Voices diverge in coverage of kidnapped teens
Hebrew media review

Voices diverge in coverage of kidnapped teens

In the first editions since the news of the kidnapping broke, each paper handles the tragedy in its own way

Thousands of people pray on Saturday night at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for the release of three Israeli teenagers kidnapped on Thursday (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Thousands of people pray on Saturday night at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for the release of three Israeli teenagers kidnapped on Thursday (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel only learned on Friday evening about the abduction of three teenagers and due to the Sabbath, Sunday is the first day that the newspapers can actually cover the story. Despite the unifying nature of a national tragedy, each paper covers the story in its own way.

Yedioth Ahronoth – recounting the facts

Yedioth Ahronoth’s coverage focuses on the actions the IDF is taking to find the boys. Its first article is simply called “The hunt,” and it explains how a large IDF presence is searching the area around Hebron. Despite this, the paper writess the real push to locate the youths is focusing on intelligence gathering.

The paper reports that IDF sources haven’t gotten any specific information yet that can help locate the boys.

After updating us what the IDF is doing to bring them back, the paper dives into the mystery itself, asking, “Where are the kids?” The paper retraces their last known movements, reporting that Eyal Yifrach spoke to a friend at 9:40 pm Thursday and told him that he was at Gush Etzion trying to hitch a ride. Somewhere around 10 pm, the three youths got in a car. The police received a message at 10:25 reporting the kidnapping. However, that message wasn’t passed on to the IDF or the Shin Bet for another few hours.

Yedioth runs an op-ed by former Shin Bet security service head Yuval Diskin, who writes, “Stop releasing terrorists.” Diskin was responding to the idea that Israel needs to show more strength to get the teenagers back. “There’s no use for statements that call for ‘more force’ as if we’re not exerting sufficient ongoing force. Someone like me who has been there for so many years can testify to that.” Diskin goes on to argue that releasing prisoners is a central motivation for kidnapping attacks like this one and the government needs to rethink its priorities.

Haaretz – putting it in perspective?

Haaretz’s coverage differs from the rest in its drive to be considered Israel’s “paper of record.” Its coverage focuses more on the possible outcome of the attack, what this attack means for Abbas, and Netanyahu’s dangerous game.

Its front page highlights the urgency of the situation, “Serious concern for the lives of the three abducted in the West Bank.” Amos Harel explains in an analysis piece that despite the hopes of the country, hostages in the West Bank usually don’t fare well. The reason is that Israel has a very strong presence in the West Bank, making it harder for kidnappers to keep hostages alive because feeding and caring for them leaves a higher “intelligence signature” which means a higher chance of being caught. While the there is no definite evidence, the plan right now in the intelligence community is to latch on to the outer circle of the cell and work its way inward.

Haaretz reporter Jacky Khoury writes that the kidnapping is a “trap for Abbas.” Khoury writes that the Palestinian people are getting fed up with Abbas, who has little to show from nine months of negotiations with Israel, and whose cooperation with Israel is being used against him by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The real trap for Abbas is “if the teens are released with PA assistance and no quid pro quo, it will be seen in the West Bank as a cozying up to Israel, or even as a betrayal of Palestinian prisoners and detainees.”

Barak Ravid writes that Netanyahu is a man who thrives on national emergencies. Whether it was the 2010 Carmel Forest fire, the winter storm of 2013, or 2011’s takeover of the Israeli embassy in Cairo, Netanyahu is photographed in the operations room, answering phones, and looking at maps. Ravid writes, though, that “there’s not much Netanyahu can do to locate the three kidnapped teens.” What he can do, according to Ravid, is use the event in his propaganda war against the Palestinians.

Ravid writes, “Netanyahu increased the intensity of these attacks [against Abbas], saying the kidnapping was the result of the new unity government and holding Abbas responsible. Netanyahu knows full well that no one is quite buying that.” But Ravid writes that Netanyahu is walking a fine line because Israel might need the PA’s help and the more he attacks it the less it’ll be willing to help.

Israel Hayom – focus on the emotional

Israel Hayom aims its coverage at human aspect of the story. Its front page headline reads “Worry and prayers,” and features the pictures of the three abducted teens. The paper’s Emily Amrussi, who lives in the settlement of Talmon where Gil-ad Shaar is from, reports on the situation there. She writes the feeling is that the whole community has been taken hostage, not just one son. She writes about a community in anguish, with members constantly approaching the defense personnel stationed and asking for any update, but “they have no new information.”

In an accompanying article, the paper provides short bios on all three of kidnapped teens. Gil-ad Shaar is the oldest of six children and is described as a quiet but sociable boy who loved all those around him. Naftali Frenkel, who is an American citizen, is described as a huge sports fan and a smart and nice child. Eyal Yifrach’s family is praying for a safe return of their son. The mayor of Elad, the city where Eyal is from, said, “They trust that the security services will bring him home. This is a very strong family.”

The paper also reports that at the Makor Haim yeshiva, where Naftali and Gil-ad studied, is taking the news hard. The head of the yeshiva, Rabbi David Rabinovitch, said, “Students have anxiety and fear, and we are trying to support them and pray with them in order to deal with this.” He went on to say, “These are good boys. We hope that we will see them again.”

In an op-ed on the attack, Nadav Shragai writes that what caused this attack was hate propaganda in the Palestinian territories. Making an argument similar to Diskin’s, Shargai writes that Hamas sees abductions as the best way to release Palestinian prisoners. However, he avoids the issue of prisoner releases and instead places the blame on the Palestinians for the atmosphere of hate that created the attack. “PA security apparatuses and Abbas can now cluck their tongues, and even cooperate with the IDF and the Shin Bet attempts to locate the hostages. But the public climate in the PA and Hamas is an atmosphere that encourages terrorism.” By creating that atmosphere, the PA has “very tangible responsibility for the safety of the boys.”

read more: