Several employees at the free newspaper Israel Hayom have been summoned to undergo a polygraph test over the next week.
The reason for the summons was a Haaretz report last week about the surprising words uttered by Israel Hayom editor-in-chief Amos Regev during a recent birthday party at the editorial offices for one of the female employees. This is what Regev said:
“Sometimes in films you are transferred in a single shot from the moment of the party to the moment of the war. We are apparently about to go to war. And we will win it. That’s clear. Two hours ago, they actually bombed Damascus, and in another two hours who knows what will happen. So let’s celebrate. Tomorrow in the trenches there won’t be cakes like those from Lahmanina. So I wish you mazal tov, and only good things.”
When I asked Regev for his reaction to the Haaretz article, he sweepingly denied, several times, the fact that he had mentioned the bombing in Damascus. He claimed that he was referring to the election war and the media war, and once again insisted that he hadn’t said a world about the bombing in Damascus. “There was no such thing, it’s nonsense,” Regev told me.
israel Hayom is known to be very close to the bureau of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I wanted to know on what Regev had based his assessment of an impending war. I specifically asked him whether he had spoken to the prime minister or to sources close to him before or after the attack on Damascus. His response was dismissive.
In my article, I had questioned the timing and necessity of the attack. I expressed surprise at Regev’s equanimity at the bombing of the capital of a neighboring country during such a sensitive period and expressed my concerns regarding Netanyahu’s national responsibility between now and election day.
Now the editor-in-chief of the most widely read newspaper in Israel plans to send his best people for a lie detector test in order to find out how I obtained the complete record of his words. The security officer who issued the summons made it clear to the employees that he cannot force them to take the polygraph test, but that there would be consequences if they didn’t. Those who were summoned were told that they would be asked to answer two questions regarding the incident. Some were even told the questions in advance.
The atmosphere at the newspaper is stormy in the wake of these events. An attempt to organize opposition to the strange and humiliating lie detector procedure was unsuccessful. The employees of Israel Hayom fear for their jobs and are scared of the consequences of what will be portrayed as a revolt.
One internal source described the situation as “the newspaper’s watershed.” And the general atmosphere was described as harsh and ugly, with Regev said to be angry and holed up in his office. So far, he has refrained from responding to questions I sent him in the wake of these developments. If his reaction is received it will of course be published here in full.
Meanwhile I have a simple piece of advice for Amos Regev: Take a deep breath and climb down from the tree. It’s not proper to send journalists for a polygraph test because of a credible report about a public event with many participants, which was not described as classified or secret.
The newspaper’s credo - “We promise to tell the truth directly and to the point” - graces its front page. In response to a recent Knesset attempt to obligate the paper to charge its readers a fee (to which I am opposed,) Israel Hayom decried what it called a blow to democracy, complained about the gagging of mouths and spoke loftily about freedom of expression and freedom to report.
Such sentiments don’t sit well with security officers and polygraph tests. The present witch hunt does not honor the newspaper, its editor or its employees.
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