Israel’s mainstream media conducted an unofficial boycott of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit to Israel last week. The leading nationwide television channel, Channel 2, devoted only a single minute of coverage to Harper’s address to the Knesset, and did so only in the second half of the evening news program, according to Maariv‘s Kalman Libeskind, who analzyed the shameful phenomenon in his latest column. Half of that minute covered hostile Arab MK Ahmed Tibi’s heckling of Harper.
Channel 10, the second nationwide commercial channel, completely blacked out the visit. Its news show did not cover the speech with even a single second of airtime.
Stephen Harper was like “a bone in the throat” of Israel’s press, explained the influential pundit and investigative reporter. After years of mocking Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and presenting Israel under his leadership as a country that has no friends, “the Canadian prime minister came here and bucked all of the rules when he declared that he stood beside us.” He did so “without stammering, without apologizing, without saying anything unclear,” and the Israeli press “did not know what to do with this thing.”
Libeskind noted that Canada is a member of the G8 and other meaningful international forums, and that Harper showed that that he took the visit to Israel very seriously, when he came here accompanied by his foreign minister and five other members of his cabinet. He toured Israel and “did everything in order to make it clear to the entire world that he supports us, that he is unwilling to hear us associated with something that sounds like apartheid, and that Canada under his leadership will always stand beside us.”
“This is the kind of visit that the Israeli media should have covered on a very large scale,” he observed, but support for Israel “sounds like support for the Israeli government, and that is where the Israeli media’s ulcer starts bothering it.” Most of Harper’s statements were thus not even quoted by news outlets.
Harper was quick to understand how things work in Israel, added Libeskind. In a news conference on the day after his Knesset speech, he berated Israeli reporters, who kept on asking him about Israeli “settlements.”
“Yesterday in the Palestinian Authority,” Harper said, “no one asked me to criticize the Palestinian Authority on matters of governance, human rights or any other subject. When I am in Israel I’m asked to criticize Israel, and when I am in the Palestinian Authority I am asked to criticize Israel.”