Prominent Palestinian-Israeli news presenter Lucy Aharish was fired from Israel’s state-owned KAN 11 TV channel yesterday after taking part in a rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The journalist and presenter is a well-liked figure who has appeared on a number of different channels.
Two years ago, her marriage to Jewish actor Tsahi Halevi caused a backlash from right-wing anti-Palestinian Israelis. Likud Knesset Member Oren Hazan used the occasion of the marriage to call for a stop to Jewish assimilation: “I don’t blame Lucy Aharish for seducing a Jewish soul with the goal of harming our country and for preventing more Jewish progeny from continuing the Jewish dynasty, on the contrary, she is welcome to convert.”
Aharish’s dismissal came a day after she took part in an online protest sponsored by Israel’s largest civil society organisation, the Darkenu movement, against Netanyahu and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, Netanyahu apparently attempted to consolidate his grip on power by exploiting the crisis and sidestepping calls for him to step down to make way for former General Benny Gantz. The Prime Minister gave the green light to Israel’s Shin Bet secret police to impose “emergency” measures to track people’s movements via their mobile phone data.
In protest, almost 600,000 people are said to have watched the protest on Facebook Live. According to the Jerusalem Post, several prominent Israelis took part, including ex-Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin, actress Gila Almagor, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy and former Vice President of the Supreme Court Elyakim Rubinstein.
KAN 11 denied that Aharish’s firing had anything to do with the virtual rally. “In the shadow of the coronavirus crisis, the broadcast schedule and the staff are changing,” it explained. “There is no connection to Aharish’s participation in events not related to the Public Broadcasting Corporation.”
Darkenu is unconvinced by the explanation and released a statement yesterday in response to the dismissal, asking the public to contact KAN 11’s chairman and express their disapproval.
“Those who bothered to hear [Alharish’s] words last night at the demonstration witnessed a speech that was a call for unity and statehood and against incitement and racism and in favour of respectful discourse,” said Darkenu’s director. “Lucy is a symbol of a common life between all parts of Israeli society and [her firing] is difficult to digest.”
Aharish has also spoken out. “These are not easy days,” she wrote on Facebook, “and those who love this country cannot stay on the sidelines… I cannot sit on the side, even if it costs me money and my living. Thank you so much, loved ones, for the endless support and love you sent yesterday.”
Aharish shared the speech she made at the demonstration with her followers on social media: “For years now, every time I make a criticism, voices speak out telling me to say thank you and shut up… So I’m asking you for the next few minutes to try to disconnect from my identity. Forget for a moment that a Muslim Arab woman is talking to you, but a human, flesh and blood woman, a citizen of the State of Israel, a country we all care about.”