A closed-minded approach: 5 things to know for July 7
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Israel media review

A closed-minded approach: 5 things to know for July 7

Israel shuts down some spots to fight rising infections rates, but the move appears to only add to already prevalent complaints over the state’s handling of the crisis

Israelis wear protective face masks in Tel Aviv, July 7, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israelis wear protective face masks in Tel Aviv, July 7, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

1. Restrict and reproach: New coronavirus restrictions announced Monday, which re-shut down bars, clubs, pools, cultural venues and event halls and placed limits on restaurants ,lead much of the news cycle Tuesday, as Israel wrestles with how to get control of the second wave of the pandemic, and leading to questions about the government’s handling of the crisis.

  • There is widespread concern over what appears to be politicized decision-making that bears little connection to people’s lives and livelihoods.
  • Yedioth Ahronoth leads off its paper with the economic effects of the fresh limitations, running a headline quoting a restaurant owner calling the restrictions “the nail in the coffin.”
  • “I don’t know what we will do. They are simply killing us completely and killing any hope that things would get better,” the restaurateur tells the paper.
  • Channel 12 notes that a requirement that buses shut their air conditioning and only travel with windows open in the summer “shows their disconnect,” given that most buses have only tiny windows that open, if any at all, and drivers will have to suffer in unbearable heat during the summer.
  • A Jerusalem gym owner tells Kan that she has a chart showing that few infections originated in gyms.”
  • “If a synagogue can have 19 people, why can’t we? What’s the difference? We are less crowded. Why don’t they let us work out?” she complains.

2. What should be shutting down: Indeed, Israel Hayom publishes what it says are official figures (though they are not public for some reason) showing that most infections are at home, and the shut-down places are actually much less dangerous than still-operating synagogues and yeshivas.

  • “According to the corona center, nearly two-thirds (65.8%) of people who tested positive for coronavirus were exposed at home. Another 10.3% were exposed at schools, yeshivas, and universities, while 5.8% were exposed to it at medical facilities (clinics or hospitals). Another 3.9% were exposed to the virus at an event or conference, while 2.2%, or 198 individuals, were exposed at synagogues. Another 2% were exposed to the virus at shopping centers or in stores. According to the corona center data, only 1.8% of confirmed cases were exposed at leisure venues,” it reports.
  • But speaking to Channel 12 news, health expert Gabi Barbash says that the steps announced are similar to those taken by other countries that managed to “disrupt the infection chain faster than places that used a full lockdown.”
  • “Thus, there’s a good chance that the new restrictions will help, but it seems that they are here to stay,” he says, adding that if they don’t work, Israel can expect much more dramatic steps.
  • Kan reports that the National Security Council is telling ministers that the restrictions need to stay in place at least until the number of daily infections drops below 100 a day, well below the 1,000 seen now: “The reason — only with a scale of 100 cases a day can an epidemiological investigation system function. The recommendation was known in May, but a system was never set up.”

3. The law to end all laws: The restrictions, the confusing way in which they were passed and then shoved through the Knesset via a law allowing the immediate enactment of emergency measures without waiting around for parliamentary approval, and just the whole second wave invite yet more harping about the government’s mismanagement of the crisis.

  • In Haaretz, Noa Landau says the bypass law is typical of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s tendency to go around anything in his way.
  • “Netanyahu’s disdain for the rules that so discomfort him … is a product of the same tendency to flee from everything that is supposedly too bureaucratic, too complicated, and instead to proudly cut corners. As policy. An approach that will only exacerbate the disaster if it continues,” she writes.
  • In Ynet, Matan Gutman also writes that the government is out of line: “A decision-making process that is public, and a bit cumbersome, is the price democracy is willing to pay even in times of crisis.”
  • Zman Yisrael analyst Yuval Yaoz writes that the law “turns the Knesset into the government’s doormat. The fact that the Knesset itself worked to approve it with lightning speed is a sign that the Knesset has lost any residue of self respect and is acting as a lapdog for [the government].”
  • A poll published by Channel 12 news appears to show waning support for Netanyahu, with approval of his handling of the crisis on both the economic and health fronts sliding into negative territory since May. The channel does not release any methodological information about the survey.
  • Army Radio has some rare praise for Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, or least criticism for his predecessor Yaakov Litzman, noting that Netanyahu seems to no longer be showing up for all the televised briefings.
  • “When there is a dominant and active health minister, the prime minister doesn’t need to to come to every announcement. In these cases, it’s enough that the minister presents the policies to the public.”

4. Trace this: At his briefing on Monday, Edelstein announced the appointment of a new “coronavirus czar,” whose job would be to oversee all the ministry’s activities against the virus, which some noted would overlap with powers currently assigned to ministry public health chief Sigal Sadetzky.

  • By Tuesday morning, Sadetzky announced her departure, publishing an open letter on Facebook criticizing the authorities’ handling of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and describing a chaotic and ineffective approach to tackling the crisis, likely ensuring she’ll at least have a job commenting on and criticizing decisions for the unrelentingly hungry media here.
  • Her departure leads the news agenda late Tuesday morning, with most news sites quoting liberally from her Facebook note.
  • Haaretz notes that Sadetzky had been the target of much criticism, along with former ministry director Moshe Bar-Siman Tov.
  • “Critics claimed that two managed the crisis with too much centralization, compartmentalizing relevant sources and making decisions that rest on a narrow and weak professional basis.”
  • According to Channel 13, citing sources in the ministry, Edelstein had lost trust in Sadetzky.
  • Ynet quotes “sources” saying that she was annoyed over the decision — made months ago — to allow 250 people at events, saying that outside pressures were infecting decision-making. “Suddenly everyone is an epidemiologist,” a source says.
  • But upon her departure she earns mostly praise, including from Edelstein and Hadassah head Zeev Rotstein, one of her harshest antagonists.
  • “She did what she could,” he’s quoted saying in Walla news. “That her recommendations were unacceptable to me and that they should have been filtered through a Health Ministry headed by a doctor are one thing. Her departure is a cry for help.”

5. The mask avengers: A video of a Haredi girl, 13, bursting into tears when she is stopped by police in Jerusalem for not wearing a mask sparks widespread outrage.

  • The video is the latest to show what appear to be heavy-handed police enforcement of mask rules, and while the incident seems tame compared to other videos that emerged in recent days showing people being wrestled to the ground and even tased by the mask 5-oh, the weepy girl manages to strike a chord.
  • Several news sites quote the same passerby, who argued that the girl had only removed her mask to drink from a slushy and offered to pay the fine: “The girl said she was drinking while on her way and between sips a cop came and claimed she didn’t have a mask. He started to write her a ticket, she gave him her parents’ phone number and burst out crying,” the man tells Walla news.
  • The Kikar Hashabbat website, which earlier Monday ran a column slamming rule-breakers fighting the police in the ultra-Orthodox community, calls the video “horrifying” and the incident “outrageous.”
  • The incident lands on the front pages of several Haredi newspapers. “Disturbing sight in Jerusalem: Police detain a Haredi girl ‘caught’ drinking without a mask,” reads a headline in Hamevaser.
  • Haaretz tackles the incident and others like it in its lead editorial, comparing police behavior here to ham-fisted fuzz being protested in the US following the killing of George Floyd: “No part of the population is immune to police brutality: Arabs, Haredi Jews, secular Israelis and settlers all face it, in the name of ‘maintaining public order,’” the broadsheet says, praising the use of cellphone cameras in shining a light on these incidents.
  • “The only weapon remaining to civilians in the face of police brutality is the camera lens,” the editorial reads. “Only the recording and distribution of evidence of violent incidents can hold a mirror to the police and bring about change.”
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