Opinion |

We're So Lucky to Still Have Such a Hero

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
Broadcaster Yaakov Bardugo
Broadcaster Yaakov BardugoCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

All we need now is for Israel to declare the day that broadcaster Yaakov Bardugo was dismissed from Army Radio a day of national mourning.

Flags flown at half-mast, schoolchildren learning about his legacy and the Israel Democracy Institute holding conferences under the banner “Nationality, Patriotism and Democracy – The Example of Bardugo.” Novelists will compare his tragedy to the Dreyfus affair, playwrights will rush to produce plays about the immortal figure who was expelled from the Garden of Eden, and VIP reality shows will worship the new treasure that’s fallen into their lap – a Mizrahi Israeli, a victim whose only crime was telling the truth.

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What hasn’t been said already about the “Bardugo affair?” “Visibility is the name of the game, and the way this dismissal looks is very bad. The voice of another right-wing Mizrahi Israeli has been silenced. The horrible way this looks cannot be blurred. It further amplifies the sense of persecution felt by the right-wing Mizrahi part of the population. … Now there is a large public that believes that a voice supporting Netanyahu has been excluded,” in the words of Gideon Levy in this newspaper.

Excluded? There was not a single newscast, opinion page or social media outlet in which Bardugo did not star. It’s as if he were the pillar of fire and cloud, without which the Mizrahim would lose their way in the desert.

“One could have expected that his removal would be interpreted by his listeners as political intervention, directed against Bardugo and them. In fact, there is no reason for them not to feel that way. … Is there a responsible adult in the cabinet who thinks broadly and in depth? Does anyone pause to think about the public implications of such a supposedly technical move? I’m not sure,” added another commentator. By the same token, one should ask if anyone thought of the “public implications” of prosecuting Netanyahu or Arye Dery. So what if they lied, vilified, stole and defrauded? After all, they represent huge populations that should be taken into consideration with some sensitivity.

Now that there is no responsible adult, the Israeli melting pot will shatter with a loud crash, and, of all places, at the Army Radio station, which is so emblematic of the merging of ethnicities, of national unity. OK, so there’s no unity, only a cardboard facade, a seeming unity, without which there is nothing to link the people of Israel to their state, and this too has been trampled by those pigs. Worse than that, the government may now fall, only because an idol was torn down.

The elegies over Bardugo came too late. When lawyer Yoram Sheftel was suspended from right-wing Channel 20 after he was barred from calling the Bennett government “the Judenrat,” that’s when people should have cried out, pouring ashes over their heads and donning sackcloth, mourning the muzzling of voices. Sheftel’s removal should have sounded the alarm, heralding the expected earthquake. A country that deposes Ashkenazim from TV stations will end up deposing Mizrahim from a radio station. Where were the defenders of freedom of speech then, the upholders of visibility, the protectors of the downtrodden, the people concerned with maintaining the integrity of the government?

Wondering about this is redundant. Sheftel was sacked for his views, Bardugo because he is Mizrahi. Could there be any other explanation? The fact is, Sheftel was fired by a Mizrahi editor, Bardugo by an Ashkenazi director, and a temporary one at that.

How enlightened of the people criticizing the removal of the broadcaster to fight the battles of Mizrahi victims whose mouthpiece has been taken away. Mizrahim, after all, are of one stripe. You hurt one, you’ve insulted them all. And Mizrahim, as is well known, are quick to take offense. What harm would have been caused if the Ashkenazim had left them their toy? Now look where it’s going. There is no longer a place for justifications involving “content” or “fake news,” a foul mouth or lack of journalistic skills as reasons for his dismissal. This is a full-fledged ethnic war, a battle over Mizrahi rights, over the shaping of Israel’s character and the future of its government. We’ll soon have to embrace the term “apartheid” in describing the government’s policy towards Mizrahim. We’re lucky we still have a hero such as Nelson Bardugo.

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