Rochel SylvetskyRochel Sylvetsky is op-ed and Judaism editor of Arutz Sheva's English site. She is a former Chairperson of Emunah Israel,1991-96, was CEO/Director of Kfar Hanoar Hadati Youth Village, member of the Emek Zevulun Regional Council and the Religious Education Council of Israel's Education Ministry as wel as volunteer managing editor of Arutz Sheva (2008-2013). Her degrees are in Mathematics and Jewish Education.
Talk about violence in Israel tends to breed violence. And there is no one in Israel who doesn't know someone or doesn't mourn someone hit by terror.
People who know me say they have almost never heard me raise my voice. In fact, my children – and students in my teaching and administrative years – always knew they were in real trouble when I lowered my voice and spoke quietly and clearly with respect to their recalcitrant behavior.
However, this week, at the annual Israeli Journalists Conference at the Herod's in Eilat, I lost my cool. Twice. I actually shouted at two different speakers.
I am in good company – well known rightist Israeli publicist Uri Elitzur, assistant editor of the Hebrew daily Makor Rishon, "lost it" on the radio last week when interviewed by leftist Razi Barkai about Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett's uncompromising opposition to freeing terrorists. Elitzur began to shout furiously and could not be interrupted when, instead of discussing the crucial issue for which he agreed to be on the show, he was asked whether the outspoken criticism about freeing terrorists (legitimate in a free country?) was akin to the 'incitement' that led to Rabin's assassination – incitement that has been proven not to have occurred to begin with, but was used to paint all religious Zionists as potential murderers. He wrote about it in his weekly column, and I, for one, am glad that he didn't let the moderator get away with it.
I decided to go to a session of the Journalists' Conference whose subject was the situation of the Arab media in Israel and in particular, the Israeli Arab radio station, Radio A-Shams. Almost everyone else attending the conference had gone to the "hot" session on the Galant-Harpaz-Asheknazi affair which held little interest for me. The audience attending the Arab media session, I soon discovered, was thus made up of leftists and Israeli Arabs, including MK Ahmed Tibi, all having an "in-group" meeting.
They obviously didn't realize that my husband and I were outsiders and therefore one of the panel members, the head of the news section, said, forgetting that he is paid by Israeli taxpayers, "it doesn't matter about our problems. All that matters is that we have to end the occupation." I swallowed hard at hearing that mantra, totally unconnected to the topic at hand, which one expects from Arab MK's and Abbas, but not from the Israeli Arab rank-and-file, who are generally considered to be badly represented by the extremists they elect. Can it be that the journalists are not representative either.?
I should have protested immediately, because the moderator, assistant radio station manager Mr. Zohar Bahloul, after airing complaints about Israel's treatment of its Arab population, went on to discuss the Bedouin – the tribes, who, in my school history books, were nomads – to whom Israel is offering an unprecedented and generous 180,000 dunam (45,000 acres) of land in the Negev in an attempt to end their claims to land and massive illegal building– claims that have not stood up in the courts (as those of the "settlers" sometimes don't) – in line with the recommendations of a government committee.
Although many view this as uncalled for generosity, the Bedouin leaders want more and refuse to accept the offer. (A stormy Knesset session took place on Wednesday, November 13, as I wrote this).
Bahloul, raising a warning finger, threatened that "the next Intifada, mark my words, is going to be started by the Bedouin in the Negev."
And that is when I lost it. "Did you set a date" I shouted at him. "When is it supposed to start?"
"People get murdered in intifadas, Mr. Bahloul", I continued. "Threatening an intifada is not an idle remark. It is incitement to violence. Are you giving John Kerry your practical ideas on how to carry out his threats? Are you advertising your plans on the radio?"
"Who is that woman", he asked, surprised that there was someone whose discordant voice wasn't part of the choir. After all, except for the two of us, they had all nodded their heads wisely about the Bedouin intifada-to-be.
There was a reason for my anger. Talk about violence in Israel tends to breed violence. And there is no one in Israel who doesn't know someone or doesn't mourn someone hit by terror. My daughter, a children's dentist mother of four at the time, survived a bus bombing with only shrapnel in her legs, the loss of some hearing, thank G-d - and emotional scars that took a long time to heal. But eight special people didn't. My next door neighbors were Malki Roth and Michal Raziel, who were at the Sbarro and didn't come home again. My son's students were killed at Merkaz Harav yeshiva. And let's not forget my good friend and cousin killed when a terrorist pushed his bus off the road two weeks before his pilot-son's wedding. And I could go on and on. Small talk about intifadas, indeed, Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bahloul.
And it continued, under the aegis of the Eilat Journalist's Conference, as Professor of Pharmacology Riad Agbareah asked for the floor. He did not bother to talk about Arab media, heaven forfend, but bragged about how he saw to it that a staff member at his university was fired after making an anti-homosexual remark (forgetting that Islamic countries do more than fire homosexuals). This occurred at Ben Gurion University, where Israel's Council for Higher Education recommended closing the political science department for being a political and not an academic department.
What made me lose my cool – again - was his saying proudly that this was a special achievement because the lecturer was from Kiryat Arba (those "settlers" near Hevron) – to everyone's applause - and that the fired lecturer's American father said that if he moved to Israel for this to happen, he is leaving. It seems that free speech (never mind that an Orthodox Jew's beliefs that also make it freedom of religion) holds only for politically correct remarks (like ending the 'occupation') and it is a matter of record that Professor Neve Gordon of that same university called to boycott Israel in an English newspaper with impunity.
My chemist husband, surprised at a fellow academic's antagonism, mentioned that many Bedouin serve in the IDF and he had met some during his service. "They are all traitors", the professor said, "informers and traitors to their people".
"I moved here from the US as well, but I am staying" I then said, loud enough for everyone to hear, to MK Ahmed Tibi, who sat behind me. "But why doesn't the learned professor consider moving to Egypt, Iran, Iraq or Syria where there are such wonderful academic opportunities. Why work for the Zionists?"
Thank goodness, the next session I attended was a well moderated and balanced one, with left and right discussing the issue of editorialism and media that have a hidden "agenda" when presenting the news. All agreed that the use of words, headlines, the placing of news or omitting it plays a part in advancing a newspaper's agenda. Arutz Sheva got kudos from Yisrael Hayom for being just about the only site to report that the bus on which Bayit Yehudi MK Orit Struk was travelling home to Hevron was hit by a Molotov cocktail several weeks ago, an example of selective news omission which Arutz Sheva combats constantly.
And then Haaretz radical left columnist Gideon Levy criticized Israel's media for encouraging non-acceptance of the over 75,000 Eritrean and Sudanese illegals who entered through the Sinai – and are now making life hell for those living in south Tel Aviv - by terming them "infiltrators". Claiming that only Israel calls illegals "infiltrators" and no other country calls refugees by that name, he ignored the fact that only a tiny percentage are refugees and the rest admit that they are what is known as mehagrei avoda, employment-migrants.
Having calmed down by now, I reminded Mr. Levy that Mexicans are called illegals and infiltrators when they steal across the border to the US and that they are not welcomed with flowers either, to put it mildly.
More telling, there is definitely a leftist-liberal oxymoron here. If Israel were to accept Levy's advice and allow African infiltrators to stay, accept foreign workers and their children as citizens as well as give the Bedouin a good part of the Negev – how would that jive with Levy's oft-stated fears of a demographic problem to justify giving the Palestinian Arabs a country so that Israel stays a Jewish state? Asked quietly, this question is answered even more quietly. In fact, it is not answered at all.