שלטים של הפרויקט לנצחון ישראל בתל אביב
The billboard in Tel Aviv depicting Abbas and Haniyeh surrendering
A billboard in Tel Aviv depicting Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh blindfolded and defeated

Free speech for me, but not for thee

Opinion: The Tel Aviv mayor's censorship of anti-terror billboards exposes an ugly double standard in which the left attacks this fundamental privilege and silences anyone with an alternative point of view; ironically, this seems to play right into Netanyahu's hands

Ben-Dror Yemini |
Published: 02.21.20 , 18:50
Last week, Tel Aviv-Jaffa Mayor Ron Huldai ordered to take down billboards that read: "Peace is only done with defeated enemies."
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  • He justified his decision by saying that the sign – which depicts Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh on their knees, blindfolded and with hands raised in submission – "incites violence reminiscent of the Islamic State and the Nazis."
    שלטים של הפרויקט לנצחון ישראל בתל אביבשלטים של הפרויקט לנצחון ישראל בתל אביב
    A billboard in Tel Aviv depicting Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh blindfolded and defeated
    Huldai certainly got a little carried away with his comparisons.
    Haniyeh stands at the helm of Hamas – an organization overtly calling for the extermination of Jews, even on kids' shows running on its official television channel.
    At present times, this organization is indeed the closest thing to the Nazis.
    However, the sign does seem to be of very poor taste and should bring shame to any country that allows it to be displayed on its streets.
    "There are red lines, even at times of elections," Huldai wrote. But the law is on his side.
    There's a municipal by-law that states that no license can be provided for signage that the mayor deems hurtful to the feelings of the public, but the Supreme Court has already ruled that freedom of speech trumps a local leader's judgment. So, it may be only a matter of time before Huldai's decision will get overruled as well.
    The problem lies within Huldai's puzzling judgment.
    The Arab-Hebrew Theater in Jaffa hosted former Knesset Member Basel Ghattas, who was convicted of smuggling cellphones for terrorists in prison. It happened the same evening the theater staged a play written by a BDS supporter that glorifies a terrorist serving a prison sentence for murder.
    There were also parts of it that allegedly included incitement and support of terrorism.
    Former MK Basel Ghattas was convicted of smuggling cellphones for terrorists in prison Former MK Basel Ghattas was convicted of smuggling cellphones for terrorists in prison
    Former MK Basel Ghattas was convicted of smuggling cellphones for terrorists in prison
    (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
    The theater held an evening in honor of Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian poet who was convicted in 2018 of inciting violence and supporting a terrorist organization.
    In October 2017, a show of support was held at Jaffa Theater following a Culture Ministry request to cut the theater's budget, in accordance with the law.
    And who was the high-ranking guest that evening, held in the name free speech? That would be no other than Ron Huldai himself.
    Common sense tells us that sympathizing with terrorists is a little worse than a billboard depicting Haniyeh and Abbas on their knees, and it's also not the same thing.
    The theater is a public institution that is funded by taxpayer money and is subject to state laws.
    The organization behind the billboard, however, receives no such funding from the public and the law should be more lenient accordingly.
    Huldai's decision on the sign may be reasonable, but still, why does he protect terrorist sympathizers in the name of free speech and then take down billboards and violate it?
    The mayor is not alone in this.
    The Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, Kan, suspended journalist Erel Segal last week after he recorded a song with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
    Erel Segal Erel Segal
    Erel Segal
    There were days where there were regulations in place to separate fair coverage when it comes to political propaganda, but these policies have never been taken seriously.
    Segal, however, entered public broadcasting as a commentator affiliated with the right. Other journalists also engage in election propaganda even without being seen around politicians.
    The bias is clear as day – almost every show on public television opens with a personal statement. In other words, a political one.
    Many presenters are shamelessly oozing with agenda. One could easily read it in their body language, their statements and the tone and tenor of what they decide to tell you, and what they decide to omit.
    A senior Kan reporter liked a post that stated: "Netanyahu was born the devil."
    Several days ago, a reporter for Channel 13 called a Netanyahu speech "flatulence".
    Anpther journalist posted a scathing tweet against Netanyahu, but this did not stop the heads of Kan from appointing him as their chief financial editor.
    So is Erel Segal the real problem here? Are they serious? It's nice that they reinstated him eventually, but something about his suspension was fishy in the first place.
    The media has been going through some very welcome changes in recent years, but this old evil spirit still hovers above its head.
    The powers that be at Kan scored an own goal with their actions. They didn't harm Netanyahu one bit; on the contrary , they have only provided him with further justification for his claims that the elites still control public media.
    He should send them flowers for their kind assistance to his cause. They've earned it.
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