Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Peres and Olmert Love Bush

President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President George W. Bush spoke at an event commemorating sixty years of Israeli-American relations. President Bush was happy to hear, and moved by, the praise his Israeli hosts lavished upon him. I, on the other hand, found it embarrassing. They should have stuck to praising the American policy of friendship and support for Israel over the decades and given Dubya himself no more than a few token words. But no, they had to call him a great leader, a man with a vision, a champion of freedom and democracy, a man who history will treat kindly, blah blah blah.

Sure, they can't say how horrible a leader he really is. They can't say "Thank you, President Bush, for making Israel less safe by attacking a country that, as it turns out, was never really a threat to us and instead made it a breeding ground for Al-Qaeda and Shi'ite terrorism. We really appreciate the fact that now that you have failed in Iraq, the United States can't afford to face what seems to be a greater threat than Saddam Hussein ever was". And the list of bad things goes on... They can't say all those things, but they shouldn't say what is at best a bunch of lies about how great he is (at best, since the worst case scenario is that they actually believe what they are saying, which means our leaders have horrible judgment).

The event tonight was part of a conference about the future of Israel, organized by President Peres. Channel 1, the public channel that is owned by the government but supposedly independent from it, showed the whole US-Israel event, including the video clips about the history of the two countries' ties with each other. I felt like I was watching North Korean or Cuban TV. The clips weren't mini-documentaries but rather straight out of the PR department. It was absolutely ridiculous.


  1. "I felt like I was watching North Korean or Cuban TV. The clips weren't mini-documentaries but rather straight out of the PR department. It was absolutely ridiculous."

    You're remarkably candid about this. And I fear you're probably entirely correct about it too.

  2. My candor isn't very remarkable. Pretty much all Israelis think Channel 1 has become a joke and a waste of taxpayers' money.

  3. Well, broadly speaking I know about as much about the Israeli TV landscape as most cows know about, say, eating saffron, so I had to look it up a bit. Ch 1 is one of two state owned TV channels, right?

    You're a dual Israeli/American citizen. To most Americans, the idea of state owned TV channels conjures up images of... erm... Cuba or DRNK. Ergo, is it possible that your vision of Ch 1 is slightly coloured by you being at least part of a culture that is deeply suspicious of all things of the state?

    But to be fair, if the BBC began singing the praises of this or that British alliance in a hagiographic and uncritical way, then that would start annoying me very, very quickly...

  4. The fact that it is government-owned isn't the problem. The Israeli Broadcasting Authority which runs Channel 1 also runs a few excellent radio channels. One of the best, most independent radio channels in Israel is run by the army and its director's official title is "commander of the channel" (quite surprising, isn't it?).

    It is Channel 1 in particular that is problematic because of the way it is being run and politicized. It isn't totally a government PR channel, but it is less independent than Israel's commercial television channels.