A journalist doesn’t patently agree with his enemies


Fiamma Nirenstein

Being an Italian with Israeli citizenship, and a journalist for 40 years now, punctuated with about 20 awards, I admit to being very glad about the differences in culture between my country of origin and my home in Israel since 2013.

I have watched with a sense of embarrassment Keren Marciano’s interview of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Israel’s Channel 2 news on Monday evening. She was screaming, shouting, interrupting, agitating with her hands, making faces—all things a professional journalist doesn’t do. She was repeating the questions several times, while interrupting the interlocutor in a way that apparently should have more easily shown that she wanted to stick it to Netanyahu, no matter what he was trying to say.

The prime minister was able to respond to a couple of points about the incredibly absurd accusations of betrayal that his electoral opponents have recently initiated after several polls have shown parties like the new Blue and White to be more favorable just two weeks before the April 9 national elections.

Betrayal? The more the accusations, the more they seem absurd, and the more they are used as a weapon. But they say that Blue and White leader and former Israel Defense Forces’ Chief of Staff Benny Gantz is an honorable man, so let it be with Caesar.

Actually, I feel that following the interviews of the four men who form the leadership of that list, either embarrassment for having jumped so far, as in the tone of an Ashkenazi, or a desperate hate, as in the words of chairman of the Yesh Atid Party Yair Lapid. As for Moshe Ya’alon, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, who also served as Israel’s Defense Minister under Netanyahu, it’s really surprising that such a reasonable man has become so aggressive and indifferent to what Netanyahu represents for the balance and security of the country. You might want him to win, but to try to destroy his historical figure is a heavy choice, and a cultural and security mistake. When you try to accuse such a monument to the security of Israel of betrayal, you try not only to destroy your political enemy, but you wound the country itself that he represents so largely and at length, and you hurt  also any possible relationship for the future. You create frontiers of hate that have been there, generally speaking, only among extreme parts of the political spectrum—the very left and the very right.

About Keren Marciano, who interviewed Netanyahu, that was not an interview. An interview is supposed to dig into the reality that the person being interviewed is ready to explain. For this aim, of course, there must be a direct, but certainly quiet and polite, opposition to his points. A journalist doesn’t patently agree with his enemies. This is not useful for the listeners and the readers. It’s not professional. It’s political. You never shout during an interview. I have interviewed so many terrorists, so many Nazis and fascists, and never shouted, even to them.

The prime minister must be respected because of his role in a democratic country, and in the case of Netanyahu also because of his political, economic, diplomatic and military achievements. Respect is a good rule to keep our Western world turning in the right direction. The attitude, the tone of voice from a public character such as a journalist must be an example of good sense and good education. This interview, I would not show to a young person wanting to become a journalist.

Oh, I see. I am Italian, after all.

Journalist Fiamma Nirenstein was a member of the Italian Parliament (2008-13), where she served as vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies, served in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and established and chaired the Committee for the Inquiry Into Anti-Semitism. A founding member of the international Friends of Israel Initiative, she has written 13 books, including “Israel Is Us” (2009). Currently, she is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.


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