A chink in the clink
Hebrew media review

A chink in the clink

A day after a prisoner managed to smuggle a gun into prison and injure several guards, many are asking how, and one family is asking why for a second time

Illustrative: An ambulance leaves Rimonim Prison while Israeli police SWAT teams enter the prison, on Sunday, February 23, 2014. (AP/Ariel Schalit)
Illustrative: An ambulance leaves Rimonim Prison while Israeli police SWAT teams enter the prison, on Sunday, February 23, 2014. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

Considering the drama surrounding a prison shootout involving a US-born inmate who shot several guards before being killed by counterterror forces Sunday, tabloid-esque theater runs rampant across three of Israel’s four main Hebrew-language newspapers (broadsheet Haaretz being the lone holdout).

Yedioth Ahronoth is the most tabloidy of the tabloids, replacing the letter “dalet” on its main headline (“The insanity and the disgrace”) with a gun. Beyond the gimmicks, though, the paper comes through with an animated tick-tock of what went down during those 120 fateful minutes at Rimonim prison between when Samuel Sheinbein opened fire and when he was killed.

The paper also spends some considerable real estate on the most gravely injured guard, Hilal Bisan, highlighting the fact that before this tragedy, his family suffered through the Carmel fire prison bus disaster in which his brother Jilal was killed.

“Tragedies are chasing us,” a family member is quoting as saying. The story details that the brothers, together with a third, were inseparable growing up in Kafr Gat in the Galil. “How much can their mother suffer,” a relative outside the hospital room where Hilal was fighting for his life is quoted saying. (As of Monday morning, Hilal’s condition had stabilized and he is listed in serious condition.)

While he recovers, the police and prison service will have some questions to answer. Maariv lists the four main ones: How did Sheinbein get a gun into prison? How did he hide it from the guards? Why did they not put special supervision over him after he tried to steal a gun while he was on furlough weeks earlier? Why did they not take seriously his lawyer’s warning that he was experiencing a crisis?

Sheinbein was no ordinary prisoner, as Haaretz reminds us, writing that the 33-year-old fled to Israel as a teen to face prosecution for a gruesome murder carried out in the US, and Israel refused to extradite him, leading to a mini-crisis between Jerusalem and Washington in the late 1990s. The paper notes that Sheinbein’s father Sol Sheinbein tried to get a law license afterward and was turned down because he helped his son flee.

Living in Tel Aviv, Sol said in a 2002 interview to Haaretz quoted Monday that he had no desire to return to the US. “Why do I want to go pay a lawyer and stand trial? They could also find me guilty. It’s a political witch hunt. The prosecution is mad that they did not manage to extradite my son and so are accusing me as well.”

In Ukraine, where President Viktor Yanukovych made a Sheinbein-like escape on Saturday, Israel Hayom’s Boaz Bismuth reports that Maidan square, the home of the main opposition protests, has given way from violent clashes to optimism and uncertainty. “We don’t know what will be tomorrow,” he quotes a man named Alex saying. “Because of that we have no intention of leaving the square. We want to have influence and see to it that the politicians don’t steal the revolution. We don’t want the system to return through the back door.”

Bizmuth also notes that amid all the chaos of the square, a single Israeli flag flapped Sunday, courtesy of a Ukrainian-Israeli youth named Menachem who says there has been no anti-Semitism in the protests. Despite that, Menachem claims that five Jews were killed in the violent clashes.

There might not be anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism in Kiev, but Maariv reports that with Israeli Apartheid Week kicking off Monday it will be on display on campuses throughout the world.

However, the paper writes that Israel’s Foreign Ministry and Jewish Agency believes the whole hubbub over the event is overblown, with 80 percent of news coverage of it coming from Israel-based and Jewish news organizations. “It’s exactly the actions of our media that drive news about the events,” a Foreign Ministry official tells the paper.

So shhhh.

One paper never to pipe down is Haaretz, which devotes its lead editorial to a stirring defense of free speech in the face of what it says is a silencing campaign by Jerusalem head honcho Nir Barkat. The paper writes that a Palestinian photographer who lives in East Jerusalem was called in for questioning after calling Barkat “the mayor of the occupation” on Facebook.

“For him, as for more than a quarter million Palestinian residents of the city, the mayor of Jerusalem is the mayor of the occupation. For them there is no other way to describe him, especially when their reality is based on life under occupation,” the paper writes. “Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents are allowed to view Barkat as the mayor of the occupation, and they are allowed to write this on Facebook. Meanwhile, the police and security agencies in the city must not harass, intimidate, investigate or arrest them for doing so.”

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