A hasty poll conducted Thursday showed a 90 percent disapproval rating for a McCarthyist campaign by right-wing group Im Tirtzu to “expose” leftist “traitors.” As one TV commentator pointed out, there’s not a whole lot that nine out of 10 Israelis agree on.
Indeed, with headlines like “Wall to wall condemnation” in Israel Hayom, and a gaggle of scathing commentaries against the group and its campaign in all three major dailies, it seems Israelis are united as never before behind disapprobation for the Blue and White Scare.
In Yedioth Ahronoth, writer Sami Michael, one of those targeted in the campaign, compares the move to the world of George Orwell’s dystopian “1984,” linking it to Minister Miri Regev’s campaign for artists to pass a loyalty test, and saying he and others will not be cowed. It’s not himself he’s worried for, but the state of Israel, he intimates.
“It’s scary, even terrifying: These malicious people silencing with one hand and smashing faces with the other,” he writes in an impassioned plea. “The state of Israel, despite all its shortcomings and defects, is still a precious asset. Freedom to create and freedom of expression are the jewels in its crown. The justice system is another treasure. Why take these terrifying Shakesperean villains and give them power over the rich culture of two ancient peoples and the justice system in one go? Really, why?”
The condemnation from those targeted and from the left is none so surprising (Haaretz, considered the paper of the left, doesn’t even put the story on its front page), but the lack of love from even the right-wing, including Regev herself, is noteworthy and even ironic, in Israel Hayom’s telling.
“Quite ironically, this campaign managed to unite the right and left, as both political camps harshly condemned yesterday the “cultural mole” campaign of Im Tirtzu, which labels Israeli artists and cultural figures who are members of the left-wing groups or connected to them,” the tabloid leads its news story with.
Haaretz’s coverage of the storm is relegated to an inside page laundry list of copycat statements from politicians coming out against Im Tirtzu, but not all of the opposition is homogenous. Israel Hayom’s Dror Edri, for instance, calls the campaign justified, even if the end doesn’t justify the means.
“We are in a battle over Israeli society’s image. The right is in control. Anyone who wants to build an alternative to the old elite needs to act with respect, restraint and security. The vocal criticism of government actions border on hysteria, yet the moles campaign shows no less hysteria. Some soul searching is in order,” he writes. “But after all that, it’s hard to ignore the screaming hypocrisy of the left on the political witch hunt, after years in which they shunted, displaced and silenced artists and spiritual figures who didn’t fall in line with their beliefs. Here also, there is a long list of names.”
The Im Tirtzu scandal was certainly the news of yesterday, but if one wants to know what will drive the news machine for the next few days at least, they will need to look at Yedioth, which leads off with a shocking expose on the US and UK hacking into Israel’s drone program for the last 18 years.
Yedioth calls the revelation an exclusive, though its piece is published in concert with The Intercept and Der Spiegel, based on documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Highlighting that its story is “approved by the military censor,” as if that somehow doesn’t damage its journalism bona fides, the paper goes into painful details on the US-British program to break into Israel’s drone program, which surveyed Gaza, the West Bank, around the region and even Iran, and also included two drones armed with missiles.
“In practice, this was a glimpse into the guts of Israel’s intelligence world: banks of targets, goals, preferences and abilities, and through the eyes of Israel looking at its enemies,” the paper reports. “The US and Britain enjoyed in practice Israel’s amazing intelligence abilities and saw everything Israel saw.”
“This is an earthquake,” a security source is quoted telling the paper. “It means that they have forcibly stripped us, and, no less important, that probably none of our encrypted systems are safe from them. This is the worst leak in the history of Israeli intelligence.”
Compared to skullduggery of that magnitude, it’s kind of hard to get excited by Haaretz’s lead story, which reports that Education Minister Naftali Bennett will give extra money to East Jerusalem schools that adopt an approved Israeli curriculum, the latest in a series of front page stories going after various Bennett initiatives over the past week.
The story notes that most Arab East Jerusalem schools use a Palestinian curriculum, but Bennett would like to pay them off to convince them to “Israelize” the schools, though the paper also writes that schools that don’t follow the plan won’t have any funding pulled.
Unsurprisingly, the broadsheet quotes opposition to the initiative.
“After many years of discriminating against education in East Jerusalem, the Education Ministry is now demanding that schools adopt Israeli curricula as a condition for obtaining resources. That’s educationally, politically and morally unacceptable,” one person familiar with the plan is quoted telling the paper.
Perhaps Bennett should save the money and instead pump it into anti-Islamic State initiatives among Israeli Arabs, one columnist for Israel Hayom proposes.
While the actions of Nashat Milhelm are far from representative of the whole community, Nadav Shragai still uses the Tel Aviv terrorist as a jumping off point for a column telling Israeli Arabs to “choose life,” and help Israel fight those who identify with the jihadi group living within the country’s borders.
“Islamic State in our midst is impossible to defeat militarily. It’s impossible to kill an idea, sick as it might be. You can only try to isolate it, to make it verboten and invest many times what we do in education and public advocacy,” he writes. “For this we need Israeli Arab society and its leadership, and it needs us. It’s in its interest no less than ours: to live and not to die. Jews and Arabs in Israel need to join hands and not allow for us or for them dozens of those who would be like the terrorist Milhem.”
Not every attacker in the latest wave of violence is necessarily tied to Islamic State. Rather than make blanket statements, Haaretz’s Gideon Levy sends a dispatch from a visit with the family of Ruqayya Abu Eid, a 13-year-old shot and killed while trying to stab a guard at a West Bank settlement last week.
Levy, whose politics are well-known, writes with a sensitivity likely infuriating to terror victims about the sad life of the girl, and the brutality of her death, though the intimateness of the piece doesn’t save it from the scourge of aphorisms.
“The cruel and irrevocable bottom line is that Ruqayya Abu Eid, not yet 14, was shot to death, as dozens were shot before her, when the action that could – and should – have been taken was to overcome her by force, shoot her in the leg or stop her by other nonlethal means,” he writes.
“A girl with a knife – but a girl. With appalling insensitivity, TV broadcasters and news editors in Israel immediately dubbed her a ‘13-year-old girl terrorist.’ Most of these media people probably have children of their own and know what a girl her age looks like and how an adolescent behaves. They also know that experienced security guards are supposed to be able to stop a girl that age without killing her, even if she runs at them with a knife. They know, too, that what made it possible for the guard to shoot her to death so easily is the carte blanche people think they have to kill Palestinians.”