Tempest in a snow globe
Hebrew media review

Tempest in a snow globe

With the storm of the century behind Israel, it's time for another tempest, as pundits line the barricades in the argument over how badly the government fudged this one up

A woman swims in the pool at the David Citadel Hotel during a snowstorm in Jerusalem, Friday, December 13, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Brian Snyder, Pool)
A woman swims in the pool at the David Citadel Hotel during a snowstorm in Jerusalem, Friday, December 13, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Brian Snyder, Pool)

Pop quiz, hotshot. The Middle East has just been hit by a once-in-a-generation snowstorm, leaving Israel shivering and with its pants down. Homes remain without power or heat, roads around the country, including leading into and out of Jerusalem, are closed, and the natives, plus the politicians who supposedly represent them, are growing restless. You’re the editor of a newspaper that hasn’t been published for two days. What do you do? What… do… you… do?

If you’re the editor of Yedioth Ahronoth, you fill your pages with enough white stuff to make Doc Gooden giddy, hyping the storm way out of proportion with a special edition devoted almost solely to the snow and its effects, including a front-page photo of soldiers marching, as if off to fight the flakes with their M-16s.

If you’re Maariv, you give the story most of the front page and the 12 subsequent pages, with full, but not THIS-IS-BIGGER THAN KATRINA, HAIYAN, THAT ASTEROID THAT HIT RUSSIA AND NELSON MANDELA COMBINED, coverage.

If you’re Israel Hayom, you switch immediately to the second storm that’s forming over Israel, the political one over who’s to blame for all the snow that fell and the general lack of preparation for a once-in-decades event (my money is on Eli Yishai). And then you lead off that story by praising Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to make sure that lives were saved first and foremost.

And if you’re Haaretz, you write about how, if it weren’t for the settlements, the snow would have left us alone, but this is the kind of isolation that comes with illegally occupying Palestinian land. I kid, I kid. You devote about half of your front page to the storm and a few inside pages, but certainly not too many. After all, Tel Aviv only got some rain.

The paper does, though, feature a tubular picture of an APC next to a snow-covered Bridge of Strings at the capital’s entrance, and a few zingers from military correspondent Amos Harel, who notes that instead of combat soldiers being called in, the Home Front Defense Ministry should have stepped in where police failed.

“The fact that the Home Front Ministry was ignored raises again questions about its necessity. Over the past few months, Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan has been waging a fierce battle to greatly expand the authority of his ministry at the expense of the Defense Ministry. But if during the storm we managed without him, it’s possible that in war, as well, it would be better to leave the Home Front Command subordinate to the Defense Ministry, as the command itself recommends,” he writes.

In Israel Hayom, Gonen Ginat wonders why everybody has decided to lash out at the government when we should do as Milli Vanilli would. That’s right, blame it on the rain … er snow.

“Events like this happen in nearly every country on the planet, and their wild strength leaves a trail of destruction, devastation and death in every place, beginning with the US, where you can see a terrifying list of storms in order to understand the strength of nature against the most advanced country in the world, and including the Philippines, when one storm wiped out whole areas,” he writes in one hell of a terrifying run-on sentence. “Compared to that, Israel passed this terrifying storm peacefully. So what are you all complaining about?”

For those playing along at home, yes, a columnist at a major Israeli newspaper did compare a foot or two of snow in Jerusalem to Typhoon Haiyan, Hurricane Sandy, and the Moore, Oklahoma, F5 tornado.

Less sanguine is Maariv’s Shlomo Yerushalmi, who is wondering what exactly the electric company and other relevant bodies have done to prepare since the last storm of this magnitude hit Israel, in 1992.

“The day will come when those responsible for this mess will be called to account. How is it possible that main roads were closed like this? How is it possible that my friends, one of whom had serious back surgery and one who has trouble lying down, had to stay at home with no electricity and no heat for four days? What has the electric company done since 1992, in the near 22 years since the large snowstorm in Jerusalem. What have the millionaires done, with their massive salaries? What are we paying for if not so they can prepare infrastructure for days like these? The funniest was to hear about these ‘poor’ people working hard in the field. If they were serious they wouldn’t need to work today at all.”

Yedioth covers the storm from every angle possible and then some, hitting all the bases you’ve already read about, and jumping to some cold camels in Egypt and the fact that the storm was named “al-Aqsa” in the Arab world (it means Jerusalem [That’s us!]). In a bit of creativity gone awry, the paper itself dubbed the storm “sufat hamedina” or “storm of the country,” turning the “vav” in “sufat” into a lightning strike, despite the fact it wasn’t that kind of storm.

And of course, there’s a nice big picture of a woman swimming during the snow (see picture), accompanying a column by Sima Kadmon in which she notes that if this is how we deal with some wimpy white stuff, we better pray our enemies don’t get wind of it.

“We need to hope that the Iranians didn’t watch Israelis over the last few days. Look at all the damage that piled up from this storm in 48 hours, which is a lot less than what would happen every five minutes in a war with Iran.”

Sorry for South Africa

Not every paper only covers the snow. Maariv notes that those same dastardly Iranians broke up the technical meeting on implementation of Geneva nuclear deal in the first real crisis since it was signed last month. The paper reports that it asked an Iranian envoy at the meeting if he had any thoughts on Iran supporting the two-state solution. “Iran supports a solution which allows Shiite and Sunni Muslims to live alongside Jews and Christians,” was his response.

In Haaretz, Gideon Levy is still stuck on the death of Nelson Mandela (remember him?) and writes that it’s time Israel asks Pretoria for forgiveness for supporting the country’s apartheid regime.

“For several years, Israel was the most loyal ally of that South Africa, the only democracy that did not join the sanctions regime until it was forced to do so under American pressure… And we — all Israelis, except for a few select individuals — were silent. We supported and were even proud of our despicable ally. We have to remember this now, but it’s not enough. … Israel should have begged Mandela’s forgiveness in his lifetime, and must apologize to South Africa at any time. It’s not too late. Mandela forgave Israel, but Israel must not forgive itself.”

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