Six shots, then silence
Hebrew media review

Six shots, then silence

A fatal shooting in Belgium becomes the latest instance of deadly European anti-Semitism, trumping the pope's visit to the Holy Land

Policemen stand guard around the site of a shooting near the Jewish Museum in Brussels, on May 24, 2014 (AFP/Belga/ Nicolas Maeterlinck)
Policemen stand guard around the site of a shooting near the Jewish Museum in Brussels, on May 24, 2014 (AFP/Belga/ Nicolas Maeterlinck)

The tragic shooting deaths of three people at a Brussels Jewish museum and the arrival of Pope Francis to the Holy Land compete for space in the Hebrew print press Sunday morning, with humdrum domestic intrigues playing second fiddle.

Yedioth Ahronoth leads with the Belgian shooting, with a reporter on the ground at the museum. “I heard at least six shots, and then there was quiet, and then more shooting,” a witness is quoted telling the paper.

“I’m sad, but that is not a strong enough to word to describe my feeling,” the paper quotes the museum director saying.

Israel Hayom highlights the head of a local anti anti-Semitism outfit saying that the atmosphere was ripe for this type of mass shooting: “An incident like this was in the air. In the last few years we’ve let the anti-Semitic conversation run wild.”

The paper also runs a sidebar quoting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tying the shooting into “nonstop incitement against Jews and their state.” “Slander and lies against the State of Israel continue to be heard on European soil even as the crimes against humanity and acts of murder being perpetrated in our region are systematically ignored,” he is quoted saying.

Haaretz gives a rundown of similar incidents against Jewish targets worldwide over the last few years, listing the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, which hit a Chabad house among other sites, a 2012 shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse and the Kansas City shootings at a Jewish Community Center and retirement home last month.

The paper’s Anshell Pfeffer writes he thinks the act was carried out by a lone-wolf gunman acting on his own initiative and not as part of some larger global plot, and he seems pretty sure about the ethnic identity of the shooter.

“It’s hard to avoid the initial impression that the pattern fits other anti-Jewish attacks, locally organized and without the backing of a terror group. Most likely carried out by local Muslims,” he writes, vetoing the idea that it could have been far-rightists killing Jews since they are more concerned with low-level violence and propaganda. “For now, until we know more, the scenario of radical Muslim attackers, similar to [Toulouse killer] Merah or the two killers of British soldier Lee Rigby on a London street last year, seems much more likely.”

Haaretz is the only paper to the leave pope’s visit mostly off the front page, with both Yedioth and Israel Hayom running large packages headlined with “Salve, Pontifex” or “greetings, Pope.” Both keep their coverage to two pages, detailing the pope’s itinerary and Israeli security’s plans to make sure the pope can keep his plans.

Yedioth includes a commentary from one Menahem Gantz, who praises the pope for a number of “surprising” moves, including recognition of Palestine and a buttress of Zionism.

“Unlike popes before him who visited Israel, Francis will ascend to the grave of Theodor Herzl to give support for Zionism. In his speech at Yad Vashem he is expected to condemn anti-Semitism. The meetings taking place in Bethlehem and Jerusalem are not just for photo ops. Francis is personally acting to bring together a meeting between [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas and [President Shimon] Peres, in the hopes of breaking the deadlock in peace talks.”

In Israel Hayom, Emily Amrousi notes the historical tension between the church and the Jewish community, but says there’s no reason it should remain so toxic as to derail the visit, as some Jewish extremists want.

“Our rift with the Christians has lasted 2,000 years and won’t soon end. In the Jewish laws of blessings appears a blessing that is not known by those to our right, which you say when you see an object used for idol worship. “Blessed is He that demonstrates forbearance to those that transgress His will.” The significance of the blessing is respect to God for his patience toward those who believe in other religions, a needed patience that we too glory in.”

In Haaretz, Amir Oren writes about the upcoming presidential race, opining that whoever wins that mostly symbolic position must not be happy with pope-like glad-handing but actually work to act as a counterbalance to the prime minister and his cabinet, thus making the choice of who to succeed Peres all the more fateful:

“The president is not merely an improved version of the Knesset speaker, the head of the politicians’ union, and the presidency must not become merely the fulfillment of a fervent wish, a lifetime achievement award that a long-serving MK urges his colleagues to give him just because he really, really wants it. The presidency is not rest for the weary court jester; it is the court itself, particularly in fateful times. What is needed is not a universal symbol but rather a strong president.”

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