Be Berlusconis

Originally publuishd in “Zman israel” web magazine,  4 September 2023 

Translation from Hebrew:

Did anyone think that they would overlook the free media? Don’t make Karhi and his boss from the “Caesarian family” laugh

It is astonishing to see time after time how determined the current government is not to leave alone any field that can be demolished. Liberal democracy, of course, stands are the center of the government’s target, and the justice system, too, of course. Now it’s the turn of the free media. Did anyone think that they would overlook the free media? Don’t make Karhi and his boss from the “Caesarian family” laugh.

Under the pretext of enhancing competition and diversity in the market of opinions, the new broadcasting reform launched by the Communications Minister actually seeks to introduce hyper-politicization in the regulation of the media. This contrasts with the situation in almost all Western countries, which are moving in the opposite direction, toward complete independence. This is a clear sign of the antidemocratic mindset of the person who gave the green light for the proposed reform: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. People can argue whether this mindset has mainly taken hold in recent years or was always apparent. What is obvious is that proposals that were once forwarded discreetly in anonymous instructions and deleted text messages from Nir Hefez to Ilan Yeshua are now rained down on us in full public view.

The third-rate politicians Karhi will appoint, together with his colleagues in the Ministries of Justice and Education, to the new Media Authority, a subsidiary unit in the Ministry of Communications, will make sure that the broadcasts are “accurate, reliable, and balanced.” Is this a “primarily symbolic” provision? I’m happy for anyone who is able to believe so. After all, what did the Netanyahu family want from the Walla website? Just to balance a little bit the inbuilt leftist character of the site.

Driven more than ever by a thirst for vengeance, Netanyahu is now seeking through Karhi to bring not just Walla to its knees, but the entire free media in Israel. He is equally determined to crush the judicial system, which had the tenacity to prosecute him for the allegedly criminal distortion of media reporting. He wants to make sure that from here on, such distortion – by himself and his agents – will be absolutely above board, de jure and de facto.

As the opinion paper published by Zulat and written by Prof. Amit Shechter and Atty. Adi Shai shows, and according to other opinions, the 134 pages of Karhi’s legislative memorandum are dominated by a determination to leave no stone unturned.

In addition to the direct and total subjugation of the new professional authority to the political echelon, it is also proposed, among other steps, that this authority be empowered to impose effective financial sanctions against broadcasting outlets, to abolish the structural separation between news and commercial broadcasts, to oblige the public broadcasting corporation to transfer any requested information to the Communications Minister, and to prohibit it to broadcast advertisements on radio, alongside a substantial reduction in the scope elite niche broadcasts on the various channels and platforms.

The overall picture is one of a terrifying, systemic, and deliberate attack on the independence of media outlets, freedom of expression, and original Israeli creativity – another unique and successful preserve that should long ago have been demolished from the standpoint of the Kohelet Forum and hard-core supporters of the judicial coup.

In its place, the memorandum outlines alternative original creative output: a government ranking committee to replace the current body, issuing data to the best of its statistical understanding. Sorry, but this isn’t an original blue-and-white idea – in Russia they already have this type of committee.

The cheers from supporters of the judicial coup are well-founded. The media reform is an integral part of the coup. It’s hard to crush the judicial system without a parallel campaign to suppress the media, which as long as it can breathe freely will never accept the coup itself. It’s impossible to reduce democracy to the dimensions that suit the ruler without shrinking the media to a convenient size. These are two abominations that were born to be wed.

At the end of the process, Netanyahu and Karhi apparently fantasize, we will have media with low-grade content similar to that Silvio Berlusconi broadcast for years on his television stations in Israel. Public awareness will be dulled in the absence of journalists with a conscience and professional ethics.

In order to prevent this nightmare scenario, the judicial system must continue to defend the free media and freedom of expression without fear, and the media must continue to struggle to support an independent justice system. Not for their own sakes, but for Israel’s sake.


Dr. Maha Sabbah Karkabi


Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Tel Aviv University (2015), a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Gender Studies, SOAS, University of London (2015-2016), a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Sociology at Tel Aviv University (2016-2017), and a postdoctoral fellowship Ph.D. at the Humphrey Institute for Social Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (2018-2020).
Dr. Maha Karbahi’s areas of interest focus on the connection between social change, family behavior, and gender inequality in societies in the process of change and specifically in Palestinian Arab society in Israel. Her research draws attention to the study of family life and employment, using a combined “ethnic lens” and “gender lens” and paying attention to the perspective of Palestinian Arab women, a group characterized by intersections between multiple marginal locations, which over the years has remained hidden from the research eye. Dr. Karkabi-Sabah’s research is published in professional journals and chapters in scientific books that are considered pioneers in family research, work, and gender equality.


Prof. Frances Raday

Professor Emeritus in the Lieberman Chair in Labor Law, in the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University and serves as a full professor in the College of Management’s academic track, where she also serves as chair of the graduate program and as honorary president of the Concord Center for International Law Absorption. Radai was a member of a working group of the UN Human Rights Council on discrimination against women. In addition, she is a prominent and feminist human rights activist.


Dr. Rawia Aburabia 

Faculty member of Sapir Academic College’s School of Law, received her PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research deals with the interface between law, gender, minorities, and human rights. Has published in leading journals on the subject of the matrimonial laws pertaining to Muslim women in Israel. Her book Under the Law, Outside Justice: Polygamy, Gendered Citizenship, and Colonialism in Israeli Law is expected to be published as part of the Gender Series of Kibbutz Meuhad Publishing House.

Dr. Aburabia has extensive experience in international human rights and public law. She has worked as a jurist for the Association for Civil Right and has been invited as a specialist to address such international forums as the United Nations and the European Parliament on the subject of indigenous communities and minority rights. She has interned with Human Rights Watch in Washington DC, and has been a member of the executive board of Amnesty International. In 2018, she was selected by the magazine Globes as one of the 40 most promising young persons in Israel under the age of 40.



Ron Kessler

With over two decades of experience in the field of digital content, Ron has participated in numerous political and social campaigns. He helped run the digital activity of senior public officials, and worked in various NGOs. Ron is a fundamentally optimistic man, who believes that Israel can be changed and so can people. Lives in Tel Aviv.