Derailed in Jerusalem
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Hebrew media review

Derailed in Jerusalem

The press expresses its horror and outrage over the killing of a 3-month-old baby in a terror attack and declares, once and for all, that yes, a third intifada is here

Police and rescue personnel at the scene where several people were injured when a car crashed into a Jerusalem Light Rail station, on October 22, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Police and rescue personnel at the scene where several people were injured when a car crashed into a Jerusalem Light Rail station, on October 22, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The horror of a terror attack that killed a 3-month-old girl at the Jerusalem light rail Wednesday evening gives way to general disgust in the Hebrew press Thursday morning, as newspapers wrestle with the tragedy and its aftermath.

“Just 3 months old,” reads the main headline of Israel Hayom, on top of what appears to be an exclusive picture of the baby being carried to an ambulance, while Yedioth Ahronoth’s outrage is expressed in its A1 header: “Terror against a baby.”

Haaretz, meanwhile, sticks to its “just the facts, ma’am” ethos with the headline: “Baby killed and seven injured in run-over attack in Jerusalem.” If nothing else, the headline beats out the Associated Press’s disastrous first attempt at the story from last night: “Israeli police shoot man in east Jerusalem.”

Yedioth reports that the baby, Chaya Zissel Braun, and her parents, got to the station after visiting the Western Wall, the first time they went there with the baby, whom they had been trying to conceive for an extended period.

“When I got to the scene I saw a mother holding an unconscious baby,” a rescue worker tells the paper. “We immediately began life saving measures. The mother was agitated and screaming ‘that’s my baby, that’s my baby.’”

Police and rescue personnel at the scene where several people were injured after a Palestinian crashed a car into a Jerusalem light rail station, October 22, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Police and rescue personnel at the scene where several people were injured after a Palestinian crashed a car into a Jerusalem light rail station, October 22, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In Israel Hayom, commentator Emily Amrousi echoes widely quoted comments from the baby’s grandfather that Braun was pure, writing that her only crime was being a Jewish baby.

“She has reluctantly now joined the row of tiny graves. Shalhevet Pass and Yehuda Shoham, Hadas Fogel and Shaked Avraham, Yonatan Palmer and Shmuel Zargari, and a long list of Jewish babies that never knew how to say two words, their only crime being their existence,” she writes, listing young terror victims from the last two decades.

While the news coverage focuses on the terror attacks, most commentators take a step back to examine the larger picture of rising violence in Jerusalem, declaring unequivocally that a new intifada is upon Jerusalem.

The “third intifada” bogeyman been sneaking into press coverage for years, but officials and many commentators have until now treated it like a cross between Voldemort and a royal baby, sometimes refusing to speak its name and dismissing claims of a new one as scaremongering, and sometimes heralding its arrival with fanfare and hand-wringing.

Unsurprisingly, the terror attack brings commentators back around to the latter mindset.

“There’s no choice but to say it: An urban intifada is running wild in Jerusalem,” Haaretz’s Amos Harel writes, running down the litany of violent incidents the capital has experienced over the last several months.

“Police activity has so far prevented the violence from growing to the dimensions Jerusalem experienced during the first and second intifadas. But so far, they have not succeeded in putting the genie back in the bottle,” he writes. “Now the government must make a major effort to calm the situation with the help of a beefed-up police presence, and above all, to prevent further escalation in Jerusalem. Continued violence in the capital could also cause the situation in the West Bank to deteriorate.

In Yedioth, Alex Fishman calls the situation “anarchy” and makes a similar plea for the violence to be quelled. But he rather pessimistically notes that it doesn’t seem anybody, the police or the Palestinian leadership, can put an end to it.

“Israel has acted until now like these have been normal disturbances that will disappear on their own. A little economic help and easing on movement restriction and the wave will die out. They tell us there are no signs of an intifada on the ground. Just like they told us before Protective Edge that Hamas in Gaza has no interest in starting up. This is how we will get to riots in the West Bank: without signs, but also without the PA to throw under the bus,” he writes.

The smuggler-terrorist connection

Jerusalem isn’t the only place that saw action Wednesday. Before the attack the big news had been a cross-border shooting incident near the Sinai, in which two soldiers were injured. Though originally assumed to be a terror attack, the army later concluded that it was actually a shootout between troops and drug smugglers.

Israeli soldiers stand near the Israel and Egypt border on Wednesday, October 22, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Tsafrir Abayov)
Israeli soldiers stand near the Israel and Egypt border on Wednesday, October 22, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Tsafrir Abayov)

Israel Hayom’s Yoav Limor isn’t fooled though, seeing a close connection between terror and a more domestic flavor of crime. “For several years smugglers have been stealing across the border, armed with advanced jeeps and fighting tools. And still it’s hard to remember a smuggling incident so violent and organized. The fire opened at the troops was immense, from three sides, and included use of an abundance of weapons, including RPGs. It’s no surprise, then that the army brass were convinced for hours that this was a terror attack, and only after the Egyptian forces found the drugs on their side was it declared a blocked smuggling attempt.”

Among the wounded on the Israeli side was female company commander Or Ben Yehuda, from the mixed-gender Caracal combat unit. Yedioth notes that it interviewed Ben Yehuda over her historic role as a female combat commander two years ago. “When I got my draft notice, I crossed out [from consideration] all the jobs where you sit on your ass,” she told them then. “The positions in the Caracal battalion seemed to me to have the most combat, and I decided to be among them. To be seen as a fighter despite our long hair, we do exactly the same things.”

In Haaretz’s op-ed page, a nostalgic Ari Shavit posits that Israel’s army is showing signs of atrophy, negating its many technological and financial resources.

“We don’t have the creative bravado and the national discipline that typified us in the past. We don’t have the scrappy nerve of David slaying Goliath. Something precious that we once had has been extinguished in recent years. The state of privatization, the society of inequalities, and the Israeli settlement defense forces have not been able to produce the same rare capabilities that the younger Israel knew how to produce.”

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