If it weren’t for the optimism in advance of tonight’s Oscar Award ceremony, where the Israeli film “Footnote” is competing for the Academy Award for best foreign film, this morning’s papers would paint a very gloomy picture. With headlines reporting on an attempted racially motivated lynching in Haifa, the closing of a northern town’s main employer, and the West’s impotence in the face of continued violence in Syria, a little Hollywood glitter makes for a welcome reprieve.

“Shock at the attempted lynch of soldiers,” reads the main headline in Israel Hayom. “A near lynching in Haifa,” reads Yedioth Ahronoth. The photos that accompany the articles show two men, their faces pixelated to protect their identity, lying in the hospital. Alongside the main photo is a close-up of one of the men’s scalp showing scars he claims were caused when his Arab attackers engraved an epithet on his skin. “I fell and they kicked me in the head, they were shouting ‘Jew, Jew’ all the time,” reads a quote by one of the victims in Maariv.

The surprise closure of the Pri Hagalil food processing plant in the northern town of Hatzor Haglilit made major headlines in all the papers this morning. The factory, which seemed to be recovering from years of financial hardships under new management, closed its gates and changed its locks on Friday, sending 280 workers home without warning. “The factory is closed and the heart is broken,” reads the dramatic headline in Yedioth Ahronoth.

The international community’s response to the ongoing violence in Syria produces critical headlines in Israeli newspapers. “Assad continues to massacre: the world continues to stammer,” reads Israel Hayom. “Arab pressure to act in Syria, the West hesitates,” reads Haaretz.

Featuring nothing on the Haifa attack on its front page, Haaretz leads with a headline accusing India of concealing evidence of Iranian responsibility for the terrorist attack in New Delhi, for fear of harming their relations. The main story, by Barak Ravid, claims Israeli security officials assisting the Indians in the investigation say that India is being intentionally ambiguous about Iranian involvement in the terror attack that injured the wife of an Israeli diplomat in order to protect its trade interests.

Maariv features a front-page headline about a pro-Assad conference, drawing hundreds, held in Haifa, under the headline: “In Israel of all places: hundreds attend a pro-Assad conference.”

On the inside pages, Maariv reports on a $1.4 billion Israeli weapons sale to Azerbaijan. Israel Aerospace Industries will supply Iran’s neighbor with advanced drones and missile defense systems. In a story raising concerns of discrimination by the Jerusalem Municipality, Maariv reports that the city plans to evict Ethiopian anti-racism protesters from the tent that was occupied for years by the Free Gilad Shalit campaign, near the Prime Minister’s residence.

Defense minister on the go

Yedioth Ahronoth features an article on Page 10 examining Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s travel schedule over the last year. According to the report, Barak spent two of the past 12 months outside the country on official visits, mostly to North America.

On Page 18 Yedioth reports on a massive cemetery planned for construction in Jerusalem. Described as a six-story luxury building, the complex will provide 35,000 burial slots.

Israel Hayom features a story on an unconventional pair of siblings, one of whom serves in the IDF while the other is serving a tour of duty in Iraq, with the US Army. What makes this story unique is that the two were born in Kazakhstan and moved to the US as orphans in early childhood. One brother, 20-year-old Ari, converted to his adopted family’s religion and chose to immigrate and volunteer in an IDF combat unit “to contribute to the state’s security.”

Haaretz reports on a last-ditch effort to prevent the deportation of foreign workers’ families. Hundreds rallied in Tel Aviv over the weekend to try and convince the government to revoke a 2010 decision that will see 118 families with children forced to leave the country.

Haaretz also reports on the port workers’ strike beginning today. The workers are demanding pay increases and the establishment of a central pension fund. The government claims the demands are unrealistic and accuses the union of “using a strike to advance personal interests.”

Financial supplement TheMarker reports on a possible merger between Israel’s commercial airlines El Al and Arkia.

Some thoughts on geopolitics

In the opinion pages of Haaretz, Gideon Levy calls on Israel to take an active role in preventing the massacres taking place in its northern neighbor Syria. “The minimum should be a resounding call to our absolute ally, the United States, and to Israel’s other friends — do something, right now. Forget for a moment the Iranian threat and the Israeli occupation, join in a rescue which is more urgent than any other,” urges Levy.

Former Israel ambassador to the US Zalman Shoval asks in his Israel Hayom column whether the world will be fooled by Iran’s agreement to hold diplomatic negotiations over its nuclear program. “Iran is currently feeling injured and isolated: Syria, its only ally in the region, is crumbling, Turkey is revealing itself as an opponent and not a partner, and its loyal servants, Hamas and Hezbollah, have problems of their own. It is because of this that it is determined to advance its nuclear program, which it believes will strengthen its regional standing. It is possible to assess therefore that Iran’s offer to hold negotiations is a mere diversion. Will the world, and the US in particular, buy Tehran’s soiled merchandise? The answer is not clear. The possible scenarios in this regard are not encouraging,” writes Shoval.

Maariv provides a platform for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s op-ed (originally published in Foreigh Policy) in which he writes in favor of Russia rebuilding its military might. “Our country faces the task of sufficiently developing its military potential as part of a deterrence strategy. This is an indispensable condition for Russia to feel secure and for our partners to listen to our country’s arguments,” writes Putin.