On Sunday, left-leaning attorney Ari Shamai participated as a panelist in the “Patriots” show on the right-wing Channel 14. The show’s host, pundit, and former MK Yinon Magal includes one leftist and at least one woman in every panel, and after Haaretz banned its journalists from appearing on the show, Magal has been constantly searching for token leftists.
During a debate on the High Court of Justice decision to revoke the Teveria Law because it was enacted to fit a specific person (In Shot Across Bibi’s Bow High Court Unanimously Cancels Coalition Candidate for Mayor of Teveria), Shamai, who served as Yigal Amir’s attorney after Amir assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, suggested that “if the High Court is against personal laws, it is time to release Yigal Amir, because personal laws were enacted against him as well.”
Shamai was not wrong. On December 19, 2001, with a majority of 62 to 6 and 8 abstained, the Knesset passed the Yigal Amir Act, according to which parole boards are not allowed to consider an early release for Amir. The bill was submitted by Meretz.
Everyone who watched the show, including the studio audience, had no doubt that Shamai was not advocating for releasing Yigal Amir, but criticizing the court for revoking a law based on the argument of personal legislation when personal legislation is a common practice in the Knesset.
It didn’t make a difference. Shamai and Channel 14 immediately became the target of hollering attacks from the oligarchy-sponsored channels. Channel 14, facing the threat of a boycott by its sponsors, immediately sacked Shamai without a hearing, and issued a heartfelt apology. The host, Magal, did the same. It felt a little like those hectic scenes in Hollywood movies when diplomats destroy documents while the jihadist mob is storming the embassy.
It didn’t help. On Monday, Strauss Group Ltd., possibly the largest food manufacturer and distributor in Israel, announced it was suspending all its commercials on Channel 14. Another local conglomerate, Coca-Cola, has already announced it was boycotting the right-wing channel several months ago.
It goes to show that when the right apologizes promptly and without hesitation it doesn’t make a difference. Like the rest of Israel’s oligarchy – judicial, political, military, financial, hi-tech, and media – Strauss was only waiting for an opportunity to crash the channel that has been galvanizing the voices of Israel’s growing right-wing majority.
And then the oligarchy picked up the Shamai scandal and used it to attack the entire religious sector in Israel. Shimon Sheves, the former General Director of Rabin’s office, told 103FM about the possibility of Yigal Amir’s release: “I’m sure one day will come and he will be released. They keep trying to point it at Yigal Amir, you have to remember that there were tens of thousands here who encouraged the murder and rejoiced after the murder. Yigal Amir was the gun that fired, behind him were many people, politicians, and clerics.”
As to Shamai’s comment, Sheves said, “I wasn’t surprised. I know him and his statements. I was more surprised by the reactions and the applause – the applause in the studio was shocking.”
Sheves was suggesting, as every mainstream media outlet in Israel had done since the event, that the audience applauded a call for Yigal Amir’s release. Yes, you know who’s theory of the reverberating lie becoming a truth is alive and well.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir also took a ride on the Shamai scandal, from an unexpected angle. On Monday he said on FM103: “It’s inconceivable that Barghouti receives better conditions than Yigal Amir in prison.”
Marwan Barghouti is a Fatah terrorist leader who was convicted of murder, and sentenced to five life sentences. In 2017, during a prison hunger strike he had organized, Barghouti was caught on video munching a candy bar.
Does Yigal Amir get candy bars? No idea. But Ben Gvir’s instinct to charge ahead instead of apologizing is something politicians on the right should emulate.