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Democracy Dies in Silence

indiaopines.com

The order to silence the messenger, kill him or her if necessary, came directly from the Prime Minister. He commanded his top four ministers—Security, Justice, Culture and Education—to do all in their power to establish and maintain the big hush. The people must realize, he instructed, that there’s law and order in this country. Voices—such as those in the opposition, especially artists, writers, journalists, bloggers and the like—must not, “I repeat must not,” disrupt the ‘peace’ with their loud messages of protest. We can continue to have control over the people, and win future elections, only if we can continue to have control over the media. When you leave this office, go out into the streets of the country and silence them all. Literally.

Of course, my dear readers, you think to yourselves that here he goes again. Fantasizing. Our devoted blogger, you say, is resorting to his old ways. Think himself Kafka again. Or someone like him. Talking probably about Russia, or Turkey, or China. Certainly not about Israel. Not about us Jews. Of course not. That’s impossible. But you’re wrong, my friends, because I am talking about Israel. About the Jews of Israel. I realize, though, that I must convince you in the seriousness of my accusations. So here are three cases (out of many others), occurring lately in our ancient holy land, to illustrate my point.

First, I let you read this sentence, published in Ha’aretz’ article on September 7th. I myself have read it again and again, yet couldn’t get enough of its contradictions. It defies all logic in its absurdities. So here it is: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Government Press Office to remove Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem bureau chief Walid Al-Omari from a state-sponsored seminar on freedom of speech planned for Thursday.” Furthermore, it continued, “The prime minister instructed that legal steps be taken to deny press passes of all Al Jazeera journalists working in Israel (among them Israeli citizens, H.D.), and to close their offices in Israel.”

Now, let’s try to analyze together what we’ve just read. There is a ‘seminar on freedom of speech,’ fine and dandy, but… it’s ‘state-sponsored.’ Got it? That’s absurdity number one: ‘state-sponsored.’ Then we have the head of that state, the Prime Minister, orders that a certified, known, respected global media organization, and its journalists, would be excluded from said seminar. Hear me on this? ‘Freedom of speech’—but you, with the Arab name, though you carry a press-card issued by the state—you are not allowed in. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, anybody? That ‘freedom’ here is limited, and is ‘sponsored’ by the state, and I’m the head of that state. Orwell is probably rolling in his grave laughing.

I can go on and on about this story, but you probably get the gist of it already, and we have other cases to cover here. So let’s go right to the next example. This one involves the new Israeli film “Foxtrot,” which has won recently the ‘Silver Lion,’ the grand jury prize at the Venice Film Festival. A major film festival—considered the third most prestigious film festival in the world—and therefor a significant award and achievement for the Israeli filmmakers. You’d think that folks in Israel, especially those in political power—who are usually so eager to congratulate, and celebrate any minor achievement for the state in the international arena—would jump on the opportunity to do so in this case as well.

Not so. One of the four ministers receiving the order to ‘kill the messenger,’ as mentioned above, is none other than the Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev. She attacked the film furiously—mind you, before even seeing it—claiming it tarnishes the Israeli army’s reputation. Apparently, she was told by a senior official at the ‘Culture Ministry’ about a scene where a group of soldiers at a checkpoint turn violent on Palestinians. As if that has never happened. “It the type of film that gives tailwind to the Israel boycott movement,” she was quoted as saying. In other words, as we continue along this path of absurdities, never mind the actions themselves, they are fine. The depiction of them and their messengers are the problem. Go figure.

The film went on to win eight major Ophir Awards—Israel’s version of the Oscars—and most probably (unless a government special decision to the contrary intervenes) would represent Israel next year in that most prestigious American, global competition. All the same, Mrs. Regev threaten to withhold all financial support from now on from any film that doesn’t subscribe to her—i.e. the Prime Minister’s—version of Israeli patriotism. Get the picture? And did I mention already here the country of Russia?

Over a year ago, the Educational Minister Naftali Bennet—another of the four executioners of the apocalypse in the Prime Minister’s office, as described at the outset—had “disqualified a novel that describes a love story between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man from use by high schools around the country. The move comes even though the official responsible for literature instruction in secular state schools recommended the book for use in advanced literature classes…” Reported Haaretz on 12/31/15 “Among the reasons stated for the disqualification of Dorit Rabinyan’s “Gader Haya” (literally “Hedgerow,” but known in English as “Borderlife”) is the need to maintain what was referred to as “the identity and the heritage of students in every sector.”

Need I say more? Only that one of the corruption investigations currently ongoing in Israel by the police is of PM Netanyahu’s attempt to influence, and strike a deal with the publisher of the widely read newspaper in Israel ahead of the last election, in order to sway media coverage, and have favorable stories and editorials about him in that paper, Yediot Acharunut. As if he doesn’t have already another paper, Israel Hayom – Israel’s Pravda—as his private newspaper.

I can go on, but enough said. So I say to you my friends and colleagues in Israel, and everywhere else for that matter: Keep writing; keep talking; keep showing; keep playing; keep filming; keep producing. Because remember: It’s not only that democracy dies in darkness, as the Washington Post reminds us daily on its pages, but it’s also that democracy dies in silence.

* The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue

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Who Said God Is Dead?

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Not me, though I was never much of a believer in his—her/its—existence to begin with. But the closer Netanyahu is getting to the end of his reign, most probably in disgrace, the more I’m tempted to believe that someone up there still cares about Israel’s future. I doubt it will make me a believer, but for a naïve, idealistic-minded person such as myself, a renewed belief in the possibility of solving the eternal Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as opposed to just ‘managing’ it, and with it securing Israel’s future as a Jewish democratic state, is a big step forward.

Of course, we have a long way to go before both things—Netanyahu’s demise and a peaceful, secure resolution of the conflict—can become a reality, and can produce a real chance for success. Still, one can always hope. One can hope that Netanyahu’s hold on power, his Mafiosi-style, take-no-prisoners’ attitude to staying in power, the belief—both in large segment of the Israeli population, and in some quarters of the American Jewish population as well—that he’s the new “King David of Jerusalem” is coming to an end soon.

What’s my beef with Netanyahu, you ask? I’ll tell you what. But before I do that, something else that suddenly hits me. It is this: The most ardent, fanatic supporters of Netanyahu happened to be also the most fanatic supporters—hooligans, actually, is a better word to describe them; I know, I’ve seen them in action—of the Holy City’s soccer club ‘Beitar Jerusalem.’ It’s a known phenomenon in Israel, at least at the time when I was following Israel’s soccer games more closely, that whenever their beloved team scored a goal, their loudest, most unifying chant was “Yesh Elohim!” “There’s God!”

Go figure. I thought they are all believers, anyhow, goal or no goal. I suppose even such extreme fans need a ‘solid’ proof occasionally. But enough of that. Now to my beef with Netanyahu, who (supposedly) worked so hard for Israel’s security and prosperity. As for security, there are many things not to like about his long—longer than anybody else in modern Israel’s history, other than Ben Gurion—stay in power, but I will concentrate on three. First, for me, is his culpability in the assassination of the late prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. His guilt in one of the three, or four most momentous events in Israel’s short history is, of course, by association only. Nonetheless, the atmosphere he fostered and inflamed; the speeches he gave in a Jerusalem’s square from a hotel balcony—remind you of any other dictators?—calling Rabin a traitor, and not silencing the crowd and their thirst for blood, will never be forgotten. It brought upon the country a tragic, major moment of crisis.

And, if you want proof for his guilt, I give you this: Netanyahu was, still is—together with the settlement movement—the main beneficiary of that political assassination. As result of that, here comes the second argument against him: His grab of power by any, and all means. It is said that all politicians are corrupted this way, but I beg to differ. Some lose a battle and continue on to other fields, to other arenas. Just look at a case here in America, with Al Gore, who should’ve been the president but lost anyhow (to a 5-4 Supreme Court decision), and continued to serve us all with his fight against global warming. But not Netanyahu. He vanquished all opposition, disposed of all previous allies and friends, and made deals with anybody who will keep him in power.

Power that became the main reason to stay in power. As opposed to the real, important reasons to be in charge, and usher positive, desirable changes. Which brings me to the third reason: His ‘do nothing,’ at all costs—other than continuing, and solidifying the occupation—in regard to the conflict with the Palestinians. He is gutless. He is coward—despite what all his followers and worshipers in Israel and in America would like you to believe. The ‘magician,’ as they like to call him, used all the tricks in his arsenal to run away from peace at any opportunity he’s had, or created, in order to just ‘manage’ the situation. And we are left to pay—for many years, I’m afraid, and who knows at what costs—for his mistakes.

As for prosperity, in a word, it seems—judging by what we know about the cases against him being investigated currently by the police, but not only from that—that he was mainly interested in his own family’s prosperity (like all dictators). But, no mistake here, I’m not so delusional as to believe that all the problems, even just the most crucial ones facing Israel, we’ll be solved with ‘King Bibi’s’ exit. Far from it. The occupation is here to stay. The heart of the dispute with the Palestinians will continue to beat. And there’s no guarantee whatsoever that those elected to replace him we’ll do a better job. The harm that has been done is cutting too deep and is too everlasting to disappear magically. But… there will be a chance for change again. There will be a chance for peace again. How to go about it will be up to the people of Israel. Stay tune.

* The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue

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