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      Army Radio Journalist Admits 'Conspiracy of Silence'

      A leading Army Radio journalist has confessed that the media and political systems have turned a blind eye...
      By Hillel Fendel
      First Publish: 5/13/2005, 11:07 AM / Last Update: 5/13/2005, 1:40 PM

      A leading Army Radio journalist has confessed that the media and political systems have turned a blind eye in allowing/encouraging the disengagement at the price of democracy.

      "I have failed. We have failed," wrote Kaveh Shafran, political affairs correspondent for Israel Army Radio (Galei Tzahal) in a recent article for the Israeli Institute for Democracy. "As a diplomatic correspondent, I was among those who in the past year were supposed to tell the public exactly what is the disengagement plan, why it was created, how it will be implemented, and to discuss its various aspects, as well as how the Prime Minister functions."

      He explained that one of the reasons for the failure is the feeling of closeness of the media with the Prime Minister when they fly together. The media and senior government officials have "become a part of the [Sharon] family who fly together [on press trips] and do not truthfully openly protest for fear of being demoted," Shafran wrote.

      The media kept silent, he added, when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "lied" by saying he would accept the results of a Likud referendum on disengagement. "The media's conspiracy of silence protected Sharon when he fired cabinet ministers who did not support disengagement," he wrote, noting that the media also ignored the High Court's criticism of the dismissals.

      "We denounced [former Minister] Benny Elon (National Union) for not immediately making himself available to receive the letter of dismissal, but we ignored the criticism of the High Court" on the firings, Shafran wrote.

      "We stayed silent when Sharon formed government [policies] with an Arab majority and when he distributed bribes to the hareidim and Shinui. We said nothing when he pressured, threatened and bribed MKs with jobs so that they would support him... Where were we when the allegations of Sharon-family corruption came to light?"

      "Are the media who support disengagement allowed to turn a blind eye to inappropriate [procedures] just to execute the program? Does this mean that it is possible for Sharon to fire any cabinet minister, the Chief of Staff and General Security Services chief who do not agree with his position?"

      He said that the following questions should have been asked by the media, but were not: "What happens the day after the disengagement from Gaza? Who will rule there? What's the next stage in Judea and Samaria? What will be the status of the territories that will be evacuated? Does evacuation mean the 'end of conquest'? What will happen if the GSS Chief's warnings about Kassams fired at Ashkelon come true? Why are there no housing solutions for the evacuees? What does Sharon want and what is he planning?"

      Shafran also accused Finance Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom of not being true to their conscience and refraining from criticizing the plan for fear of being fired.

      Shafran is the second journalist in the last two months to admit to journalistic incompetence over disengagement. Yediot Acharonot's Nachum Barnea, considered one of the country's top journalists, recently wrote that the media "supported disengagement more than they supported democracy."

      Journalist Michael Freund recently reported as follows:
      "Speaking at a conference held at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, Amnon Abramovich, who is considered one of the country’s leading commentators and investigative reporters, had this to say about the role of Israel’s media in the run-up to the proposed Gaza withdrawal: “I think that we need to protect Sharon like an etrog [a citron fruit used by religious Jews on the Sukkot festival which requires special care and protection]."

      In case anyone did not understand the thrust of his remarks, Abramovich added, “The person who established the settlement enterprise is Sharon, and if a good spirit has come over him toward the end of his life and he is ready to tear it down, then in my opinion we need to protect him not only from political obstacles but also from legal obstacles too”