Michael Boyden

Israel’s Creeping Dictatorship

It doesn’t happen overnight.

There are many telltale signs out there that should give us all some cause for concern.

In 2012 Ben Caspit, who had been a reporter with the Ma’ariv newspaper since 1985, was fired from his job. It has been suggested that his animosity to Netanyahu may have been one of the reasons that led to his dismissal.

The Israeli investigative reporter and television journalist Raviv Drucker is a leading critic of our prime minister. In one of his reports he revealed that Bibi’s personal lawyer and second cousin, David Shimron, had represented a German submarine manufacturer in a multi-million-dollar deal with Israel, and alleged a possible conflict of interest.

After many attempts by the Israeli government to influence its editorial policies, Channel 13 News fired Raviv Drucker together with around 40 members of its editorial staff and reporters who were critical of Netanyahu.

In 2018 Bibi filed a libel suit against journalist Ben Caspit over an article the latter wrote addressing police investigations concerning him.

But the paper trail goes on. The prominent diplomatic correspondent, Barak Ravid, known for his scoops and critical coverage of our prime minister, was dismissed by Channel 13 TV just last month.

Also fired following maternity leave was the news anchor and television reporter Tali Moreno. Channel 13 said it was dealing with a financial streamlining process that had forced it to “bid farewell to outstanding professionals”. Some are asking whether it was coincidental that Moreno is married to Eyal Kitzis, who is known for his satirical TV programme “Eretz Nehederet” and who had been asked to tone down his material on Sarah Netanyahu.

However, yesterday’s bombshell announcement that the forthcoming satirical TV series “Gav Ha-Umah” hosted by Lior Schleien was to be scrapped should sound an alarm bell. Some see this as a further expression of the political orientation of Channel 13 TV. Others view this as yet another attempt to stifle criticism.

Fortunately, critics of the current regime are only losing their jobs and not being poisoned, but there are worrying signs.

Opponents of our government are referred to as traitors. There have been attempts in recent days to interfere with the appointment of both Israel’s Chief of Police and the Attorney General. The Supreme Court and the State Attorney’s Office face mounting criticism, and there has been a growing number of cases of police brutality targeted at peaceful demonstrators outside the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, the President of the State of Israel, who should be a beacon of light and sanity and an upholder of democracy in these troubled times is nowhere to be seen or heard, while the religious parties, who should be a moral compass in our society, prop up a fractured and dysfunctional government in return for financial handouts.

Where is all of this leading? Hopefully nowhere. Fortunately, there are enough Israelis out there who see the writing on the wall and are deeply concerned about what is happening. They are speaking out. The tide can still be turned.

Nevertheless, we would do well to remember the fable of the frog who was dropped into tepid water, which was then slowly brought to the boil. The frog died. Had it been suddenly put into boiling water it would have jumped out.

About the Author
Made aliyah from the UK in 1985, am a former president of the Israel Council of Reform Rabbis and am currently rabbi of Kehilat Yonatan in Hod Hasharon, Israel.