Spluttering Light

The wicked Antiochus of the week was the stuttering, unshaven fellow who shouted on television at Oded Granot, Channel One's Arab affairs commentator: "Who gave you planes? Who gave you tanks? Who gave you money? The Americans" (News Magazine, Friday, 8 P.M., Channel One). The trouble is that there was some truth to this section of his remarks, as the journalist Danny Rubinstein (from Ha'aretz) observed in his sharp-eyed commentary about Granot's interview with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (

The wicked Antiochus of the week was the stuttering, unshaven fellow who shouted on television at Oded Granot, Channel One's Arab affairs commentator: "Who gave you planes? Who gave you tanks? Who gave you money? The Americans" (News Magazine, Friday, 8 P.M., Channel One). The trouble is that there was some truth to this section of his remarks, as the journalist Danny Rubinstein (from Ha'aretz) observed in his sharp-eyed commentary about Granot's interview with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (Half Past Seven, Sunday, 7:30 P.M., Channel One). Who better than we know the art of schnorring from America, as Bialik foresaw in his poem "In the City of Slaughter," written after the 1903 pogrom in Kishinev; and indeed, every pogrom bears within it the potential of schnor.

So last week's memorial ceremony for the pogrom on the Jerusalem pedestrian mall was no different from all other pogroms. On the platform, on which a decorations committee decided to write in large letters the words "We have come to chase away the dark" - in keeping with the Hanukkah holiday - there gathered on Sunday, the eve of Hanukkah, for a live broadcast (Half Past Seven, Channel One), the prime minister of Israel and by his side the compassionate rich cousins from New York in the form of Giuliani, Pataki and Bloomberg.

A bereaved father read out with a dry throat a poem of his devising (in the middle of the poem, which went on and on, the program cut back to the studio) and the rich cousins from America perhaps gave a coin for each head and received a loving spoonful of friendship from the local mayor, and said "Good riddance" and the beggars were comforted.

And a special hats-off to Yehoram Gaon, Jerusalem Municipal Council member and singer, who emceed the ceremony; and to the schoolboy in the white shirt and the jeans jacket who said the blessing over the candle. The candle, poor thing, declined to be lit, and Gaon alighted from the platform to help the boy light it.

A little more loving

Like an order from above, the world this week turned its heart to love us a little more because "Arafat isn't delivering the goods." Pro-Israel commentators were interviewed on a variety of channels, from David Horowitz of The Jerusalem Report on CNN (Saturday, 11:20 P.M.), who heaped scorn on the subordination of the Palestinian press to Arafat; to Boaz Ganor, an expert on terrorism, who explained at length on Sky, the British news channel (Monday, 10 P.M.), that no comparison can be made between the Palestinian children who were killed accidentally and the Palestinian terrorists who were killed, and no one protested his comments.

Even Tim Sebastian, the arch-interviewer of the BBC ("Hard Talk," Friday, 1:30 P.M., repeated at 6:30 and 9:30 P.M.), sank his rhetorical fangs into Arafat's spokesman in London, and didn't let go. "Will you answer the question, once and for all?" Sebastian repeated, in reference to the question of why Arafat isn't making more of an effort to arrest terrorists. The spokesman repeatedly blamed Ariel Sharon and America, summing up that the Palestinians are today the Jews' Jews.

Also on Sky (News, Friday, 11:30 P.M.), in an orchard in the depths of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian policemen were seen capturing a squad of Hamasniks, who pulled their sweaters over their faces, while at their side was their deadly gear for firing a mortar shell. Was it really authentic, the British correspondent wondered. Maybe it was all a show of apprehending suspects, including the shoving and the blows?

What Bronowski would have said

While watching "Detained," a documentary film by Ada Ushpiz (Channel 8, Monday, 9:30 P.M.), I wondered what my predecessor in this space, the late Yoram Bronowski, would have thought about it. He used to tease Ushpiz, his - our - colleague at Ha'aretz over her writing, which he found too left-wing for his taste. Well, he would have liked this film and I am certain that he would have written that its excellence lies in the fact that Adaleh (as he called her; Bronowski's daughter is also named Ada) does not force herself onto the film but lets the camera speak.

And what the camera saw in Hebron, the setting of the film, is that the Jewish settlers are coarse (the Israeli consensus accepts that) and are no different from the Taliban in terms of the wildness with which they trample the figure of an Arab in their Purim parade. The Israeli soldiers, in contrast, carry out their occupation duties without enthusiasm, and sometimes take the side of the Arabs against the settlers - and that's in the consensus, too.

The heart of the film is the story of three Arab widows with children, the roof of whose house has been seized by Israeli troops as an observation point. The three are thus victims of both the occupation that has taken root above them, but also, and even more intensely, of the conservatism of the Arab society, where to be a widow is almost tantamount to being buried alive. Jacqueline Kahanov, the ideologue of "Levantism," wrote after the 1967 Six-Day War that peace between Jews and Arabs will be established on the day she sees a Palestinian woman walking down the street in a miniskirt. That, at bottom, is also the message of "Detained."

Hummus at the Cafe de la Gare

As they do every week, the hosts and guests of the media program on France 5 (Wednesday, 1:45 P.M., 4 P.M.) met at the Brasserie Laurent, this time to expiate for the sins committed by the French media against Israel in the recent past. Things reached a peak when the weekly Nouvel Observateur accused Israeli soldiers of raping Palestinian women, and the magazine's editor, Jean Daniel, admitted that the report had been fallacious and apologized (see article in last week's Week's End). But there were other fabricated reports in the same vein, such as the cover photo of another weekly, Liberation, which automatically identified a bleeding boy with a smashed skull as a Palestinian, even though he was in fact an Israeli. The magazine apologized, but who remembers apologies?

At the same time, there is nothing easier than to find a group of French journalists who will praise Israel. After all, the world of the French media is packed with Jews, and you don't have to be Jean-Marie Le Pen to know that. In addition to Jean Daniel, of course, there were Paul Amar, the editor of the program itself; Pierre Benichou, from Nouvel Observateur; the editor of the rival weekly L'Express, who devoted his last issue to the subject of anti-Semitism in France; and the popular host of France 2, Michel Drucker, whose guest on his weekly Sunday program was the singing idol Patrick Bruel (former name: Ben-Gigi), who vehemently denounced the Palestinians. Bruel, by the way, recommended a new show at the Cafe de la Gare in Paris, entitled "Hummus." In short, you could have counted the number of non-Jews who were gathered around the table at the Brasserie Laurent on the fingers of one hand, if not one pinkie.

To probe the subject more deeply, a short film was shown, which had been made two days earlier in the corridors of Ha'aretz headquarters in Tel Aviv, which featured the two familiar faces of the Israeli conscience, Gideon Levy and Amira Hass, but also Shmuel Rosner, the head of the news desk, who admitted to the infiltration of non-objective words such as "terrorists" into the paper. On the Palestinian side, the editorial offices of the daily Al-Hayat were filmed, but they were empty due to the closure and the roadblocks. As a light touch to conclude the conscience-heavy program, Chantalle Thoma from Le Figaro presented news from a different area: Garters are coming back into fashion!

Mann alive

How are we to account for the fact that not a word appeared in any Israeli paper about the prestigious series "The Mann Family" (Arte, Thursday, Friday, 9:45 P.M.), which was watched by millions of viewers in Europe last weekend and was the subject of commentaries on the first page of the culture sections in the papers? The complex history of the family of the writer Thomas Mann is more or less known: The more that Mann, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his novel "Buddenbrooks," and his wife Katia (who was Jewish), tried to give their life a bourgeois appearance, the more their six children did to undermine their efforts. Erika, the eldest, a self-declared lesbian and a communist, married an actor who afterward became a Nazi and she became an actress in a Zurich cabaret. Klaus, a self-declared homosexual, drug addict, writer (he is the author of the novel "Mephisto") and journalist, committed suicide after the Second World War. Michael, a violinist, took his life after Klaus. In addition, there was the historian Golo Mann, who died not long ago, Monika, and finally Elisabeth, who is still alive and whom the director of the series accompanies to the places where the family saga unfolded.

Nothing seems to have escaped her sharp eye, including the homosexuality of her father, which was definitively confirmed in his personal diaries, which forms the basis for the script, a superb fusion between a documentary and a historical feature film. Germany's finest actors play the members of the Mann family, and the best performance is turned in by Monica Bleitbreu, as Katia Mann, the wife who knew about but chose to ignore her husband's love affairs with boys - such as the one that produced the novella "Death in Venice," and, at the end of his life, with a young waiter, who was interviewed in the film (today he is quite grown up) who is the source of "The Confessions of Felix Krull."

Mann, though, was a German patriot and became a symbolic bridge between the Germany before and Germany after. His family, too, with all its eccentricities, is the essence of all the obsessions that possess Germany today: nationalist dreams, communist frustrations, suicide wishes, questions of sexual identity and about the institution of the family, nostalgia for the glorious era of the Jewish-German symbiosis. Yet, despite everything, they all have to sit down at the table together for dinner.