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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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Days—and Heroes—to Remember

embassies.gov.il

This evening Israel will begin the observance of Yom Hazikaron—Memorial Day—and the next evening it will begin the celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut—Independent Day. Thus, the country will mark its sixty-ninth years of existence, and will usher in its seventieth year. By first observing the memory of all the fallen soldiers, it will continue a tradition—not without some controversy—that had been enacted into law in 1963. In later years, following the Six-Day War and its aftermath, the memory and honor of remembrance has been extended to include civilian victims of political violence, and terrorism in general.

While the memory of each and every fallen soldier is dear and singular—I will remember a number of them myself, whom I knew personally and had had the honor to count, if for such a short period of time, among my dear friends and brothers-in-arms—none will be remembered and missed more, both as a fallen soldier and as a victim of political violence, than the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin; assassinated on the altar of peace by a zealot, fervent, messianic, religiously-fanatic Israeli Jew in November 1995. Together with him, the peace between Israelis and Palestinians had died too. And since then—yet to be resurrected.

It is to the understanding and observation of yours truly—who was born in Israel, fought in a number of its wars and major operations, but now lives (mostly) among the Jews of America—that when we look on these sixty-nine years of independence with clear eyes and open mind, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the ‘political assassination’ of Yitzhak Rabin, who quite possibly was the greatest war-hero and independence-warrior Israel had ever known, was one of the three, maybe four most crucial events in the short history of the modern county since it had gained independence. Like the Six-day war of 1967, the Yom Kippur War of 1973, and the peace agreement with Egypt to follow it in 1979, this singular event—i.e. Rabin’s assassination—and its aftermath, had changed dramatically the course of the nation.

The last page on that tragic and momentous event in our history is yet to be written. And though many words had been said and had been written about it, the cloud of mystery surrounding that terrible death and murder is still looming large, dark and heavy. One brave attempt to shade some light on that mystery is the film ‘Rabin, The Last Day,’ by the well-known and well-respected Israeli film director Amos Gitai. His 2015 Israeli-French docudrama, released here theatrically last year, is a political thriller of the first order, depicting the events surrounding the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin—with footage never before seen of the actual moments of assassination—in the days leading to it, and its aftermath, including the governmental committee inquiry to follow.

We will screen this film at the KOH Library, in the Culture Center of Mosaic Law at 2pm on Sunday May 21. I will make an introduction to the film, and after the screening I’ll lead a discussion—believe me, there is a lot to be discussed—about it. The film is not easy to watch, or digest for that matter, but nothing easy ever had much of a value to it; especially when it comes to such a tragic, complex event. Rightfully, the reviews for the film were mixed. “Rabin, the Last Day is not interesting in spite of its flaws as a film. It’s interesting because of them,” wrote A. O. Scott in the NY Times. “Frequently horrifying and never less than absorbing, Rabin, the Last Day is a meticulously observant portrait of a broken society.” Wrote Matt Fagerholm, on his Roger Ebert’s dedicated blog.

The film, correctly so, raises more questions than answers. But this is exactly why it’s so important that we will watch it; that we will pay attention to the old stories and new revelations; that we will discuss them, and try to answer them to ourselves, and to others. It is of the utmost importance, then, not only because this was one of the most ‘successful’ political assassination in the bloody history of mankind, but because the implications to the state of Israel and its people, and to the future of the Jewish people as a whole, are still vibrating, and loudly, with a lot still at stake.

On the occasion of the screening we will also celebrate the ‘Nine-year Anniversary’ to this blog, with this being the 121 continuously monthly post. I hope you’re enjoying the ride, just as I do, and that you will continue to visit this site, read my posts, reflect and comment. And please, join us at the screening of the film on May 21.

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

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