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Yaron Ten-Brink: 'Bibi is one of biggest criminals Israel has seen'

Yaron Ten-Brink: 'Bibi is one of biggest criminals Israel has seen'

As the pandemic rages out of control in Israel, I’m happy that my guest today is someone who shares my frustration. Yaron Ten-Brink, one of Israel’s leading journalists.

Yaron became very well known when he began writing a daily TV columns in the most widely circulated newspaper, back then, Yedioth Ahronoth. Since then he’s held very senior editorial positions in print but also had a stint in TV, editing and producing top shows during prime time, and he and I also had the opportunity to work together on the Morning show of i24NEWS a few years ago.

He currently edits the Tel Aviv edition of TimeOut magazine, and is a prolific tweeter, mostly on issues concerning the Israeli PM Netanyahu, and I feel like he’s one of those people who really influences the discussion on social media.

So, we talked a lot about the media in Israel, how it compares to other places like the States, how Bibi compares to Trump, and lastly - we even talk about cheese!


Show notes

(3:30) - How coronavirus has affected his work as editor of TimeOut Tel Aviv
(9:00) - The mistrust in the government is so huge, it’s hurting the pandemic response
(11:00) - Netanyahu has never said he was innocent about the allegations against him
(13:00) - Family has become more important than ever during this pandemic
(14:00) - Yaron tells about his live in the shithole - literally - of Holland
(16:00) - His beginnings in journalism - but it’s a horrible career
(21:00) - How he became a TV critic
(35:00) - The Israeli media scene is basically all FOX news, there’s no MSNBC
(37:00) - Why Israeli journalistic genes aren’t that good
(39:00) - Yaron thinks Netanyahu took some lessons from Putin
(42:00) - We have leaders who the truth for them is the enemy
(45:00) - Being a journalist isn’t about hiding your opinions, it’s about reporting facts
(49:00) - Netanyahu is a criminal, we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg, verges on treason
(53:00) - Netanyahu is the cause of the disease, he is a catalyst
(55:00) - Netanyahu is much more toxic than Trump
(1:05:00) - The two state solution probably won’t happen, one state is the way to go
(1:07:00) - We’re witnessing the decline of Israel
(1:12:00) - A very cheesy ending!

Transcript (by

ami kaufman  00:00

Yeah, let's get this show on the road. Hello. It's me ami Kaufman. You're listening to otherwise occupied the podcast where I speak to anyone and everyone between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea. So how's everybody doing? I asked because here in Israel, we're breaking records each and every day. The second Coronavirus wave is turning out to be a frickin tsunami. And the government has no idea where the higher ground is to keep us safe. It's not looking good. Which is why I'm happy that my guest today is someone who shares my frustration with the leadership in this place, you know, someone to congratulate you I run 10 brink, in my opinion, one of Israel's leading journalists. I first heard of your own when he began writing daily TV columns and the most widely circulated newspaper back then you had Yoda. He's a fantastic sharp, biting critic. And then since then he's held very senior editorial positions in print, but also had a stint in TV editing and producing top shows during primetime. And he and I also had the opportunity to work together on the morning show of I 24 News a few years ago. Currently, he edited the Tel Aviv edition of timeout magazine, but I've been paying you more attention to him recently. He's a prolific Tweeter, mostly on issues concerning the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and I feel like he's one of those people who really influenced the discussion on social media. And that's where a lot of it takes place in Israel on Twitter. So we're going to talk a lot about the media in Israel, how it compares to other places like the states, how Bibi compares to Trump. And lastly, you have to listen all the way to the end. We even talk about cheese as one should with a guy with a Dutch origins I believe. So here it is. I hope you enjoy you're rocking the Coronavirus hairdo I can see Ellison jealous as a ball. But I can say that

Yaron  02:35

Yeah, I wasn't miss it was like not huge. It was longer was very long.

ami kaufman  02:44

Really? Oh my god. So you know, let me let me ask you, I mean, we're starting How does this whole thing? Yeah, yeah, we're starting now. How is how is this whole um, thing affected you? You know, personally, professionally. Now right now you're you're the editor of of time out Tel Aviv. And, and you've been doing that for about two years. I think we're going to talk a little more about you know, your journalism career. But first, I mean, how is it affected you? The the job and timeout

Yaron  03:18

kind of destroyed us? Because all the scenes were covering all the activities recovering culture activities, culinary activities, parties, rock concerts, nightlife in general. Theater, movies, that's all gone. Yeah, evaporated instantly. And we were left without mainly without advertisers. Know the venue's have nothing to advertise restaurants that are working, you know, they're mainly focusing on surviving, they're not gonna do anything new and special. They don't have

ami kaufman  04:13

anything opening up, right? There's nothing, no new restaurants that are opening up

Yaron  04:17

almost no new restaurants, which is very, very rare in Tel Aviv. And on the other hand, not a lot of restaurants have shut down. So we don't have that to write about as well. I mean, the crisis. You can feel it all around. But most restaurants are surviving either by staying closed and not paying, you know, municipal taxes and stuff like that, which they were exempt from. Or they have a deal with our landowner. I don't know most of them are just surviving even when they're closed for business. I mean, they didn't officially say We're shutting down So we don't have this huge food scene crisis to cover. It's, it's just frozen. So there's nothing to talk about basically, we, of course, we do cover the protests by the cultural scene. Also, the restaurant owners have had their own their own protest, both in Jerusalem, near the hospital Prime Minister in the canal, and in Tel Aviv. So of course, we have that to cover. And we did kind of like a pivot in our coverage. And we're covering, we started covering small businesses and how they survive. And we extended a helping hand to all kinds of creators, creative people that want to share, you know, how they feel about half a year without culture.

ami kaufman  06:00

And you guys have to do any, any cutbacks or put people on furlough?

Yaron  06:06

Yeah, of course, twice. I mean, we did. We did go on this kind of not paid vacation, that is very popular here in Israel. While we were on that, we continue updating the website, because you can't just put a note on the website, we're going to be back some have to kind of keep the flame burning. So that was kind of fun. Because especially during that period, we did whatever we want, we have no obligation, when think you could just, you know, give our platforms to the people of Tel Aviv and support them when they needed us. which is always nice to do as a journalist, I need to feel part of a big community city wide community. But, but that also kind of didn't evaporate. But I think it really weakened this time around. I mean, we entered the second lockdown. And the atmosphere is completely different. The first time around it completely agree. We have this feeling of Garrity and we're gonna pull through that together and the spirit of Tel Aviv will keep on, you know, pulling the whole show together. But but actually this time around people I think are exasperated and afraid. Yeah, I mean, I very.

ami kaufman  07:43

I feel like like, like the first one was there was a lot more solidarity, like you say, but there was also a lot more fear of you could because there was just so much unknown about what this thing is. And now there's like,

Yaron  07:58

there's there's still fear, but a little less, but I feel a lot more despair and desperation. Yeah, then ration I mean, people return the fear of change, the fear we had before was the fear of the unknown. We didn't know what was coming, and how contagious or deadly it was. The fear this time, I feel is more about the feeling you get when you see that your government is dysfunctional. And no one is taking care of the situation. And they're on your own. And you're on your own. That's, that's huge. I mean, when you when you live in a, in a so called democracy, or in any country in the world, actually you trust the neck, the country as a whole to function in crisis situations. I mean, you That's why you pay taxes. With a big rod comes, you know, some big, responsible adult will come and say, Oh, of course, this is what we have to do now. And the mistrust of the government is so huge. Even I completely I, I disagree, of course, with the government about everything. But I would like to see even a government that I disagree with, I would like to see them being functional and trustworthy. Even if I don't agree with them, politically. That's not the situation. I mean,

ami kaufman  09:24

I was. I wonder if you were a little surprised, because I was kind of surprised. I mean, I always had this. Of course, I don't agree with anything about, you know, Benjamin Netanyahu, his policies. He's actually going to save this conversation for later, but now that we're on it, let's just do it. I mean, I don't agree with them. But I did have a feeling that you know, at sometimes, you know, he could show some sort of leadership and some sort of management capabilities in certain areas. And I was completely surprised by his utter failure. In this case, you really took me by surprise, I don't know, if you feel the same.

Yaron  10:03

It was kind of surprising. I mean, if you follow him very closely, during the last two years, you see that his focus is no longer on any of the issues is solely focused on his, on the allegations against him and the trial against him now, and that's the only thing he actually manages. The rest of it is just, you know, to help him in his in his time of hardship. I mean, he's using his power, and all his resources, who find a way out of it, which I guess he doesn't have a legal way to get out of it. Otherwise, he would have said, like, former Prime Ministers, he would have said something like, I completely trust the law authorities, and I'm sure they will find me innocent, and I will fight in a court of law prove my innocence. And he never said that. He actually said, Yeah, I'm guilty. Actually, that's why he didn't say it literally. But but his deeds, you know, they kind of give it away his guilt, because he's not even trying to say that he's innocent, meaning never said it once. I'm innocent. He says, everybody is rigged against me, the system is rigged against me. Of course, people he appointed are now Rick somehow rigged against him. I don't know how that happens all the time. But I think we always thought of him of as, as a real leader, even a leader we don't like a leader we can't agree with. But we thought, you know, okay, he's the first of all, democratically elected. And second of all, he has some abilities. But yeah, apparently that was wrong, because you can see that he's completely unfocused on the crisis itself, even now, even when, when it's getting worse by today. still busy with the demonstrations against him. We got protests around the country against him is busy with his be busy with that much more than he's busy, which was actually solving crisis. Yeah.

ami kaufman  12:22

But, you know, if we just stick around for one more minute on Corona, how about you personally, I mean, a lot of people are having, you know, all these existential thoughts about you know, what the future is going to be? Does this thing you know, change the way you think about life?

Yaron  12:40

Not sure. You know, I think we're still very early inside this new era, I think it is a new era, I think it will eventually change a lot of things already has. For me, now, it's, it's mainly a matter of you know, we didn't have much of a choice we you retreated into our homes. So of course, family became ever so important, more important than ever, it was already but but now, it's, there's an emphasis on it. These are the people that you will live through this old this whole era with, you know, you these are these are good people, we're with you all the time. And we'll be there when when the shit hits the fan, you know. So I think I think that's kind of special in a positive way. Kind of reaffirms your priorities. Um, of course, it gives you a lot of time to think about what's important in life, but I don't have answers.

ami kaufman  13:56

So let's let's let's start from a little from the beginning now, and I'm sure that you kind of get this question a lot. I didn't ask it though. Your name 10 Brink it's it's not an not a very you know, popular well known name here in Israel, but it's it's a Dutch name.

Yaron  14:12

Yeah. It's a Dutch name. We're the only currently the only 10 drinks in Israel.

ami kaufman  14:17

Sure. The only 10 brings in Israel. Yeah. And in. In the Netherlands, it's a popular name.

Yaron  14:24

It's it's quite common. It's not like Cohen in Israel, but but not rare. There was a big TV star there. Robert can bring lights. It's, it's not a name that surprises anyone.

ami kaufman  14:39

So what's that? What's the history? Where were you born there?

Yaron  14:42

Yeah, my father was born there. His father was born there. And they lived in a small village near jerte, near the Germany border. southeast of Holland to south southeast of Netherlands. The village was called home. Which in Hebrew, of course is very funny because it means home. Actually, in Dutch it's even funnier. Because in, in, in ancient Dutch, or, which is a word that is still use is something disgusting. It's like saying yuck.

ami kaufman  15:24

Oh, okay,

Yaron  15:25

so the name in any language is just pure, bad. It's like a bad place. It's a very nice village. It's quaint and cute. I don't know why they do it. It's a shithole. It's a it's quite dishes.

ami kaufman  15:39

And do you speak Dutch?

Yaron  15:41

I speak Dutch. I lived there for like eight years. So I picked it up pretty quickly, because I heard it a lot at home. I was rather fluent when I was living there. I have a good Dutch accent. But haven't used it much in the last decade. So my guess I'm not as fluent as it was. But I read it 28 I still read Dutch newspapers every week. Right? Like,

ami kaufman  16:10

and they're still they're still. They're still family there. They've my mother

Yaron  16:14

lives there now. I mean, my parents followed me from Israel to the Netherlands. My father passed away a few years ago, but my mother still lives in Amsterdam. And I have some family, their cousins and uncles. Hmm. You wouldn't always came over to Israel. Yeah.

ami kaufman  16:34

It came back to Israel. And let's get to the journalism. How did when did when did when did journalism start? Was there anything, you know, any signs, even in childhood that this was going to be

Yaron  16:44

very new, I knew from a very early age that I can write really good really well, I mean, much better than most of my peers at third grade. And that I can write stories. And they can be funny. I discovered that when I was eight. So I guess that was a, an early sign. And then I had a few very good literature teachers who picked up on that and kind of told me, you should do something with that. And one of them actually told me, you have a blessing and a curse. Because you're a writer, and you will earn money from your writing. And you have to write you have no option not to write. But it's also a curse, because it's terrible to write for your living. So you're basically

ami kaufman  17:37

now back that when you when you when you hear that, do you agree with that? assessment? Yeah, very much. So.

Yaron  17:44

Was it? I mean, I think writing is great. Writing is fun. But journalism, especially in Israel, it's a horrible choice. choice. If you have a choice, it's really bad. It's a bad career move. I had quite a few opportunities to leave leave. Journalism, let's say to do other things. And every time I think I'm out, they pull me back in some,

ami kaufman  18:16

like completely, completely echoing my story, if if I had $1 for every time I, you know, left or tried to leave. But I always, you know, got drawn back to this. I mean, I guess we're good at it. And I guess there's something you know,

Yaron  18:30

it's not meant to be it's just, it's lots of fun, even even when it's dying and falling apart. It's still fun. I was actually very lucky. Or just good enough to work in, either in magazines, or TV shows, where I had really lots and lots of journalistic freedom. Yeah, yeah. I rarely found myself in situations that are very common in Israeli media, where I was told, you can try that or you can do this. So I guess, my, you know, my path was quite ideal in that sense. Because I always, I always did what I wanted to do, wrote about what I want to write. And I always felt like I could always find the places where I would be allowed to do that.

ami kaufman  19:32

I remember well, I mean, I know that you that you started also, you know, in like local newspapers and magazines and stuff like that. But the first time that I, you know, read you was when was when you were a TV critic. Yeah. And I and that's when I started. I think for the first time in any case, there's reading, you know, TV critiques, you were writing in yada yada Herat, which is one of first of all back then when Your writing was one of the most widely circulated newspapers and it still is. with Bobby, you too, I guess well after when you were right. Yeah. That was that was before Israel, how yom came in the Sheldon Adelson newspaper? and and you know what to be honest I think I still I loved your critiques back then. So why should I not? And I think that I see a lot of I see your writing in some of the people who write today really TV

Yaron  20:32

on its own and

ami kaufman  20:34

I see it. I see I see the I see the Snark, I see the I see the harsh critique. I see. I know, I just I just feel sometimes I think I'm the kind of that kind of sounds like you're rolling over there. But anyway, that might be just me.

Yaron  20:50

Well, I don't know, I don't really happy to hear that. I have to say that. I came back to Israel, it was 2005, after eight or nine years in the Netherlands. And a very good friend of mine was editor in chief of TV magazine. And I came down to Israel to work for him on a project on a website project, he wanted to have this really, he had a really ambitious plan for website. He told me just come for half a year. And then you can go back to Amsterdam, because he was trying. He's a very good Zionist and was trying to pull me back from the Netherlands. Since the first day of his magazine, he was also one of the owners of the magazine. So really wanted me to come work with him. We knew each other from our work in Tel Aviv magazine, which was one of the biggest local newspapers into this. And so I came for half a year. And the project extended and extended the website wasn't ready wasn't finished. The budgets weren't there. It just went on and on. But meanwhile, I kind of fell in love again to the Vive. And he called me while you're here. Maybe you want to write, you know, a column and asked him like, what kind of column exactly, because I was writing this column about the internet revolution. That all it was, it was 2001 good. I started writing about it, about all the media and all entertainment, shifting towards the internet, they spotted that very early on. Nobody was there. Nobody understood what I was talking about. And then he just suggested, you know, take a couple of pages and write the critique. And I thought it was very weird a year. Because I did write some critical pieces. But I told him, I want to be one of those bitter people that watch TV every day. And then they have to write about it. That's terrible. But But actually, it was often fun because it was just weekly. So and write, write doesn't work worth the week. But then I got this offer from UDR to become the daily TV critic. Yeah. And that means you have to watch every day. Mostly the news, especially if something big happens, you know, some you have Ryan minister in hospital. I was that like,

ami kaufman  23:43

what what is it? Like? I mean, what does that life like? I mean, how much how much time do you have to spend in front in

Yaron  23:50

front of the thrilling because in the beginning, the beginning, you know, when you when you start your tenure, as a TV critic for biggest daily newspaper, you're taking it very seriously as you should. And you watch just as much as TV as you can. So you so you don't miss anything. You know, the first few weeks, I was always feeling like something big is happening now. On another channel in the missing that. Yeah, other TV critics will write about that tomorrow, and I won. So I was zapping like crazy. Here's what happened. And then I had two DVRs recording stuff simultaneously. So I can watch it later. Because now I'm watching something else. It was it was very hectic. I was driving my editors nuts because, of course it's a daily newspaper, you have a very strict deadline. If something is broadcast 10 o'clock in the evening, and it's important you want to write something about it for tomorrow's newspaper because everybody will be talking about it. So I was exactly. So I was driving them nuts. I was you know they were going to Princeton. Now Now, yeah, yeah, give me five minutes. I'm home Almost. Almost there.

ami kaufman  25:06

Yeah, well at Well, I was one of those people. I mean, at least when I was working pirates, and I was the chief night editor. So I was, it was always the TV critic who was always sending, you know, the last guy to send, you just send a fucking piece already. I mean,

Yaron  25:21

it's terrible people terrible.

ami kaufman  25:23

I feel like a lot of people tell me this is right. But I think a lot of people say, Did you ever get it? You know, hey, I can do that. I mean, it's just like this job like, like a lot of journalists, I think kind of wanted to do maybe even out of jealousy.

Yaron  25:36

Of course, it's, it's, it's a very influential position. And it's the only daily column of a single writer in a daily newspaper. So kind of, you know, a rare spot where you can daily write about what you think. I think it's a position a lot of journalists would love to have, I don't think anybody could be a critic. I mean, first of all, you have to love television. And you have to come to hear criticism from love. I mean, if you dislike television, think it's, it's horrible. And you think it's the source of all evil. Your criticism will be probably very harsh. That might make you popular for a short while, but your understanding of what you're watching is completely askew. So you have to love it. And preferably, you have to study it. I studied television, in the Netherlands, and I think it really broadened my view, about what television is, how it's made, how it should be made. Um, I mean, you see a lot of unex, inexperienced TV critics right about, let's say, a news anchor, okay. And they write this whole piece about last night's news magazine, and they focus on the anchor, saying this and saying that. And I mean, you have to realize that the anchor is, is basically not important in that context, because he's just reading words, reading written on the teleprompter, by his editor. So if you have no any kind of beef with what happened during that last evening's news, the problem is not with the news anchor. It's very easy to direct the criticism towards the star because your readers know about the star. They watch him too. But they don't understand the whole mechanism behind him. And who's responsible for what's on the screen? Guy? That's sure news is not I learned a lot about that. Huh? I learned

ami kaufman  28:06

a lot about that, too. When I was when I was on TV. I mean, we worked together for a while. And I and I 24 News. That was fun. And and I mean, I agree with you about what you know what, you know, anchors reading from from the teleprompter and stuff like that. I think it's really right for the news shows and news bulletins. But when I had my show, you know, it was me. I was doing all the writing. Yeah. So the show was very much me. But the batik was viably I

Yaron  28:33

get that but you had also a very rare position, I mean, a very special position where you were given the keys to make the show you want and host it and present it. And basically be editor in chief of your own show. Even if you worked with other journalists, and you were the decision maker. So I think that's a great position for journalists to be in but we as a viewer, or, or no as a TV critic might I feel like my job is also explaining that that's not how it works. Usually, the most news shows don't work like that. And that when when you're pissed at what's going on on the screen, you should know about the powers that work behind it. So as a TV critic, I have to decipher them for you because you won't get it on your own. You have to know the how it works from inside.

ami kaufman  29:37

I got to ask you because I mean, I was going to ask you, I was gonna ask you if people still ask you for recommendations for TV but you know I for that I want to like I feel like there's you know, there's I feel like there's too much to watch like I like I don't have a cable TV I have I have this basic package. You know that comes with Netflix and Netflix. has become, you know, my my go to platform. And I always I sometimes find that there's not really that much to watch on Netflix as well. But you know, there's there's apple and there's Disney and there's a regular TV stations. And I don't. And there's all these shows, I feel like there's always these shows coming on and on social media, people are saying, you got to watch this, you got to watch this every day, every day stuff is coming out. But I just don't have the time or the maybe mental, the bandwidth to want to just to watch maybe one show or two shows a week? I mean, do you have maybe that problem? Or no, I don't have that

Yaron  30:34

problem. because ever since they don't pay me to watch TV, I don't watch TV. And I don't have a TV screen. And I mean, people are talking about reality shows here in Israel. And I'm going like, No, I was paid to watch it. It was okay. But watching it for free. I can't understand it. I mean,

ami kaufman  30:57

you don't watch you just you don't like what Netflix, you don't watch. You don't

Yaron  31:01

have Netflix at home. But we don't have a TV screen. You're watching it on our small laptops. Yeah. And we do watch some TV series. But I'm super selective. I might give a chance to something that I don't know and didn't read about or hear about. But mostly after a couple of episodes, I would say it's not. I don't have

ami kaufman  31:30

I'm not gonna ask you. I'm not gonna ask you for recommendation I've heard I mean, I just go I do

Yaron  31:33

have recommendations all the time, because I couldn't watch TV. But

ami kaufman  31:37

yeah, I just I just got to say that in mind blown. You know, I'm just mindful that my favorite TV critic, just just just no watch anymore. doesn't watch TV anyway,

Yaron  31:45

it has a lot to do with Israeli TV, which, which is in a constant crisis. And Israeli TV platforms like the satellite platform, yes, or the cable platform, which are very expensive, and not very consumer friendly. Because they don't give you many options to assemble your own channel menu, you buy packages, costing a lot of money. I don't like that option as a consumer. So I don't use any of those. And I don't feel the need to watch Israeli broadcast channels, because they, they have increasingly become, you know, not just influenced by the government, but they actually worked for the government many times. And there, I think basically everything that I oppose in media. So I don't want to watch it. I mean, if something interesting happens, and floats into my social media. So I know what's happening on Channel 12, Channel 13. I know what people have said there, because it all comes up in my social media, but I don't have to watch it. I don't have to own any kind of digital box to be able to watch it at home. Seems like a really bad thing to do with your family also. So So yeah, I'm only watching series and watching Israeli series and watching, of course, American and European series, I can recommend quite a few very good ones. But as you said, there, there's so much of it, that trying to kind of cover the whole field is basically impossible. I don't think I wouldn't be able to do today what I did, let's say 15 years. I was watching every you started,

ami kaufman  33:55

you started to talk a little about about the situation here in Israel and the media scene. wonder if you could tell me a little more about that. How would you like how would you describe the the Israeli media scene? Because we know that for the past, you know, decade or two that the Israeli public politically has gone, you know, more to the right. Has? Has the media followed? Because I mean, for like, for international listeners to this podcast, who might know the difference, for example, between Fox News and MSNBC in the States? It's a very partisan climate. Would you say that Israel is in a similar state? And if not, what do you think are the differences?

Yaron  34:45

Israel is not in a similar state because we don't have our CNBC or even CNN. We only have Fox News. I mean, with the equivalent of and the fact is that media is Real is a has suffered for many decades, from very specific, very specific field of possibilities, because the public is not very large. So the competition was never huge. I mean, we always had kind of two or three daily newspapers, we used to have a few more than more partisan newspapers. Up until 30 years ago, we had one TV channel. And I mean, the Revolution, the TV Revolution, the multi channel revolution, cable revolution, it only started in the early 90s. And commercial television is here. Many years, not 60 or 70 years, like the states, or Europe. So we the playing field, except itself is very narrow. And it media is consolidated all over the world in Israel as well. newspapers were shut down. And it became narrower, not smaller, but narrower. I mean, everybody wants to be every channel, even the commercial channel, one be want to have this kind of no official reality that they're actually not it when you watch their news programs, it's almost as if they're a public broadcaster. They see ourselves as part of the kingdom and not as a different kingdom that has to report the kingdom, you know, that it's it's, and I think it always has been the case in Israeli journalism, that journalists tend, let's say, tend to accept government position, especially when it has to do with the military, and conform and not ask too many questions, which is, you know, the opposite of what journalism is supposed to do. So our journalistic genes in Israel are not very good, our our tradition, our tradition really lacks the spirit of true journalism. And I think this problem is getting worse. In the last decade, under nataniel, we have to have nathanos criminal cases, where he's being charged now have to do with his very successful attempt to control commercial media. So I think, if we put it on yo aside for a second, it's very easy control Israeli media. Because Israeli especially commercial media, because Israeli commercial commercial media is mostly owned by tycoons, they need the government for their businesses. They don't own. They don't own media to make a profit. They're losing a lot of money on their media ventures. But they're making way more money on their other other ventures. So the situation is that any politician could ping them, then y'all wanted more than taming them. You wanted to control them completely. And that's why he's in serious legal trouble now. But the fact is that this serious trouble does not prevent him from continuing to do to this day exactly what he did five years ago, the that is criminal and should send him home should have sent him home actually, a long time ago.

ami kaufman  39:03

Do you think that there's also a problem? I mean, in the states and all over the world is this problem of fake news and of leaders who spread fake news? Do you think that Israel compared to the states is in a similar situation? not aiming to switch what you see on social media as well?

Yaron  39:19

Yeah, sure. I mean, Neo is the master of that. I think Trump took a few lessons from him. I think that the Neo itself to a few very important lessons from flooding, you're putting in a lot of similar things in Russia, only, of course, he was very way more successful because Russia is not a democracy. And he could operate in the dark, doing all kinds of things on social media. Their books read and written about it. But now is doing exactly the same. He has Yeah, it's kind of he kind of has this black ops unit that operates on social social media. And you can you can see that it's activated. You can see, you know, it's called sock puppets. I mean, kind of fake internet, fake Facebook users. Yeah. Whoo, whoo, are basically you can control up to I think 100 users from one computer, build up their accounts. And of course, there are a whole army of, hmm, there's an army of them. And they're, they're even more sophisticated ways of manipulating. I mean, that's the old school way. But they're more manipulative ways to kind of influence public opinion. Now, now we see for the first time, last week, we saw a deep fake video of a completely artificial person. I mean, someone doesn't exist. But a video of someone doesn't exist because he's completely she was a sheep. She was completely computer generated. And talking about how she was once. Now talking about the demonstration, she is supposedly left wing. And she's talking about that she doesn't care if people get infected by Coronavirus and demonstrations are morning where she doesn't exist. And her video was very popular on Facebook groups were Nathanael supporters are kind of getting their propaganda from so and then, you know, they pass it around. It goes to WhatsApp into plenty of political groups there. And and, and, you know, the fact that people, some journalists managed to discover the fact that this is fake, is completely unhelpful. Because for people who already sign it's true, it's not fake. And even if you would prove that it's fake, they would continue to believe that it's true that she exists, damage was done. You're lying. She exists. Yeah, then everything you will try to do to prove differently will just not work. Cuz was, yeah, we have a truth crisis we have. We have leaders whose war leaders the truth are their enemy. So they will do everything they can kind of get rid of, of the very notion of truth.

ami kaufman  42:49

I want to ask you a little about what you just said about social media. Because you are. I mean, I think I think you're, you're an influencer, you know, like, I mean, not like, not like an Instagram influencer. Another time. I really wish I wasn't human.

Yaron  43:03

You'd be making some money making some money. Yeah.

ami kaufman  43:10

But you influence the discussion, at least. On Twitter, you spend a lot of time on Twitter, you used to spend a lot of time on Facebook, you left Facebook, but but but you spent a lot of time on Twitter. Do you see that? You know, as as part of your job?

Yaron  43:31

Good question. I'm used to seeing it as part of my job. More than I do today. Today, I trying to separate it from my job because I'm editor in chief of a magazine. And my opinions are, of course, not the magazine's opinions. But when you're editor in chief, no, it's it's it's harder to make this differentiation.

ami kaufman  44:04

It's kind of like, let me follow up a question because it might help you kind of answer this, because when I watched the Hebrew, Twitter, you know, some of these discussions that are being held, seem to be held between like a few dozen people, they got, like a small swamp of journalists kind of talking between themselves. And and and they they are very open about their opinions. You know, it's very easy to say this guy on the left and this guy's right. Has has that hurt the profession, our profession of journalism, or is that just the way that things are now?

Yaron  44:46

I think that's the way things mean. Journalists, I mean, this whole notion of objectivity in journalism is, is kind of dangerous because we hope we have opinions. And apparently some of us are hiding them better than others. But I don't think I don't think being a journalist is necessarily about hiding your opinions. I think you should be open with your opinions. And the place where you should be careful and, and actually pursue objectivity is with facts. As a journalist, even if you have opinions, don't bend the facts to match your ideology. Don't lie. And don't. Don't be a traitor to your profession. And don't be I mean, I mean, your responsibilities for first and foremost, for your readers, and not for your ideologies. And you have to put that aside, many kinds with many decisions. But I don't think hiding your opinions is benefiting anyone. I think the notion I mean, we're constantly in the last two decades, Israeli media was attacked from the right, we're being biased to the left, which was never true. Never true. I mean, a lot of the left wing people left wing journalists have kind of prevailed and kind of, you know, call the shots in Israeli journalism for many years. But But basically, because they were left wing, they were very open to people with right wing opinions and was very important to them to show the other side, and to try and be objective. And to say, Yeah, well, nobody knows what voting for so I'm doing my job. And and I think the only thing that's helped is the right wing, can increase their attacks on media, on freedom of the press, and then making journalists apologize all the time for being journalists, and having their opinions. I think that that's a dangerous process. I mean, here in Israel, I'm talking from my own experience. No, I was offered once. top position, a very big website. Then, like we started talking, not even negotiating here. Now, after a couple of days, I get this phone call. That sadly, isn't one of the people in the organization said his video interview. Because you were part of a workers organization. In your last newspaper, your work was true. I was not a part of it. I was one of the people that set it up. We got union, we got unionized, which pissed our publisher with great extent. But But I mean, that was the right thing to do. That is the right thing for journalists to do. And, of course, he couldn't fire me for that. But I found myself out very briefly after that. He found another another excuse. And I mean, I mean, as a journalist in Israel, you will get punished for your opinions. So I think the right thing to do is is fight it and not conformed. Tell me about it. Yeah. Yeah, I'm telling you about I've been.

ami kaufman  48:42

I've heard I've been hurt myself. But I know. I want to go back to Newton. Yeah. I mean, you write, you write and you tweet. Quite a bit about about nataniel. But now let me ask you this. If you had your own if putting on the spot, if you had to choose one word, just one word to describe Benjamin Netanyahu, what would it be?

Yaron  49:08

Hmm. Probably be criminal. Hmm. He's really one of the biggest criminals this country has ever seen. I think we only saw the tip of the iceberg of his crime against his own country, and his own people. I mean, it's very harsh to call a leader, the trader because we know that where that can lead. But I think what Netanyahu has done to Israeli society economy. Democracy is really a crime against the country. And it's it. It really it kind of verges on being treated And we can't prove it now legally. Okay, that what he did with the submarines, the whole, there's this big submarine case where he wasn't even investigated. But all his, like his attorneys also his cousin is involved in all of his advisors are involved. But he didn't know about anything, of course. And they actually bought submarines for the Israeli army, where they made a profit from it. We should add submarines that the army said you didn't need and were bought behind the back of the whole Israeli military defense complex. Only one knew about it was Netanyahu, he went behind everybody's backs. He can't explain it. You can't explain why you did it. I mean, first, of course, he denied it. Now we know he did it. He wasn't investigated. For unknown reasons. It's really strange and stinky that he wasn't investigated. And if I think if he was investigated, we could easily say that he operated against this country. But I think even without that, when you see what happened to the Israeli economy, in the last 10 years, when you see what's happened to Israeli society, in 10 years of his of his last 10 years of his 10, very long tenure, this really sorry, was ripped apart, like we really pitched everybody against each other. And the levels of hate when people disagree. daily life is immense. It's unbelievable. It's, it's like we used to be able to have friends who we might not even know they're political. I grew up with friends. I grew up in Jerusalem with friends, or right wing. We used to argue sometimes, ciao. But But you know, it wasn't an issue. wasn't some wasn't, it wasn't?

ami kaufman  52:14

Right. I think it wasn't as toxic as it is now. Yeah, where people can really so so I agree. But I'm wondering, here's what I asked you if it if it's just a Benjamin Netanyahu. And if it's, let's let's make another comparison to the States, because there are a lot of people who say, you know, okay, Trump is, is a bad president, he's not the right person for the job. But what brought him to power? What enabled him to come to power is something much more rotten to the core in the system. And Trump is a symptom of that disease. So So my question is, could it be, despite all that, what you just said about it, then, you know, could it be that Netanyahu himself is also the symptom of some something bigger some disease that needs urgent treatment here in Israel? Or is or isn't a taniela? The disease according to you?

Yaron  53:14

I don't think that the Neo is the disease. I think he's also not you can't call him a symptom because he's the cause of the disease. He's the code of the cause of the infection is, is not the infection itself. And I think the infection might have festered anyway. But he did a very good job building it up and making some situation ever so much worse, though, he's also a catalyst of the disease. And I think he has, I mean, American democracy does have some defense mechanisms. I mean, the president says presidencies limitation is very important. The power that senate and Congress have is very important to power journalists have is very important. We've seen it during Trump Trump's tenure in the White House, and Israeli democracy doesn't have those. The mechanisms that Israeli does have ever been weakened, systematically going into Neo. So he's also the problem and not just part of the problem. He's also the cause of the problem. And the problem by himself because I have no illusions. I think if nothing yo would miraculously disappear tomorrow. And we would have an election we would probably have very right wing Prime Minister again. Yeah, I don't think that will change with what would change. And that right wing might be a leader might be a populist and might try to pitch people, the people of Israel against each other for his own benefit, but he won't have the same amount of power that Nintendo has been able to consolidate, won't have the same influence magical influence of people that niconico brilliantly has, through constant propaganda campaigns, and is vast control of social media and traditional media. So any change, I think, would it be for the better, and Netanyahu is different from Trump. He's way stronger than Trump, way more popular than Trump. And I think also, and that might sound might sound weird to American listeners, but I think is way more toxic than Trump. Because Trump does not influence people in the States, and he does not change their minds. What I see around me, and I'm talking about, you know, the radical center, as they call it, people in the center, and also in moderate, moderate left wing, they get convinced by his propaganda so quickly. I mean, he only has to drum beat the drums for a whole week, and you see people were supposed to be on your side, change their opinions, shift them ever so slightly, just to say that, well, you know, he's wrong. But we could also say that we wrong to, or they tried to find a middle ground between his accusations and the left wing stance. And by trying to do that they actually turn against their base. And I don't see that happening. So often in the States, I don't see moderate left wing journalists trying to be nice. So the right wing would like them, you know, here in Israel, I think, also, because of the tendency to be part of the nation. People want to journalists, politicians, influencers, they want to be like, they want to be broadly liked. Because if you're broadly liked, you will get invitations to give speeches, maybe lectures. If you're liked, you might get invited to television. But if you're not like if you're disliked, then nobody wants to hear what you say they're afraid of that. And you see them succumb to propaganda to right wing propaganda, and kind of close, very, very, very slowly make their way to the right, without anybody noticing. Then one day they're shouting at you on social media that the left wing has gone crazy. And they are so extreme. And and you know, and we've seen quite a few journalists here in Israel, Israel do this by voyage from left to right. And they always denied doing it while doing it, but they always end up in the same place under nataniel wings.

ami kaufman  58:21

What does it mean for you, personally, to be to be left in Israel? What is what does that stand for? To be a left winger for you?

Yaron  58:33

Um, I think it stands for fighting, even when you know, chances are very slim. I think it's really important that we're saying what we're saying about the occupation. Even though our power to change the situation is is very limited, I think, our voice from within Israel, objecting to what the Israeli government is doing in the occupied territories towards the Palestinians. Ward's the Palestinian citizens of Israel, towards minority groups in Israel. Nobody else will stand for them, for these people. For for the Jews who came from Ethiopia, and their families and the sons who were born here, but there are still considered by Israeli establishment. They call them Ethiopians, they're not a slogans, Israel. I think this voice is important for historical reasons. First of all, I mean, after all this ends I would like people to know and saying that some of us were against it. I think it's important. Yeah, some of us are against it. And sometimes, you know, when I'm optimistic there is no Global plague threatening and, and climate crisis threatening to destroy all of us when I'm optimistic, I tend to say that I remember the days of the Oslo agreement. I remember the way that Israeli media and the Israeli public really drew together to protect this idea at all costs. And to kind of erase all other voices. They didn't want to hear from the right wing that was against it. And they didn't want to hear from the left wing that said, maybe that's not the best way to do it. From the radical left, and they didn't want to hear any criticism at all, they were all really into the idea that we have to push this through. And we're going to push this through. And the vast majorities of Israel were suddenly left wing. And we're suddenly accepting our fact the EU biggest terrorist ever as a legitimate partner. And he was pushed in the face of the Israeli public. They reimagined him there was this puppet show you remember the was this political, satirical puppet show

ami kaufman  1:01:21

Hall of Fame?

Yaron  1:01:26

ship faces maybe, if we translated,

ami kaufman  1:01:30

I think it was based on a British show called spitting image. Yeah, it was

Yaron  1:01:33

based on spitting image. But But this show suddenly brought this puppet of elephant. That was so cute. He was funny and cute, and very lovable voice, which was really good. And people kind of embraced it. It was amazing to watch it happening around you, like people always war against this man with the hair on his face, no terrorist and murderer suddenly was legitimate. And you saw this huge shift in public opinion. Also two words, the disengagement from Gaza. Kind of the same process and actually, of erasing any opposition. So So now, you know, the pendulum moved the other way. Yeah, right. might move back again. I mean, because the Israeli society is very consensual. And when a lot of people start saying something, then a lot of people say, Yeah, I support that to actually, you know, I always support it. And and it's kind of herd mentality. That's hard to understand, I think, for people who come from other places. But it's very, very strong, and it could shift. I think, if the right moment arrives and the right leader arrives, and the right crisis arrives, it might just happen very fast, and in will surprise everyone again.

ami kaufman  1:03:04

So I want to I want to wrap it up with a question that that I that I ask everyone, every guest on the podcast. You're the third guest on the podcast. You're the first Israeli Jew on the podcast. The other two were Palestinians. But this is a question I would ask everybody because this show is about, you know, talking to everyone between the river and the sea. And we have a situation in this region between those two borders of about depends on who you ask 12 to 13 million people, pretty much about 5050, Jews and non Jews. And the question is basically two parts. If you could snap your fingers, your own, and then just have you know, your wish, tomorrow of how you want to see that region divided not divided one entity to entity threatens, I don't know, if you had your druthers, and you had your wish that you could just have it implemented immediately. Your dream, what would that be?

Yaron  1:04:01

And the second part, and I changed people in life, I changed them completely. You can,

ami kaufman  1:04:07

I'll let I'll let you do whatever you want to do whatever you want. But the second part of the question is put on your journalist hat again and say, What do you think is going to happen in reality in the next, I don't know. 20 $30?

Yaron  1:04:24

Okay, so if I could have it my way. I mean, I used to be like most liberal Israelis all for the two state solution. I still don't dislike this solution. I think it's viable and reasonable. But I think now nowadays, I actually think I think it would be a very tough solution for many, many people. The two state solution. I think, the illegal settlements in the occupied territories are just becoming a bigger problem. Every day, and there will come a stage where it's too big to solve. I mean, because you can move people around. And I think you can evacuate people with certain to certain extent, but evacuating half a million people from their homes which which they deem as, you know, a holy man and something that they ideologically must do, that would be very hard and would verge on civil war. I think, one state solution, we're all people have their freedoms, and no people are being oppressed. That would be the best solution. And if we can have a single parliament, or two Parliament's that can be decided by negotiations. But I think I think for the long term, that would be a better situation than than spitting to country and trying to maintain constant goodwill between two sides, where the extremes can fuck it up every day, we can just decide No, we're gonna I'm not gonna go forth and start blowing shit up, like they already did. And we find ourselves exactly in the same situation of mistrust. And they started it. Well, you started it. So I think the two state solution would eventually lead again to the same place and would not be a very good long term solution once they would be better. Of course, it's complete science fiction and for Israelis these days.

ami kaufman  1:06:44


Yaron  1:06:44

racism, especially towards Arabs, I think is ripe, and will not allow for anything like that to happen. I mean, because chances are that in 10 years, we'd have an Arab Prime Minister, God forbid, and I think most Israelis, even left wing Israelis, most of them think that would be the end of Israel. And then, for your second part of your question, I think that the end of Israel is here. You're we're witnessing it. It might take 10 years of my 50 years, but we're witnessing a decline of a society, racism and populism. we're witnessing it becoming more religious, poor, less educated.

ami kaufman  1:07:39

And we're witnessing the way basically, you're saying you're saying that it's

Yaron  1:07:44

Israel is, it's over like it's over. It's days are numbered, it can save itself force, no, we are very, Mark people here. There are very good people all around very talented people, and we can change it is our own destiny, I'm a true believer in change. And I think people can change themselves in a country can change its situation. But in order to change it, we might, we must, must, you know, we must make a real serious turn. And we have to rethink about what we're doing here and how we're doing that, and how we want to be 50 years from now. And I don't think NEOs vision of forever war is maintainable. I don't think it's viable, I think, I think it is tearing Israeli society apart. And a weak society cannot stand especially not surrounded by enemies. And the more we go into the conflict, and the further we draw away from the solution, the country will find itself in a harder and harder situation. I mean, it's not maintainable. 50 years of occupation is unprecedented in the world currently. And and I mean, we can keep it going, maybe, I don't know, maybe 10 years, we maybe 20. It really depends on the leaders of the world and how important they deem this conflict to be. At the moment, it's very comfortable with Trump, we can just go on. But But you know, a different President might see it might see it differently, and then we'll have to change it. And it will have to change. So if I look into the near future, and you asked me what's going to happen, I think Israelis are going to meet some very harsh realities. And we'll have to realize that their view on the situation on reality is being skewed by their leader. They were lied to again and again. And there is certain certain things that they have to solve, cannot keep them unsold. And I think Israelis will have to work for a solution. And within those limits of working for a solution, a lot can happen. And if we have a lot of the Arab world with us working for a solution, a solution can be achieved. It's, it's been done. Well, enemies have made peace. And then I think, you know, we're not, we might be unique, but we're not special

ami kaufman  1:10:36

or special. Well, I mean, I was going to say goodbye, but I just remember that I have one more like, really important question before before we say goodbye. And I have to ask you, what is your favorite cheese?

Yaron  1:10:50

I'm so happy you asked me. There is?

ami kaufman  1:10:54

No, wait a minute, wait a minute, because, okay, before before we have to explain the inside joke here. Okay. Why did I just ask if you're on this question is because let me see, if I go back like two or three years ago, I started on Facebook posting pictures of just horrific junk food that I could find new is mostly stuff that had to do with bacon, and cheese, and tacos and meals and stuff. Yes. And it was, it was it was pretty gruesome, but but I sort of made myself this name of like this junk King. Mm hmm. And when other people saw pictures of junk food, they would send it to me or tag me. And eventually had this really interesting twist where it got kind of political, because two years ago, if you remember, I think was about two years ago. I don't know maybe you can correct me. When Benny guns the former IDF Chief of Staff got into politics. Finally, and he said he's running and he said he made this party. He said he's called it. He called his party resilience for Israel. And me with my, I guess, sharp nose and instinct there. I said, you know, this is this guy's full of crap. The party's full of crap. I'm gonna make fun of it. And I'm going to invent this party called cheese for Israel. And since then, I was making a I became the known leader of cheese for Israel. Yeah. And and we had an interaction there as well on Twitter. Yeah. And you followed me as well. You were contributing a bit on Twitter as well to this cheese Kingdom teens party. And that's why I was asking you what your favorite cheese is. So go Hey, what is it? What's your

Yaron  1:12:28

favorite cheese? Worse being of Dutch origin, I must. I must name Dutch cheese. And I would choose from the variety many cheeses I would choose what they call our old cheese. Which I couldn't say

ami kaufman  1:12:43

it again saving

Yaron  1:12:45

us how it costs our cars. That's old cheese okay. Briefly during sated and it's actually got a cheese that was aged for 48 months. So it's super hard and sharp. It's kind of almost like a parmesan but, but much better. And you can just eat it like that. No cut small cubes of it. With a glass of beer wine. And just party on cheese. retching

ami kaufman  1:13:17

fantastic. Okay, I cannot think of a better way to end our conversation you're on Thank you very much. It was you. You are a fascinating person, a fascinating writer. I hope you know if you're we have any Hebrew speakers here, you should definitely go follow your on on Twitter for sharp snarky witty tweets and just to understand this place a lot, but I really, really appreciate your time. Thanks for coming on. Thanks, man.

Yaron  1:13:41

It was a pleasure. And that

ami kaufman  1:13:47

my friend was the fabulous your own Kendrick. If you liked this episode, I'd really appreciate it. If you could help me spread the word about otherwise occupied, share it with your family and friends. share it on social media that really helps. Leave a comment on the site here on substack. Or you can leave a review on the directory you use like apple or Spotify. We'd love to hear your thoughts and it helps promote the podcast in those directories. Thanks so much for taking the time to listen to me and see you soon. Bye bye.