Never again, and again
Hebrew media review

Never again, and again

Holocaust remembrance takes precedence over floundering peace talks in the tabloids

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

The Israeli delegation seen during a visit to the Treblinka extermination camp in Poland, as they take part in the 'March of the Living' on Friday, April 25, 2014 (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
The Israeli delegation seen during a visit to the Treblinka extermination camp in Poland, as they take part in the 'March of the Living' on Friday, April 25, 2014 (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

There are some days where the news just doesn’t seem that new. Another set of peace talks on the verge of collapse, another Holocaust Remembrance Day with the same images and the same slogans: Never Again, etc.

Haaretz places its focus on remarks made by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday that the new Palestinian unity government that Fatah and Hamas had agreed to form would abstain from violence, adhere to its international agreements, and recognize the state of Israel.

The paper quotes Israeli officials reacting to Abbas’s speech, which was delivered in Ramallah to the PLO Central Council. “Abbas confirmed the death of the peace process today,” the officials said. They said Israel made sincere efforts to extend the negotiations and didn’t issue demands for their continuation, while Abbas cut a deal with a terrorist organization and gave a laundry list of preconditions that he knew Israel would never accept.

For the tabloids, however, Abbas’s comments are relegated to the middle of the Sunday paper.

In Israel Hayom, Abbas’s remarks and the peace talks, which are set to expire in a mere two days, don’t make the front page. Instead, the familiar platitudes for Holocaust Remembrance Day are at the fore. “We won’t forget, we won’t be silent,” caps the paper’s opening coverage ahead of the vigil which begins Sunday night. It only gets around to reporting on Abbas and the peace process on Page 7, after a fairly dry story about the latest shifts in the IDF chain of command, and it leads its coverage with the scathing Israeli response to the Palestinian leader’s comments.

“Any Palestinian government that is reliant upon Hamas in one way or another — there will be no negotiation with it,” an unnamed political source in Israel is quoted in Israel Hayom saying. The paper points out that the only way Israel will negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas is if the terrorist group accepts the Quartet’s conditions, namely: recognition of Israel, terminating rocket fire and terrorist attacks, and respecting all previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Yedioth Ahronoth also packs the front part of its Sunday edition with pages upon pages of Holocaust coverage, and likewise places the appointments and promotions of IDF brass before the disintegration of the peace talks. Its coverage begins with US President Barack Obama’s remarks during his visit to East Asia, in which he said it might be time to take a time-out from peace talks.

“There may come a point at which there just needs to be a pause and both sides need to look at the alternatives,” Obama said. Curiously, Yedioth Ahronoth translates “pause” by employing the Hebrew word for “freeze,” the same term used when discussing settlement freezes, rather than the word for a break. The paper cites Israeli officials postulating that Obama plans to take a half-year break from the peace talks, until the mid-term elections are through. “Until then he isn’t interested in conflict with Netanyahu out of concern that it will harm the Jewish vote and Democratic candidates,” the paper writes.

So what are these big shake-ups in the IDF brass that Israel Hayom and Yedioth Ahronoth consider more pressing than the failure of yet another round of peace talks? Yedioth Ahronoth reports that Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, as of late the head of IDF Intelligence, has been appointed GOC Northern Command, replacing Maj. Gen. Yair Golan. With his appointment to the prestigious and critical post, the paper says Kochavi is being groomed as Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz’s possible successor as chief of staff.

Kochavi’s replacement as intelligence chief, Brig. Gen. Hertzi Halevi, currently serves as the head of the IDF’s Staff and Command College. Halevi, reports Israel Hayom, “is considered an excellent and brilliant officer and a potential candidate for serving as a future chief of staff.”

Yedioth Ahronoth says that the biggest loser in this round of brass appointments is Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, GOC Central Command. Despite his pedigree and the fact that he was the “natural replacement for Kochavi” as head of IDF intelligence, Alon was passed over for the position.

Which brings us to the burning question: What’s new with the Holocaust? As dusk descends on Israel Sunday evening, the country will mark the 69th anniversary of the end of the Shoah, and the papers gear up by digging up stories from survivors.

Israel Hayom features the story of Laura Meinzer, who was born in Berlin in 1924 and was interned in no fewer than nine concentration camps. She bears three different prisoner numbers on her arm. Yedioth Ahronoth reports on Eli Oren, who found out that his father had another son who survived the Holocaust, moved to Israel and lived less than 50 kilometers (30 miles) from him his entire life. Haaretz runs a feature about Red Cross letters written by Jews in British Mandate Palestine to family members in Nazi-occupied Poland, which “allow a peek into the private lives of people during the Holocaust and in the months after.”

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