The censor gets censured
Hebrew media review

The censor gets censured

Was that so bad, Hebrew papers ask, after details about the Syrian reactor bombing that the military has been trying to quash for years come out in an American magazine

Before and after satellite images of the Syrian nuclear reactor at al-Kibar, which was reportedly struck by Israel in 2007.(AP/DigitalGlobe)
Before and after satellite images of the Syrian nuclear reactor at al-Kibar, which was reportedly struck by Israel in 2007.(AP/DigitalGlobe)

Arizona: A state, a delicious iced tea brand, a former battleship, and now the name of a secret operation to bomb a Syrian nuclear reactor, whose just released details have the Hebrew press going buck wild Tuesday morning.

All four papers devote a good chunk of space to the story, revealed in the New Yorker on Monday, from how Israel found out about the program, to its political lobbying to get the US to join in, to the strike itself, involving eight planes and 17 tons of explosives. (Maariv is the only holdout, leaving the story off its front page and running a small article.)

Both Haaretz and Yedioth Aharonoth use the story to censure the military censor, which has for years kept the papers from releasing the same information under the guise of national security.
“Now the censor can check if the publication of these details, especially in a high-class publication like The New Yorker, in fact caused the damage it expected it to cause,” Yedioth’s Ronen Bergman writes as an aside in his analysis.

Haaretz takes the case much more seriously, putting its complaint front and center and pointing to David Makovsky’s New Yorker story and a recent book about the Mossad’s operations in Iran and Syria by Yossi Melman and Dan Raviv as cases of secret material making it out. “Meanwhile, the censor insists on muzzling Haaretz investigative reports on the bombing of the reactor — one by Amos Harel about two weeks after the operation, and a more extensive piece by Aluf Benn about a year after that,” write Benn (now editor in chief and remembered in the annals of Israeli media as breaking open the Bus 300 affair against the censor’s wishes) and Harel. “Similar bans have been imposed on other media outlets. The stifling of the reports was initially explained by concerns that they would embarrass Syrian President Bashar Assad and spur him to respond to the bombing. But what’s the point of suppressing the reports five years later, when Assad is fighting for his survival in a civil war and the relevant details have already been released?”

Israel Hayom leads off with Israeli anger over the US State Department’s refusal to set red lines beyond which it will use military action against Iran’s nuclear program, and the pro-Netanyahu paper’s feelings are pretty much laid bare by its Page 5 headline, “[Hillary] Clinton strengthens the centrifuges,” uttered by a senior Jerusalem source. Analyst Dan Margalit says the move weakens the US stance vis-a-vis Iran and says the only reason behind it possible is that the US looking out for number 1 until election day rolls around on November 6: “The fuel that drives the management of the current government is the November elections. It seems public opinion polls in the hands of the White House say that even though most of the American public opposes a nuclear Iran, it prefers for reasons of comfort to go by the timetable of the president (and not Israeli intelligence) and to keep it quiet through negotiations and not through military muscle.”

Million-question baby

Maariv, like many of the papers, is getting into the holiday spirit and already previewing its weekend and Rosh Hashanah blockbusters, even though it’s only Tuesday. In this case Maariv is banking on you caring what Israel’s top cop says about the embattled Jerusalem police chief, who is under investigation for treating his precinct as a harem. Should you not care (you don’t) the paper also has the sad tale of the lone survivor of an accident near Megiddo Sunday that left three members of his family dead. Nobody has come to claim the 1-year-old and he remains alone in the intensive care unit. The air is somewhat taken out of the story, headlined “Nobody’s baby” when it is revealed about three paragraphs in that a group of people did finally come to visit the child Monday afternoon.

“People who know the baby, to whom he is important, came to visit and promised to continue coming, since there is still a lot to be done around the accident,” a social worker said.

Sorry you couldn’t have your sad ending, Maariv.

Yedioth, trying to get to the bottom of the domestic unrest in the West Bank, enlists the help of Palestinian journalist Nida Toumeh, who writes that the demands are quite simple: “Give us a better life, or let us get out.”

“The heating up situation in the West Bank is not surprising in a time when young people are feeling they are on their own. More and more good friends, young and old, lost their jobs in the last few months,” she writes.

Helping the poor is for suckers

You should be careful what you wish for, at least according to Haaretz’s Nehemia Shtrasler, who opines that Israelis who protested last summer are now paying the price of their demonstrations, since those dirty ultra-Orthodox and Arabs got the benefits and not the middle classes: “Who pays for the subsidized housing construction for the ultra-Orthodox and the free education for the young? After all, most of the ultra-Orthodox don’t work, and the salaries reported by the Bedouin and the Arabs are so low that they pay almost no income tax. Since the economy is not a free lunch, there was no choice but to raise the taxes paid by the middle class — that is to say, the people who protested and who work hard.”

In Maariv, Yehuda Sharoni wants to know why Apple finds the needs to come out with another newfangled iContraption when what we really need is a phone that lets us talk and do nothing else, and that will save us thousands of shekels (I think you answered your question right there, Yehuda): “I’m still left wondering how in an era of allegations of cost of living problems, high gas prices and people unable to make ends meet, some are detached from reality and are willing to spend thousands of shekels every few months on a sophisticated phone. Is the number of grams lighter or few millimeters thinner really what make the difference? It seems iPhone fans are a closed sect that doesn’t let economic logic confuse it. Madness is the motto. People live in the world of apps. They fill their carts in the App store, and not at Rami Levy. Apple knows how to exploit this madness. If Apple did not hesitate to sue the Korean Samsung for copying patents on its products — and hurt the American consumer — why would it not hesitate in exploiting the weakness bordering on childishness of consumers around the world?”

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