Opinion |

The Poisoned Well of Israeli Army Radio

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
A soldier entering the Army Radio headquarters
A soldier entering the Army Radio headquartersCredit: Hadas Parush
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

A thumbnail sketch of the openness and tolerance of the liberal camp: Noa Landau gives, on this page, a reasoned argument for why Army Radio should be shut down. One may agree or disagree, but the immediate storm that followed its publication in Hebrew was solely because Landau once served at Army Radio. She spat into the well she drank from, railed other members of this guild of self-styled liberals.

“Privileged spitting,” Army Radio analyst Jacky Hugi called it. “Gratitude and collegiality are just as important as a successful column,” wrote Yaron Avraham. “I have a strong opinion about the closure of Army Radio, but an even stronger opinion about spitting into the well you drank from,” wrote Nadav Perry.

Suddenly we found ourselves in a different arena, one more important than the future of Army Radio: the permitted and the forbidden in political debate in Israel. It is forbidden to spit in the well, no matter what kind of water it holds. It’s about “gratitude,” as Avraham puts it. Loyalty – to an organization, an identity, the past, a well – above all. It’s mafia ethics.

If you served or worked at Army Radio, you must not criticize the station or call for its closure, even if you believe it has gone bad. If you are a leftist, you cannot express any admiration for Benjamin Netanyahu over his achievements, even if that is how you feel. Don’t even try. If you are secular, don’t say anything positive about Haredim, about how they are ostracized and about the sometimes shameful attitude toward them of secular Jews. If you are a Jew, you cannot express any solidarity with the Palestinian people and its suffering, lest you be considered a self-hating Jew. If you are an Israeli, do not dare support the prosecution of Israelis by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, lest you be considered a traitor. If you are a combat pilot, you must never ever say that you and your comrades commit war crimes.

According to this twisted ethics, affiliation and identity override every other consideration. If you served in the Israel Defense Forces you cannot tell the truth about it, lest it be considered spitting into the well. It’s Im Tirzu versus Breaking the Silence, the anti-spitting camp versus those for whom loyalty to a well is not even a consideration, much less a supreme value.

I drank from the Army Radio well for four of the best years of my life, and today I know the damage the station caused to the worldview of most of the journalists in Israel who drank from it. It was an incredibly pleasant school, but at the same time one that corrupts journalism; a school for conformity, for toeing the line, for gratuitous wittiness, for Zionist journalism, for cynicism and militarism. It is not only permitted for a veteran of the station to say this, it is a duty.

It is the duty of every decent Israeli to see what this country has been doing to the Palestinian people for 100 years. A duty, not a privilege, even though Israel is also the well that we all drank from, sometimes joyfully. There are some wells that must be spit into, if not sealed. And there are wells whose water has become so foul that it must be replaced.

No well is holy, including the one you drank from. I have drunk a lot of fresh water in this country, which was also a place of refuge for my parents, but that doesn’t obligate me to close my eyes or to betray the truth for even one moment.

Sometimes the ones who spit into the well are the real heroes, the ones who do more for its welfare than those who prohibit spitting into it. Is the patriot the one who preaches turning a blind eye, repressing, lying, covering up; to ignore, not to know and not to speak, only to keep silent so as not to spit in the well? Hasn’t Israel become such a well, and isn’t it time for more Israelis to spit into it, to end the self-deception that it is a kind of model state, a democracy, the chosen people, and not an apartheid state? Go ahead and spit on Army Radio, if it deserves it, and on Israel too, if it deserves it.

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