Syrian massacre (again), Bibi-mania, and the Harpuzzle
Hebrew media review

Syrian massacre (again), Bibi-mania, and the Harpuzzle

Haaretz reports that Bild reports that the prime minister reports that his wife convinced him to free Shalit

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.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and journalist Peter Greenberg on a bike. (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and journalist Peter Greenberg on a bike. (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/Flash90)

Another day, another Syrian massacre.

The Israeli press can’t help but notice that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s troops reportedly slaughtered dozens more innocents this weekend. Israel Hayom speaks of “Pools of blood” and cites 50 civilians killed. It quotes UN observers calling Wednesday’s al-Qubeir massacre “simply horrifying.”

Haaretz says 60 died this weekend as “The slaughter in Syria continues,” but doesn’t deem this week’s brutality worthy of its front page or an editorial.

Yedioth Ahronoth writes of “Live bullets and futile words” and says “The streets of Syria were awash with blood,” but cites few figures. It provides a map showing the death toll hotspots across Syria and the number of civilians killed. Homs tops the charts at an estimated 6,000 dead.

Maariv runs a headline quoting UN observers referring to “Blood on the walls and body parts” in describing Wednesday’s al-Qubeir massacre, and mentions farther down — almost as a side note — that 30 more Syrians were killed over the weekend near Homs.

Dan Margalit assures Israel Hayom readers that “Assad will fall, the question is when.” He remains doubtful, though, that the end is near for the Damascene dictator and reminds us that the history of the Middle East is filled with despots who slaughtered their subjects and remained in power a long time. So long as Syria has Iranian and Russian support, he argues, Assad can hold onto power.

Smadar Peri writes in Yedioth Ahronoth that “Bashar Assad’s hands are stained with the blood of 15,000,” including thousands of children. Despite the horrors of his regime, however, “No one, especially not Obama on the eve of elections, will turn Syria into a point of conflict with the Iranians.” The ball, she says, reiterating Margalit’s bottom line, is in Russia’s court.

Like schoolgirls

Side from the savagery in Syria, the focus of Sunday’s papers seems to be the rest of the world press’s recent obsession with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Maariv devotes a page and a half to Bild, Vanity Fair, and Time’s front covers on Netanyahu. It calls the prime minister’s recent time in the limelight “an international media blitz” and quotes a Netanyahu confidant saying that the Israeli media is “too shallow and hostile” for such coverage.

Haaretz, undoubtedly taken aback by such criticism of its journalistic prowess, set out to fill the gap by following the international press’s lead. It, too, ran a feature on Israel’s first family. Its coverage, however, is merely a regurgitation of Bild’s article about the Netanyahus.

Even Israel Hayom discusses the Bild interview and cites it quoting the prime minister saying “Sara [Netanyahu] convinced me to free Gilad Shalit.”

Peres for Pollard

Speaking of Gilad Shalit, guess who is petitioning President Shimon Peres to call for Jonathan Pollard’s release?

Peres receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom this week in Washington, and amid the fanfare, Israeli public figures have petitioned the Israeli president to ask his counterpart (again) to release convicted traitor Jonathan Pollard.

If Yedioth Ahronoth’s headline “Free Jonathan” seems awfully familiar, then it’s because two months ago Peres entreated President Barack Obama to release Pollard.

The Obama administration said no in April, but 70,000 Israelis, including actors, authors, singers, Nobel laureates, and Gilad Shalit, are sure that the president will have changed his mind in the past eight weeks.

Yedioth Ahronoth quotes Gilad Shalit saying that he hope Peres will succeed in using all of his power “to convince Obama to free Pollard from prison on humanitarian and humane grounds.”

Efi Lahav writes in Maariv that the struggle to free Pollard “is not a struggle against the United States, nor does it belong to a particular political side.” Those signing the petition to Peres are “important people from every part of Israeli society, from every sector and every political stance, from Amos Oz to Professor Robert Aumann.”

“Our dear, honorable president,” Lahav concludes, “a great many in Israel and the world see you as a leader symbolic of hope, reconciliation, and humanity. President Obama represents in the eyes of many those exact same values. Please employ all of your personal honor in order to ensure that between two leaders such as yourselves there will be a blessing for us all: freedom and not prison, life and not death.”


Even after months of articles, reports, op-eds, and graphics explaining the Harpaz affair, there is no making sense of the mess.

Even Haaretz admits in an editorial calling for a new investigation that it is “difficult for a reasonable person to understand exactly what happened” between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi.

“A lack of faith, deep grudges and ego struggles are the key components of the Harpaz affair,” the paper writes, in support of State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss’s call for a renewed criminal probe into the affair.

Israel Hayom must be equally exhausted by this imbroglio of Shakespearian proportions. Its political cartoon sums up the situation:

Photo of Israel Hayom's political cartoon on June 10, 2012.
Photo of Israel Hayom's political cartoon on June 10, 2012.
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