When they awoke, the world was on fire
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Hebrew media review

When they awoke, the world was on fire

An attack on a Palestinian family drives the Israeli media to engage in serious soul-searching about Jewish violence and extremism

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Palestinians look at the damage after a house was set on fire and a baby killed, allegedly by Jewish terrorists, in the West Bank village of Duma, on July 31, 2015. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)
Palestinians look at the damage after a house was set on fire and a baby killed, allegedly by Jewish terrorists, in the West Bank village of Duma, on July 31, 2015. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

The haunting thought of 18-month-old Palestinian infant Ali Saad Dawabsha being burnt to death in an alleged Jewish terrorist attack sits uncomfortably in the minds of Hebrew-language papers’ editors on Sunday, and the major dailies devote pages upon pages to the incident, its roots, and its possible ramifications.

Both Yedioth Ahronoth and Haaretz lead with almost full-page columns on the attack by prominent Israeli authors Eshkol Nevo and David Grossman, respectively, perhaps conceding that purely news-oriented coverage cannot truly capture the mixture of emotions — shame, rage, and confusion — felt by many over the weekend.

“The house is ablaze,” Nevo writes, a play on words alluding both to the fire that ravaged the Dawabsha home in Duma, near Nablus, and the violent flames that threaten to consume Israeli society from within.

“Not for this was the Jewish state established,” he laments. “Not in order to burn an entire family in its sleep.”

In Haaretz, Grossman takes a more accusatory approach, pinning responsibility for the attack on the right wing leadership as a whole, and speculating whether the incident in Duma will serve as a wake-up call to the country concerning the dangers the author believes are posed by Israel’s continued presence in the West Bank.

“With every day that passes, wild forces, fanatic, dark, and hermetic, are released here,” Grossman writes. “They excite themselves with a fire of religious and nationalistic zealotry. They completely ignore the limitations of reality and the ethical limitations, and the basic rules of common sense.”

The esteemed author goes on to ponder whether the attack will have a permanent effect on the right. “Will the atrocity of the baby burning cause the right-wing leadership to come to its senses, and finally realize what the reality has been screaming in its ears for years now? That the continued occupation and the avoidance of dialogue with the Palestinians may likely hasten the end of the State of Israel as a Jewish state?

“Does [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu truly understand, deeply, that during these years, while he invested his whole self in thwarting the Iranian [nuclear] deal, a reality no less dangerous than the Iranian threat was being signed, and that faced with it he looks and acts like a bewildered man?”

As if to respond to Grossman’s accusations against the prime minister and his party, Israel Hayom chooses to highlight the reactions of top Likud officials to the alleged terrorist attack. The daily unambiguously demands that haters “put out the flames of hate,” and reprints quotes by Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon regarding the stringent measures taken to locate the perpetrators of the crime.

Israel Hayom contributor Haim Shain, echoing sentiments by right-wing officials such as Education Minister Naftali Bennett, urges Israelis not to blame the entire Jewish West Bank population for the heinous acts of the few, and posits that similar attacks by Palestinian terrorists did not receive such across-the-board condemnation. Nevertheless, Shain, like fellow Israel Hayom writer Dan Margalit, stresses that security forces must do everything in their power to bring the alleged Jewish terrorists to justice.

Israel Hayom further reports that one of the victims of Thursday’s stabbing attack at Jerusalem’s Gay Pride Parade, a 16-year-old girl, remains in critical condition and is receiving emergency medical treatment at the city’s Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital. The paper adds that the teen’s classmates at the Hebrew University Secondary School, known to Jerusalemites as the Leyada School, have hung a rainbow-colored pride flag at the entrance to the educational institution in solidarity with the LGBT community at large and the wounded girl in particular.

In news unrelated to the arson attack or to Thursday’s stabbings, Haaretz reports on the construction work for Tel Aviv’s future light rail system set to commence Sunday. As part of the project, which is scheduled to take six years to complete, numerous roads throughout Tel Aviv will be completely blocked, and heavy traffic is expected to build up across the city and the surrounding highways. If you thought finding parking in Tel Aviv was a hassle today, wait until you can’t even access the city’s main lots on Allenby or Yehuda Halevi streets. It’s going to be a long wait for the train.

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