Editorial |

News Anchor Who Said Occupation Makes Soldiers 'Animals' Has a Right to Speak Out

Witch hunters didn’t wait a moment before jumping on Oshrat Kotler’s remarks as if they were treasure

Haaretz Editorial
Oshrat Kotler.
Oshrat Kotler.Credit: Reshet 13
Haaretz Editorial

The attacks on Oshrat Kotler were so predictable. The news anchor for Channel 13 said on Saturday, “You send your children to the army, to the territories, and get them back as human animals. This is the result of the occupation.” Her remarks were in response to a report by Arik Weiss that described abuse of Palestinian prisoners by soldiers of the Netzah Yehuda battalion.

The witch hunters didn’t wait a moment before jumping on Kotler’s remarks as if they were treasure. Election campaigns are the finest hour for the inciters and attackers, who will do everything in their power to scrape up a few more votes.

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Chief inciter Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted, “I’m proud of Israel Defense Forces soldiers and I love them very much. Oshrat Kotler’s remarks are worthy of every condemnation.”

He was followed by his political copycat from the far right, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who wrote, “Oshrat, you’re confused. IDF soldiers give their lives so that you can sleep peacefully. The human animals are the terrorists who murder children in their beds, a teenage girl who goes for a walk or an entire family on the road. IDF soldiers are our strength. Our children. Apologize.” The incitement paid off, and Kotler began receiving threats on her life, forcing Channel 13 to assign her a security detail.

Kotler tried to clarify her remarks on the air, saying her criticism was aimed “solely at those soldiers who were led to harm innocent people by our control over the Palestinians,” and that she is “actually in favor of a light punishment for the accused soldiers, because we are the ones who sent them into this impossible reality.” But it didn’t help. The 2,200 complaints sent to the public ombudsman testify to the McCarthyite atmosphere that has spread in Israel, which doesn’t allow freedom of expression to those who don’t declaim the ultra-nationalistic talking points that are now the consensus. This was even though her opinion was expressed in response to the harsh scenes that appeared in Weiss’ report.

It seems as if the focus on the term “human animals” – which is indeed extreme – masks an effort to rebut the heart of Kotler’s argument: that the occupation Israel has maintained for over 50 years has made generations of young Israelis more violent, more ultra-nationalistic and even more racist. The daily friction with the Palestinian population, with the young Israeli always in the role of master and the Palestinian always playing the subject, creates the distorted reality that Kotler was complaining about.

Kotler is an opinionated journalist who has the right to express her views, even if they are forceful and unacceptable to most of the Israeli public. Rather than dealing with Kotler and her remarks, it would behoove the prime minister and the chairman of Hayamin Hehadash to deal with the serious problems raised in the broadcast report.

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