Analysis |

Dismissal of Israel's Army Radio Host Is an 'Act of Honor'

Jacob Bardugo had taken control of one of the two main national and public news shows, turning it into a stage for settling his benefactor's personal and political scores

Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter
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Jacob Bardugo.
Jacob Bardugo.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

The way Jacob Bardugo – “the analyst” – chose to make his exit from Army Radio Friday is the greatest testimony to his character. He deceived Moshe Shlonsky, his long-time co-host on their Friday morning show, and caused him – and the crew – to believe everything was as usual.

Judging by what the astonished Shlonsky said after Bardugo suddenly abandoned ship, the two prepared for the broadcast as usual Thursday night, only for Bardugo – who had been dismissed from his evening show on Thursday – to infiltrate the morning show, read out his speech of victimization and megalomania and stalk away, leaving Shlonsky bewildered and confused, bleating like a solitary tree in the wilderness: “Bardugo? Bardugo?”

It was not only deceptive, but also cowardly and lacking collegiality. And he’s the one complaining about a “political firing and cowardice?” For his entire adult life, Bardugo has almost always advanced from job to job by means of political connections and groveling before the right people – including, of course, the job he was fired from Thursday, which was the peak of his lack of qualifications.

Bardugo was brought in as a political “analyst” and after that was promoted to co-anchor of the evening current affairs program, after former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forced him on the station’s previous commanders, (Yaron Dekel once said that Bardugo’s appointment “saved Army Radio.”)

With zero capabilities, zero suitability, zero constraints and zero style, he took control of one of the two main news shows of the public, national station and turned it into a stage for settling personal and political scores in the name of and on behalf of his benefactor.

His leading obsession was former Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and the Justice Ministry; he spared them no insult, in gutter language. Lies, conspiracy theories, abuse and verbal violence replaced the clean interviews that any self-respecting current affairs show must conduct – especially on a station that is obligated to uphold the most stringent ethical rules.

“Bennett, Shaked, Lapid and Gantz’s decision to silence my voice is a mark of Cain for the freedom of expression,” Bardugo said in his parting sermon, referring to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz. First of all: not “expression,” but rather incitement and debasement. What pomposity, egotism and self-importance; a small and secret cabinet met in secret, maybe in Mossad headquarters or in the underground command center in the Jerusalem Hills, and there the historic decision was made: Bardugo – out.

It was actually Lapid, on Channel 13’s morning show, who expressed reservations about what seems to have been behind Bardugo’s firing: a decision by Gantz. “I don’t like when politicians, on either side, busy themselves with the media.” Lapid is 1,000 percent right. It’s a scourge. But someone who was appointed by a politician – and who served for years as his servant and crudest mouthpiece – must be prepared for his job to be taken from him in the same manner he received it.

An evil born in sin must be buried without honor and not be allowed to grow to monstrous dimensions as in Bardugo’s case. Not a single journalist, on the left or the right, has been fired at the order of a cabinet minister. But Bardugo was not a journalist, so all the wailing about silencing him and avenging the oppressed right wing is inappropriate. Bardugo belongs in the Likud Central Committee or the Knesset dining room – stirring things up, making deals, being a go-between – as he always did.

The disgrace was the fact that he was a broadcaster at the station; his dismissal removes this disgrace and erases the stain. It is still unbelievable that he was allowed to host a show, unforgivable that he was given a free hand to spread fake news, libels, lies and slurs – all while still keeping his hand in politics. He is the one who mediated between Orli Levi-Abekasis and Netanyahu on the eve of the third general election. He was the one Netanyahu dispatched to Shaked’s home to persuade her to prevent the establishment of the current government. He was involved in politics in his broadcasts and outside of the studio.

“It was the most balanced show,” Netanyahu said, grieving. Yes, Bardugo had great ratings, so do pornography and snuff videos. Not to compare, but blooper reels and cute cat videos also have a large and devoted audience. But these genres have no place in news shows. His dismissal by Army Radio acting commander Galit Altstein was not a mark of Cain for the station, but rather a mark of honor and respect. Even if the ratings for that time slot decline, it was the right thing to do.

The mourning by Netanyahu and the Bibi-ists is understandable. A week ago, Boaz Bismuth was fired as editor-in-chief of Israel Hayom, after he had turned it into a branch of Channel 14 – even though he says he quit – and now, Bardugo. Very slowly, Netanyahu is losing his hold on the centers of power in Israel. He’s having a hard time with that, what can you do?

The ridiculous boycott the heads of the opposition parties have imposed on Army Radio is just one more sign of the times. In the same way they are using the boycott of Knesset committees – though less today – as an act of bullying, now they are threatening to avoid the studios of one of the only two nationwide radio stations. Once again, this is not a war over freedom of expression, but the remnants of addiction to frustration, poison and loss of control of the leader of the bloc – whose crown fell on Thursday. But this too will fade with time.

As for the talent: Don’t worry. Bardugo will get along just fine. He is one of those who always do. Maybe soon we will find him on Ayala Hasson’s panel. There is always room there for another cheap conspiracy theorist, another victim of discrimination who will cry like the robbed Cossacks.

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