What do you think of the following YouTube video: The famous Datia Ben Dor children's song "Ani tamid nishar ani" ("I am always me") plays against the familiar backdrop of a popular children's show. But instead of children frolicking among the rainbows and flowers, there are three stereotypical bearded settlers with rifles slung over their shoulders. One of them is wearing the traditional Israel Prisons Service uniform; another has an over-the-top American accent. Together they sing the following lyrics: "Sometimes I am a hero, sometimes I am a murderer; sometimes I am an assassin, and sometimes I am a butcher; but I am always a right-wing killer, a right-wing killer, a right-wing killer."
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The words "I am always me. Words by: Baruch Goldstein, Yigal Amir, Yona Avrushmi" appear on the screen. In another scene, as the "I am a right-wing killer" song continues to play, a mohel's knife is seen next to a hand dipping a baby's pacifier in red wine.
I don't know whether the people who created this video fully understood the anti-Semitic significance of making a connection between murder and circumcision, compounded by the dripping of red wine.
So what was this video? Another product of Israel's tireless satire industry, like "Eretz Nehederet" ("It's a Wonderful Country") or "Matzav Ha'Uma" ("The State of the Nation"). Actually, no. This video was posted on the respectable website of the Israel Broadcasting Authority as a promo for a show that was set to air on Channel 1 public television. The same channel that, despite a thousand-year-long negotiation, ended up rejecting the (right-leaning) "Latma" satire show. Of course: They do not need right-wing murderers when they have original leftist entertainers.
Shortly after this abomination was posted, it was mysteriously removed. Interesting.
So what exactly is new about these sketches? We have already seen this kind of comedy on "Eretz Nehederet." That is always how the stereotypical settler is portrayed. In the sixth season of the Channel 2 satire program, there was a sketch titled "Nationalist television presents: Everybody hates Rabin" that featured a family of settlers with stereotypical names like Moriah, Katzeleh, Margalit, Otniel, and (of course) a Palestinian servant. And a crazy grandfather named Joe, who yells out "get off my property" and shoots at the Palestinian servant. There was a photo of Yigal Amir (the man who murdered former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin) on the wall, and the enemies were portrayed as Israel Defense Forces soldiers, for whom the family was preparing an acid soup.
One image in that sketch signified the very essence of the "Eretz Nehederet" creators' (and their ilk's) point of view: One of the actors, the one who played the Palestinian servant, was used by the family as a human ironing board and a living clothesline for laundry. You cannot ignore the symbolism of the physical positioning of a human clothesline -- the suffering Arab's arms are spread sideways in a crucified stance, while the settler mother "stabs" him with clothespins. And then he is shot at by the crazy grandfather.
In my opinion, even the harshest of images is protected by freedom of expression. But the choice of images signifies the depth through which the Left examines reality: The real crucified victim of this land is the Palestinian man, and the crucifier is the Jewish man, or, in other words, the settler. According to Muslim tradition, it was not Isaac who was bound by Abraham, it was Ishmael. The writers of "Eretz Nehederet" have added another level of analysis (which appeared first in Israeli literature): It is not Abraham the father, but Abraham the Jew who is prepared to sacrifice his son, and the Palestinian Ishmael is the victim.
So what is the big advantage in importing anti-settler comedy from Channel 2 to Channel 1? There are already plenty of left-wing satire programs, why do we need another one? On the other hand, "Latma" offered biting satire from the other side of the political spectrum. The ratings could have been extremely high, if only for the novelty. The rivalry between "Latma" and the other satire programs would have driven the ratings up for everyone. The only obstacle is the Israel Broadcasting Authority bigwigs' fear of -- heaven forbid -- being tainted by "right-wing" views. You know, public broadcasting.
I am in favor of public broadcasting. It is important to resist the ratings culture that forces the commercial channels to air superficial programs that appeal to the public's lowest common denominator. For that, we need a public network that provides quality programming; a home for good programs on culture, history, music and in-depth political debates. A channel that would not be afraid of broadcasting a damning expose on a commercial body over advertising revenue concerns. I am also in favor of breaking the powerful link between the government and the public broadcasting network, which should be an independent body.
But public television does not mean just television for the public. It also has a much wider meaning: television that represents or reflects the different voices within the public. If, for example, Keren Neubach hosts a current events program with a clear left leaning agenda each morning, the following two hours should balance her out with a more conservative, rightist direction. A journalist like Kalman Liebskind could be right for the job and pose a worthy challenge.
For about a thousand years, Aryeh Golan has hosted a morning news show on Israel Radio every day. Golan is a consummate professional, but his political views are evident in every question that he poses, or refrains from posing, to his guests. The emphases he puts on certain issues are also a dead giveaway. It would be best if the IBA were to balance out his views in the 5 p.m. news show. Someone like Benny Teitelbaum could be a good choice. There are plenty of examples, but the point is clear.
Incidentally, I don't want U.N. types. Even public broadcasting should have people with clear opinions. It is good, it cultivates debate. My consistent complaint has always been that the existing broadcasters are not balanced out enough by broadcasters with opposing views. This is especially curious since the majority of the Jewish Israeli public holds conservative, right-wing, traditional views, but these views are not given enough expression in public broadcasting, not to mention commercial broadcasting -- but that is a different story.
Here is an interesting anecdote from the documents of the Israel Broadcasting Authority programming committee. This committee rejected the "Latma" satire program at the last minute on the puzzling argument that it did not meet the criteria of "programs with long-term value to the public." Is making the long-silenced voice of the Israeli public heard, on a public network, not a long-term value?
Furthermore, every television channel that wishes to compete with the powerful Channel 2 could possibly succeed by following the Fox News model, which competes with its more veteran counterparts. We have grown completely accustomed to current affairs programs that feature left-wing journalists, and maybe one token right-winger. Now, think about the one current events program -- just one of many -- where most of the hosts and panelists are conservatives. It would be a classic case of "man bites dog"! Everyone would want to tune in and see this wonder.
From my experience, I can report that most of the letters and responses that I receive for my columns revolve mainly on the sounding of this voice, much more than the content of my writings. My colleagues in the media can say that they do not politicize, that they are purely professional, but they can't ignore the deep sense among large portions of Israeli society that their political and cultural voice has indeed been silenced. Instead of arguing, perhaps we can give it a try.