen to Liebskind’s challenge.

Elections can bring out the best and the worst in the media.

The worst is already evident, as when Professor Moshe Negbi used his microphone to actively promote Tzipi Livni on his radio program this past week. Media executives must stop such improper use of the airwaves during the election campaign.

The Supreme Court previously asserted the principle that as election day nears, the democratic process becomes all-important and may even negate the freedom of expression of the media. Media celebrities should keep their opinions to themselves.

But there is another side to the media’s responsibility. Unfortunately, in the past few elections, there has been no open debate between the various party leaders.

The lack of willingness of candidates to present themselves to the public, unfiltered, and to face public scrutiny and criticism does not raise the level of trust. The challenge to our media is, this time, to actively promote a more open election campaign, in which those seeking election must face the public and answer the tough questions.

This past week provided ample evidence of the politicians’ fear of the media. Once more, in an act of desperation, the politicians are allowing TV Channel 10 to get away with its ongoing blatant violations of the very contracts it signed.

Instead of closing it down, they permitted it another chance to spit in the face of the law and continue to violate its commitments.

The politicians obviously expect that just as they do not demand accountability from the channel, so the channel will not demand it from them.

The bottom line is an additional blemish on Israel’s democratic process and the principle of equality before the law. The media is exempt from the law.

This kind of attitude puts fuel in the engines of those media personnel who believe that they are the only bearers of democracy. It contributes to the loss of trust of the population in the democratic process.

There is, though, one major source of relief – technology. The electronic media has changed many rules of the game. People obtain their information from an increasing variety of outlets. The mainstream media becomes increasingly irrelevant and the damage it does to the democratic process lessens. It is this which makes us hope that the present election campaign will be perceived by the public as being the fairest one in recent years.


December 8, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: Desecrating a memory

Posted in Media tagged at 9:35 am by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Desecrating a memory


What does all this have to do with a media commentary article? Everything.

Tzafrir Ronen was an Israeli Zionist through and through. A kibbutznik who worked as a media advisor to prime minister Yitzhak Rabin during the 1992 election campaign, slowly but surely he changed his thinking and joined Israel’s Right, and was even appointed to the Yesha Council in 2007.

Ronen was an idealist. He firmly believed that facts are important and for this purpose tried to found an Israeli History Channel, assuming that if people were to become more familiar with the facts, they would understand that the Oslo process was a disaster for the State of Israel and Zionism.

He collected over 8,000 hours of documentary material, preparing some of it for a fourpart series entitled “The Curse of Hadrian.”

In the aftermath of the Bar Kochba revolt, the Roman emperor Hadrian not only destroyed the Judean Province and exiled all of its Jewish inhabitants but also changed its name to Syria Palaestina. It is this change of name which Ronen referred to as the curse; the usage of the name “Palestine” today is nothing but the perpetuation of an attempt by an enemy of the Jewish people to erase the memory of Judaea. According to Ronen, anyone using this terminology today is playing into the hands of those who want to destroy the national identity of the Jewish people.

Ronen passed away in 2008 at the relatively young age of 53, destitute and deeply saddened by the tragic evacuation of the Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria.

What does all this have to do with a media commentary article? Everything.

Channel 1 TV, our publicly funded TV channel, decided to air this past Tuesday the first of a two-part series, entitled Hadrian’s Curse, supposedly fulfilling a promise given to Ronen that his work would be brought to the public.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a Bar-Ilan expert on Middle East studies, appears in a few sections of the series and wrote the following on his Facebook pages: “I saw both parts of the film and I am upset to the depths of my heart. This film is the precise opposite of what Tzafrir Ronen tried to achieve. Tzafrir claimed all his life that the ‘Palestinian Narrative’ is built on lies, bluffs and inventions while Israel’s truth emanates from the solid history of other peoples (Greece, Rome), from archeology which cannot be questioned and in the modern age on international law since the Balfour Declaration (1917) and the San Remo conference (1920).

“The film to be shown on Channel 1 is a defilement of the memory of Tzafrir and his life’s work. The film brings forth two narratives, an Israeli and a Palestinian, and presents them as equally valued. I called one of the people who participated in preparing it and asked him about this distortion. His answer shocked me: ‘In Israel you cannot get funding for films which present only the Zionist side positively.’” Kedar ends his post by noting that had he known that this would be the final product he would not have participated in it.

This disappointing story follows another recent news item. As reported in Haaretz on November 24, Minister of Culture and Sport Limor Livnat (Likud) has requested that all public funding be withdrawn from the Tel Aviv Cinematheque. Last year, the state gave it NIS 1.8 million. The cinematheque had just organized a “Nakba and Right of Return Film Festival,” the product of the virulent anti-Zionist Zochrot movement. The festival includes what one might expect.

Livnat said, “It is unreasonable in my eyes that an organization which is funded by the State of Israel would allow its premises to be used for preaching [that] the day of the establishment of the state is a day of mourning.

It cannot be that the state funds a body which encourages a discourse on what the Palestinians call ‘the right of return.’” Another related incident is the poem “Ahmed Loves Israel.” Amir Benayoun is an established mainstream Israeli singer, who also happens to be an observant Jew. In the aftermath of the recent spate of murderous acts against Jews by Arabs, Benayoun composed a song with lyrics such as: “It’s true a moment will come when you’ll turn your back; And I’ll slash you with a sharpened ax,” describing a fictional Arab called Ahmed who lives a “normal” life but has dreams of killing Jews.

In response, President Reuven Rivlin dis-invited Benayoun from an official presidential event organized by the Senior Citizens Ministry. Ironically, the event commemorated the expulsion of Jews from Arab lands. Minister Uri Orbach (Bayit Yehudi) was angered by the presidential boycott, believing that Benayoun’s freedom of speech should be safeguarded. In protest, he absented himself from the event. One wonders what is worse: describing Arabs as bloodthirsty or accusing a whole nation (which happens to be Jewish) of supposedly uprooting half a million people from their homes.

This does not end our saga. The criminal arson of a classroom and hateful epithets appearing in Jerusalem’s Max Rayne Hand in Hand school received across-the-board condemnation in Israel. At the Hand in Hand school Arab and Jewish children learn together and its motto is “Building a shared society.” This includes, for example, holding a special event on the tenth anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat.

Yet almost at the same time, another school, the Teddy Kollek middle school in Jerusalem’s Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood, became the scene of Palestinian stoning of Jewish children. Injuries were caused last Friday. Parents could not come and collect their children as the school was under siege.

Despite calls for outrage, all the “important people” somehow managed to avoid making any pronouncements. What is worse, vandalizing an empty classroom or stoning people? Actually, there isn’t too much news in this article. We all know that among what is considered the Israeli elite, Jews are second- rate denizens of this earth. One may with impunity debase their holiest beliefs, as in the Broadcasting Authority’s new satire, The Jews Are Coming, or one can deny their fundamental truths such as their very right of existence in the land of Israel. But, if one dares to do these to Arabs, the epithets start flying.

In retrospect, this situation is really a reflection of the media’s contempt for Israel’s Arab citizens. They are treated as is they were babies who have to be safeguarded at any cost, babies who cannot defend themselves. We the Jews are grownups, and therefore, our obligations are of a more serious nature. Babies are allowed to cry, grownups are not. It is high time that our media and cultural leaders started treating Jews and Arabs as human beings, with equal rights but also equal obligations. When this day comes, we can start really believing in coexistence. When this day comes, the life’s work of Tzafrir Ronen will not be blighted any more.