It would appear that there's not a single television trick that hasn't been tried here in order to cast a ridiculous or wicked light on the tempest currently raging in Egypt around Ran Adelist's film on the Sayeret Shaked special-operations force. The film, which was broadcast on Channel 1 at the beginning of last week, depicts fighters from this elite unit testifying as to how, at the end of the Six-Day War, they shot from the air at members of an Egyptian commando force who were in retreat. They describe how their commander at the time, Benjamin (Fuad) Ben-Eliezer (now minister of national infrastructures), kept a record, writing on his pants, of each Egyptian who was killed. In the end, their number reached 250.
On the face of it, what could be more natural than having such testimony arouse strong reactions in Egypt? After all, its aim was to shock viewers in Israel and stir their consciences. Wasn't this what the director intended with this segment?
Most remarkably, though, there has been no breast-beating heard here, apart from the direction of Yossi Sarid and a few leaders of the Arab public in Israel. And from a different perspective, as the reactions of both the public and the media in Egypt grew harsher, to this painful reminder from a period that is in any case etched in the collective memory, a line of totally stupid denials went into production in Israel. All of a sudden, a veteran spokesman from the unit spoke up to say that it wasn't Egyptians who were killed, but rather Palestinian fedayeen (infiltrators), that is, terrorists - whom it is permitted to kill.
That was on Monday. On Tuesday, this corrective and no doubt mendacious version had spread and already become an unquestioned truth in all of the news broadcasts and among the orientalist authorities on Channels 1, 2 and 10. And then, afterward, they tell us that in Egypt the press isn't free and is directed from above. We really should look at ourselves first and regard with concern the way our media lined up patriotically in the face of unflattering and truthful charges against Israel.
The cancellation of Ben-Eliezer's planned visit to Egypt seems to me like a perfectly normal Egyptian reaction to the affair. The Egyptian parliament's demand for the recall of their ambassador from Israel also seems to me like a legitimate step, which any properly run country that found itself in an emotional storm like this would take. What state more than Israel hastens to take sharp diplomatic steps of one sort and another in the wake of anti-Semitic or anti-Israel phenomena in all kinds of countries? But when it comes to Egypt - that is, the Arabs - there is nothing easier than presenting their sincere shock in an irrational, insane and demonic light.
Astoundingly, the person who most surprised in his demonization this week was Oded Granot, the Channel 1 commentator on Arab affairs, who is considered balanced, reliable and not a sensationalist. On Monday, I watched him demagogically divert the discussion of the Egyptian reaction to Adelist's film, as he explained to Geula Even on "Today in the News" (19:00) that all this was in fact an excuse for extremist Islam to incite the public in Egypt against Israel, the United States and the government of President Hosni Mubarak. And the headline, which should have been Israel's inability to face up to this painful episode from the past, was transformed into one about how "the Egyptian authorities are concerned about the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood."
Every person with a brain in his head knows that a concern about extremist Islam has been with Egypt for a generation, and has no direct connection to the current scandal. What was worse even than the things that Granot said were the pictures that were screened in the background as he spoke. They showed a Hezbollah-style march of masked young men. God knows what that had to do with the Six-Day War.
All this is just a random example, one of many, of the systematic distortions presented on television precisely by those who are supposed to be "experts" in the field of Arab affairs. Zvi Yehezkeli, the Channel 10 commentator on Arab affairs, has long made these distortions a distinguishing mark in the quite extended slot he is allocated by "London and Kirschenbaum" (Channel 10, 19:00). And now other channels are attempting to imitate his success in the field.
To what am I referring? To that procedure of magazine glimpses of amusing trivia from the TV stations of the Arab world, to which Yehezkeli prefaces a few words of explanation. What he usually tries to show in this series of trivia is the extent to which the Arabs are not what you thought; for example, they too have "A Star Is Born" competitions, and their women wear designer clothing under their veils and also drive cars.
To return to the Shaked affair, it wasn't hard to discern the extent to which the fact of watching Arabs when they are boiling is a kind of Israeli hobby that brings an arrogant smile of satisfaction to many faces. Take for example journalist Ronen Bergman, who is considered an expert on espionage affairs, and who was a guest in the studio of "Friday with Nahum Barnea" (Channel 2, 18:00). You should have seen him grinning from ear to ear at the end of the broadcast of the harsh things said by Arab MK Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash) on one of the Egyptian channels, in which he called not only Ben-Eliezer but also Ehud Barak and others war criminals. What's so funny about getting Arabs upset? Such laughter is an expression of scorn, dismissal and denial. It also hints wordlessly to viewers that there is nothing new under the sun, that the Arabs were just looking for a new excuse to hate us and they latched on to Ran Adelist's film.
Apart from that, there was no real attempt to grapple with the episode revealed by the film. And apart from that, my dear, everything is hunky-dory: They hate us, therefore we exist.
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