Israel’s Channel 10 is considered one of the most bold and independent among the nation’s TV channels. It’s the one which airs Tzinor Layla, where I’ve appeared several times. As part of its reporting, it aired an extremely unflattering profile (segment begins at 20:30 of video) of gambling tycoon and Likud Party sugar daddy Sheldon Adelson. Libel laws in Israel are less protective of free speech than in this country and Adelson threatened to sue. Lawyers for both parties sat down to negotiate a settlement. When they presented a draft to Adelson he tore it up and wrote his own.
I’ve watched the report and while it’s extremely unflattering, if he threatened a lawsuit in the U.S. in my unlawyerly opinion he’d be laughed out of court.
None of that mattered to Adelson. He had an ace in the hole. The station’s main shareholder is Ronald Lauder, a fellow right-wing pro-Israel Republican and Likud supporter. Lauder told station management they had to air the apology. It is scheduled for airing Friday night at 8PM.
The TV channel’s cave-in has caused a mass protest among station personnel. The news director resigned. The editor of program also resigned. The program presenter is considering following suit. One wonders whether Channel 10’s brand can survive after losing such key personnel.
I’d like to support Channel 10 in whatever way we can. If readers can dig up any e mail address or corporate phone numbers of companies owned by Lauder either in the U.S. or Israel, I’d be grateful. Let’s innundate him with support for his brave employees, upholding values of a free press and free speech:
Estée Lauder Inc.
767 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10153
I’d also like you to send messages of support to Channel 10 CEO Yossi Warshavsky (here’s the station’s Facebook profile). It’s possible the money-bags may yet relent when faced both with an employee revolt and mass public support for station personnel and journalistic integrity.
Sheldon Adelson is one of the most imperious, controlling and extremist of American Jews. He is prepared to buy speech in Israel not just to support his causes, but to overwhelm any political opposition to his views. He is Bibi Netanyahu’s biggest donor and supporter. He is his patron. He is so right-wing he can’t stand Aipac and that tells you something. Don’t let Adelson bully Channel 10 into submission.
If anyone can edit and preserve the segment in a suitable video file format in case legal proceedings force Channel 10 to remove it, that’d be great.
After watching the video, I found one portion especially interesting. At one point the Israeli lottery, Mifal HaPayis, intended to build a casino in Mitzpeh Ramon, whose proceeds would benefit the State. Adelson had a competing plan to develop a casino (which was never built) as a private venture in Eilat. The developer of the Mifal HaPayis project recounts how Adelson approached him, asking him to abandon his project in favor of Adelson’s. When he refused, Adelson approached then the Treasury Minister, Bibi Netanyahu. In that one meeting, Bibi changed his view 180 degrees from supporting Mifal HaPayis to supporting Adelson.
The interviewer asked the developer whether he believes that today Adelson could still get Bibi to do something based on a single meeting. Laughing derisively, the man says you wouldn’t even need a meeting: “He could get Bibi to do something by fax, even by SMS!”
About his investment in Yisrael HaYom, he has the chutzpah to say with a straight face:
Our goal is to become the most credible source of information in Israel…I started Israel HaYom to get a fair and balanced view. Competitors complain that it’s a front for Bibi. That’s not true at all.
Yisrael HaYom is even less credible in an Israeli context than Rupert Murdoch is in Britain or New York.