Channel 10’s political reporter, Raviv Drucker, has been a major thorn in the side of Bibi Netanyahu, with his reporting that between his prime ministerships he took multiple foreign trips on the dime of major corporate donors in violation of government ethics guidelines. Bibi was so enraged by the reports that he sued the reporter and Channel 10 for libel. So far, all well and good. Drucker and his employer were only doing what good political reporters are supposed to do: afflict the comfortable.
But there’s a major wrinkle, in that Channel 10, which recently offered an abject apology to Sheldon Adelson for a documentary the station aired that recounted all the sleazy ways in which he operates, owes the state $10 million in royalties and fees. That puts Channel 10 between a rock and a hard place. If it can’t repay the debt by December it is in danger of going under.
That’s where Bibi comes in: the station received word that the State would work with the station to ease the repayment schedule and work out the debt if it fired Drucker or put him on unpaid leave. Bibi’s boys also demanded that the State Controller replace the chief investigator (Hebrew) probing this brewing scandal, which has come to be known as “Bibitours” (in an echo of Ehud Olmert’s travel scandal (Hebrew) that was focussed on his travel agency, Rishon Tours). Though he’s a tough guy, Bibi isn’t yet a tyrant with the ability to muscle anyone out of his way.
The prime minister’s urgent need to punish and dismiss anyone involved with uncovering details of this case indicates Bibi thinks it could be damaging to him. This in turn should make it even more attractive a story to any good investigative journalist left in Israel.
In any other democratic nation, such news would result in a major scandal, heads rolled and possibly a prime minister losing his job. After all, this is outright extortion, the way the mafia works rather than a democratic government. But in Israel, I’m afraid, business as usual. Freedom of the press is a principle honored in the breach, if at all.
Last June, Drucker received Israel’s Sokolov Prize for Journalism (awarded by the city of Tel Aviv) for the excellence of his reporting. This is what mafia chieftains like Bibi do to the best and brightest. They cut them down to size when they are a threat. I suppose Drucker is lucky he doesn’t get run over by a car or murdered by a bomb as they do in some countries.
Here is Drucker’s report:
I should point out that I have an interest in seeing Channel 10 survive, since its show Tzinor Layla features my stories irregularly and not many Israeli media outlets are beating down my doors to include my reporting in their coverage.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.