October 29, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: The incorrigibles

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:01 am by yisraelmedad

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.
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.



October 21, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: Mahmoud Abbas’s supporters

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:32 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Mahmoud Abbas’s supporters
There is a revolt in the ranks of Fatah’s younger generation against Abbas.
Hamas, understandably, is no supporter of Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority.

There is a revolt in the ranks of Fatah’s younger generation against him. But Abbas can still depend on significant elements within Israel’s media to express admiration for his leadership.

Avi Issacharoff was for seven years the Palestinian and Arab affairs correspondent of Haaretz. Presently, he is the Middle East analyst for The Times of Israel and the Walla website. In 2012, he predicted that the next president of the PA will be Marwan Barghouti, the convicted murderer of five Israelis who is serving multiple life sentences in Israel. The Geneva Initiative likes Issacharoff, especially after he wrote articles with titles such as “There is no one to talk to? This is not the reality.” In a Walla article from December 5, 2013, Issacharoff writes: “There are no easy solutions. The problem is that Netanyahu’s narrative… [that] there is no one to talk with is far from representing reality. It puts Israel is a dangerous position in which escalation in the West Bank is only a question of time.”

Issacharoff’s narrative with regard to the current violence we are experiencing is that right-wing politicians such as Uri Ariel are using the Temple Mount for political purposes.

In an October 8 op-ed in Walla, titled “The Temple Mount in the hands of the pyromaniacs,” he wrote: “It may be that the Israeli public and the media have tried to forget the sequence of events, but the latest terror wave started after the ascent to the mount of Minister Uri Ariel and a few dozen Jews, on the eve of Rosh Hashana. This was not the central reason for the outburst but certainly the spark that lit the flames.” In Issacharoff’s eyes, the Jews take the blame: they should know better than to ascend the Temple Mount. But worse is the fact that Ariel’s ascent came after several days of Wakf-supervised anti-Jewish violence.

Issacharoff’s and Amos Harel have authored two books together. Harel is employed by Haaretz where since 2014 he has been the paper’s military and defense analyst. Harel is a professional journalist who received Tel Aviv’s Sokoloff’s Prize for print journalism in 2015.

A third actor is Jacky Hugi, the Arab affairs correspondent of the army radio station, Galatz. On October 12, in a revealing article in Globes, Hugi commiserates with Abbas: “The Palestinian public sees and gnashes its teeth: the Rais [president] who did not establish a state, did not bring security or economic welfare, is today collaborating with the Israelis to suppress the outburst of protests.” He continued, “The problem is that if the Rais loses his relevance in the eyes of the public, Israel will also lose an important card in its campaign.”

That the Rais is a liar is well established, but his unabashed public statements regarding the supposed killing of the 13-year-old boy who stabbed an Israeli boy of the same age went so far as to have another famous Israeli journalist, Ilana Dayan, worried. So much so that on her weekly Thursday program on Galatz last week, she invited the above three journalists to discuss the situation with her.

Her questions were really interesting: “Avi, can you try and explain to me this ability to ignore reality? Surely Abu Mazen [Abbas] knows the facts!” The same question in a slightly different version was posed to Hugi: “Are we at all able to understand how such a speech is born and what causes the man who knows that the boy is alive to claim that he was executed?” Her question to Harel was: “Israel’s security apparatus almost stood on its hind feet at the beginning of this week to tell the politicians that Abu Mazen is not inciting. How does this jibe with yesterday’s speech?” The three responded by excusing Abbas.

Issacahroff: “He knows the facts, but just was a wee bit lost.” Hugi: “He understands that he lost contact with the people so in order not to become completely irrelevant he starts talking like this.” Harel: “The most meaningful picture which is being distributed is that of the murdering boy from [Pisgat Ze’ev] and next to him Muhammad al-Dura. When this becomes a symbol, then Abu Mazen again rides on the wave…for otherwise he would fall.”

The message was clear: the powers that be in our media had to find ways to excuse Abbas and explain away his incitement, for if they could not they would have to admit to themselves, and to the public, that their admonishments during the past 10 years that Abbas is the man with whom we have to and can make peace are simply wrong.

Dayan apparently did not even consider inviting to the show someone like Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University, who is no less an expert on Arab affairs than the three journalists, to perhaps offer a different opinion. Pluralism, bringing the full spectrum of opinion before the public, seems not to be part of her journalistic ethics.

Keren Neubach that same morning on her program on the IBA’s Kol Israel paralleled Dayan. Her experts were Gal Berger, the IBA’s correspondent for Palestinian affairs, and Chico Menashe, the political affairs correspondent.

Berger: “Abu Mazen has two sides, on the one hand he is against the employment of firearms within the Green Line… on the other he adopts these deceitful narratives and sometimes even creates them.”

Menashe’s line was similar. While neither denied the facts, Mehashe said: “The optimists among us will say that his lies…were aimed to create rhetoric which would counter any claim that… when his people are being slaughtered by the Israelis he is willing to talk to them.”

None of them even raised the question of whether it is not high time Israel reached the inexorable conclusion that Abbas is not a partner for peace, that he hates Israel violently, that he would not dream of making true peace with us and that all lessons of the past, in which he refused to sign treaties, are proof of his true intentions.

Indeed, the line presented through the prism of Dayan and Neubach is the dominant one among our media elites, ever since Oslo. It is a mantra which cannot be changed even though the lie is as deep as those promulgated by Abbas. The media build-up to the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin has begun. We probably will hear the story of Netanyahu and the coffin and other such allegations. No one, however, among the senior journalists will be recalling Abbas’ doctorate thesis, which was a Holocaust denial “research” paper.

This week our government shamefully backtracked on the Akunis-Eichler amendment that demanded pluralism from the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation. In the same week, our couple – Neubach and Dayan – were named this year’s recipients of the Sokoloff prize. Abbas is a lucky fellow, having so many friends in Israel’s media.

October 15, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: Managing the news

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:40 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Managing the news
In this atmosphere, not only does the truth suffer, but the fate of the nation is also being affected – and not for good.
Last month, a leading politician tore into the media, pointing out that the mainstream media can be “sneering” and even “out of touch with the ‘real’ world.” He declared, “The media commentariat simply don’t understand it.

They report disagreements as splits, agreement as compromise… No sorry, commentariat, this is grown-up real politics where real people debate real issues.”

These were the words of Jeremy Corbyn, Britain’s new Labour Party head, on September 29. He further suggested that “it is social media that really is the point of communication for the future, we’ve got to get that.”

Media attacks on his predecessor he termed “tawdry.”

Such caustic tongue-lashing would, we think, be seen here in Israel not only as a declaration of war on press freedom but a subversive attack on the country’s very democracy.

Are there media persons here that could fit those negative remarks? Oshrat Kotler could.

Kotler presents the news on Channel 10 and anchors the network’s news roundup program on Saturday evenings. A veteran of Galei Tzahal and Channel 2, she has more than two decades experience on the air and in the editor’s chair. She knows how not to report the news but manage it.

Back in April 2014, Israel’s Media Watch (IMW) complained about her opinionated patter when introducing items in the main daily news show, interspersed with her personal views, citing the Second Authority Law which outlaws such activity. Her bosses responded with in-your-face bluster: “We do not believe in placard journalism and we will continue to broadcast a professional product, fair and balanced but also opinionated in places where required.”

That was a bald-faced cover-up for her very unprofessional and potentially illegal behavior on air.

Space limitations prevent us from providing here a list. Instead, we’ll just consider a recent example.

On October 3 this year, her general introduction, which attempted to fix in her viewers’ minds how they should think, appeared to blame Jews for that week’s spate of stabbings.

She asked, “Why are Jews still permitted to enter the Temple Mount?” thereby assisting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ propaganda effort.

Ma’ariv’s Kalman Liebskind was livid. The theme of “violence by both sides” is an agenda- setting manipulation, he wrote, and Kotler was its most prominent promoter. He quoted her declaring “the tempestuous rhetoric of Israel’s and Palestine’s leaders together leave us all marching on the edge of a gunpowder barrel with the match in the hands of the weird sideliners who no one really intends to halt, not by us nor by them….”

Kotler, he claimed, can’t figure out who started so it is all somehow “mutual bloodletting.”

They are murderers and so are we.

This past Saturday, Kotler introduced a 19-minute background item on the Temple Mount by correspondent Yinon Miles. The theme was to “prove” that the Muslim Arabs have a justified fear of a Jewish “takeover.”

A “bunch of crazies,” she called the Temple Mount activists. In referring to the anti-Jewish incitement, she rhetorically asked, “Did Israel really do anything to allay the fears of the Arabs states?” The item provided insight into the perception of what “proper balance” should be as conceived by the elitist left-wing media clique.

The resident expert who appeared multiple times throughout the item, for almost four minutes in total, was Dr. Tomer Persico of the Hartman Institute. Anyone following his comments on Facebook as well as his other media appearances and lectures is aware of his left-of-center views. Neutrality was thereby missing and there was no balance. Gershon Solomon of the Temple Mount Faithful who is banned from the sacred compound and whose activity is completely negligible for the past decade and is not at all connected with the new generation of activists, represented the “crazies.”

To further bury any semblance of proportionality, three more spokesmen appeared; Shas deputy Treasury minister Yitzhak Cohen, the rabbi of the Jewish Quarter Avigdor Nebentzahl and Rabbi Menachem HaKohen, former assistant to chief rabbi Shlomo Goren. All of them hold quite negative views on the subject of the right of Jews to be permitted to treat the holy site with reverence and respect, a right which is in full accordance with the Law for the Protection of the Holy Places as well as all High Court of Justice decisions for the past quarter of a century.

The 19-minute item, orchestrated by Kotler, perpetuated distortions about rabbinical support for a Jewish presence within the Temple Mount in this century (a time period intentionally chosen to distort the issue) as well as the rather complex halachic issues involved. Rabbi Goren’s own support for a Jewish presence, including his monumental volume on the matter, was glossed over.

Rabbi Chaim Hirschensohn, a contemporary of Rabbi Avraham HaKohen Kook, who engaged him on the possibility of entrance, went unmentioned as did many former members of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Council.

We could imagine that the Temple Institute’s Rabbi Yisrael Ariel could have been interviewed, or his staff. That, however, would most probably have upset the object of the exercise, which was to condemn and censure the Jews who ascend the Temple Mount, without having to consider seriously the annoying facts.

This frame of reference that, somehow, the Jews must be guilty resonated in the studio of Orly Vilnai. Vilnai presents, together with her husband Guy Meroz, Channel 10’s morning interview show Orly and Guy.

The couple, who have adopted an Eritrean migrant child, were aghast on Sunday, October 10, when their guest, Bayit Yehudi MK Yinon Magal, suggested that terrorists threatening lives should be shot dead rather than arrested. Vilnai was also quite nonplussed as to how a female Arab student, who graduated Haifa University and was a graduate student, could be at all engaged in knife-wielding. It seems the situation just didn’t fit into her own world view, one she very much wanted to pass on to her viewers, just as her associate Oshrat Kotler was doing.

Razai Barkai of Galatz Radio also was pushing an agenda on October 6. Dealing with the Temple Mount as the cause of the latest round of terrorism, Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan was allotted 2:44 minutes of airtime, including, of course, the questions, MK Iman Oudeh was granted seven minutes, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat 45 seconds and a Jerusalem taxi driver 2:45 minutes.

Kotler and Company, as leading senior media personalities, being allowed to edit and produce their programs, are fashioning the news for media consumers and managing the public discourse rather than presenting the public with a fair picture of reality, one that is balanced and pluralistic. Their behavior is not only journalistically unethical but unlawful.

However, in this atmosphere they have created, convincing both their bosses and regulators that this is the “new wave” of media, one of personal input and drama, not only does the truth suffer, but the fate of the nation is also being affected, and not for good.


October 7, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: The late Moti Kirschenbaum

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:10 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: The late Moti Kirschenbaum

Like most leaders, Kirschenbaum made important contributions to the Israeli media, yet his failures were no less spectacular.
Media icon Mordechai “Moti” Kirschenbaum passed away suddenly at the age of 76 on September 25. Immediately, the media competition was on for who could eulogize Kirschenbaum more dramatically and favorably.

Kirschenbaum left his mark on Israeli society and media. He was awarded the Israel Prize for Media Art in 1976. He was one of the founders of Israeli television and his special strength lay in his ability to present, direct and orchestrate satire on Israeli society. His successful career led to his appointment as director general of the Israel Broadcasting Authority in 1993 by communications minister Shulamit Aloni of the left-wing Meretz Party. However, as in many cases, the quality of his legacy is debatable.

Indirectly, Kirschenbaum is responsible for the establishment of Israel’s Media Watch. In the wake of the Oslo accords, one of us (EP) organized and participated in a demonstration in December 1993 attended by almost 100 academics, members of Professors for a Strong Israel, who protested the biased coverage of the accords by the IBA. Never before had such a large number of professors gathered together in Israel to protest over a political issue. Yet the demonstration, which took place directly across from the Israel TV building, in the street aptly named “Torah from Zion,” was not even mentioned in any of the IBA’s reports.

We met Kirschenbaum to demand an explanation and were told it was his policy not to cover demonstrations outside of the TV building so as to discourage such events, which he said disrupted the lives of the staff working there. He added that while we were complaining about the biased media coverage, so did prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. If everyone was complaining, he felt, he must be doing his job well. Finally, he noted that he had the big picture while we did not and, knowing fully what was going on in the IBA, he could be certain it was acting professionally.

This last comment served as one of the sparks which led to the formation of IMW. Israel did not have at that time any organization which consistently monitored the media not only qualitatively but quantitatively.

In a country which had only two TV stations and two national radio stations, this was not too difficult to carry out, and was an essential need. Without any checks and balances the media could skew any issue, and it did not hesitate to do so.

The demonstration of December 1993 was our first experience of Kirschenbaum’s dictatorial policies and his successful attempt to politicize the IBA. Indeed, Kirschenbaum’s tenure at the helm of the IBA was characterized by the stifling of any attempt to criticize the Rabin and Peres governments and the Oslo accords.

One of the central “news and views” shows at the time was Popolitika. The “discussion” on the screen revolved around the question of who could shout more. The program was hosted by Dan Margalit, who together with his regular panel members Tommy Lapid, Amnon Dankner and Yisrael Eichler were all in favor of the Oslo accords.

They were so in favor that prior to the 1996 elections, the Supreme Court ordered them to refrain from using their podium for the sake of political propaganda, an order that they ridiculed and violated. Where was Kirschenbaum? A second incident which involved the Supreme Court had to do with Amnon Abramovitch, then the premier commentator of Israeli TV, who also used his position to drum up support for the Oslo accords and to stifle any criticism. Israel’s Media Watch petitioned the Supreme Court and, contrary to a recent misleading statement of Abramovitch’s, the court upheld our brief – yet accepted Kirschenbaum’s claim that Abramovitch was balanced out by others “over time.”

In fact, this case was a clear victory for those forces that demanded fairness and balance in the public media, a principle which Abramovitch violates to this very day. However, our issue here is not Abramovitch but rather Kirschenbaum. His assertion was, to put it mildly, not precise. No one provided any balance to Abramovitch and in fact, a few years later, when Kirschenbaum was no longer director general, Abramovitch was forced to leave the IBA.

But these instances cannot compare to the IBA’s programming in the six weeks prior to the assassination of prime minister Rabin and in its immediate aftermath.

IBA TV produced a piece, orchestrated by IBA reporter Eitan Oren, depicting a swearing-in ceremony of the fictitious Eyal organization, whose leader, Avishai Raviv, was a Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) agent provocateur.

One of us (YM) realized the severity of this report and IMW immediately complained to the IBA. We did not know of course that Raviv was employed by the security services, but it was clear to us that the whole scene was orchestrated. Yet Kirschenbaum stood behind Oren and allowed a clip to be broadcast which indicated that assassination would not be outside the realm of possible actions for this organization. Had Kirschenbaum followed some basic journalistic principles, not only would he have canceled this infamous report, but would have gone to the police and demanded an immediate investigation. Yet, he did the opposite.

Prime minister Rabin was assassinated six weeks later.

Following this tragedy, Kirschenbaum orchestrated a week-long bout of programming which could not even be called one-sided. Rather it was what one might have expected from the Communist media when Stalin was in power. The Right was “guilty” of the assassination.

Religious people were attacked in the streets, yet the IBA would have nothing to do with allowing any attempt by the accused to defend themselves.

No less damning was the IBA’s reaction to the Arafat tapes affair.

In late January 1994, MK Benny Begin became aware of the existence of video footage of speeches by Yasser Arafat in which he expressly stated his intention to violate his commitment to peace with Israel. Begin repeatedly attempted to interest the IBA. As he later recalled, some four months passed before he was afforded air time on Channel 1. Even then the angle that interested the news editors was Shimon Peres’ claim that Begin was presenting footage that had been tampered with.

Kirschenbaum was also not forthcoming when it came to IBA finances. He fought against any attempt to open the IBA’s books to the public. His budget was not balanced and not surprisingly, the missing funds, to the tune of hundreds of millions of shekels, were always approved by the Rabin government. He also tried to minimize the powers of the ombudsman of the IBA.

His legacy then was a politicized IBA, one which manipulates the news according to the personal views of its heads and their political bosses. Fairness, professional journalism and balance were all lacking. With hindsight, one may argue that Kirschenbaum’s tenure as director general signaled the twilight era of the IBA. This is also part of his legacy. Like most leaders, Kirschenbaum made important contributions to the Israeli media, yet his failures were no less spectacular.


October 1, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: It’s good to have friends

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:07 am by yisraelmedad

MEDIA COMMENT: It’s good to have friends


How is it that Olmert is still walking free and few seem to think this is a travesty? Olmert is not alone; all those convicted in the Holyland affair have yet to go to jail.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced in March 2014 to a six-year jail term for accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust. In March 2015 he was found guilty again for fraud and breach of trust in the context of the “money envelopes” affair and was sentenced to a further eight months in jail. But Olmert has yet to spend a single day in prison. His trusted aide, Shula Zaken, has already completed her jail term.

How is it that Olmert is still walking free and few seem to think this is a travesty? Olmert is not alone; all those convicted in the Holyland affair have yet to go to jail.

This sad state of affairs comes in the wake of a decision of Supreme Court Justice Noam Solberg in September, 2014, to accept Olmert’s plea for a stay of sentence until a decision is made on his appeal to the court.

Solberg noted that on the one hand “it is in the public interest that court sentences be imposed immediately, and one has an uncomfortable feeling when seeing someone who has been found guilty and sentenced to prison walking around freely in the city streets.” Yet, he added, “the public’s trust depends also on defending the rights of those who have been accused and found guilty of crimes. A jail sentence which is found to be after the fact unjustified of course harms the individual but it also undermines the public trust in the rule of law and the justice system. The law has given the right of appeal and it is necessary to enable realization of this right.”

He noted that although the District Court’s decision seems to be substantiated and that most of the accused will ultimately serve their sentences, nevertheless, “there are a few claims by the appellants which deserve a hearing.” Over a year has passed since then, and the Supreme Court does not think that it is making a travesty of the law by allowing convicted criminals to escape imprisonment.

Compare the Holyland affair to that of president Moshe Katsav. On December 30, 2010, Katsav was convicted in the District Court for rape and indecent assault of an employee in the Tourism Ministry and sexual harassment of several other women. On March 22, 2011, Katsav was sentenced to seven years in jail, an additional two years’ suspended term and NIS 125,000 in compensation payments to the women he harmed. Katsav appealed to the Supreme Court. He, too, received a stay of sentence. Justice Yoram Danziger also noted then that his appeal was not without merit. However, the court decided on November 10, 2011, to reject it and a month later Katsav began serving his jail term.

Can we imagine what would have happened in the Israeli press had Katsav’s case been deferred by the Supreme Court for over a year? Indeed, the press was one of the major players in Katsav’s conviction. It repeatedly demanded his prosecution. Attorney general Menachem Mazuz was roundly criticized for his handling of the affair. When Olmert almost got off scot-free in the first round of the Talansky affair the media was joyful.

The bon mot was that Olmert would now be able to return to the leadership of Israel’s progressive democratic forces for peace. Yoav Yitzchak was a sole voice in the wilderness. Even today, after Olmert’s conviction, the media does nothing to demand that justice be not only handed down, but carried out.

This travesty by the Supreme Court is not limited to Olmert and company.

Consider the case of former Ramat Gan mayor Zvi Bar. On February 26, 2015, Bar was found guilty for accepting two million shekels in bribes from construction companies. He was also found guilty of attempting to subvert the investigation, tax fraud and breach of trust. District Court Justice Zvi Gurfinkel noted in his judgment that “the severity of the decision is a result of the substantial sums Bar took for himself, his behavior is not what is expected from a mayor.” Bar, who is over 80, was the mayor of Ramat Gan for 24 years. On June 4, Bar was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in jail. Like Olmert, Bar claims to be completely innocent, and appealed to the Supreme Court on September 9. Supreme Court Justice Zvi Silbertal decided to give an interim decision to stay the sentence until his request of stay of sentence is accepted. Three weeks have passed, and the court has not even decided whether to accept his request for stay of sentence.

This story repeats itself also in the case of Bat Yam mayor Shlomo Lachiani, but with a different twist.

On September 30, 2014, Lachiani, who previously was found guilty of fraud and breach of trust, was sentenced to six months of public service, infamy and a fine of NIS 250,000. In contrast to the previous cases, Lachiani admitted guilt and cooperated with the prosecution. Yet, on November 13, 2014, the prosecution appealed the lightness of the sentence to the District Court. The appeal was accepted, and on April 27 this year, the court sentenced Lachiani to eight months in jail, starting June 1. The president of the Tel Aviv District Court, Devorah Berliner, was very clear, writing, “The public trust… is based on the assumption that its servants carry out their duties for the sake of the public honestly and with clean hands… In this case, we must agree with the prosecution that the breach of public trust borders on bribery.”

Lachiani’s lawyers know their business, and of course appealed to the Supreme Court. On May 12, Supreme Court Justice Uri Shoham accepted the appeal for stay of sentence.

Lachiani has yet to spend a day in jail. Interestingly, while researching this article, we found that Israel’s premier criminal issues journalists did not even know whether Lachiani was serving his sentence or not.

This is then the new norm set by the Supreme Court. Bribery is not deemed to be sufficiently criminal to impose immediate implementation of a jail sentence. The Supreme Court, knowingly, is allowing a whole slew of criminals to roam our streets freely.

Katsav violated the sanctity of other people’s lives and was sentenced rather quickly. Yet, at the end of the day, Katsav injured a handful of women – he did not leave behind him a monument of criminal activity such as the Holyland complex in Jerusalem or the various buildings in Ramat Gan.

These are with us to stay.    

They are a monument to a press which allows the Supreme Court to get away with making a travesty of the judicial system with impunity and without criticism. Worst of all, it will symbolize for years to come the deep contempt our Supreme Court has for the rule of law.

^e a monument to a press which allows the Supreme Court to get away with making a travesty of the judicial system with impunity and without criticism. Worst of all, it will symbolize for years to come the deep contempt our Supreme Court has for the rule of law.