The Tragedy of Lucy Aharish, Israel’s Neutralized Arab Talk-show Host

The Channel 2 reporter doesn’t think Israeli Arabs suffer terribly much and has kept mum about Netanyahu's mufti miscue. She’ll have to stay moderate if she wants to keep her job.

Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher
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Lucy Aharish at a rehearsal of the Independence Day ceremony, on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, April 2015.
Lucy Aharish at a rehearsal of the Independence Day ceremony, on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, April 2015.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher

On her current-affairs morning show the other day, Lucy Aharish devoted an hour and a quarter to the terror wave gripping the country and the collapse of coexistence between Jews and Arabs. Aharish isn’t the pet Arab of the Israeli left; she's not Sayed Kashua.

She has argued that if during the current tensions Jews are afraid to come to Jaffa with its large Arab population, or if they distrust Arabs, Israeli Arabs including Aharish herself need to do some soul-searching and fix their mistakes. That’s because Arabs have it good in Israel, she explained. They work, study and thrive. They should speak out against the wave of terrorism and show the Jews they have it good so the Jews won’t fear them.

Knesset members from the Joint Arab List such as Ayman Odeh, Haneen Zoabi and Ahmad Tibi don’t represent Aharish. She has made that very clear. As she sees it, she’s the one who truly represents the silent majority of Israeli Arabs — she, not the MKs elected to represent them.

Aharish talks like an Israeli centrist, somewhere between the Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid. In other words, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has to stop inciting and the Palestinians have to stop stabbing. All this started because of the tensions over the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount without any link to the Palestinians’ despair.

She had praise for Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s condemnation of the lynching of an Eritrean asylum seeker by people who, after an attack in Be’er Sheva, thought the migrant was the terrorist. If she thinks the situation also stems from an atmosphere of incitement against Arabs fostered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, she didn’t find that suitable to mention. She didn’t add the concepts of occupation and apartheid to her vocabulary.

She does think Israeli Arabs suffer from racism, but no more than Ethiopian Jews and Jews of Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) origin. Nothing special. They aren’t victims of systematic injustice.

Some will argue that if Aharish didn’t toe that line, no one would let her host a current-affairs program on Channel 2. It’s not as if Aharish has a choice. There’s no maneuver room in the range of expression she has been awarded. If she underwent a transformation that had her expressing militant nationalist Palestinian views, she’d be fired on the spot.

Her moderation appears authentic; she seems to abhor radicalism by her very nature. She feels comfortable with Jews, talks like Jews and looks like them. She has the rare qualities that make it easier for her to blend in at Channel 2.

That’s also her tragedy. It’s easy to complain about her in Haaretz, but on Channel 2 she has no choice but to be the Arab woman who has been neutralized. If she wants a career in Israeli television, she doesn’t have the luxury of being anything else.

And when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s baseless claims were mentioned about the mufti of Jerusalem convincing Hitler to exterminate the Jews, Aharish didn’t respond. Netanyahu was blaming the launching of the Holocaust on her people, but she remained silent, swallowed hard and bit her lip. Good thing a commercial break was coming up.

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