I don’t usually write opening sentences like this one, but here goes: if you missed “Erev Hadash” on TV last Thursday, you missed out, big time. First of all, because it was great material for voyeurs or reality lovers. But more importantly it was an excellent example of how Israeli democracy shoots itself in the foot time and time again, which makes you wonder when it’s just going to kill itself and have done.
The guest on this current affairs program was Knesset member Jamal Zahalka, an Israeli Arab from the National Democratic Assembly (Balad) party. It turns out he had a pretty busy day on Thursday, because his appearance on the show followed his participation in a demonstration near the Gaza strip, during which one of his party members was kind enough to put Hamas leader Ismail Haniya on the speaker of his cell-phone, so everyone could listen to what he had to say.
In a nutshell, this man, Zahalka, who as a member of the Israeli parliament makes a living from the Israeli taxpayer and is supposed, in turn, to serve the country, has no problem collaborating with a terrorist whose declared ambition is to annihilate the State of Israel as we know it. He is then is invited to speak in the Israeli media with two well known journalists (Dan Margalit and Ronen Bergman), and feels free to say that Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak “listens to classical music while killing children,” and then scream at Margalit that he’s “a total nothing”, a journalist who is “a servant of the ministers”, and that he doesn’t want to “stoop to his level.” Why? Because Margalit told him that he was outrageously impudent or in Hebrew, that he has hutzpah.
So you tell me, how could Margalit’s description of Zahalka possibly be more accurate? Zahalka is indeed as outrageous as you can get. Any other democratic country would have already had him arrested, stripped of his status, and maybe even deported, for actions that promote terrorists who are a security threat to the country (not to mention the libel against Ehud Barak). But somehow, Israel always has to be holier than the Pope when dealing with such issues. So Zahalka is still walking around free, making a living out of the same well he spits into, while he acts in a primitive, disgraceful way on national media.
To me, there is no other conclusion but this: Israeli hutzpah is dead, and its successor is anti-Israeli hutzpah. Yes, that same hutzpah so many anti-Israelis feel so free to use, while defining themselves as “democratic”, or cynically hiding behind “freedom of speech”.
To sum it up, three messages:
1. To Dan Margalit - I for one am proud of how aptly you spoke to Zahalka, and also of your ability not to stoop to his level of vociferous and irrelevant personal attacks. And if I may - you really shouldn’t feel obliged to invite such impertinent people onto your show in the future.
2. To Zahalka - I would recommend pulling this same little trick inside the Palestinian Authority that you seem to be so fond of: picketing, and putting Ehud Barak on your speaker-phone for everyone to hear. It would be extremely interesting to see for how many seconds you keep breathing, and how many seconds you stay in one piece.
3. To the Israeli media - Unfortunately, there are no laws in our democratic country against such actions which put the country’s security at risk, but that doesn’t mean we can’t provide ourselves with self regulation. Whoever offers a platform to people who make a living from our tax money, but are a risk to our security and at no risk to themselves shouldn’t be surprised if they turn out to behave with such hutzpah.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on January 3, 2010
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