Bibi Threatens Licenses of Israeli Media Which Publish List of Wealthiest Israeli Politicians
UPDATE: Apologies to Dvorit Shargel, who broke this story yesterday. She deserves credit for it and kol hakovod la. I’ve updated my post to include references to her excellent research. She’s also helped me correct some errors that crept into previous versions of the post.
Tonight another major breaking story fresh from the Land of Milk, Honey and the Filthy Rich as reported by a confidential authoritative Israeli source. A few days ago, Forbes Israel published a list of the wealthiest members of the Knesset. No sooner was the article published than it picked up mentions at the Mako and Globes financial websites. But those reports quickly disappeared from the web though thanks to the wonder of Google it still lives on here (Shhh!). I’ll unravel this mystery further on.
The wealthiest on the list was deputy prime minister Silvan Shalom, whose wife, Judy Nir Mozes, is a part-owner (12%) of Yediot Achronot. He’s worth over $40-million which, on the scale of your average Knesset member, is gargantuan wealth. Most of his lucre comes from his wife’s family. Her brother manages Yediot and her sister is controlling shareholder in El Al. Others at the top of the list include Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman ($25-million), Defense Minister Ehud Barak (nearly $20-million), Meir Sheetrit ($14-million), and the man himself, Bibi Netanyahu (coming in at a paltry $9-million).
Coming from the U.S. these numbers sound like peanuts, but you’ll have to trust me that this is simply unfathomable riches for an Israeli politician. And of course, it makes you wonder what sorts of deals and under the table arrangements they might’ve made when they were ministers in order to amass such riches, given that Ehud Olmert amassed much of his fortune from similar deals when he was minister of industry.
There are no public disclosure laws in Israel compelling politicians to disclose their personal wealth and list their specific assets so that the public can determine whether they have conflicts of interest in their voting. Hence, Israeli media rarely if ever report this data. That’s what makes the list such political dynamite.
Shalom and his wife went ballistic and immediately called Bibi and threatened that if the prime minister didn’t stop publication, Shalom would vote against an Iran attack in the security cabinet, of which he’s a member and which must approve any proposed attack on Iran. The supreme irony here is that Shalom was willing to sell the souls of the thousands of Iranians who would die from an Israeli attack on behalf of protecting his wealth and privilege from the prying eyes of the Israeli electorate.
In light of the J14 social justice movement‘s popularity in Israel, and its success in bringing issues of income disparity to the fore, Shalom’s back-room maneuvering appears obscene. Israel has one of the widest gaps between rich and poor in the world (fifth largest among developed nations). Shalom is the 1% but he doesn’t want the other 99% to know. For shame.
If this story had a national security angle, Shalom could’ve expected the military censor would suppress it. But given that it doesn’t, he had to resort to naked extortion to get his way. To help conceal the far more damaging story that Bibi had threatened to pull the broadcast licenses of an media outlet that published the story, Shalom told his lawyer to draft a letter to the media outlets threatening them with libel suits up the yazoo if they didn’t cease and desist coverage of the story. That makes it a far more devious conspiracy by which the government allowed the media to say they couldn’t publish because of threat of a lawsuit, when the real reason they couldn’t do so was threat of revocation of their licenses.
Here’s some of the hot-air of Shalom’s lawyer:
Lies without foundation. falsehoods, perversions of truth at the very least, and libel against my client and his spouse, contrary to the law and the prohibition against slander.
The threat clearly was full of sound and fury and signifying nothing. The article could in no way be construed as slander and the fact that the numbers are true was a perfect defense against the libel charge. If there had only been this legal threat, some of the media might have been willing to defy it and publish. But along with the regulatory threat, no one was willing to brave Shalom’s fury (and that of the others named, who cannot have been very happy either).
A small diversion: according to Dvorit, Judy Nir Mozes told a real sob story to the Israeli financial paper, The Marker, claiming that she really wasn’t rich at all and that her wealth was solely on paper. Sounds like a story she uses frequently to downplay her power and status. She further amplified her husband’s concern for the poor and downtrodden youth of Israel in this self-serving tweet (subsequently deleted):
Four years ago, Silvan founded the Israeli Youth Gathering. As someone who worked four jobs, completed four university degrees, lived in rental apartments until he took to wife a well-established bride. For this reason, he has never ceased trying to improve the living conditions of Israeli youth regarding housing, jobs and military service.
This, by the way, is the same Nir Mozes who tried to get Danny Ayalon’s personal secretary fired when he was ambassador to the U.S., because the woman hadn’t arranged a meeting for the imperious Israeli with Madonna when she traveled to Israel for one of her Kabbalah retreats. Then she had Ayalon’s wife investigated because she spent state funds to re-decorate her home. All this from a woman worth nearly $40 million according to Forbes Israel. I don’t know if that will bring me under suspicion as well for the crime of slander. But if publishing the wealth of a public figure is libel, then what kind of country is Israel, where the law is used by the rich and powerful to suppress knowledge and public debate among the populace?
Bibi got Shalom’s message too. He’d been lobbying hard recently among his cabinet for approval for such an attack. He needed Shalom’s vote. Hence, word went forth from the prime minister’s office to the Israeli media that anyone who dared to publish the list would “end up like Channel 10.” That’s a TV station which owes the government millions in licensing fees, which it can’t pay. Bibi has been supremely unhappy with some investigative reports of the channel’s news staff, including one that exposed 30 instances of serious violations of Knesset ethics laws in Bibi’s foreign travels. Unless Channel 10 fired the reporter responsible for the report, Bibi let it be known that the debts would not be forgiven and it would lose its license in months. If it fired Drucker, the government would go easy and the debts would miraculously disappear.
An Israeli reporter told me a few hours ago that in fact, Bibi has already decided to cancel Channel 10’s license. Everyone in the Israeli media knows this. Therefore, a threat by Bibi to do them what he did to Channel 10 would resonate strongly. Some readers have criticized this theory on the grounds that there would be no legal basis to deny a license. But given the history of Channel 10 and its imminent demise, Bibi wouldn’t need a real legal basis to attack a broadcast license. Merely the threat to do might be enough to make a media outlet cave. This reminds me more of the Godfather or naked loansharking than a democratic government. But in Bibiworld, that’s how things are done.
I’m sorry to say that so far no Israeli media outlet has been willing to jeopardize itself and report the full story. Which is yet another reason why Tikun Olam exists (remember that Paypal button, folks). We go where few Israeli reporters can, or dare to tread. I say this more out of sorrow than criticism, because there are many honorable journalists there. I know this because some of them have published remarkably fair profiles of my work.
But I also understand that when a Mafiosi character like Bibi has you by the balls, what can you do? You have to weigh what is more important–retaining your ability to exist as a viable media property, or standing up for press freedom and democracy by doing the bold thing and in the process losing your newspaper or TV station. There are few, if any, Uri Avnerys (who was almost beaten to death by veterans of the Kibya massacre, which he’d exposed) or Hadashots in Israeli journalism today, who are willing to stake their newspaper on a principle. I suppose the investments are simply too big to risk on such high ethical standards.
Those who call Israel a democracy need to know that it is in name only. Press freedom is only skin deep. This is the case not because reporters aren’t doing their jobs, but because the people don’t demand accountability from their politicians, because editors cave in to such extortionate demands from them, and because the courts do not rein in such violations, and because there is no Bill of Rights nor constitution to inscribe such rights into law.
You even have the exceedingly odd case of one media outlet, Channel 10, partly owned by Ronald Lauder, exposing the sins of the owner of another, Sheldon Adelson of Yisrael HaYom. Adleson, with the connivance of Lauder, dictated Channel 10’s apology which was read on air by a station staff member, thus causing the resignation of the station’s chief executive and producer of the show which aired the expose. In this day and age, there simply couldn’t be an Israeli version of the Pentagon Papers. Things are too cozy among owners and pols, and principles like freedom of the press are too porous.
18 thoughts on “Bibi Threatens Licenses of Israeli Media Which Publish List of Wealthiest Israeli Politicians – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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RE: “The supreme irony here is that Shalom was willing to sell the souls of the thousands of Iranians who would die from an Israeli attack on behalf of protecting his wealth and privilege from the prying eyes of the Israeli electorate.” ~ R.S.
MARK TWAIN: “Those who respect the law and love sausage should watch neither being made.” ~ Samuel Clemons
SOURCE – http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Talk:Otto_von_Bismarck
Richard, the list wasn’t “leaked” to the Israeli media. It was given to various newspapers / TV channels in the beginning of this month by Forbes Israel, as a promo to their November issue who’s cover story is “Israel’s Richest Politicians”. The data there was gathered by Forbes staff. I’m no fan of Bibi or of Shalom, but your version of why this list got pulled off the wires – with Shalom threatening not to vote for an attack on Iran and Bibi threatening to cancel licenses – is simply ludicrous. It’s much more simple than that: Shalom’s lawyer simply sent out a letter threatening to sue them all for defamation. Forbes Israel, by the way, is running with the story. I don’t know who your confidential source is, but he’s not only totally off the mark – he’s lying.
I’ve updated the story after hearing from Dvorit Shargel who first reported it yesterday. I’ve updated even further when I realized I hadn’t gotten one part of the story my source gave me quite right.
Please send me any links to anything Forbes Israel reports on the story.
This is the cover, by the way:
Great scoop… except that it’s not hidden anywhere….
Even Rotter got to story 2 days ago…
Next I’d love to see how much Yossi Beilin , Avnery Burg and others made as a result of the “Peace process” I’m sure it would make fascinating reading to know how much cash a high level peace advocate can make.
Read my updated version of the post. The original version didn’t fully convey what my source had written to me. It does now.
In fact Shalom owns nothing. The money is his wife’s.
Neeman is one of the biggests lawers in Israel, who joined this gov. from the private sector. You don’t expect a great lawyer to be broke do you ?
And the sum you describe here is nothing but “unfathomable riches for an Israeli” where you have people like:
Stef Verthimer – who sold Iscar to waren buffet for more than 7Billion $.
Morris Kahan – founder of Amdocs more than 1Bill$
Yudith & Kobi Richter – Medinol founders more than 1Bill$
Gid Shvaid – founder of Checkpoint more than 1Bill$
Moriss Nucht – also from Checkpoint….
You didn’t read what I wrote carefully. I said it was a gargantuan sum for an Israeli politician. Did you miss that nuance? Apparently.
This story is ssso stupid that not in a million years can you be believed that you have a source. You are a complete and utterly shameless liar.
Your conspiracy theory is ridiculous that it speaks volumes on you, not on Israel.
You have no idea how many times idiots like you have written the same thing only to be proven later, by the accuracy of my report, to have been…idiots.
You are so unbelievable:
1. Forbes Israel is still running the story. you can buy the magazine at book stores.
2. Globes Stop the publication after receiving the lawyers letter because they cannot be sure how the list was made and if it is accurate.
3. Really, only one sick individual can believe the story about bibi or shalom and Iran.
4. Channel 10 will not be closed – of course you will not appologise, rather say that liber an threatened to nuke the us if bibi closes the channel
I plan to get a copy and offer it online if I can. Why did Forbes Israel “disappear” the story from its website along with The Marker? If Forbes Israel was sure of the accuracy of the article it wouldn’t cave to such pressure. But it did.
An Israeli journalist with far better sources than you told me yesterday that Bibi has already made the decision to close Channel 10. We’ll see who’s right.
See how pathetic you are.
First, Forbes Israel does not have an website. Never had. You could have checked it, very easily, but why check when you can just lie?
Secondly, the marker never ran the story, not for a minute. You could have checked that too, very easily, but why check when you can just lie?
Thirdly, you contradict yourself: I thought Israel was a dictatorship in which the accuracy of a story has nothing to do with it being publish (only orders from bibi of course).
Fourth, you of course have no idea whatsoever who I am, what sources I have or what I know. You could have asked, but why bother?
I don’t believe you have a source. No Israeli person – journalist o not – can come up with such stupid lies.
Ho, and if you want copies of Forbes Israel magazine I will be more than happy to sell you as many as you wish.
Guess what? I make mistakes. But whether or not Forbes has a website isn’t critical to the story, though you, I’m sure, would like to make it so. Next, the media which reported the story were Mako & Globes (not The Marker as I reported), both of which took the story down under threat. Again, whether the story was taken down by The Marker, or Globes or Mako is much less significant than that two major media outlets were intimidated into silence.
Why would I want to ask an asshole like you anything? As for accusing me of lying…repeatedly. That’s a violation of my comment rules & you’re moderated till you show you can mind your manners. If you return & violate rules again you’ll lose yr privileges altogether.
Once again: globes and mako quated forbes. They received a threatening letter from shalom’s lawyers. Now, they know nothing of the Forbes list: how is it made? Is it accurate? Is it serious?
So, they did what any reasonable editor would: they dismissed astory they cannot check nor be sure of it’s truth.
All the bullshit about Iran and bibi is utter nonsense. I don’t believe you, I don’t believe you have a source, I dont believe you believe it. It’s pure propaganda.
Again – shame on you.
OMG it would appear that Israel has just as bad elected officials as the United States. Oh I forgot the Israel bought all our elected officials and it would be crazy to think that they would purchase anything different that what they happen to be. It is amazing how a small number of rich people have destroyed so much. I can only imagine we are basically after 1500 years back in the days of the Lords and serfs. The knights are the war mongers who will sell their services to the guy with the most gold.
And one other thing, which I am sure you know but nevertheless lie about: in Israel the prime minister does not decide the faith of a tv channel.
The channel owes money, taxes, and the shareholders don’t want to pay.
Now they want the government to relieve them of their debts. to make sure that the government will cave to their huzpa demands, they, with the support of the likes of you, make it an issue of freedom of press.
If the channel closes – and I am sure it won’t – the milliner owners of the channel and its managers who spent the money are to blame, no one else. managers o blame.
Shame on you.
The world is waking up. The cittizens(99%) have been fleeced and they want the guilty to be held to account. Maybe it’s time for “Occupy Jerusalem”. Oops forgot. It already is occupied.