Hebrew media review

Breaking down Breaking the Silence

Hebrew-language dailies highlight latest absurdities, from a diplomat father having to work against his son’s organization to a left-wing pol staking out a right-wing platform

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Screen capture from video in which Breaking the Silence spokesman Dean Issacharoff described how he beat a passive Palestinian protester in Hebron, filmed at a rally in April, 2017. (YouTube/hakolhayehudi)
Screen capture from video in which Breaking the Silence spokesman Dean Issacharoff described how he beat a passive Palestinian protester in Hebron, filmed at a rally in April, 2017. (YouTube/hakolhayehudi)

Israel Hayom’s front page is dominated by another curious chapter in the peculiar Breaking the Silence saga, which involves the organization’s spokesman Dean Issacharoff vehemently attempting to prove he is guilty — you read that right — of assaulting a Palestinian during his army service.

The right-wing daily, taking a page out of the government’s playbook on Breaking the Silence, casually refers to the controversial organization as “working against Israel” as it reports on the dilemma facing Issacharoff’s father, Jeremy Issacharoff, who just happens to be the Jewish state’s ambassador to Germany.

“The father, the son, and the battle against Breaking the Silence,” reads the paper’s main headline, immediately followed by an underline determining that the “apple has fallen far from the tree.” Israel Hayom explains in its report that the Foreign Ministry has “instructed European representatives to act against Breaking the Silence and its spokesman” and demand that government officials in the Continent assist in halting all European funding for the organization, which, the instructions unequivocally state, “is spreading lies against the State of Israel in order to promote a political agenda.”

The paper clarifies later on that Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely has insisted that the policy is “not personal,” and that she views Jeremy Issacharoff as a “man of great values” whose diplomatic service and contributions need to be separated from the fact that his son is a member of “an organization that is problematic in terms of Israel.” (Hotovely called Breaking the Silence “liars” and “traitors” in a recent TV appearance.)

Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay at the Labor Party headquarters in Tel Aviv, November 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Meanwhile, as many on the left are becoming increasingly disillusioned with Labor leader Avi Gabbay and his apparent shift away from values once viewed as integral to his party, Haaretz senior economic journalist Nehemia Strassler sets out to defend the enigmatic politician and his recent, contentious statements and policy pivots.

“Gabbay knows that the center-left does not have the majority in this country, the nation is heading rightward,” Strassler asserts. “We need to understand his utterances with this in mind. The left is seen as Arab loving? [Gabbay] divorced the Arab parties. The left is pictured as eating settlers for breakfast? [Gabbay] says settlement evacuation is not a necessary condition for a peace deal. The left supports immigrants? Gabbay supports their deportation. The left is viewed as anti-Jewish? He says he believes in God.”

Strassler’s analysis of the Labor leader’s moves, quite frankly, seems a bit obvious. Clearly, Gabbay’s shift to the right is meant to appeal to right-wing voters; not much groundbreaking insight there. But on a more serious note, by focusing on the pretty much self-evident conclusions relating to Gabbay, Strassler misses the opportunity to deeply examine the serious questions that arise as a result of the Labor chief’s political pivot.

Producer Harvey Weinstein (L) and Colony Capital CEO Thomas J. Barrack, Jr. attending the premiere of “August: Osage County,” in Los Angeles, California, December 16, 2013.(AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK)

Is Gabbay expecting right-wingers to ditch their parties en masse and ally themselves with Labor, even though the differences between its policies and those of Likud — or even the more right-wing Jewish Home, for that matter — are becoming harder and harder to spot? Does Gabbay want left-wingers to give up on pretty much all the values and policies they have for years hoped to advance in order to possibly have a shot at leading the country? If so, and if Gabbay succeeds in becoming Israel’s next prime minister, will he end up pushing a right-wing or a left-wing agenda? Answering those questions is what should really be of interest to consumers of political content.

In Yedioth Ahronoth, columnist Nahum Barnea raises concerns that the global campaign against sexual harassment, which has over the past weeks brought to light many allegations against men in positions of power in the US, Israel, and elsewhere, may have unintended consequences and create a backlash against the feminist movement. “The ends of the #MeToo campaign are sacred, the means, a bit less,” Barnea writes. “What might happen to it is what has happened to many American left wing campaigns; instead of bettering the situation, it may create antagonism; the reliability of women will be questioned.”

Barnea has voiced qualms over the #MeToo campaign in the past, arguing that applying today’s standards to cases from many years ago might be problematic. However, the writer’s piece from today is unclear about what should or could be done differently in order not to create an anti-movement to the #MeToo campaign.

Surely, the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, if true, should not go unreported, nor should the claims against Louis C.K., which have already been admitted by the comedian. No doubt about it, the campaign against sexual harassment has shaken up the entertainment and political arenas, and many idols and even role models who have acted inappropriately may suffer the consequences. This is not a desired reality, and more unpleasant allegations may be unearthed in the near future, but the alternative, in which cases of sexual misconduct are hushed or swept under the rug, seems to be a much worse one to live in.

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