Judge, Jewry and executioner
Hebrew media review

Judge, Jewry and executioner

Papers all filled with a slurry of stories revolving around a possible court strike, a man being set free, a minister accused of trying to kill the film industry and Nikki Haley’s star turn for America’s Jews

Culture Minister Miri Regev arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, September 27, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)
Culture Minister Miri Regev arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, September 27, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

The Biblical imperative “Justice, justice you shall pursue” is among the most cited in Jewish life, seen as a guiding light of an ethical communal existence. Its words, broken down, are also apparently the theme of the Hebrew print press’s treatment of the news Wednesday morning, as stories revolve around justice for a man cleared in the death of his mother, a looming strike in the justice system, and a minister pursuing filmmakers to make sure they are politically palatable to her tastes.

Yedioth Ahronoth leads off its paper with what it calls an exclusive report on a threat by Israel Bar Association attorneys to halt all court appearances after the upcoming Passover holiday in solidarity with judges who are protesting over a pension dispute. The judges say that a switch in pension arrangements years ago has slashed the amount of money they will get after retirement, and the paper seems to agree, running a graphic showing that judges under the old plan will get NIS 20,000 a month, while those under the new plan will get only NIS 10,000 — and telling readers to “judge for yourselves.”

The paper also seems to think it’s a bit crazy that this dispute is what will cause the first-ever strike in the court system.

“The system has dealt with not a small amount of challenges: Overloads of cases, foot-dragging, arguments over the character of the court, but it seems what will cause the first-ever shutdown of the court system since the state was founded is judges’ pension plans,” reads the paper’s lede.

“The judges are sick of this,” a court source is quoted telling the paper. “All the attempts to work out an arrangement for the pensions of the judges have come to nothing.”

For the time being, though, the wheels of justice are still turning and the top story in Israel Hayom deals with a case in which local man Chen Eilati was cleared of his mother’s murder Tuesday. The case was not really in the public eye, but given the lack of big news on Tuesday, the relative rarity of murders in Israel, especially where family members are suspected, and Eilati’s emotional response to his “Not guilty” verdict, the paper manages to morph it into a major story.

The paper quotes Chen talking excitedly of being reunited with his family and remarking that he is not all that interested in finding out who the person is who killed his mother, though it doesn’t flag that as strange.

“I don’t think finding the killer will help me with the pain,” he says, later adding that he hopes the police back off as well. “The investigation will start again and we need to give the police the stage. I hope they don’t do to someone else what they did to me.”

One person no stranger to flagging things that bother her is Culture Minister Miri Regev, who has been locked in a Kulturkampf with the country’s creative types since taking on the post.

After taking aim at artists and the theater, Haaretz reports that Regev is now looking to increase oversight of the film industry, asking film funds with state backing to provide them with lists of movies or shows approved and rejected as well as who approved or rejected them. The claim is based on the fact that a committee asked for that information regarding the show “Megiddo,” which humanizes Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails.

The paper quotes one unnamed person calling the move a “public execution of the film industry” and another who says it is “an attempt to create blacklists and thereby apply unacceptable pressure. With such a database, the Culture Ministry would be able to know just who approved films like ‘5 Broken Cameras,’ ‘The Gatekeepers,’ and so on. It’s all about political oversight.”

Getting a rare turn on the paper’s front page, film critic Uri Klein writes that what is most worrying of all is that the Rabinovitch Film Fund decided on its own to put a clause in contracts demanding that filmmakers not put any political message that could be seen as critical of the state in their movies.

“The fund did this as a preventive medicine, but that’s just a nice way of describing what’s really moving them: fear. That’s how McCarthyism worked, and that’s how Regevism works: It creates a threat, and those targeted prefer to deal with it before they can be attacked,” he writes.

It’s too early to say if the response of Megiddo creator Itzik Lerner to criticism of the show by Regev is a symptom of that, but readers looking at the response in Yedioth will likely note that he only gets to the part about freedom of speech after spilling much ink on his blue-and-white bona fides.

“As a rooted Israeli who served in the army, and whose two sons served in combat units and made it through the last wars in one piece, for the last five years I haven’t closed my eyes, and I also took part in defensive battles during the Yom Kippur War and was injured. From that point of view I can understand the pain of bereaved families, their anger and pain,” he’s quoted writing. “You should watch it before responding, the show has a lot of values and symbols that are important to me as well and I put an emphasis on Israel as a democratic country that places importance on freedom of expression.”

Wednesday’s papers also give pundits a chance to weigh in on the speech of new US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley to AIPAC on Monday night, and Israel Hayom’s Boaz Bismuth joins the thousands of others who anointed her the queen sheriff of the conference for her strong words against the global body.

“Haley once again proved that the attitude toward Israel and its security under the 44th president has been thrown into the dustbin of history. In an unforgettable performance at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, she silenced the ‘experts’ who claimed that the Trump administration is not as pro-Israel as we thought,” he writes. “The strong kid in class — the United States — is once again our best friend, and the rest of the kids in class — the hypocritical world — can go explode from jealousy. Not only did we not lose America, friends, America has returned to us in the international arena, and in a big way.”

Watching from a safe distance, Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev says Haley is a “rock star” to America’s Jews, calling her the exception to an otherwise ho-hum conference and ho-hum administration.

“Her meteoric rise in the consciousness of supporters of Israel stands out even more against the backdrop of disappointment from many of her male colleagues. Not only terrifying Trump or perfidious Obama but also House Speaker Paul Ryan, until yesterday the great white hope of the GOP, came to the stage at the conference after Haley on Monday as her pale shadow,” he writes. “Haley may soon find out that she is overestimating the American sway over the UN and its ability to impose its will on the organization. She may discover that her fight for Israel is exacting a steep price from Washington. She could be biting off more than the US can chew and putting it on a costly collision course with the rest of the world, for which Israel might ultimately be blamed. But until that happens, Haley certainly seems to be one of Trump’s more successful appointments, if not the best of all.”


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