Israeli Reporter Who Said Occupation Turns Soldiers Into 'Animals' to Take Leave of Absence

Veteran journalist Oshrat Kotler announces unpaid leave of absence a month after critical comments about the abuse by an ultra-Orthodox battalion sparked outcry

FILE Photo: Oshrat Kotler during a conference on education in Jerusalem, April 1, 2014.
Olivier Fitoussi

An anchorwoman who drew fire for saying some soldiers become "human animals" during their army service in the West Bank said Thursday she would take unpaid leave after more than a decade with Channel 13 News.

Oshrat Kotler said she would be away from the station — formerly Channel 10 News — for at least a year, adding that “this profession is draining.”  

Earlier in the day, at a Haaretz policy conference, she called a news report about her departure "fake news," and the station denied that she was leaving. But later she said she was leaving on her own initiative.

>>Read more: News anchor who said occupation makes soldiers 'animals' has a right to speak out | Editorial 

Still, she cautioned her detractors against rejoicing. “No one asked me to leave,” Kotler told Haaretz. “For the past two years or so, I've been asking Channel 13 News for a long vacation.”

Referring to the broad reorganization of the country's commercial broadcasting, Kotler said: “After Channel 13 News refused to let me go on vacation for the past couple of years due to the splitting up of Channel 2 and the merger with Reshet, I asked that this year, in light of the emotional strain, they allow me a vacation."

She added: "So I wouldn’t suggest that anyone celebrate. As Schwarzenegger said: 'I’ll be back.'”

Last month, at the end of a Channel 13 News report on abuse of Palestinians by soldiers from the ultra-Orthodox Netzah Yehuda battalion, Kotler said on the air: “You send children to the army, to the territories, and get them back as human animals. It’s the result of the occupation.”

She later received death threats and bodyguards were assigned to her. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett demanded that she apologize, which she did a week later.

“I am sorry from the depths of my heart if what I said offended any one of you, but I cannot help but see the heavy price that we are paying through our children, our soldiers, for the reality of ruling over another people, a reality that has lasted for 52 years," she said. "And no, I don’t have any magical solutions. I’m not a politician.”

At an appearance at the Haaretz policy conference with the newspaper’s diplomatic reporter, Noa Landau, Kotler said she was "suffering from trauma,” adding that she was making few appearances.

In an announcement to the staff of the program “Magazine,” Kotler wrote: “Friends: During the coming summer, I'm due to take an unpaid vacation of a year. I’m sorry you became aware of this from a biased leak. I have no intention of leaving but am rather just taking a year off, which I so much need after the demanding year that I've had at work."

She added that Golan Yochpaz, the CEO of Channel 13 News, had accepted her request a few days earlier, "but we spoke about not making it public until June. I hope the door remains open to me to return to ‘Magazine.’ … When I know, I'll let you know. In the interim, I have a lot of questions.”

For its part, Channel 13 News said in a statement: “Oshrat Kotler had announced a number of months ago that she intended to take a long unpaid vacation. Kotler recently decided that she would leave on an unpaid year-long vacation during the summer.”