Whodunit in Acre
Hebrew media review

Whodunit in Acre

Was the blast that killed five in the Old City caused by a gas leak, or a bomb? And are Israelis selling weapons to Iran?

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Rescue personnel at the scene of an explosion that killed five and injured 11 in the northern city of Acre, Monday, February 17, 2014 (photo credit: Avishag Shaar Yashuv/Flash90)
Rescue personnel at the scene of an explosion that killed five and injured 11 in the northern city of Acre, Monday, February 17, 2014 (photo credit: Avishag Shaar Yashuv/Flash90)

Another day, another disastrous explosion for the Israeli press to gawk over. Thus far this week we’ve had terrorist explosions, gangland shootings, and on Tuesday the print media goes after a massive blast that killed five in Acre.

Yedioth Ahronoth gets tugging on your heartstrings from the get-go with the photo of a girl “Left alone,” as its front page shouts. Amana Sarhan, 11, was among the survivors of an explosion in the Old City of Acre that killed her mother, father and brother. The paper puts questions in the words of the police investigators who sifted through the rubble: “What caused the deadly gas explosion in the building — a leak resulting from a malfunction or an intentional blast because of a neighborly disagreement over a cellular antenna?”

Well, gas leaks are passé (so January 2014), so Maariv cuts to the chase and tells you how it really is. “Suspicion: The explosion in Acre was caused by torching cellular antennae in an argument between neighbors,” reads its headline. It goes on to report that according to police assessments (hang on, what about those burning questions?), “some individual tried to ignite the cellular antennae on the roof of the building with the help of a firecracker or other ignition equipment, and because the building also had a gas leak, it caused the huge explosion.”

Israel Hayom seems to have found other police officials who say Maariv’s police officials are full of it, saying “the assessment grew stronger that the explosion was caused by a gas leak, but emphasized ‘apparently the leak was deliberately caused by criminals, ostensibly to damage the antenna.'” It goes on to quote another police official saying that the possibility of an explosive charge being placed on the roof has been almost completely ruled out.

What’s the big deal about cellular antennae, anyhow? Haaretz reports that the issue has been raging in the building for a while already, and this wasn’t the first time someone tried to burn it down. Residents of the building told the paper that the owner of the top floor apartment left it empty in order to rent out roof space to erect the cell tower. The owner, Khaled Bader, promised to remove the antenna, which had sparked concerns of cancer caused by the tower’s radiation, next August, but the feud reignited a couple weeks ago. Bader said he and his brother, who was killed in the explosion, had received threats on account of the antenna.

If you’re sick of reading about disasters, crime or disaster-crime, flip a few pages past the explosion in Acre coverage to the juicy tidbit unearthed in Greece about Israelis selling airplane parts to Iran. There are so many details to the story that Yedioth had to run an almost full-page picture of jets buzzing the Temple Mount to fill up the space. Haaretz, by comparison, devotes a tiny inch-high column to the story as an afterthought in the bottom corner of Page 5.

According to a Greek daily, a few Israelis tried to sell and ship spare F-4 Phantom parts to Iran through a Greek straw company, in a clear violation of international sanctions. As expected, the pols in Israel were mum about the whole report, but that didn’t stop the press from commenting.

Israel Hayom leads off its story saying that breaking sanctions against Iran is very worrying, but this time “those who allegedly violated the arms embargo were — no more, no less — Israelis.” Evidently Israel Hayom forgot about the whole Israeli arms trade with Iran in the 1980s. Yedioth also feigns outrage and shock that it’s possible that “of all the arms dealers in the world, specifically an Israeli company tried to break the arms embargo on Iran.”

The arms to Iran story might not get much coverage in Haaretz, but the paper does make a big hullabaloo about North Korea exterminating its people like the Nazis. Although it headlines the paper, the story is an unholy conglomerate of Reuters, AP and DPA reporting on the systemic murder of North Koreans by the Kim Jong-un regime. According to the paper, a commission for the UN’s Human Rights Council called for the entire Pyongyang regime, including little Kim, to be brought before an international tribunal. Michael Kirby, a retired Australian judge on the panel, said that the crimes being committed had “many parallels” with those perpetrated by the Nazis.

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