Labor Party chairwoman Merav Michaeli blasted a right-wing news network on Monday for airing commentary that appeared to imply impropriety on the part of a male and female soldier who were killed on Saturday by an Egyptian policeman. The guman infiltrated Israel and opened fire on a military post they were guarding, and then killed a third soldier in a gunfight before being shot dead.
Speaking at a Labor faction meeting, Michaeli said that “the coalition’s media channels see a young man and woman alone at night on guard duty, and all they can think about is sex. Not responsibility, not service, not courage, not comradery. Just sex.”
“The coalition’s disgusting poison machine is not ashamed to insult them and their memory,” said Michaeli of Channel 14, which is closely affiliated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing and far-right government. “Shame on the media and shame on the country,” she added.
The outlet has come under widespread criticism in recent days for comments made by its military correspondent Hallel Bitton Rosen, who said in a broadcast Sunday that “putting a male combat soldier and a female combat soldier alone for 12 hours at night… is problematic.”
“This is unprofessional and a disgrace to the army’s values, and it’s being driven by crazy left-wing agendas,” the panel’s moderator, Boaz Golan, added.
Staff Sgt. Ori Yitzhak Iluz, 20, and Sgt. Lia Ben Nun, 19, were guarding the military post early Saturday when they were shot dead by the attacker, later identified as Egyptian policeman Mohamed Salah, 22. According to the IDF’s initial probe, the pair were believed to have been killed between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.
An officer dispatched to the scene discovered Ben Nun and Iluz’s bodies at around 9 a.m., after which military officials declared a terror incident in the area and launched searches. The intruder was spotted by a drone and soldiers converged on his position.
The attacker opened fire at a group of soldiers approaching the area — some 200 meters (656 feet) away — fatally hitting Staff Sgt. Ohad Dahan, 20.
The three soldiers served in the mixed-gender light infantry Bardelas and Caracal battalions tasked with guarding the border. They were laid to rest on Sunday in their respective hometowns of Safed, Rishon Lezion, and Ofakim.
Rosen has denied making an implication of inappropriate conduct and accused his critics of defamation. He said his complaints were about the long overnight guarding shifts. “It is irresponsible to do something like this,” he added. “Let’s say it’s two men or two women — 12 hours, alone, on the border, and without contact?”
בערוץ המורשת שומרים על כבוד הלוחם והלוחמת שנהרגו. לכו תדעו מה היה שם לפני. pic.twitter.com/QbpRSBYxY0
— Yosef Yisrael (@yosefyisrael25) June 4, 2023
On Monday, Rosen tweeted a copy of a cease and desist letter filed on behalf of Channel 14 against an online commentator who tweeted that the outlet “basically suggested the male fighter and female combat soldiers killed at the guard post were probably f*cking and that is how someone was able to kill them.” The channel demanded a removal of the tweet and an apology.
In her speech on Monday, Michaeli also criticized ultra-Orthodox media for censoring Ben Nun’s face in its coverage of the attack for religious reasons.
Haredi news site JDN posted articles about the incident that featured a composite picture containing portraits of the male fatalities but only the background from a picture of Ben Nun.
Another version of the graphic element had the image of a lit candle instead of any of the portraits of the soldier made available by her family and friends.
״In the ultra-Orthodox media, they think so much about sex that they don’t even show Sgt. Lia Ben Nun,” said Michaeli.
"כואב לי הלב על משפחות שכולות ששומעות את הנאום הזה עכשיו. כל כך מיותר" – @Shuli_MR, אלמנתו של סא"ל משה מועלם ז"ל, פרצה בבכי לאחר ששמעה את ההצהרה של ח"כ מרב מיכאלי@moran_azulay@MeravMichaeli@ElinaYalov@BittonRosen@Now14Israel@netanyahu pic.twitter.com/Kkdh9Xbt1W
— ערוץ כנסת (@KnessetT) June 5, 2023
“She’s erased. Instead of a picture of her, they show a picture of a fence, or a candle. Lia was good enough to pay with her life to protect them, to ensure they can sleep well at night, but God forbid they should pay her last respects and show her picture like those of the other two soldiers. Lia was good enough to serve in a place where their ultra-Orthodox peers are exempt from service. Exempt from defending the country. Exempt from playing their part,״ she said.
Some Haredi Jews consider showing images of women immodest, and publications with very devout audiences censor them, mainly in printed newspapers where this is an established practice. Vandalism against posters with pictures of women on them — including on buses that drive through heavily Haredi neighborhoods — is not uncommon.
Women’s rights groups and others often protest the tendency to erase women from the public space in devout Haredi circles. The fact that this was applied to a soldier who died guarding the country’s border was particularly upsetting to many Israelis, who viewed it as disrespectful toward her and a sign of radicalization.