Suddenly a person wakes up and discovers that he is about to be dismissed from a position to which he had been selected due to private tweets that raised doubts over the COVID policies of the Ministry of Health. Today it is me; tomorrow, it might happen to you.
“They have never done such a thing to a person who is not a public figure,”—this is what a senior journalist told me the day I found out that I was being slandered in media headlines. On that day, I also found out that I was a “senior person in the Jewish Agency for Israel” and that I was going to be dismissed from the position to which I had been selected after a tough competition due to my private tweets on a social network.
A few months ago, and after a thorough selection process, I was chosen, out of a pool of many dozens of candidates, for the position of CEO of Shalom Corps, a Public Benefit Company (PBC). Even before the ink was dry, the Director General of the Ministry of Health and the Chairperson of the Israeli Medical Association rushed to demand my dismissal, due to statements I published on Twitter in the past. Following that demand, an unprecedented defamation campaign against me began in the various media, which led to a request for a hearing prior to dismissal.
The precedent is highly unusual in nature. I wrote the tweets due to which I was summoned to the hearing as a private individual, not as a public figure, long before I was chosen for the position—and they do not deviate in essence or tone from what is considered acceptable on social networks—at that time or today.
I acknowledge that in the heat of the moment and under the vicious attacks that were directed at me and at The Israeli Public Emergency Council for the COVID-19 Crisis (PECC), an organization whose establishment I initiated with others following the destructive conduct of the Ministry of Health during the COVID crisis, I sometimes did not choose my words carefully enough.
My tweets were written against the backdrop of attacks published in the media and social media from official accounts of the Ministry of Health and its agents who accused us of being responsible for the death of people, spreading lies, spreading disease and having blood on our hands. Some of my words were written during terrible lockdowns, when businesses owned by my friends were collapsing, when their children were languishing in their homes and when I was well aware that many were putting their health or even lives at risk by staying at home and not seeking the medical treatments they needed.
So yes, I too wrote bluntly. I understand that in retrospect I should have held back more in the face of the incitement machine that was deployed against us, and for that I feel regret. But no one was interested in apologies. What the avengers wanted was to slander me and deprive me of my livelihood.
Anyone who cares about human rights, and anyone who holds freedom of expression to be dear, must understand that the precedent that has been created here is extremely dangerous. Today they harmed me for criticizing the heads of the Ministry of Health on Twitter—and tomorrow they might hurt those who dare to use social media to criticize the Prime Minister. They might also target those who dare to speak bluntly against the occupation or advocate for LGBTQ rights or for Jewish presence on the Temple Mount, or speak out against the conduct of the Prime Minister’s wife.
The attack on me was well-coordinated and premeditated. The heads of the Ministry of Health and their partners executed it while PECC stepped up and worked persistently to reveal the truth, continuing, through legal channels, to demand transparency about the conflicts of interest in the vaccination committees, as well as the disclosure of hidden data regarding mortality from all causes in the Clalit HMO vaccine studies.
This is not speculation; this is reliable, accurate and clear information. Those who organized and exerted impossible political pressures were those who became intoxicated with power and from being in the spotlight. Among them were, for example, the Director General of the Ministry of Health, Prof. Nachman Ash, and others who were unable to handle criticism, and sent public letters to the heads of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, who were in charge of the PBC in which I was the CEO. They demanded that I be fired, even though there is and there was no intersection between my position and the Ministry of Health.
I see this attack as an attempt by some persons to bring about the social death of a private citizen by harming his livelihood only because he initiated the establishment of an organization that dared to criticize their policies and worked to provide a scientific and professional alternative to their approach. Unfortunately, those who claimed to be warriors for human rights, those who fought for a person’s right to call for a boycott of Israel and still receive the Israel Prize, remained silent in the face of the blatant violation of the freedom of speech of a very large part of the Israeli public that PECC represents.
The propaganda machine
But despite the price I pay, I am proud to have been one of the persons who founded PECC, which has put forth the most significant opposition to failed and destructive government policies in the last two years. I am proud of the forum of 30 brave people, including managers of five hospitals, CEOs of the Ministry of Health, Nobel and Israel Prize laureates, doctors, scientists, heads of academic departments, researchers, and experts in ethics, economics and education who insisted on offering an alternative based on science and medicine.
I am proud that I worked on a volunteer basis, with the help of many good people and especially many people in society who believed that it was possible and necessary to act differently. I am proud that I never asked any of the people who worked with me if they had been vaccinated, that I never invaded a person’s privacy, that I never violated their bodily autonomy or their right to medical confidentiality.
Although by nature I am not a person of public struggles, I would not have been able to live with myself had I not worked to establish PECC, which advocates for managing the crisis while protecting basic human rights and democracy. I was appalled by the ease with which an entire population can be captured and its basic rights be violated. I was appalled at the incitement first against the Orthodox and next against the Arabs and then against the Balfour Street protesters who gathered outside of the PM’s residence—and finally against anyone who dared to criticize and those who chose not to get vaccinated or could not get vaccinated.
I am anxious about the ease with which it was possible to violate the basic rights of an entire nation. I am alarmed by the fact that people were fired from their jobs, forced to drop out of school, and excluded from the public sphere—all based on medical status. And I can’t remain indifferent to the idea that a person is forced to carry a green pass—because I dread the day when green will turn pink for LGBTQ or black for Arabs.
I realized that when public officials in a government office have huge budgets for propaganda and advocacy, then they can take control of the media narrative and prevent any contrarian discussion. I realized that when questions and criticisms become forbidden, the slope becomes particularly slippery and steep.
The idea that the government would sacrifice people’s health, their lives and their medical and economic futures on the altar of a futile struggle against a respiratory virus seemed to me and to many others to be a mistake—and not just any mistake, but a mistake that cost and will cost many human lives: the lives of those who will die of undiagnosed cancer, of those who will experience anxiety and depression, of those who will lose livelihood and education—a loss that will shorten their lives, especially the lives of those who have less and, as always, will be the ones who will pay more.
For me, this was never an argument about vaccines. From the start, the members of PECC called for the vaccination of the high-risk population. However, the members of PECC knew and stated from the start that there is no logic to implementing the green pass, that it has no scientific basis and, especially, that it is morally wrong.
And even though it was clear that the attempt to fire me occurred solely on the basis of my views and because of improper political pressures, and even though it was absolutely clear that our legal arguments were strong and well-founded, I accepted my employers’ offer to negotiate my resignation, first and foremost out of a genuine will to not cooperate with the extortion attempts of the heads of the health system. The fact that we reached such a generous agreement speaks for itself.
I, for my part, decided not out of weakness, but out of a clear position of strength and knowledge that I have no intention of giving up, that those who want to eliminate people in Israel due to their views will have to contend with a fight. This fight is not only over my good name and for my future. Those who make such poor choices will be forced to fight me and many other citizens for the future of Israel as a democratic, liberal state that preserves human dignity, bodily autonomy, liberty and privacy.
I believe that those who incited and threatened chose to cause direct, personal harm because they could not bear a scientific and professional organization that has presented an alternative to their failed policy. Eventually, they will have to contend with civilians who will vote with their feet and will remove them from the public stage and the political arena.
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