A veteran radio and television presenter elicited a harsh political response after saying that he was “ashamed to be Israeli” in light of the military’s actions during Friday’s violence along the Gaza border.
Reports over the weekend indicated that Kobi Meidan could be fired from his job on Army Radio for his remarks, though the Haaretz newspaper on Monday reported that station managers were leaning toward keeping him on board. The radio station, despite being under military auspices, is a largely independent body.
On Saturday, Meidan posted a stark message on his Facebook page that said, “Today I am ashamed to be Israeli.”
Meidan has since said he wrote the post before the details of Friday’s events had become clear.
Some 30,000 Palestinians took part in demonstrations along the Gaza border, during which rioters threw rocks and firebombs at Israeli troops on the other side of the fence, burned tires and scrap wood, sought to breach and damage the security fence, and in one case opened fire at Israeli soldiers.
The army said that its sharpshooters targeted only those taking explicit violent action against Israeli troops or trying to break through or damage the security fence.
There were discrepancies in Palestinian reports on the death toll in Friday’s clashes, While Hamas claimed Monday that 18 had died, the official news agency of the Palestinian Authority had the number at 16. Israel has no official death toll numbers.
The Israeli army has identified at least 10 of those killed as members of Palestinian terror groups, including Hamas. Hamas has acknowledged five of the dead were its gunmen. The IDF spokesman Ronen Manelis said Friday the IDF faced “a violent, terrorist demonstration at six points” along the fence. He said the IDF used “pinpoint fire” wherever there were attempts to breach or damage the security fence. “All the fatalities were aged 18-30, several of the fatalities were known to us, and at least two of them were members of Hamas commando forces,” he said in a late afternoon statement.
On Monday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) told Army Radio that if Meidan “was really a moral person, he would have returned the keys and said he no longer wanted to broadcast on the army’s radio station.”
Meidan’s post not only revealed “extreme left-wing views,” Erdan went on, but also “his lack of seriousness,” because he had written it before Friday’s events had been examined by any objective body.
Erdan charged that the views of Army Radio broadcasters were known to be “very left-wing.”
The minister’s statements echoed those expressed Sunday by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu), who told Radio 103FM “I’m ashamed that we have a presenter like that on an army radio station.”
He added, “If [Meidan] is ashamed , he should draw the conclusions himself and quit the station. I think it’s shameful that this is a presenter on an army radio station, but this is also part of our reality.”
Avi Gabbay, leader of the opposition Zionist Union, took to Twitter on Monday to defend Meidan’s right to freedom of speech.
“I’m very proud to be Israeli but totally oppose dismissing people on freedom of speech issues,” he wrote. “Liberman is defense minister and does not assign presenters on Army Radio.”
Haaretz reported that Army Radio head Shimon Elkabetz wished to avoid firing Meidan and was hoping the presenter would clarify his remarks publicly.
Following Friday’s clashes, the army said it had used “pinpoint fire” to counter “violent, terrorist demonstration at six points” along the border, wherever there were attempts to breach or damage the security fence.
The IDF Sunday vowed to continue its policy of live fire should similar violent protests be repeated.