Behind lock and key, a battle begins between Palestinian prisoners and their Israeli wardens — or is it between convicted terrorist Marwan Barghouti and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas?
In Tuesday’s newspapers, Israeli journalists try to parse out the hubbub surrounding a newly declared hunger strike by 1,187 so-called security prisoners.
On the face of it, the strike is an attempt to gain better conditions: access to a telephone, more family visits, additional television channels, a return of academic programs.
But Amos Harel in Haaretz looks through the facade and sees a political ploy by Barghouti, who despite serving five life sentences for his role in multiple terror attacks (or perhaps because of it) is seen by Palestinians as a future leader of Fatah and the PA.
“Media attention to a prolonged strike will serve [Barghouti] in terms of his moves for the PA leadership, which officially supports the strike but in reality is concerned about any outcome that would advance the status of the imprisoned leader, who is not particularly liked by President Mahmoud Abbas and his people,” Harel writes.
According to Harel, the apparent internal political nature of the strike is what’s keeping it from spreading. Only about a third of Fatah prisoners are taking part and while the strike has tepid support from Hamas, the terrorist group is holding back from getting fully involved.
The Israel Hayom tabloid forgoes peeking behind the curtain of the prisoner strike and instead discusses the nitty-gritty of how the Israeli Prison Service will deal with it.
The newspaper quotes Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan who says he instructed the IPS and police to prepare for a mass hunger strike, including asking the army to set up a field hospital so the prisoners wouldn’t be taken to civilian hospitals.
Meanwhike, veteran journalist Ben-Dror Yemini at Yedioth Ahronoth remembers Barghouti as a one-time friend who went astray. Recalling a visit to Spain with him, where the Palestinian leader demanded that the Israeli newspaperman be allowed into a meeting of local Arab leaders, Yemini describes a time before Barghouti “talked out of both sides of his mouth.”
Across the board, however, the Israeli media denounces The New York Times for publishing an op-ed by Barghouti in which he is described as a “a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian” with no reference to his terrorism convictions.
Israel Hayom quotes Deputy Minister Michael Oren who calls the publication a “media terror attack.”
Yemini decries the Gray Lady as taking part in “the era of fake news” for “publishing again and again pieces that refer to Israel’s ‘apartheid laws.'”
Much ado about Turkey
This week, the Jewish state’s frenemy, Turkey — which buys our natural gas and welcomes Israeli tourists, but also supports Hamas — held a national referendum to grant additional powers to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
To no one’s surprise, Erdogan won the vote and his presidential powers will be expanded, pending an almost-sure-to-fail appeal on the grounds of voter fraud.
Writing from Istanbul, Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer says that Erdogan’s opponents see some glimmer of hope in the fact that the Turkish leader lost in every major city and that outside monitors noted that the referendum was run unfairly.
“Yes, the referendum was stolen but we’re not surprised and now it’s out in the open and all Turkey knows the situation,” Pfeffer quotes local talk-show host Can Tunbil as saying.
Israel Hayom’s Boaz Bismuth wagers that Erdogan’s win is the beginning of his end.
“He won in the places where the newspapers and columnists don’t reach, the ‘deep Turkey,'” Bismuth writes. “There they vote from the gut and the mosque, two places where Erdogan rules.”
According to Bismuth’s analysis, by putting his faith in a kind-of democratic vote — rather than by authoritarian decree — Erdogan showed his true nature: he’s only powerful so long as he keeps the majority.
“Erdogan might have won, but the larger victory shows — despite his impressive power — his limitations,” Bismuth says.
Yedioth Ahronoth relegates the Turkish referendum to a two-page spread on Pages 8 and 9 and presents some confusing imagery for its article on the outcome.
A photograph of a crowd of Turkish flag-waving women, on which “partying in the streets” is written, dominates the spread. With the headline, “A strong Turkey,” anyone skimming the paper might miss that Erdogan’s victory is considered deeply contentious and divisive within the country and around the world.
A sidebar article tries to set the record straight, noting that some see the referendum’s results as illegitimate, in light of a number of ballot boxes that were counted despite not having been sealed properly.
Submarines again, a tragedy at sea, Mimouna madness
Haaretz gives front page treatment to the latest development on an apparently shady deal for Israel to purchase submarines from Germany. Last year, it was reported that the agreement might not be completely aboveboard, in light of the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal attorney David Shimron was representing the German firm selling the underwater vessels. (Netanyahu denied any wrongdoing, but the case is currently under a police investigation.)
According to the broadsheet’s diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid, Israel and Germany agreed that the submarine deal would be canceled should that investigation turn up any foul play.
“The Germans wanted a safety net in order to go forward without the risk of being dragged into a corruption scandal,” Ravid quotes an unnamed Israeli official as saying.
In more local news, Israel Hayom and Yedioth Ahronoth give front page coverage to the search for an Israeli man who is presumed dead after he went missing last week in the Sea of Galilee.
The bodies of two other men — Nahman Itah, 21, and Liron Karadi, 17 — who drowned in the lake after their air floats flipped last Wednesday were found on Monday, while the search for the third — Itamar Ohana, 19 — continues.
In its article, Haaretz gives the victims’ families room to blast the government for not doing enough to protect swimmers.
Danny Brenner in Israel Hayom says that while the Sea of Galilee can be dangerous, everyone — from the police and the army to the the friends of the missing men — is doing a great job.
“They all deserve a medal of honor,” he writes.
Of course, Monday night also saw the end of Passover and with it the Mimouna festival, a Moroccan celebration in which a special type of pancake known as a mufleta is consumed, along with a host of other traditional treats.
Each year, politicians celebrate Moroccan culture (or deliberately appropriate it for political gain, depending on whom you ask) by traveling to extravagant celebrations around the country to consume mounds of mufleta and — more importantly — get photographed while doing so. Extra points are given to the lawmaker if someone is wearing a fez in the background; even more if the politician is the one in the North African headgear.
Yedioth Ahronoth, considered the paper of the people, puts Mimouna front and center on Tuesday, with colorful pictures and “The Mufleta of the Nation” as the headline.
Israel Hayom also gives the Moroccan festival front page attention, but more modestly. Not even the supposedly above-it-all Haaretz can avoid publishing photographs of Mimouna celebrations.
For some reason, Moroccan Mimouna celebrations are sure to make the front page, while the Ethiopian Sigd festivities in the fall generally fail to make the cut. Go figure.