Over the last few days, daily Hebrew papers have been carrying anonymous ads protesting the investigation into claims IDF chief-designate Yoav Galant inappropriately took land next to his home on Moshav Amikam.
"The putsch at army headquarters has succeeded (apparently )," read one, which continued with, among other claims, "The gang of [current IDF chief] Gabi Ashkenazi, Avi Benayahu, [Boaz] Harpaz and the journalists in their court are about to win and sabotage the democratic choice of Galant as army chief of staff."
The ads are signed "Citizens who don't know Galant personally and are worried about the putsch at army headquarters."
The chief army prosecutor has approached the state attorney general to examine whether the ads violate criminal law against libeling public servants.
Rani Rahav, a veteran Israeli public relations agent who serves as the honorary consul of the Marshall Islands here, believes that ads of this type are legitimate in a democratic society, on the condition that its promoters agree to reveal their identities.
Rani Rahav, do you know who is behind these ads?
Have you tried to discover who is behind them? Aren't you curious?
I wasn't curious, but on the other hand I understand the desire of many people to express their opinion, to get their feelings out and protest. I would be happier if the notices were signed. The minute names are signed, it's much more significant.
Do you think that these ads were placed by Galant supporters, or is it possible that they were meant to fan the flames and prevent him from taking office? Do these ads help or hurt Galant?
Unfortunately, in the Middle Eastern democracy called Israel, amnesia is rampant. We experienced just such an absurd affair six weeks ago, the one about the so-called "Galant document." That was a terrible experience, sad and very disturbing. How certain people can do certain things without shame or fear. I wouldn't be surprised if these ads were something like that.
What do you think about the fact that no one has signed the ads? Are they effective if we don't know the identity of the people who placed them?
I think the unsigned notices are improper. Without getting into the issue of damage or effectiveness, an anonymous notice is improper in a democracy. On the other hand, it may be that someone wanted to do this on purpose.
We are talking about a large expense, though. The person behind this was willing to spend large sums to influence the public agenda.
The cost of such notices is not sky high. You have to remember that there are people of all backgrounds who are feeling this pain. From every possible angle. We are talking about the salt of the earth. Galant is a fighter and his wife was a lieutenant colonel in the army. She doesn't manage a boutique in Tel Aviv and their son is a combat soldier. It hurts them to see the Galant family criticized every day. However, you can understand the criticism. Still, the Middle East is burning, Mubarak's regime may fall and we are all occupied with a few dunams of land of a man with the undisputed talent to be army chief of staff. That said, the law is our guiding light.
Are notices of this sort, using money to influence public opinion, legitimate? Are they effective?
It's completely legitimate to make use of ads. Exactly the way political parties try to change your opinion before Knesset elections by using ads. Is it effective? It depends on who and for what. Who wants to shout, to shout along with the ads? For those angry about the entire process, the ad hurts. For those who consider the law a guiding light, the ad hurts. No matter how you look at it, it is a very painful subject. An entire family is being trampled, but those doing it are doing so in the name of the law, because you have to obey the law. If there is an interested party in this case, then it is even more painful. One big ache.
Do you think that the use of forged documents whose actual purpose is the opposite of what they seem to be at face value, like the Galant document reportedly forged by Boaz Harpaz, is a legitimate way to sway public opinion?
The Galant document was an anonymous document that we all thought was connected to Galant until the police investigation showed that his hands were clean. This document was the most illegitimate that there could be. It's a fact that the police did their jobs and someone will be punished. There is a difference between turning things upside down legitimately and turning things upside down with a lie. The Galant document was a criminal lie that someone must pay for. Using this kind of reverse psychology is legitimate, as long as you don't add any criminal elements. The Galant document was criminal. At the end of the day, someone will be put on trial. Someone will be put in jail for it.
The ads include unfounded accusations against key figures in the affair, that they are publicity hounds or puppets. Is it appropriate to include such claims in an ad of this type? How can those who come under attack defend themselves?
Those named in the ads can sue. I am convinced that newspaper editors received a letter from those who placed the ads - about compensation in case of a libel claim - or the newspapers' legal advisors gave their agreement to publication and determined that there was no libel involved. So there is someone to sue. That's not a problem. But with the Galant document, there was no one to sue. And so the state investigated the matter, and found who should be taken to court.
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