A Dialogue of the Deaf

(Update at bottom of post, January 3rd)

I was just about to start subtitling this video-clip, and thankfully someone beat me to it. Not the best job – but it pretty much gives you the picture – and for this I thank him/her.

This is an interview on Channel 1 state TV, the daily 5pm news show called Erev Hadash (New Evening). The longtime host is Dan Margalit, joined today by journalist Ronen Bergman.

Let’s bring you up to speed: Margalit’s been around for ages. He’s been at Haaretz and Maariv, now at Yisrael Hayom (the Bibi-paper). He’s most famous for his Rabin-dollar-account-in-the-States scoop from 1977. He’s also famous for being a very close friend of Ehud Olmert. That is, up until the Second Lebanon War. Things got, how should I put it, a bit “sour” after that.

Most recently, his daughter (a powerful TV producer) was almost beaten to death, in front of her kid, no less, by thugs sent by Dudu Topaz – an entertainer who used to be G-d on TV but wasn’t happy when the whole country virtually forgot who he was. After he was caught, he committed suicide in his cell, just a few months ago.

Margalit is interviewing MK Jamal Zahalka, the head of the Arab party Balad.

They’re talking about Egypt’s actions concerning the siege on Gaza.

Watch, and let’s talk again after the show:

Despite the high decibles, this is a classic example of a dialogue of the deaf.

First, see how both sides define audacity (chutzpah) differently? One says 8,000 Qassam rockets are chutzpah. The other doesn’t listen and says 1,400 killed are chutzpah.

They go on not listening to each other. One accuses a veteran journalist of ass-licking former and present prime ministers, and another shows no respect whatsoever for a publicly-elected official.

But the best is saved for last, when Zahalka says that the studios in the Ramat Aviv neighbourhood in Tel Aviv are really Sheikh Munis, the Arab village which was there before 1948. This really sets Margalit off, as you can see. Indeed, both show their true colors. Margalit shows no recognition of Sheikh Munis, just as Zahalka before him shows no acceptance of Ramat Aviv.

And to top it off, Zahalka says: “I am a native of the Land!”.

And Margalit had to say: “So that makes me an immigrant?!”

If I had the words to tell you how representative this dialogue is of the whole dialogue used in the region, I would use them. But I don’t. Just trust me: this is it. This is where we live. This interview sums it up.

Now you tell me: Is there hope out there, somewhere?…


The Jerusalem Post reports on 3 January:

The Movement for Quality Government is demanding that the attorney-general open a criminal investigation concerning comments made by MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) about Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Israel Radio reported.

Zahalka was quoted as saying, “Defense Minister Ehud Barak enjoys listening to classical music and killing children,” in reference to last year’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

The movement asserts that the comments qualified incitement, thus justifying an attack on Barak.

20 Responses to “A Dialogue of the Deaf”

  1. 1 adi
    January 2, 2010 at 20:51

    a few questions Ami. first, where do you stand in all this?
    second – what do you mean by “Margalit shows no recognition of Sheikh Munis”
    i listened again and i think i heard Zahalka saying to Margalit that he is an immigrant. which is by the way the usual stuff some Arab Mks are saying. so in what sense is this a dialogue of the deaf? try unbridgeable instead…

    • 2 Ami Kaufman
      January 2, 2010 at 21:00

      You know my political views, Adi. But that’s not the point of this post, and I don’t want to get into one of those arguments.

      I listened again, and couldn’t hear what you say Zahalka said. I only heard him say “Ani Yeleed Haaretz”, to which Margalit answered “Ani Mehager?”.

      But, again – it doesn’t really matter. It’s all about the tone of the discussion.

      Is it unbridgebale, as you say? Yes, it is.

      Did they attempt to listen to each other, as I said they didn’t? No, they didn’t hear each other at all.

      I like my headline – and I’m standing by it. 🙂

  2. 3 adi
    January 2, 2010 at 21:26

    i think you are making your life easy. MK Zahalka has endorsed in this interview the extremest view in the Palestinian side. somewhere between Hamas and Jihad. i really do hope he doesn’t represent the people he is supposed to represent… And – if you and i have an unbridgeable dispute, then the problem is not that we don’t listen to each other but the issue itself. this is what i meant in my talk-back

    • 4 Ami Kaufman
      January 2, 2010 at 21:44

      I have no idea why you think I’m making my life easy.
      I also have no idea why you think Zahalka is somehwere between Hamas and Jihad. I’m pretty sure any Fatah supportet would agree with him, too.
      Also, I never said I had any kind of dispute with YOU whatsoever – I simply agreed with you that the dispute at the base of the conflict is unbridgeable.

      Adi, I’ll try to make myself clearer: I’m not taking sides on this specific post about the interview. In my eyes, it is despicable behavior that represents something on a larger scale. I was looking at at it from above, a kind of anthropologic sort of view from the outside.

      Please, do me a favor and don’t drag me into a “you support Zahalka” (I don’t, by the way) argument.

      And if this is what you meant by making it easy for myself, then yes. I’ll keep it easy, thank you very much 🙂

  3. 5 Shelly
    January 2, 2010 at 21:52

    This is so sad. It is about at the level of the Jerry Springer show if you get my drift. And the logical peacemaker here would be none other than Dr. Phil.
    If there is any hope, it’s him. Stay tuned.

  4. 6 adi
    January 2, 2010 at 21:57

    i think we two are also in a dialogue of the deaf:
    when i wrote that me and you have an argument it was an illustration. i don’t have any dispute with you…
    i wasn’t implying that you support Zahalka
    as for Zahalka – calling Barak a murderer of 1,400 children, siding with the Hamas government in Gaza and not saying anything about their attitude towards their own people as well as towards Israel is not the official view of Fatah. i think you know well that Abbas, as well as some very prominent foreign leaders, wanted Israel to annihilate (yes…) Hamas and solve the problem for them.
    and – why is it despicable to stop Zahalka if he slanders and shouts and lies?

    • 7 Ami Kaufman
      January 2, 2010 at 22:12

      indeed a dialogue of the deaf.
      I still think that, yes, most Palestinians would say that Barak is a murderer of children, just like Zahalka did. Whether they’re right in that assumption – that’s another issue. The problem is, you and I are putting words into Palestinian’s mouths. You think the average Palestinian wouldn’t talk like Zahalka does, I say he would. But who are you and I to know? Don’t know about you, but I haven’t talked to a Palestinian in quite some time…
      Just because Abbas sees Hamas as a political rival he would love to do without, does not neccessarily mean he doesn’t support their battle against Israel. You know well some of Abbas’ militant remarks in the past. Official views? Ah, yes… “official” is what it’s all about

  5. 8 adi
    January 2, 2010 at 22:14

    so now you’re saying Fatah is like Hamas? wasn’t that supposed to be my part in our conversation?

    • 9 Ami Kaufman
      January 2, 2010 at 22:26

      Hehe… I know what you’re thinking 😉
      Truth be told, I don’t pretend to understand Palestinian politics much.
      What I think I’m trying to say, is this:
      If you read Verter this week, he said that Avi Dichter could easily be in almost any of the big parties these days, because the differences between them are so small.
      And I have a feeling that there is something similar in Palestinian politics. That although Hamas is considered the violent extremist, and Fatah the moderate-less violent, I think the differences between them might be much smaller than we all think.
      Again, just a hunch…

      • January 2, 2010 at 23:25

        i think we should continue this on a cup of coffee (or a beer…). too complicated for this blog type of conversation

  6. 11 Shelly
    January 2, 2010 at 22:42

    The point should be the interview itself and how it was conducted. Not the views. In my opinion, it was Dan Margalit who was despicable. Not that Zahalka was innocent. But Dan Margalit was the host and should have set a standard of decorum instead of reverting to a Shuk-style-shouting match. If he is incapable of keeping his cool, he should not be where he is. He is about as “fair and balanced” as FOX news.

  7. 14 Alice
    January 3, 2010 at 06:33

    Politics as entertainment – how can anyone take this kind of exchange seriously when it’s clear the point of airing is to entertain,amuse and savour the spectacle. It’s even better when they don’t listen and treat each other with disrespect. Next time you watch this kind of thing in the company of others, note how smiles break out and broaden the rougher things get.
    As a previous poster noted, think Dr Phil and Jerry Springer. Like, everyone knows Dr Phil is so very popular because he HELPS people.Viewers are no better than those who sat in the bleachers of the amphitheatre when the Romans ruled..

  8. 15 כ לויטה
    January 3, 2010 at 08:00

    I agree with Shelly completely. Dan Margalit was not Ok, he made me queazy in the stomach – he should have kept his cool which would have made the moment much stronger. They were both like dangerous 2 ylds. But the dialogue that ensued within this blog was as in itself an interesting anthropological nature watch. I’m glad it ended with a proposal for a beer…hmmm…the symbolism of it all.

    • 16 Ami Kaufman
      January 3, 2010 at 09:07

      Alice – You’re right. Margalit learned those tactics when he hosted the shouting matches at a show call Popolitika.

      Carmit – Margalit seems to be losing his cool more the older he gets. He’s had a tough year, I’ll tell ya that.

      Adi – I can say no to the occupation, but can’t say no to a beer! 😉

  9. 17 Shelly
    January 3, 2010 at 10:34

    Adi, in case you have ever stooped to the level of watching FOX news on TV (HOT CHANNEL 67), which I often do since I regard it as pure entertainment, their slogan is “FAIR AND BALANCED.” FOX is, of course, very right wing and about as fair and balanced as Muammar Gaddafi.
    My point was that the level of the interview, the interaction between Margalit and Zahalka, was about as low as you can get, which is FOX news-ish.

    And as far as “slander” is concerned, there was slander, personal and political on both sides. However just remember that Dan Margalit is the host. It is his job to set the tone. To keep at least a semblance of dignity REGARDLESS of the behavior or utterances of his guests.
    And he failed miserably.

  10. January 4, 2010 at 11:50

    And this was broadcast on “Educational” TV. Sigh…

  11. 20 Danny
    January 5, 2010 at 22:06

    With reference to your quote from the Jerusalem, Ha’aretz (English Edition, January 5) reported that the Israel Media Watch “…accused veteran journalist Dan Margalit of violating jounalistic ethics during a recent interview on Eduactional Television with MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad).” The Israel Media Watch also “complained that by insulting his interviewee, Margalit undermined his own reputation as an impartial journalist.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

January 2010

Recent Comments


%d bloggers like this: