In order to clear television journalist Ilana Dayan of accusations of slander, the Supreme Court has handed down a ruling with a number of legal innovations. The most important of these is permitting journalistic crucifixion aimed at promoting a very specific political agenda.
I can remember the outburst of emotions as if it were today. Israel Defense Forces soldiers murdering, in cold blood, a little girl carrying a bag who was walking innocently to school. The visual evidence was presented clearly, convincingly and shockingly: an entire company of soldiers, at a military position, firing in the direction of the girl. Is there any worse moral failure than that? This was followed by a picture on the screen of the soldiers with joyful faces, celebrating the murder, to rhythmic music in the background. It was like Sodom, and we looked like Gomorrah.
If that is where we are at, a fellow traveler said, then we have failed as a nation and the claim that controlling the territories is morally corrupting is true. Another one wanted to defend them - it's not the nation, it's the Givati Brigade. Givati - the Givati - that's the Israeli nation. If that's the case, I responded, the People of Israel have lost their humanity.
After the IDF held a thorough investigation, the chief of staff announced that the report was false and shocking. And the army spokesperson proved, during an argument with Ilana Dayan, that the "murder party" that had shocked the nation was in fact a New Year's party that had been filmed a long time before the incident. The shooting by the soldiers of the Sodom and Gomorrah company, which demonstrated such brutality and cruelty, had taken place at a completely different date, during an exercise to check their weapons.
Captain R., the company commander, decided to sue for slander. In response, senior officers, including a major general ("with the knowledge of Dayan but not at her instigation" ) put pressure on him to withdraw the suit. Instead of defending their nation's truth and honor, their army and their subordinates, they helped to extricate the person who was making false accusations. But the captain, a brave man who would not give up, filed the suit.
Dayan's journalist colleagues, including the head of the Israel Press Council, retired justice Dalia Dorner, came to the support of the one who had spilled the blood of the company's commander and soldiers. ("Slander is as difficult as spilling blood" ). A tribute to those who, at the height of the war against terror, had risked their lives, without blemish, to defend them and all of us.
In an interview on the nrg website with Mordechai Haimovitz (August 4, 2005 ), the genie came out of the bottle: "It turned out that we had crucified the company commander and his soldiers," Dayan said. "We wanted to show how far this situation takes all of us." (When she was convicted of slander by the Jerusalem District Court, Dayan said that this showed that the judge, Noam Sohlberg, had an agenda. )
From her point of view then, the aim - proving "the situation" - justified the means. Dayan invented dozens of smoking guns in order to convict the officer and his men. The pictures shocked the nation, as she had planned. The world's media also swooped down on the carcasses. And the name of the IDF, the name of Israel and the name of the Jewish people were disgraced. The "situation" was proven.
In order to cleanse Dayan, the Supreme Court made a number of legal innovations. The most important of these was to permit journalistic crucifixion, particularly to promote a very specific political agenda. Since it is not possible to imagine that the judges had not seen the report, it is difficult to understand how a person with an elementary sense of justice could clear Dayan of the accusation of slander and remain a decent human being in his own eyes. The malice which Dayan provided us with, in huge doses and with shocking visual means, is so abundantly clear.
How could it be that the justices were so blind? How could they justify someone who trampled on the good names of the soldiers? Their parents? Their relatives? Their friends? Their neighbors? After all, when they saw the faces of their sons "rejoicing" at the killing of the girl, they wished the earth would swallow them up.
And how about the emotional blackmail for political aims to which the public was maneuvered so manipulatively, falsely and maliciously? Every Hebrew mother should know from now on that slandering her soldier son while he is defending the state is, with the approval of the Supreme Court, a permissible moral and journalistic norm.
The justices have granted freedom of debasement rather than freedom of expression. Other than the false cassettes, Dayan did not have any really convincing material that would cause the viewers to wonder "where this situation is leading [us]" and to draw the political conclusions that she wanted us to draw. Therefore she invented it with amazing manipulation. No viewer with a conscience was not horrified, did not ask himself in one way or another, "To where is this situation leading [us]?"
Ilana Dayan, who is talented and clever, did not stumble. She sinned knowingly. The preparation of a television report of this kind takes a long time, sometimes even months. That is enough time to separate the wheat from the chaff. But she, because of her agenda, preferred the chaff of manipulation and insinuation. It will be impossible to erase this moral and professional stain, despite the fact that the Supreme Court and the media stood by her side. Dayan knows that she has lost the public's trust.
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