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October 6, 2011 2:52 pm

Israeli Columnist: I Hope Peres will Eulogize Ben Ari

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Knesset member Michael Ben Ari.

JERUSALEM- A new media scandal looks ready to break out in Israel only weeks after senior Jerusalem Post columnist Larry Derfner was fired for writing on his personal blog that Palestinian terrorism was “justified.” Sylvie Keshet, a regular columnist for the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot wrote earlier this week on Facebook that she hoped that President Shimon Peres will soon be eulogizing conservative lawmaker Michael Ben-Ari. Ben-Ari is a representative of the far-right National Union party and a former member of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s outlawed Kach movement.

Her comments came as Peres was eulogizing the recently deceased national-religious leader Rabbi Hanan Porat, a former legislator and the founder of the Gush Emunim settler movement. Stating that she will not “shed a tear over the death of Hanan Porat,” the longtime columnist expressed her wish to see the President “eulogize Michael Ben-Ari.”

Keshet has always been known in Israel as something of a firebrand and has gone so far as to tell Time magazine in 1970 that she is a “bitch.” Among her detractors have been 1960s-era socialist Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, who called her a “shrew” and former education minister Zalman Aranne, who in the same 1970 article, was quoted as saying that Keshet “leaves scorched people and scorched earth behind her.”

Israel’s media, on both the right and the left, is known for its being extremely vituperative. Members of Israel’s press corps have noted that Yediot Aharonot frequently takes a “populist and often belligerent tone” in its news pages. Such a tone is not limited to Yediot Aharonot, however, and represents an underlying gruffness typical of Israeli discourse.

Screenshots of Keshet’s comments, which seem to indicate that her legendary wit has not dimmed with age, have been circulating online, prompting angry reactions from members of Israel’s political right.

Baruch Marzel, Ben-Ari’s parliamentary aide and another former member of the Kach party, reacted with anger upon hearing that Keshet wished his employer dead.

Speaking with the Algemeiner Journal, Marzel stated that he believes that “if a right wing person would say the same thing he would be arrested after an hour… but the ultra-left anarchists, Sylvia Keshet being one of them, could write anything they want against the leadership, against Rabbis, against God, against religion, against anything and get away with it because it’s freedom of speech.”

Avraham Zuroff, the Middle East correspondent for Canada’s Jewish Tribune and a longtime observer of the Israeli media scene, commented on Keshet’s use of the phrase “happy Purim” when stating that she was unmoved by Porat’s death.

“For years, we were reminded by left-leaning journalists about Rabbi Chanan Porat’s reaction to Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of Arabs in Hebron,” Zuroff noted. “‘Happy Purim,’ the rabbi announced. Doesn’t that seem callous when Arab worshippers were shot dead at a holy site to Jews, Christians and Muslims?”

“In actually,” Zuroff stated, “Rabbi Porat was referring to the obligation to be happy on Purim despite the gruesome events earlier that day. Rabbi Porat even explained that he forced himself to be happy on two separate Purims – when his Rabbi, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook, passed away; and another occasion when a student of Rabbi Porat was murdered on Purim. Yet the Israeli media incessantly pursued the story that wasn’t a story by playing and replaying the sound bite.”

“Unfortunately, Ms. Keshet’s statement celebrating the death of Jews she ideologically disagrees with strongly reveals the non-professionalism of her lack of objectivity when reporting news,” accused Zuroff.

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