Israeli media and calls for censorship; Unity instead of infighting?

The Israeli media crisis is at a boiling point with just about everyone calling for some form of censorship. Many members of the governing coalition find the media too critical and would like to abolish the country’s public broadcasting corporation altogether. They say that governing ministers should not be under constant criticism because it interferes with their work. Others say the government should appoint a committee to supervise what is broadcast.

‘The Left’ concerned about the rights of disadvantaged others

Those who disagree with government policies – including members of the governing coalition – are immediately accused of being fifth columnists for ‘the Left’. However ‘the Left’ is not a hair better because many of their self-appointed representatives favor policies most people do not agree with. Journalists and politicians of ‘the Left’ are constantly complaining about purported injustices committed against ‘disadvantaged’ groups. While millions of Israelis (including doctors and other professionals) work up to a hundred hours a week for low wages, self-appointed progressives have nothing better to do than complain about the rights of migrants (who often receive higher welfare benefits than some Israelis) and Palestinians. They also say Israel should be soft on security issues, which is another reason why people who have been hardened by reality do not vote for them.

Only Ashkenazi Jews are said to discriminate

Most of the founding fathers of modern Israel were Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe. Many of them belonged to the intellectual elite of Europe and when large numbers of Jews arrived from Muslim countries the newcomers found themselves in a disadvantaged position. They had to compete as newcomers and were unaccustomed to the world’s dominant Western culture.

The integration of both Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews into an Israeli melting-pot is perhaps unprecedented in world history. Israel has done a better job at integrating immigrants from scores of cultures than either the United States or Europe.

Recently Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an oblique reference to what is a tendency of some politicians with Sephardic backgrounds to get their way by a form of bullying. Everyone knows that politicians in the Israeli Knesset often engage in unattractive shouting matches and that only Sephardic politicians seem to be allowed to make allusions to one’s ethnic background. However some politicians from ‘the Left’, though knowing all too well that no intent of ‘racism’ was involved, immediately responded by accusing the prime minister of making a derogatory remark. They ignored the fact that one of the reasons few people from the poorer sectors vote for ‘the Left’ is that many of the wealthiest Ashkenazi Jews appear to be more interested in personal self-enrichment (with the exception of an unending concern for the rights of migrant workers and Palestinians).

You can only be insulted by accepting the insult

In Jewish culture ‘discriminatory’ epithets are not taken seriously. During the past 2,000 years being Jewish was often akin to being illegal (during the Holocaust all Jews were outlaws) and Jews were often viewed as inferior. The only way to overcome this was by not taking insults seriously.

Giving preference to people on the basis of their ‘disadvantaged’ background is extremely racist. The ‘disadvantaged’ are considered firstly as members of a disadvantaged group and only secondly as human beings. While many modern liberals or self-proclaimed progressives are ‘anti-racist’ in theory, in real actual life (to use an Americanism) they are extremely racist. They are also often anti-Semitic since Jewish openness shows them a mirror reflection they do not want to see.

The People of the Book cannot be censored

Israel has the world’s best media and probably more cultural diversity than any other country in the world. Israel’s environment stimulates new ideas and technologies and its media, literature, music and arts are unprecedented in quality and originality. Because Jews are the ‘People of the Book’ even politicians analyse every letter and iota and award them a spot on the political spectrum. However in a world in which many of the best writers are Jewish and in a country where the written world is holy any attempt at censorship is bound to become self-defeating.

Administering a democratic country where people have a free nature is only possible by imposing some sort of order. Bureaucratic regulations become absurd when situations change and the regulations become outdated, while those who impose them are restricted by either self-interest or an inability to do anything about the situation. The pie is always too small and in an age of self-regulation of ‘the market’ the slices tend to go to those with the most pull, to the detriment of those who need them most.

Unity and Zionism cannot be privatized

Israel is a strong country because of the unity of its people. This is known as Zionism. The main setback of privatization is that markets do not self-regulate. They must be directed by ideas and values. The only reason the social situation has not gotten even more out of hand is because Israelis have a strong tendency to help one another, which becomes increasingly difficult when social and medical services are neglected.

While Israel is first place in medicine, renewable technologies and computer sciences, the health-care system is breaking down and there is also a severe manpower shortage in the high-tech sector.

Unity and a change in budgetary priorities

Government ministers can further the country’s unity by kissing and making up with the media, cracking down on corruption and apologizing for past mistakes. They can also begin leading exemplary lives and by moving to moshavim in the Negev they could appeal to voters of all cultural backgrounds.

Allowing people over the age of 29 to receive scholarships would solve the manpower shortage in the high-tech sector. Since this measure and an improvement in health and social services would cost money either the present government or a new cabinet would have to draft new budgets in a manner that would most benefit the public good.

About the Author
Asaf Shimoni is an author, journalist and translator who returned to Israel in 2016 after spending 40 years abroad, most of them in the Netherlands. He grew up near Boston, made aliyah while living on a kibbutz (from 1973 to 1976), and graduated from Syracuse University in 1978. He also lived some 5 years in Sicily. He is currently in Amsterdam to sort our affairs. He believes that the media should be as critical and truthful as possible.
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