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HomeBlogsAfter Army Radio Who Will the Right Come for Next?

After Army Radio Who Will the Right Come for Next?

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July 3, 2011 | Yariv Oppenheimer

It began with a concerted assault by the right on the Adalah and Musawa organizations, whose positions are hard for any Zionist Jew living in Israel to digest. The right chose as its first targets precisely the NGOs and organizations located on the extreme edge of the political spectrum, to win the sympathy of large segments of the public. Next came the New Israel Fund. The assault by the right on Naomi Chazan and the fund's grantees was brutal and its objective was to present the fund's activists as enemies of the state, traitors and collaborators, whose entire activity focuses on weakening the Israeli army and hurting its soldiers at a time of war.

No sooner did the incitement campaign against the NIF end, when the next target was found: the universities and colleges who dare include on their faculties lecturers from the left, who sometimes express their opinions to their students. The words pluralism, freedom of thought and freedom of speech were immediately converted by the right to the concepts of treason, abetment of the enemy and weakening the IDF.

From the universities, the members of the right went on to handle wayward media and journalists. Yonit Levy, who during the prime minister's speech dared make a legitimate and important comment about the inequality of Israeli Arabs, had to contend with dozens of complaint letters that flowed like water to the management of the Second Broadcast Authority. Threatening letters and calls to cancel subscriptions in response to the publication of opinion pieces have become routine. The right continues to ride that wave and now decided to burn the military radio station at the stake.

Just like the members of the "Yisrael Sheli" organization managed to deceive and mislead Ribhi Rantisi and unknowingly recruited him to the campaign against Army Radio, so did the members of the organization manage to fool the public and present the radio station as a "leftist" station that collaborates with the enemy during war. Even if the right fails to close down Army Radio and restrict it by law, the damage to the freedom of speech and freedom of press has already been done and the "chilling" effect, as the Supreme Court called it, has begun to have an effect. Journalists, broadcasters, politicians and opinion leaders know that if they cross the line they could be the targets of the next attack.

Even if members of the press who grew up at Army Radio, such as Amit Segal, believe the station needs to be reformed, it must not be done through defamation campaigns, pressures and legislation threats in the Knesset. Segal is mistaken if he thinks that the initiators of the campaign only want to improve the balance of broadcasts and broadcasters on Army Radio. It is part of a larger strategy whose goal is to change the legitimate discourse in Israeli society. Every one of these assaults has so far been accompanied by widely publicized and draconian legislation initiatives, whose purpose is to move the front of the struggle to the Knesset and take advantage of the right's parliamentary majority in order to change the rules of the game and turn freedom of speech into a crime. The boycott law that forbids boycotting products from the settlements passed the Knesset committee this week and is coming up for final approval in the coming weeks; it joins the "nakba" law and the law to disclose funding from foreign countries, all laws that limit freedom of expression.

The Army Radio people are innocently attempting to address the charges against the station and ignore the fact that they are only another step in the right's course of intimidation and its attempt to dictate an exclusive agenda. It is not about a particular lecturer, broadcaster, organization or station. It is a challenge of Israeli democracy and the right to speak freely without fear. The museums who dare display works of art with a leftist political bend, the cultural institutions that stage plays about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the national libraries that dare offer their readers books including criticism of the occupation and its consequences must all be prepared. They are going to be the targets of the next assault.