Drugged, defrauded and anti-democratic
Hebrew media review

Drugged, defrauded and anti-democratic

From too many kids on Ritalin to too many kids being counted in schools to too many protesters being arrested, the press can count on problems to report on

Pills at the Teva factory in Har Hotzvim, Jerusalem (illustrative photo; credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Pills at the Teva factory in Har Hotzvim, Jerusalem (illustrative photo; credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The Barcelona van killer is still on the run, the White House is still in disarray, but at least in Israel, the dog days of summer are back, with those stories fading into the background and items of a more mundane variety taking center stage.

Mundane as in a lead story in Yedioth Ahronoth on too many people taking Ritalin (which is still the ADHD drug of choice, Adderall being mostly shunned), a lead story in Israel Hayom about schools defrauding authorities to get a bigger chunk of the pie, and a lead story in Haaretz highlighting Egypt’s growing role in Syria.

At least that last one is somewhat surprising, especially with analyst Zvi Bar’el pointing out that Israel is likely pleased as punch over the developments.

“From Israel’s standpoint, Egypt’s involvement is important. Any country engaged in blocking Iran’s influence in Syria serves Israel’s interests. But that’s especially true when said country is Egypt, which is Israel’s partner in the war on terror in Sinai and an ally (together with Saudi Arabia and Jordan) with whom it sees eye to eye about both the Iranian threat and the danger of Syria disintegrating into cantons,” he writes.

While the Syrian civil war continues to rage on, fueled by the drug Captagon, Yedioth Ahronoth has an expose that Israel is being fueled by another drug: Ritalin.

Yedioth Ahronoth’s expose that 904,453 scrips for Ritalin were handed out last year may not sound like a lot, but given that Israel has only 8-odd million people, there’s some justification for the headline “Country on Ritalin.”

The paper reports that in the last four years there has been a 30 percent increase in the number of prescriptions written, with the biggest jump in the Tel Aviv area.

Columnist Ronen Shaked writes that he himself doesn’t need the drug to help him focus, and wonders if everyone taking it actually does or is just being pushed to get ahead.

“The rise in the number of adults taking it points to the high number of people who have been trying to deal with the world, which they were unable to do in their youth. That’s fine. I’m for anything that works,” he writes. “But that doesn’t explain how Israel has become the Ritalin capital of the world, the holy Ritaland. To understand it, it doesn’t take a pill. Here you can already imagine the stereotypical Israeli mother, whose kid is second in line behind my kid for a certificate of excellence, who will do anything, even taking prescription meds, in order to get him to the front of the line.”

But what if the other kids in line don’t even exist? That’s a very real problem exposed in Israel Hayom’s lead story, which reports on the age-old problem of school administrators inflating the number of students they have to get more money.

The paper reports that in the last year, 56 cases of possible fraud in the schools were investigated, though only 31 of those dealt with schools lying about how many children they had enrolled. It does not say if the number is higher, lower or in line with past years.

The paper does note though, that the total number of issues dealt with by the Education Ministry’s oversight department — including “allegation of fraud, incitement by principals, and schools charging parents too much” — hit 120 last year, up from 78 the year before and a mere 28 the year before that.

Allegations of fraud against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the fallout from a protest against Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit that the police shut down also continue to garner headlines, with the police coming under fire for arresting two protest organizers.

“These arrests were fundamentally improper,”Haaretz’s lead editorial reads.

“Describing the posts as ‘encouraging participation in a riot’ is way off base: there is no violence in the Petah Tikva demonstrations, only the realization of a fundamental democratic right. Most of all, it seems the police see the right to demonstrate as an unnecessary nuisance,” the piece continues, accusing police chief Roni Alsheich of “adopting the McCarthyist spirit blowing over Israel, which is based on the desire to suppress any opposition to the regime.”

Yedioth puts a cartoon on its front page showing cops telling a cat burglar to stop on suspicion he is going to protest, until he clarifies that he’s only robbing people and is told he can carry on.

Inside, the paper’s large headline, “This arrest is undemocratic,” quoting Menny Naftali, one of the organizers held, makes clear where it stands.

But just in case the cartoon and headline leave any room for doubt, columnist Ben Dror Yemini makes the case plain, calling the arrests “one of the most anti-democratic steps ever taken in Israeli history.”

“And it’s even worse that imagined, since Mandelblit took part in this embarrassment. He could have stopped the order banning the protest. He did not act,” Yemini writes, accusing the police of acting with baldly political aims.

As is par for the course, though, a totally opposite picture emerges from Israel Hayom, which buries its coverage on page 11, after an item bashing the Likudnikim Hadashim movement trying to oust Netanyahu from within the party.

Columnist Dror Eydar accuses Naftali and co-protest organizer Eldad Yaniv of wanting nothing more than to provoke the government, accusing Yaniv specifically of hypocrisy and intimating that the arrests were called for.

Echoing the right-wing media in the US, which has tried to tar anti-Nazi protesters and the mainstream media as being against free speech and for repressive Communism, Eydar says the same thing is going on here, recalling a report from 2015 which saw Yaniv tell a supporter it’s okay to use violence and arrests for political aims (though it’s not clear if he was speaking literally).

“His friends on the right remember what was said in the last elections — ‘They killed Rabin, a bulldozer should be sent to [settlement] Yitzhar at 9 a.m. We need to do an intifada on them’ — and understand that free speech doesn’t interest him. Nor democracy,” Eidar writes. “Were he able, he and his friends would put us all in gulags for reeducation.”

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