This past Lag b'Omer was relatively quiet, since no
chareidi kids were given flags to burn by freelance
photographers. But they won't have to wait until next
Independence Day in order to nab flag desecraters. They don't
have to send a bored photographer to pay a foolish kid to
burn the flag in front of the camera. All the TV watchers
have to do is to watch "cultured" clowns who receive a lot of
money, spit in their faces and undermine their values.
On a popular satirical program aired on TV, Israeli citizens
could see firsthand how their national flag became a rag, as
it was first termed by the winner of the Israel Prize, the
late Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz. According to media
reports, two clowns who were satirizing the peace process
took the flag and tore it to bits. Afterward they kneaded the
bits into a gooey dough, and formed it into a football.
This was not a live program. It was taped, and thus planned
by editors, producers, photographers and an entire
broadcasting crew. In addition to that, it was previewed by
the discerning eyes of the station's comptrollers and only
afterwards broadcast to the public. None of these people saw
anything wrong with ripping the flag and transforming it into
a rag, as long as the program was dubbed satirical.
Irate viewers, apparently quite a few, called the producers.
The producers quickly realized that they had better apologize
before the affair blew up. Someone even filed a complaint
with the police, though it will probably be disregarded on
the basis that it "lacks public interest."
Interstingly, the Ha'aretz TV critic sharply attacked
the producers for apologizing saying that satire will often
offend "not-so-sacred cows."
The critic claimed, "Publicly abandoning the producers
transforms them into cripples, and the exaggerated panic
which seizes them will be internalized in the future by
satirists who will be afraid to dare."
It's all a question of definition. A number of years ago, a
comedian appeared on a program that mocked Torah values, only
to receive sweeping support in face of the criticism leveled
by chareidi elements. Supporters claimed that satire is
included in the limits of freedom of speech.
In his column in the Hebrew Yated Ne'eman writer P.
Chovav examined the limits of the tolerance of the chareidi
haters, and wrote a piercing, humorous satirical article
which mocked Rabin in the extreme, for satire's sake, of
Needless to say the media, which quoted select excerpts of
that article, was deeply shocked by the offense to the memory
of the assassinated Prime Minister. Only a few brave
journalists internalized the message, which was that satire
must have clear boundaries, the main one being "don't
undermine the hallowed values of one's fellow."
When clowns disgrace the Israeli flag, they can hide behind
the banner of satire. No serious reporter will devote an
article to attacking them, and the editorials certainly won't
take the trouble to relate to a "marginal" element of
hundreds of thousands of people. This is in shocking contrast
to the burning of the flag by a chareidi youth in front of
Therefore, when a chareidi public figure defines the flag as
"a rag on a stick", which is what Professor Leibowitz alluded
to, he can just explain to his assailants that he was really
The burning of the flag on the fifth of Iyar or on Lag
b'Omer can also be defined as a "work of art" and as is
known, where art is concerned, there are no hallowed values,
and one may disgrace whatever one pleases.
All in all, it's just a matter of following what you want the
masses to believe.