Grapevine June 9, 2021: A scary feeling of déjà vu

Publication Date08 June 2021
This week, Shimon Sheves, who served as director-general of the Prime Minister's Office during the Rabin administration, launched his book Haver (Friend) at the Rabin Center in Tel Aviv. It may be remembered that in eulogizing Rabin immediately after his death, Bill Clinton, who was then president of the United States, said "Shalom haver."

Recalling the incessant incitement that preceded the assassination just over a quarter of a century ago, Sheves said in comparison with the current situation, "It's as if 25 years never passed. The same rabbis who came out with incitement then are openly doing so again with their call to do everything possible to prevent the establishment of a government." Sheves, who worked closely with Rabin before he became prime minister, in writing his book, has shed light on a considerable amount of contemporary history.

■ THE WARNING last Saturday by Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Nadav Argaman that incitement on social media platforms could lead to violence and the possible assassination of one or more prominent politicians, actually goes beyond social media. Initiators of mass demonstrations have no way of controlling them, and even a heavy police presence does not guarantee an absence of violence, as has been seen at various demonstrations around the country. The beefing up of security around various politicians is not reported in detail, and when such skimpy reports are supported by photographic evidence, what the photographs show are security barriers that have been erected in front of and around the home of the politician whose security has been upgraded. But the public remains unaware of the extent of personal protection that the politician receives.

Journalists are also subjected to violence, and not all police seem to be aware that a press card issued by the Government Press Office is in the nature of a passport to newsworthy events. Journalists have been arrested for no valid reason; they have been punched and kicked; castigated and threatened on social media. And in other countries where there appears to be an ebb in democracy, they are even poisoned and killed.

Not only politicians and journalists are subjected to violence. Tehila Friedman, whose attire in her photograph indicates that she is religiously observant, tweeted on Saturday night that the parents of a friend had been assaulted, not by Arabs but by young men with long peyot (sidelocks), while a friend of the parents, a man of 60, had his wrist broken. It was all because while holding Israeli flags, they stood in their own neighborhood near the home of Yamina MK Nir Orbach.

Marc Israel Sellem, the chief photographer of The Jerusalem Post, is among the journalists who have been physically attacked. Other journalists, such as Channel 12's Dana Weiss, Rina Mazliach, Yoni Levy and Guy Peleg, have been subjected to violent threats and provided with security details. KAN 11 cameraman Rolik Nowitzki was kicked and beaten, and reporter Yoav Zahavi was sufficiently seriously injured to be taken to hospital. Other KAN 11 news reporters, as well as newspaper reporters for various outlets, have been assaulted when covering demonstrations.

One of the more recent attacks on a journalist, reported by both KAN 11 and Al Jazeera, was against Givara Budeiri, an Al Jazeera reporter, who, carrying a microphone, wearing a flak jacket with "Press" attached in large letters back and front, was attacked by police on Saturday, while covering a protest demonstration at Sheikh Jarrah. Video footage shows her being attacked by a policewoman, as well doing nothing untoward prior to the attack.

When trying to resist the police who closed in on her, she was arrested, but later released.

The arrest and the way she was treated were denounced not only by Al Jazeera but also by the Foreign Press Association in Israel, which issued a statement complaining: "On Saturday, June 5, Israeli police forcefully grabbed an Al Jazeera correspondent covering a protest in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah and detained her for four hours before finally releasing her. According to Al Jazeera, she was then taken to Hadassah hospital to be treated for a broken hand...

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