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Margalit, Dan (1938–)

Margalit, Dan
(1938–)

Dan Margalit is a prominent Israeli journalist, veteran commentator on Israeli affairs, and political talk show host. He is best known for his columns in the Haaretz and Maariv newspapers, and for his role hosting Erev Hadash (New evening) and other political debate programs.

PERSONAL HISTORY

Margalit was born in Tel Aviv, mandatory Palestine in 1938. His maternal grandparents arrived with the second aliyah (wave of Jewish immigration into Palestine) that took place between 1904 and 1914. His mother was born in Ottoman-controlled Palestine, and his father was born in Warsaw, Poland. His parents met in 1935 when they were studying in Switzerland. His mother, Ora Aharovich, was a psychologist and his father, Israel, was a doctor.

From childhood, Margalit aspired to be a journalist and began to write in children's newspapers. He was a leader in the Scout movement and he attended Herzliyah Gymnasium high school. After graduation he was inducted into the kibbutz unit of the Israeli army. After finishing his army service, he completed a bachelor's degree in international relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and later completed a master's degree in modern Jewish history.

Margalit's professional experience began in 1960 when he got a job at the weekly paper, ha-Olam ha-Zeh (This world), a satirical political news magazine under the leadership of Uri Avneri. In 1965 he began writing on criminal and employment issues for the weekly insert of Haaretz, one of Israel's major newspapers. In 1969 Margalit began to cover government affairs for the newspaper in Jerusalem.

In 1971 Margalit published his first book, Sheder me'ha-Bayit ha-Lavan (Broadcast from the White House), which described the War of Attrition that began after the 1967 War and lasted until August 1970. He became Haaretz's Washington correspondent in 1974, but returned to Israel in 1977 to continue his professional writing on political and national issues.

Margalit also developed a career in television broadcasting. At the outbreak of the Lebanon war in 1982, Margalit became a regular host of the daily current affairs interview program Erev Hadash (New evening) on Israel's Educational TV. In 1993, he became the host and founding moderator of a new television program on Channel 1, Popolitika, a round-table political debate in front of a live studio audience. The show received high ratings, perhaps in part due to the drama of participant shouting matches. After several moves between Israel Television's Channel 1 and Channel 2, the program eventually changed names to Kemoatzet ha-Hahamim (Council of Sages) and moved to Channel 10.

In the early 1990s, Margalit moved from Haaretz to Maariv, the Israeli newspaper with the second-largest circulation after Yediot Aharonot. In 1992, he was appointed editor of the paper by its publisher Ofer Nimrodi. However, he resigned his editorship about eight months later, accusing the publisher of being too involved in the editorial content and trying to influence his decisions. He returned to Haaretz where he wrote a column on politics until 2001, when he resigned and went back to Maariv to write a column for the paper's weekly Friday insert.

BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Name: Dan Margalit

Birth: 1938, Tel Aviv, mandatory Palestine

Family: Married twice; three daughters

Nationality: Israeli

Education: Hebrew University of Jerusalem, B.A. in international relations, M.A. in modern Jewish history

PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:

  • 1960: First job at ha-Olam ha-Zeh
  • 1965: New job writing for Haaretz's weekly insert
  • 1969: Moves to Jerusalem to cover government affairs
  • 1971: Publishes his first book, Sheder me'ha-Bayit ha-Lavan
  • 1974–1977: Becomes Haaretz's Washington correspondent
  • 1982: Becomes a regular host of Erev Hadash on Israel's Educational TV
  • 1992: Appointed editor of Maariv, but returns to Haaretz several months later after conflict with the publisher, Ofer Nimrodi
  • 1997: Publishes Raiti Otam
  • 1992–2001: Political columnist for Haaretz
  • 1993: Becomes host of Popolitika
  • 2001: Returns to write for Maariv's weekly insert

EXPLORING

Post-Zionism refers to a broad trend of critical thought about Israel's past, but the concept is ambiguous and not all scholars whose works are identified as post-Zionist accept the label, which is often associated with being anti-Zionist. The post-Zionist debate encompasses diverse disciplines such as sociology, history, and archaeology, and finds popular expression in the arts and literature.

In a first attempt to provide a comprehensive look at post-Zionism, Laurence Silberstein proposes that post-Zionism is a term applied to a current set of critical positions that problematize Zionist discourse, and the historical narratives and social and cultural representations that it produced. Silberstein notes the activist nature of post-Zionism, referring to it as a space-clearing enterprise. Post-Zionist histories question basic postulates of Jewish and Israeli identity, such as the Jews as a nation and Israel as a democracy, and paint a more negative picture of the origins and nature of Zionism and the nascent Jewish state. Contradictory positions within post-Zionist writings have led to a number of criticisms. For example, although post-Zionists claim to recognize diversity, they tend to discuss Zionism in singular, monolithic terms.

INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS

Margalit's views are characterized as moderate but security-oriented left, and he self-identifies strongly as a Zionist. Concern for the state of the country and its security shape Margalit's articles, and are regular themes in his columns. For instance, regarding Zionism and Israel's well-being, Margalit has written about the role of education in instilling Zionist values, teaching Hebrew, educating students on Jewish cultural and religious history, and encouraging Israel to view the immigration of Jews to the country as the ingathering of the exiles. He frequently speaks about Jewish unity and the need for Israelis to set aside personal interests and act first and foremost out of concern for the Jewish people and Israel. Margalit has expressed opposition to post-Zionism, which he believes denies the Jewish people's right to self-definition. He also criticizes what he sees as the extreme left's ongoing justification of Palestinian terrorism, its noncritical stance on Palestinian rejectionism, and its inability to differentiate between Palestinians' intentional targeting of Israeli civilians through rocket attacks and Israeli military responses that accidentally result in the deaths of Palestinian civilians.

Margalit has maintained a strong interest in the events of the Holocaust. He was particularly influenced by two major Holocaust-related trials. The first was the controversial Kastner trial that shook up Israeli society in the 1950s and continues to be a subject of heated debate. Rudolf (later known as Israel) Kastner was the lay leader of the Jewish Relief and Rescue Committee during the Nazi occupation of Hungary during World War II. As the head of this organization, Kastner led the negotiations with the Nazis, including S.S. officer Adolf Eichmann, to save the lives of Hungarian Jews. After the war, Kastner moved to Israel. In 1954, the Israeli government sued Malchiel Gruenwald on behalf of Kastner for libel after Gruenwald published a pamphlet accusing Kastner of collaboration with the Nazis. The court accepted this accusation and acquitted Gruenwald. In 1958 the Israeli High Court of Justice overturned most of the ruling, but not before Kastner was assassinated. The second case that captivated Margalit was the trial of Eichmann in Israel in 1961. He was indicted on fifteen criminal charges, including charges of crimes against humanity. Eichmann was hanged on 1 June 1962 in the only civil execution ever carried out in Israel.

Margalit is a strong supporter of the liberal High Court of Justice, particularly under the presidencies of aharon barak and Dorit Beinisch (r. 2006–), who he feels have protected the country against the influence of the extreme right and ultra-Orthodox religious Jews.

Since the start of the second Palestinian intifada, Margalit's writings have been focused primarily on two topics. The first is the need for building a separation fence between Israel and the Palestinian territories. Margalit supports the construction of the barrier between Israel and the West Bank. His security orientation is also reflected in his opposition to security budget cuts. Furthermore, since the 2005 Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, which Margalit believes was in Israel's best interest, he has supported a strong Israeli response to indiscriminate Palestinian firing of missiles into Israel's southern cities. He also favors withdrawal from most of the West Bank so that Palestinians can have territorial continuity and Israel can retain major border settlement blocs such as Ma'aleh Adumim and Ariel, in line with then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak's final status proposal at the Camp David II summit in July 2000. Although Margalit has suggested Israel might compromise by giving some parts of Jerusalem to the Palestinians, he has been adamant that Israel not compromise over the Palestinian demand for the return of the Palestinian refugees from the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. According to Margalit, blame for the refugees' plight does not lie with Israel, and acquiescence to this demand would result in the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state by admitting hundreds of thousands of non-Jews into the country.

The second topic on which Margalit has focused more recently is corruption among the Israeli government, especially since ariel sharon's election as prime minister in 2001. However, in 1997, Margalit published the political memoir, Raiti Otam (I saw them), which provided an inside perspective on corruption among the political leadership and media, based on his personal relationships. This book remained near the top of the best-seller list in Israel for twenty-five weeks, mostly in the number one place.

THE WORLD'S PERSPECTIVE AND LEGACY

Margalit is an iconic media personality in Israel, having written for major Israeli newspapers since the 1960s and hosted shows on several channels on Israeli television. His book, Sheder me'ha-Bayit ha-Lavan (1971; Broadcast from the White House), attracted considerable attention and criticism in Israel. Among other things, it drove Chaim Herzog, the future president of Israel, to investigate how so many state secrets were leaked from the government to the book's author. Margalit was also the moderator of the pre-1996 elections debate between candidates binyamin netanyahu and shimon peres, which was widely seen as a critical moment that ended Peres's chance of reelection.

During his time in Washington, D.C., in the late 1970s, Margalit famously exposed Leah and yitzhak rabin's illegal American bank account. This disclosure resulted in Rabin's resignation from his post as prime minister and in the prosecution of Leah Rabin. It also led to the election of the Likud Party for the first time in Israeli history in 1977. Margalit has long been dedicated to fighting corruption. Nevertheless, he has sometimes been seen as hypocritical for his close friendships with the Israeli political elite including ehud olmert, detailed in his 1997 best seller, Raiti Otam. Margalit has been criticized from the Left for his defense of Olmert against corruption in light of evidence to the contrary. Margalit is also sometimes seen as insensitive to religious Jews and has been criticized by the religious right for not having their views represented on his debate programs and for his comment that religious Israelis in the army should expel Jews from Gaza during the withdrawal or face a quota limiting their numbers in the army. The inclusion of the former Shas Party leader and interior minister, Aryeh Deri, as a regular panelist on the Council of the Sages despite his imprisonment on corruption charges has also garnered criticism for Margalit.

As a veteran commentator on Israeli affairs, Margalit is widely cited by other Israeli newspapers, as well as the international media, including the United Kingdom's national broadcaster, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Doron, Daniel. "Top Pundit Tells All," Jerusalem Post (22 February 2007). Available from http://www.jpost.com.

Glick, Caroline. "Scorched-Earth Kulturkamp." Jerusalem Post (11 July 2005).

Margalit, Dan. "Out of the Closet." Israel21c. Available from http://www.israel21c.org.

――――――. "Oust Peretz from the Defense Ministry." Maariv (13 February 2007).

Shavit, Ari. "Media Malfunction." Haaretz. Available from http://www.haaretz.com.

Tzvi, Dorit Keren. "The End of a Beautiful Friendship." Haaretz Friday Magazine (16 February 2007).

                                             Aliza Craimer

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