by Dror Eydar
The Left is up in arms about the Turkish government taking over a newspaper, but the Left has been trampling on opposition media voices for decades.
1. Turkey might be on the road to losing its democracy. It hasn't even been 100 years since the Kemalist revolution of the "Young Turks," and the Turkish government has silenced, in effect, shut down, the most widely distributed newspaper in the country. In light of this farce, the next time they want to sell us another agreement in disguise, we should remember the delusional individuals who sold us on the idea of peace in Syria under President Bashar Assad brokered by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Turkish paper has just been closed, and already the professional agitators here in Israel have leaped up and tied that paper being shuttered by the government to the paper you are reading now. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, in a burst of creativity, went so far as to compare Erdogan to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"The very idea and principle of democracy bothers Bibi," the outstanding democrat said.
The truth is that it was Huldai's own party, Labor (along with Meretz), that shut down the Arutz 7 radio station, the only media outlet that gave a voice to the huge camp that opposed the Oslo Accords. That same party (along with other left-wing players) tried to close Israel Hayom, the central platform of Israel's conservative majority. Last week, we witnessed another burst of democracy from the Left when it tried to close down Channel 20 because program host Erel Segal made a bad joke about left-wing MK Stav Shaffir that could be interpreted as sexist. Unbelievable.
It was Yedioth Ahronoth, the newspaper that once ruled a nation, that spearheaded the anti-Israel Hayom bill. From the mid-1980s on, Yedioth was the main platform for marketing the Left's ideas to the masses and an unfailing fountain of loathing for the Right, the religious, and the settlements in Judea and Samaria. When Israel Hayom entered the picture, Yedioth lost its status as a monopoly and a beneficial process of democratizing the media discourse began.
On Sunday, Yedioth devoted almost half its front page to screaming: "When the government occupies a newspaper." We have almost forgotten the abominable bill that same paper promoted, pushing to close another paper -- exactly what Erdogan did. History has its own ways of teaching us irony: The paper that for four decades controlled the government of Israel is mourning the Turkish government seizing control of a newspaper.
2. On Sunday, I was at the Haaretz culture conference. The conference displayed a black and white image of a man whose mouth was zippered shut, a symbol of the "stifled voices" that the conference participants were whining about. The image was to me an expression of the atmosphere at the conference: no complexity, no history, no justice whatsoever in the conservative-Right camp's years-long complaints about being excluded and silenced. Just one binary reality: the sons of light vs. the sons of darkness.
Some of the audience behaved like rabble. The amount of booing, laughter, condescension, and shouts directed at Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev, who had been invited to speak, demonstrated the depths of the hysteria and fright this group that was once the leading elite and is now grasping onto the horns of the altar of its old strongholds is experiencing. I also learned about the extent of its tolerance and how strongly it adheres to freedom of expression when it challenges its worldview.
During Regev's speech, some "brave" artists stood up, their mouths covered with tape. I saw the plaster strips as plastering over history. It wasn't a "muzzler" who was standing on stage, but a representative of those who have been muzzled, who was facing the people who really muzzle others -- who shut down a radio station and who want to shut down a newspaper, who won't be satisfied until the sacrificial lamb of Channel 20 has also been offered up on the altar of freedom of expression, which is theirs alone.
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