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The woman trying to make Israel equal

For the past eight years Equal Employment Commissioner Tziona Koenig-Yair has fought dozens of employers discriminating against minorities, rolled out creative new tools for fighting the gender wage gap, and much more. In an interview with +972, she discusses affirmative action, the role of societal racism in the labor market, and her hopes for equal opportunity in Israel.

Israel has identified more grounds of discrimination in the workplace than any other Western country — 16 in total. It’s not clear if that means Israel is extremely progressive in recognizing vast types of discrimination or if the labor market just reflects the country’s many entrenched social hierarchies.

Despite Israel’s myriad social and political divisions, workplace equality would seem to be a pragmatic and possibly even a bipartisan policy goal. The Left tends to support equality from a moral standpoint, and the Right could support workplace equality based on liberal economic values – but also for the benefit of international optics (“hasbara”).

And yet, Israel’s workforce is an arena where every single unresolved contradiction and conflict of Israeli life is playing out.

I sat down last week with Tziona Koenig-Yair, the country’s first-ever “equal employment opportunity commissioner.” For eight years, she has fought to change structural inequalities from within the government, a challenge that is either herculean or Sisyphean — it’s not always clear.

Speaking softly but extremely fast, Koenig-Yair explains that some forms of discrimination have hardly any objective measure. Koenig-Yair cites the case of an Ethiopian-Israeli who was not accepted for a job because, the interviewers said aloud, “we don’t want someone of that background.” A person with a Mizrahi-sounding name was rejected for a job interview, then offered one immediately after re-submitting his CV using an Ashkenazi-sounding surname. A would-be employer wrote that the rejected interviewee looked “fairly slutty and dark.”

But such clarity is rare.

In order to better understand where its attention is most needed, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) conducts surveys tracking both employer and employee perceptions of discrimination. Those findings are not always intuitive.

For instance, Arabs employed by Arabs report more workplace violations than those employed by Jews. An EEOC survey of the whole population found that older people perceive the greatest discrimination in the workforce (86 percent), followed by mothers of small children, and only then Arabs; Mizrahim report nearly the lowest level of discrimination (47 percent), just above army reservists. Interestingly, employers’...

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There is no more 'Israel' today

What’s in a name? A lot, it turns out. Why the name ‘Israel’ alone just isn’t doing the job.

PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat touched off a sizable media storm when he asked to remove an Israeli flag hanging above his head as he addressed the Haaretz conference in New York this week. Veteran journalist Dan Margalit from the pro-Netanyahu newspaper Israel Hayom called the conference organizer’s decision to comply a “burning and outrageous mistake.”

But I can’t get worked up about the flag. In fact, lately I have a hard time saying the name Israel at all. And not because I’m anti-Israel. Not at all.

It happened spontaneously, when concerned outsiders, Jews or others, ask me how things are in Israel since the escalation of violence these past few months. I found myself saying, “Well, in the region it’s like this…” or “In Israel and Palestine…” or “You know, in Israel-slash-Palestine…”  then fumbling apologetically, “you know, the Palestinian territories…” and rushing ahead to cover my confusion. Suddenly a word that I use hundreds of times a day – “Israel” – no longer seemed to be working right, to describe what’s happening.

The source of the violence is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Netanyahu’s incantation of “incitement” is a weird attempt to convey that it comes only from Palestinians, that Israel is not involved. The media treats spikes of violence as a nasty storm, capricious but passing – out of our hands.

But without Israel’s policies, incitement would have much less traction – and there wouldn’t be anywhere near as much of it. If we described the cause of the violence more accurately, we might make better decisions about how to avoid it.

That’s just one situation that prompts my mouth to grope for a better term.

In domestic politics, leaders prefer to talk exclusively about Israel. But Israeli voters have a remarkably sensitive internal sensor that detects where each party lies with relation to Palestinians. Left, center and right in Israel is defined almost exclusively by the conflict (or Jewish-Arab identity issues). Voters position themselves on that axis before anything else. Israel’s internal politics are thus encased in Palestine, gripped by it.

Israeli foreign policy is made or broken on the altar of Palestine. Israel would have an excellent relationship with Europe, for example, if not for occupation and the resultant violations of international law. Instead, that connection is deeply...

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The only valid parallel between America's gun problem and Israel

Both countries have a sickness, an addiction of the collective.

When something shatters our ceiling of horrible things, you want to think we’ve hit rock bottom. The only shred of hope after a mass shooting is that the slaughter of innocents will finally stun people into seeing how America has gone mad on guns. Maybe this time the human pain will cause warring factions will pull together to reach the only logical, if not perfect, answer: Take away the outright murder machines, and make it harder to get “regular” guns.  The geese and deer can wait a few more weeks to be killed.

For me, that moment was Newtown. No one can be aloof to the butchery of babies, I thought. In religious terms, god gave humanity the mother of all signs.

The data is indisputable. The more guns per capita, the more gun deaths per capita. Outsiders cannot understand how America weeps, yet resists the most obvious way to reduce its torment. Since Newtown there have been nine more mass-death shootings. Or 1,000 more, depending on how you define them.

The answer is that America is addicted to guns. It is the albatross of the country, an addiction of the collective. Guns are killing more Americans than heroin. They kill roughly twice the number of cocaine overdose deaths annually. Yet with the victims still gasping, we croak out “more guns, more guns.”

Addiction means denying that guns are a problem.

Addiction means that America invents fantastical reasons justifying its habit. How many crocodiles kill humans in the US each year? Actually, just one. About 155 people die of all animal attacks. Even if fewer guns doubles the number of raging animal deaths, it won’t approach the 20-30,000 annual gun deaths. The sport of hunting? If you must. But some weapons that are currently legal won’t leave much of the deer to take home.

The argument that armed civilians are an antidote to mass shooters is absurd. I couldn’t find any reports on mass shooters brought down that way. One wacko right-wing site cites an FBI report showing that five out of 160 mass shootings were curtailed by armed civilians – but apparently people did a better job without guns: four times as many were stopped by unarmed individuals. Out of the five armed “civilians,” four were actually security guards. Still...

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Israelis only understand force — and it makes them angrier, polls show

New polls find that a majority of Jewish Israelis support the ‘voluntary transfer’ of West Bank Palestinians, a majority want to strip East Jerusalem Palestinians of Israeli residency. It’s true that most peace efforts followed war and violence — but not because the Israeli public wants them. Even in times of crisis, a brave leader can change all that.

The latest crisis of violence has become a successful campaign of terror: Israelis are profoundly shaken. Many have reverted to the Second Intifada mentality of personal risk calculations based on self-selected danger factors and fingers in the wind. People avoid Jerusalem and buses, and innocent people have been killed in frenzied anticipation of attacks.

It is too early to know what the lasting impact of the current violence will be, but Israeli attitudes being documented in real time raise some longstanding questions: is violence the only thing that shakes Israeli complacency and makes Israelis consider concessions? Or does it spark an eye-for-an-eye mentality?

A majority of Jewish Israelis supported giving up on the Palestinian areas of Jerusalem in two recent polls – 66 percent in a Maariv poll from mid-October, and 56 percent in a small poll of 300 Israelis for the Knesset channel, published in late October (Channel 2 reported 50 percent from the same survey). The reporting does not specify whether the sample includes Arabs, instead referring to “the Israeli public” – although it is a small sample with a nearly six percent margin of error.

Giving up parts of Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem has generally been considered a center-left position. It reflects the vision of the Oslo, Camp David and Clinton/Geneva two-state negotiations in which the city would be divided so that two states can have their capitals there.

Does this mean Israeli society has tacked to the left? If so, is it true that “Israelis only understand force?” (Of course Israeli Jews are also deeply committed to the image that Palestinians and Arabs only understand force. It is this axiomatic belief that the Right uses to advocate military action as the answer to nearly all political dilemmas.)

Some Israeli analysts insist that Israel has only ever made concessions or advanced peace negotiations after wars: the 1973 Yom Kippur War led to the first Camp David negotiations in 1977 and ultimately the peace agreement with Egypt; the First Intifada led Yitzhak Rabin to realize that the occupation must...

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Jerusalem becoming mini-police state and ghost capital

As tension rises in Jerusalem, Israelis stay away and debate how to resolve problems there while ignoring the West Bank and Gaza. It can’t be done.

It has become common over the last few days to hear that, ironically, the political Right is dividing Jerusalem and not the Left, putting up blockades around Palestinian neighborhoods in response to a spate of attacks. But after two visits to the city this week, it feels like this isn’t just about separating the Palestinian and Israeli neighborhoods — Jerusalem is increasingly divided from Israel itself.

Last week, a colleague who works in Jerusalem proposed a meeting at a Tel Aviv café – he said he wouldn’t dream of dragging anyone to Jerusalem these days. A friend had planned her son’s Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall, but moved it to Rehovot south of Tel Aviv. After attending a peace demonstration in Jerusalem Saturday night, I returned on Monday to speak on a panel. Organizers were worried about attendance. Apparently some people planning to travel from elsewhere had canceled, saying they had families and couldn’t take the risk.

Due to road work, cellular navigation apps automatically route drivers to Highway 443, which runs through the West Bank, rather than the main road from Tel Aviv. There have been scattered attacks on Highway 443 in recent months, but I decided to take it anyway, keeping my mind on the statistical odds. The road was empty – it could have been 2 a.m.

I have never seen less daytime traffic on the ring road around Jerusalem, or in the perennial car-swamp area of Talpiot. Only later, stuck in long strings of vehicles inching out of Palestinian neighborhoods, did I realize that Palestinian and Jewish areas that are adjacent, or intertwined, are one big jam.

I drove to the sprawling neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber to see the fresh-looking concrete panels that had been erected the previous day, a harbinger of more walls running through the city. The area lies next to the Jewish neighborhood Armon Hanatsiv –formally called East Talpiot. The website of Jerusalem’s municipality writes: “The construction policy [in East Talpiot] emphasizes the establishment of satellite neighborhoods to boost the Jewish population of the city, making it unnecessary of build additional… Jewish neighborhoods in the city.”

The lovely, landscaped promenade in Armon Hanatsiv overlooks the Old City. It is now dotted with olive-uniformed Border Police...

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Poll: Most Jewish Israelis think Arab citizens support terrorism

A new poll suggests regular people are now viewing everyone in the ‘other’ ethnic-national group as a violent threat. Is that an indication of the national conflict becoming an ethnic one?

Over three-quarters of Israeli Jews believe that either some (37 percent), most (33 percent)  or all (8 percent) Arab Israelis support the terror of recent weeks, according to a poll published by Israeli news site Maariv on Thursday. Just one-fifth (19 percent) of Jews said that “only a minority (of Arab citizens) support it and the majority oppose” the violence. The wording reflects how the survey was reported in Maariv; the Jewish sample included 503 respondents and a 4.3 percent margin of error; the Arab sample was 304 respondents, with a 5.2 percent margin of error.

The dramatic numbers reflect what I believe is a dangerous shift in the nature of the conflict. The fighting was once primarily over statehood, borders, territory, resources with embedded layers of identity, religion and ethnicity. Now regular people are committing violence primarily based on ethnic or national identity. The survey shows that Jews view anyone associated with the other ethnic-national group as prepared to commit violence against them.

The individual Palestinian attacks on civilians are a statement that for those regular Palestinians – not just members of terror organizations – Jews rather than just soldiers, are targets.

When regular people view all other regular people of the other group as a violent threat or target, it is open ethnic conflict.

Mass hostilities that characterize ethnic conflict are driven by rumor. The very idea that 78 percent of Jews broadly see Arab citizens as supporting the terror helps fuel the violent attacks that have been committed against Arabs in recent weeks.

But only two Palestinian citizens out of 1.7 million living inside Israel proper have actually been involved in attacking Israeli Jews. One brandished a knife, not actually stabbing anyone, before she was shot and wounded by security forces in Afula. Palestinians in East Jerusalem who received citizenship are not included in this count, since their lives and experiences are radically different from those who grew up as part of Israel.

The survey shows further indications that Israeli Jews view their fellow citizens who are Arab as inextricable from the violence. Over six in ten (61 percent) support an economic boycott against all Arab citizens of Israel despite the fact that only one in...

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What are the odds? A statistical look at the stabbing attacks

The chances I will be harmed in a terror attack are very low. A tiny fraction of one percent of Palestinians are involved in recent terror attacks against Israelis, and hardly any are citizens of Israel.

Walking past Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv recently on a crowded sidewalk full of jostling youngsters, I found myself imagining someone attacking me with a screwdriver. It had happened a few days earlier, about one kilometer away. I had a flash of alternate reality, imagining the sharp point digging into my back or side, and doubling over while catching a glimpse of a person running, being caught, pummeled or maybe shot as I fall. I wasn’t exactly scared but it felt detailed, almost physically real. Or maybe that’s what being scared is.

To rid my mind of the gruesome scenario, I considered the actual chances that it would happen.

I calculated. There have been eight Israelis killed in the recent wave of violence, which began on Rosh Hashana, just about one month ago. In 2015 so far, there have been 276 car fatalities, or an average of is 27.6 per month according to Israel’s traffic-safety advocacy group, Or Yarok. The monthly average will probably reach 28 by the time October is over. An Israeli is between three and four times more likely to be killed in a car accident than by a terrorist.

Out of a population of 8.3 million Israelis, that’s one for over a million people. However, many of these were in Jerusalem. If they had all died in Jerusalem, which is close to 900,000 people, that’s just over .00089 percent – or one out of every 112,500 people.

In addition, in the last two weeks, 92 Israelis were wounded, according to a tally published by Ynet a few days ago. That was before a false alarm about a terrorist on a crowded train led someone to pull the emergency break, causing some light injuries and great fear. The Israeli press reported that the injuries included panic attacks. Let’s approximate roughly 120 wounded, including those treated for panic episodes. That’s about .00144 percent of the total population of Israel, or one in every 69,167 people.

There have been about 27 such attacks against Israelis in the current wave of violence depending on exactly which incidents one counts: this includes 23 listed on Israel’s Foreign Ministry website, added to the stone-throwing death of Alexander Levlovich on the eve of...

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Racial attack on Israeli TV crew a sign of extremism turning normal

An attack on a television news crew indicates that the violence of the far right has reached the heart of Israeli cities.

A television crew from Israel’s Channel 2 was attacked on Thursday evening by onlookers while covering a stabbing attack in the northern city of Afula. The reporter, Furat Nasser, is an Arab citizen, while the camera and sound man were Jewish. The men who surrounded them shoved and struck the sound man, who was later hospitalized. In the video men in the crowd can be heard cursing the police, the press, and Arabs. Channel 2 anchor Yonit Levy was visibly shaken as she spoke with Nasser; top media executives immediately condemned the incident.

But the attack did not happen in a vacuum. In just the few minutes of violence, several troubling currents in Israeli society clashed.

First, one of the people in the crowd shouts, “the police are shit,” as the shoving begins. The scuffling goes on and another one aims his words at Nasser – “Arab asshole.” Just before the end of the clip, another one says “take your cameras and leave – you guys coming in to film us – leave.”

In the emotional aftermath of a stabbing attack, why is the anger being pointed at the police? The Israeli right has long nurtured the perception that Israeli authorities are too lenient on Palestinians and do not sufficiently protect Jews – the towering example was the assassination Yitzhak Rabin. But the attitude is usually associated with radical fringes and extremist settlers. The far-right organization “Honenu,” which provides legal representation to Jews detained for violence against Palestinians, has a series of cartoon illustrations on its website; three of them are incendiary attacks on the police.

The Channel 2 attack indicates that far-right suspicions of the police are not limited to settlers, but have reached the heart of Israeli cities.

Similarly, the right in Israel has long held that the entire media has a left-wing bias. They view the liberal daily newspaper Haaretz as no different from the top-viewed television station Channel 2, which is geared at the most mainstream of Israeli viewers.

I have spoken to mainstream centrist and center-right Israelis who take it as a point of fact that the media is left-wing. What that means to these Israelis is that the press portrays religious Jews poorly. The...

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The right-wing solution for the violence

The Israeli Right has offered up legislation to deal with stone throwing, supported new settlements, and at times even championed annexation. The result has only led to a worsening security situation.

In the thick of a wave of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, Israelis are either looking backwards to figure out how we got here, or forward to see if tomorrow things will get worse. And tomorrow looks like a mystery; the Israeli media treats Palestinian violence like the autumn rains that began this week — it  comes and goes arbitrarily.

But what about the longer-term future? Is there any chance for a policy shift? After three wars in Gaza, nothing there fundamentally changed. Regarding the West Bank, several main policy approaches have emerged in recent days: from the broad left, the far right, and the prime minister, who reflects the mainstream right wing in Israel today.

The Israeli Left calls half-heartedly for a negotiated two-state solution. But there is a feeling in the air that they must apologize or keep silent for the special crime of believing that ending military rule through a negotiated political framework could reduce violence. Their voice is stifled, because at moments like these, Israelis view a two-state solution as a prize for violence, or at the very least, a generous concession Palestinians do not deserve.

The left’s all-but discredited approach hardly matters anyway, since it has no political power. The two streams of right-wing thinking are those that will determine Israeli policy now and for the foreseeable future.

The prime minister, as usual, indicates no overall vision regarding the future of the conflict. Instead, Netanyahu used his press conference on Thursday to insist that the current violence is not caused by settlements (or by extension, the occupation). He scoffed that the attackers inside the Green Line “just want to destroy.” He talked about protecting the security of Israeli citizens; nary a word about the long term. It is fair to conclude that there will be no change in his no-policy approach.

The response of the further-right — settlers and certain members of the Jewish Home party and Likud — involves several themes.

Get tough. Many demand a crackdown, as if Israel has been soft until now. Over the summer, Israel passed legislation stipulating sentences of 10-20 years’ prison time for different types of...

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Israeli settler couple killed, and the band plays on

Our hearts are desensitized by horror fatigue, convinced that nothing can change. But we must still try, if not for the dead then for the living.

A lifetime of sorrow lies before four children who became orphans last night when their parents were killed in a hailstorm of bullets on a West Bank road. The children were in the car when it happened, including a four-month-old infant. The oldest was nine. They were unharmed physically, but their suffering is indescribable.

But it’s time to admit that aside from their circle of family and friends, no one else really cares. If we did, we would change our circumstances. Instead, the conditions and sentiments before and after the attack are routine — ritualized. We are caged inside a dystopian daily theater performance, in which actors respond like robots programmed to repeat their lines forever.

The Right, whose settlement expansion agenda has run roughshod through the West Bank for nearly five decades, says the attack demands further settlement expansion. On Wednesday, about 50 families made a pilgrimage to a new site they call “Shalem” – meaning whole – in the same area as the attack, dancing and celebrating the future settlement. Thursday evening, the family was killed on that road. Friday morning, right-wing websites announced a march to the site in response.  It’s a settle-die-and-settle dance.

Prime Minister Netanyahu also repeats his lines verbatim, like a mad caricature of himself: Palestinians, and first of all Mahmoud Abbas, incited the attack and didn’t condemn it. His “sounds of silence” speech in the UN just hours earlier now has a perfect bookend soundbite: “look at the PA’s deafening silence,” despite the fact that “we condemned the attack in Duma.” To Israeli ears, this translates as: Israel wants peace, Palestinians are “bloodthirsty,” as per the right-wing commenters.

The Left, too, offers the usual answers: Zuhair Bahalul from the Zionist Union (Labor Party) said that regular people are paying the price for the frozen political situation. After another recent death, my colleague Lisa Goldman argued that the only way to stop stone throwing in East Jerusalem is to give residents full rights and end the occupation. The left-wing script reads, broadly: the lack of a political resolution feeds the violence. We don’t condone such things, but what can you expect. If we end the occupation and reach a final status accord, the violence will subside.

But these stock lines...

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Polls: Israelis despair of peace, Palestinians have other priorities

New polls show most Israelis supported last summer’s Gaza war, are not interested in taking in Syrian refugees, and agree with Netanyahu on the Iran deal. 

At the start of a Jewish New Year, Israelis took stock of their lives in a series of polls. The highest circulating newspaper, the free right-wing daily Israel Hayom, wrote flashy headlines on the cover of its holiday supplement about what “Israelis” think, but conducted its survey only among Jews. Haaretz’ survey included Arabs but not politics, instead posing fun questions about life habits and some public issues, while ignoring the conflict. The Peace Index, a monthly poll by the Israeli Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University, asked about the conflict and other foreign policy issues, which is its raison d’etre. But the results confirm longtime patterns: the majority of Israelis fear existential threats, and despair of peace.

The media-commissioned polls reflect what Israelis prefer to think about: the optimistic personal and public mood, pastimes and choices such as vegetarianism, reading, pot-smoking, vacation activity and sex, social values, cost of living, a smattering of politics. Here are some highlights about how the country thinks.

Closed military zones

- Consistent with all historical findings, the IDF is the most trusted institution tested, with 8.1 average on a scale of 0-10 (10 indicates the highest trust); but Arabs were not asked. (Israel Hayom)

- Seventy percent say it was the right decision to go to war in Gaza last summer – among Jews, 80 percent. Nearly 70 percent percent of Arabs said it was not the right decision. (Peace Index)

- Less than half of the Israeli public (43 percent)  think the results of the war were “good” or “very good.” (Peace Index)

- A majority (53 percent) of Jews believe Israel is a “villa in the jungle.” (Israel Hayom)

- Over three-quarters (78 percent) of Israeli Jews say Israel should not open its doors to refugees from Syria, Iraq, or other countries. (Israel Hayom)

- When told that Europe is absorbing hundreds of thousands of refugees, half of Jews (51 percent) are unmoved. Nearly half (46 percent) say this made them less interested in taking refugees. (Israel Hayom).

- A minority of Jews say Israel should take in a few thousand refugees (16 percent) or an unlimited number (2 percent — Israel Hayom)

Existential threats,...

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A place of dignity for refugees in Berlin

An outpouring of hospitality is on full display at a shelter in the German capital, where volunteers insist on treating refugees as people, not just victims. But as the gifts pour in, how deep is the well of kindness — and what is brewing under the surface?

BERLIN — A few young teenage Arab boys line up loosely, side by side, in a concrete courtyard. They are concentrating hard on four big guys dressed in black, who are busting hip-hop moves to music blaring from an amplifier. The boys bounce a little with the beat, then follow after the big guys, giggling and shaking their legs and hips, executing jumps and turns. One wears sport pads over his knobby knees.

A girl of four or five runs by, curls flying, her face painted from the nose up with swirls of red and silver. A skinny boy tries to stand straight, his feet plunged deep inside bright pink plastic roller blades. A group of men gaze at a guitar player, clapping and filming on their phones.

As scenes of misery roll in from the borders of Hungary, Austria, and the Balkans, this is not a calm country fair, but a snapshot of 763 refugees (last Thursday) from 32 different countries, living in a vast, vacated city hall building in the Wilmersdorf district of Berlin.

In mid-August, German authorities began sending refugees here, with no infrastructure. The Arbeiter Samariter-Bund (Workers’ Samaritan Federation), an independent charity, got involved.

“When this place started,” said Holger Michel, one of the volunteers who is there every day, “there were 150 people, a security team that the municipality brought in, and nothing else.”

That was the situation when a young man named Philipp Bertram heard about it and came to see what he could do to help. He is 24 years old, with the blond boyishness of a surfer. He is originally from Saxony – an area with heavy anti-refugee sentiment, where the anti-Islamic movement Pegida was born. Philipp had worked with refugee projects in the past, and quickly developed “an idea” of the kind of place he wanted to be able to provide.

A few days later, Philipp established a Facebook group to recruit help. Within hours, 300 hundred people had “liked” the page. By that evening, there were one hundred actually volunteering, he says. One month later, there have been a thousand volunteers, some...

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Are Israelis too scared to have opinions anymore?

A law barring public broadcasters from expressing opinions is just the latest in a long line of legislative and regulatory attempts to limit speech in Israel.

At 3:24 a.m. on September 3rd, Israeli parliamentarians passed a controversial law to revamp the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), the body responsible for public radio and television. At the last minute, right-wing members of Knesset from ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism and Likud snuck in an article stating that public news broadcasters must “avoid one-sidedness, prejudice, expressing personal opinions, giving grades and affixing labels, ignoring facts or selectively emphasizing them not according to their newsworthiness.”

Only 43 out of Israel’s 120 legislators were present and voting at that hour: 25 supported it, with 18 opposed. Journalists were furious and instantly dubbed it a “gag law.” Radio hosts joked that they could no longer say things like “very interesting!” to their guests. Public radio and television in Israel offers high-quality reporting and hard-hitting interviewers who lean both left and right. Most assumed the article would eventually be used to target specific shows – left-leaning ones.

After the outcry, the prime minister promised to strike the offending provision. Ofir Akunis, the Likud minister who had advanced the bill, stepped down as minister responsible for the IBA (he continues as minister of science, technology and space). Nevertheless, The Marker reported that the legislation is already on the books as passed, since it cannot formally be changed until the Knesset returns from recess after the Jewish holidays.

The Communications Ministry said it will not enforce the law. But its Orwellian description as part of the “ethical code” and justifications have been ringing through the public sphere. The Jerusalem Post quotes what amounts to an irreconcilable clash of meanings of freedom of speech:

I’m for freedom of expression,” Eichler (from UTJ, who initiated the item – ds) said…“but no one should be paid with tax money to give one-sided opinions…using a microphone that belongs to the nation… “it is unthinkable that I, as a taxpayer, am paying someone who incites against my beliefs and views.”

… (Ofir) Akunis defended the provision…Journalists send out rude tweets against politicians and don’t show any respect,” he lamented on Army Radio.”

It is the latest in a trend of Israeli politicians using their formal powers to...

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+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

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