Things fall apart
Hebrew media review

Things fall apart

With riots spreading and the south aflame with rockets, it seems a new major round of intifada-style fighting is upon us. Or is it?

Israeli police secure a street during clashes with Palestinian protesters (unseen) in the Arab Israeli city of Nazareth, northern Israel , July 5, 2014. (photo credit: Gil Eliyahu/Flash90)
Israeli police secure a street during clashes with Palestinian protesters (unseen) in the Arab Israeli city of Nazareth, northern Israel , July 5, 2014. (photo credit: Gil Eliyahu/Flash90)

If you thought things were tense before, boy did you have another think coming over the weekend, as violence following the death of an Arab teen, suspected by some to be a revenge killing for three Israelis slain last month, spiraled out of control and onto the front page, and that’s not even mentioning the near nonstop rocket fire on the south.

“Riots spread from Jerusalem to the [Arab] Triangle, Wadi Ara and Nazareth,” reads the very specific main headline in Haaretz, accompanying a picture of the stormy funeral of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, which helped set off the wave of protests.

Israel Hayom, with a maze of headlines, subdecks, logos and postage stamp sized pictures on its front, signaling both the multifaceted nature of the news and its editors’ trouble with making decisions, notes the “wave of protests,” “fire on Beersheba,” that we are “under fire” and that the “ground is burning.”

Yedioth Ahronoth, taking a similar tack, albeit with a more literary touch, heralds the “red south” and “fire at the junctions,” a reference to clashes between rioting Israeli Arabs and police at main intersections in northern Israel that led to injuries and road closures.

While it certainly feels like the beginning of Intifada the Third, Haaretz’s Amos Harel notes that it’s too early to say as much and in any case, history doesn’t really ever repeat itself.

“A US peace initiative that provides hope and fizzles out, murders of Israelis by Palestinians, the death of a Palestinian boy under questionable circumstances, mass protests in both the territories and Israel proper, Arab Israelis donning masks and stoning their Jewish neighbors’ cars, a massive mobilization by the police – all this reminds us of the autumn of 2000 when the Second Intifada broke out,” he writes. “Are we witnessing the beginning of a Third Intifada, following the false alarms of 2011 and 2012? It’s too early to tell – history rarely repeats the same way.”

In Yedioth, Alex Fishman tries to give another reason this might not be the Third Intifida: nobody wants it, though a war in the south is another story.

“Not just Israel, but also the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are not interested in descending to the chaos of a third intifada or a war with Gaza. But Hamas, in its weakened state, is stubbornly granting authority to extremists, and the path to armed conflict in just half an hour away: That’s how long it will take the security cabinet to convene and decide to hit Gaza from the air and ground. Everything is ready, only the order is missing.”

But while officials may not be interested in going down the path of conflict, on the ground the situation looks a lot different. The paper interviews the Sharon resident who found himself “nearly lynched,” in the words of Yedioth, by a mob at the entrance to Qalansuwa on Friday night. “Masked men surrounded my car and shouted ‘Jew, Jew get out of the car.’ Some of them threw rocks. I could see death staring me in the face. They wanted to kill me because I am a Jew and I understood that I needed to escape quickly,” recounts the man, who made it out just before they blew up his car.

It’s incidents like these that lead to the more jingoistic columns found in Israel Hayom. Haim Shain writes, in an article accompanying the picture of the same burnt out car, that Arab Israelis need to choose whether they are citizens of Israel or haters of the country.

“The hypocrisy of Arab Israeli celebrating is revolting. On the one hand, they aren’t ready to disconnect in any way from the nation-state of the Jewish people, and on the other hand, they loudly join in with the country’s biggest enemies. Unfortunately, they have not internalized that they are walking a thin rope, and it could crack if their treacherous ways continue.”

The paper’s Dan Margalit, meanwhile, tries speaking for the citizens of the south in calling for all-out war against Gaza. “There’s no doubt, in the communities surrounding Gaza they believe fully that if ministers and their families had to withstand a missile alert there would be a forceful response from the IDF. They also believe that if there were a significant ground invasion, it would stymie the terror from Gaza.”

If there was any question whether Israel’s top guns are taking recent developments lightly, though, Mossad chief Tamir Pardo puts a stop to that, with Haaretz reporting his view, given at a recent talk, that Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians puts our kerfuffle with Iran into context.

“Pardo said, according to the source, that the major threat to Israel is the conflict with the Palestinians. When some of the participants asked him to repeat what he said, he answered: ‘Yes, the biggest threat is the Palestinian issue.’ Someone asked whether the Iranian nuclear threat was the second largest threat. Pardo surprised his audience by saying Iran might produce or purchase a nuclear weapon in the future, but he wouldn’t ‘recommend rushing to obtain a foreign passport.’”

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