On Wednesday afternoon 6 Kislev, Elchanan Chakun, owner of
Photo Alain on Yechezkel Street in Geula, pushed 71-year-old
Rav Yehudah Samet several times, eventually knocking him
down. Rav Samet hit his head on a police van as he was
falling, and a week later died from that injury. In the
aftermath, in thousands of words and many interviews, the
Israeli media -- including Yediot Achronot, Ma'ariv
and the government-owned Channel One Television -- bring only
Chakun's side of the story, as if he were their hero. About
the slain Rav Samet they ask: What was an old man doing
Residents of the neighborhoods in the vicinity of Rechov
Yechezkel have been campaigning against the Photo Alain store
for many years. Owner Chakun had been selling various movies
for years to young people; some of them were obscene. Many
were illegal copies. Many attempts were made by activists,
residents, and local rabbonim to remove this scourge from the
neighborhood, but they all came to nothing. Innocent young
people continued to remain exposed to the terrible
educational pitfalls of these movies.
In a series of demonstrations, the pattern had been similar.
Avreichim congregated outside the store. After a while
Chakun came out and physically attacked the demonstrators.
Police were called but did nothing when they eventually
Because of this history, for the demonstration on that
fateful Wednesday community activists hired an independent
investigator to record the day's events on film. He was
stationed across the street from the store, in plain view of
all those present, which included the police. All the events
of that day are thus recorded.
There was no widespread breast-beating in the media. There
were no pundits asking how such a thing could happen. On the
contrary. The accused killer became a hero and the victim was
said to have brought it upon himself.
The following is based on a recent media review column
published in Hatsofe. It sheds light on the Israeli
press, and it is hard to understand except as coming from a
burning hatred for all chareidim. It serves as an important
case study in the posture of the Israeli media in reporting
chareidi news. The article was entitled "Bloodshed."
"Elchanan Chakun, the Jerusalem store owner whose place of
business was attacked by chareidim, shoved one of the
chareidim on hand, causing injuries that later led to his
death, and has since become a darling of the media, as
expected. The popularity he has won is revolting: this is one
of the worst moments Israeli print and broadcast journalism
have ever had.
"Chakun caused the death of another human being. There is no
debate over the fact that the victim did not attack the
accused. The worst that can be said of [the victim] is that
he was dressed in the same manner as the demonstrators. And
this, a chareidi appearance, was enough to provoke an attack
on a defenseless victim. The Israeli media went so far as to
justify his killing.
"The media-fest reached one of its peaks in a long interview
spread across several pages of Yediot Achronot's week-
end supplement. Chakun was granted a completely open press
opportunity. No hard questions, just revolting flattery --
this for a man who pushed another man to his death. The
headline printed in Yediot for this incident in which
an innocent man was pushed to his death must be seen to be
believed: `What Was the Old Man Doing There?'
"This headline appeared at the top of each of the pages of
the article. A few days earlier, Ephraim Sidon wrote in
Ma'ariv, `Unlike most of the rioters, Elchanan Chakun,
a veteran Jerusalem photographer, must make a living and
support his family. He does not benefit from various
budgetary allocations . . . I do not know what the deceased
was doing at the storefront. It could well be that he just
happened to be passing, although places with large gatherings
of people, police, shouting and blows are not exactly the
kind of place innocent old men rush to . . . He who plays
with fire should not cry when he gets burned.'
"Now Samet is no longer crying.
"Sunday night [following the weekend coverage cited above]
the alleged criminal was interviewed by a media program for a
quarter of an hour. Once again, the same revolting flattery
was repeated. When the attorney representing the family of
the victim, Yehuda Samet z'l, sent in a response (the
editors of the media program did not themselves think of the
idea of soliciting a response from any of the other parties),
it was read aloud to the accompaniment of the unsympathetic
comments of the host of the media show, apparently for
viewers who are incapable of thinking for themselves.
"Broadcasting Authority board member Avi Schmidt sent a
letter to the Director-General of the Broadcasting Authority,
saying, `Chakun is an accused criminal who could face charges
of manslaughter of a chareidi man . . . [Here] the
Broadcasting Authority [in its reporting] took one side [of a
controversial issue], taking the side of Chakun.'
"This is a very grave matter: Based on the manner in which
Yediot, Ma'ariv and Channel One
(television) presented the incident, chareidi blood is
worthless. The interviewer above condoned bloodshed, although
some skeptics may roll their eyes and deny it. This is
exactly what took place there. He, along with Yediot
and Ma'ariv, never asked [for example] what Mohammed
Dura [the 12 year old Palestinian killed in a crossfire
between Palestinians and the IDF a year ago] was doing at the
scene of a battle, just as they did not bother to mention
that in the Nachum Korman case, the boy Chilmi Shusha did
throw stones. Korman was later acquitted of causing his
death. As far as settlers who are shot at are concerned --
let them die.
"The question, `What was he doing there?' is reserved for
dead people whose blood is expendable, but it is not asked
about armed Arabs. Kippah-wearers, the media has decided, are
only allowed to die, not to defend themselves. Matti Golan
(author of the antisemitic play Atom) could not have
put it better."