Friday, December 17, 2004

Column: Israel's Leftist Media Scores

I spent Shabbat Chanukah with a friend in Ramat Beit Shemesh and stayed over another day or so. Sunday was spent preparing for a get-together at his house Sunday night and trying to find a place to watch the soccer match that evening between Arsenal and Chelsea.
I know, who cares about English football matches? The truth is I don't care much about it myself but it was a huge game for my friend who is an Arsenal fan from the earliest days of his North London childhood. He just had to see the most important game of the year against rival Chelsea from South London.
So, at six o'clock on Sunday I found myself in a room of Arsenal fans asking questions that only a Yank can ask and drawing a mixture of calm answers, laughter and looks of disbelief. In any case, I won't bore you with the details of my ignorance of soccer in general and English football in particular. Suffice it to say that about five minutes into the game I had figured out which team was which, about a minute before I was graciously informed by my suspecting friend that the confused look on my face was the manifestation of a very serious befuddlement.
In any case, I promised my friend that I would write about the game -- he reads my columns on my blog, galileeblog, and he made me promise. How could I refuse after he hosted me for three days? But why would he want me to write about an English football match?
The reason is an interruption in the game that caused us to miss three of the four goals in what turned out to be a two, two, tie. The interruption went on for about 50 minutes. It was the news in Arabic -- with Arabic subtitles. That is correct. In the middle of a football match that my friend assured me was of as much importance and interest as any playoff game in American sports, there was a break for 50 minutes and three of the four goals were missed. Now, this wasn't an Arabic station. This was Channel One, Israel's first and primary public television station.
When the break started, abruptly and without explanation, we assumed that it would last a minute or two. Some who suspected worse were rumbling that this was the Arabic news hour and went to search the radio for BBC coverage. The rest of us watched almost an hour of Arabic news on prime time Israeli television, which broke in on the equivalent of an NFL playoff game -- wondering and speculating if this could possibly happen in any other place in the world without people taking to the streets.
Add to this the fact that a good part of the Arabic news was coverage of lesser soccer matches in Europe and the Middle East and one understands that it wasn't the weightiness of the subject matters being covered that impelled this phenomenon. It was something else. It was the Arabic news hour -- in all it's import and symbolic equality taking its rightful and preeminent place on the screens of football fans and letting them know what is really important in the state of Israel.
Still, did I have to write about this? Perhaps Channel One made a mistake and we over reacted -- no?
I don't think so. All of us understood what was happening. It was that the leftist Israeli media providing what they consider a much needed educational experience about the place of Israeli Arabs in the state of Israel. It was truly illuminating for all of us that don't watch Israeli television regularly -- reminding us of the length the Left will go here to move in the direction of Europe, a direction that is suicidal, at least spiritually and nationally, and lost in some utopian fantasy of more a perfect world filled with transformed Arabs who embrace a more loving and caring Euro-bureaucracy.
I suppose, some might argue, that the dream is no less dreamy than the Bush administration's Wilsonian vision of spreading democracy throughout the Muslim world, but the difference is that one vision leaves all nations sovereign and democratic and their religions intact and the other slowly dismantles all and brings all under a bureaucracy that will follow not the lead of America but of Marx -- new and improved they somehow still believe -- since the days of Stalin.


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