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Hebrew media review

Just say ‘no’

Recommendations against defining Israel as a Jewish state; a victim refuses to speak out; and racism in Israel

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein at a meeting of the Israeli Bar Association in December 2013 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein at a meeting of the Israeli Bar Association in December 2013 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Usually people come back from a weekend relaxed and refreshed, but not Sunday’s Hebrew papers. The papers are chock-full of decidedly negative stories, featuring political battles, rape, and racism.

Politics is the uniting factor across the respective front pages, with the “Jewish state” bill expected to be brought to a vote in Sunday’s cabinet meeting. The vote is whether to create a Basic Law defining Israel as a Jewish state. Haaretz’s front page highlights the newly voiced opposition to the bill by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who worries it could “threaten Israeli democracy.”

The trouble with the proposed legislation, according to Weinstein, is that it splits the term “Jewish and democratic state” into two separate clauses. By splitting that clause, this law would differentiate itself from other Basic Laws, which Weinstein fears could harm the democratic element.

Weinstein has problems with the bills as presented, but Netanyahu may have a workaround. Yedioth Ahronoth writes that Netanyahu is asking the cabinet to approve the bills in its Sunday meeting, but by the time the bills come to the Knesset floor on Wednesday, he will have changed the problematic parts to emphasize Israel’s democratic nature. Speaking Saturday night, Netanyahu said, “Ensuring the identity of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews does not conflict with guaranteeing the rights of every citizen of Israel, and I will not allow these two principles to be undermined.”

Israel Hayom columnist Dan Margalit tackles the proposed Basic Law and surprisingly comes out against it due to its timing. At a time when Jewish and Arab tensions are at a boiling point, passing this law could harm relations even further, he says.

He writes that Israel is a Jewish state by virtue of David Ben-Gurion and the Declaration of Independence and passing this law now only serves to heighten international condemnation of Israel as an “apartheid state.” Margalit thinks there is another way to further the idea that Israel is a Jewish state: through the legal system. But, he writes, passing these laws should not come at the expense of equality.

In other legal matters, Haaretz reports that Netanyahu is trying to devise a way to deter terrorism by punishing terrorists and their families. While the paper doesn’t offer too many specifics (other than “Netanyahu is expected to present a bill in the near future”), it is expected to target the residency and social benefits of families of terrorists. Interior Minister Gilad Erdan is looking to see how he can expand his office’s purview to revoke residency and social benefits of East Jerusalem Arabs who encourage terrorism.

Right to remain silent?

The front page of Yedioth Ahronoth poses a question on the rights of victims to press charges or not. A female judge was allegedly raped by a police officer after meeting him on an online dating site, but did not come forward to press charges. The police learned of the attack from a friend of the judge’s. However, the judge refused to file a formal complaint and no investigation occurred. Sources close to the judge told paper that the judge wants to protect her privacy. “Anonymity of a woman and her body also include the right not to complain to the police.”

Professor Aviad Hacohen, writing an op-ed in Israel Hayom, faults the legal system for the judge’s decision not to press charges. He writes that the legal process can be difficult for victims who come forward, “there is shame and fear of a ‘second rape’ during the investigation, and lengthy trials with cross-examinations can increase the victim’s trauma.”

He wonders why even without a complaint the police aren’t investigating the officer. Hacohen places no blame on the judge for not filing charges, but rather points to the incident as a systemic failure that is eroding the confidence in the legal system. “The legal systems and law enforcement are required to fast and effectively to establish the truth, and in appropriate cases to deliver justice to the culprits. Not doing so will lose the public’s trust, which is essential to its proper functioning and to its strength.”

Racism in Israel

Unfortunately, stories of racism have reared their head in the press (including the mayor of Ashkelon deciding to bar Arab workers) frequently of late, and sadly, Sunday’s papers are no different.

The front page of Yedioth tells how some Druze young adults were barred from a pub in the north after being told, “We don’t allow non-Jews to enter.” Particularly damning is that the Druze men fought this summer in Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, one of them being injured by a Hamas rocket. “Good enough to fight in Gaza, but not good enough for a pub,” reads the incensed headline. The pub owner defended the banning, saying, “We don’t discriminate, this is a members-only club. All of our members have membership cards.” However, a Jewish friend of the Druze men said, “We entered and we aren’t members of the club.”

Haaretz’s editorial tackles racism in Israeli soccer. On Friday afternoon at a soccer match in Tel Aviv, hundreds of fans of the Bnei Yehuda team stood up and chanted “Death to Arabs!” When an Arab player was injured and taken off the field they yelled and threw trash at him. It is obvious to the paper that the Israeli Football Association cannot fix the problem and the courts need to step in. The legal system must arrest and fine fans who break the law that prohibits racists statements. “There is no value to a sport that is supposed to give people equal opportunities and treatment without reference to religion, race or gender, when it becomes a focus for discrimination and racism.”

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