A Flame and burning questions
Hebrew media review

A Flame and burning questions

The Middle Eastern computer bug is all over today’s papers, and army officers wants to know if any reserve soldiers still know how to shoot

The opening pages of a 1912 copy of S.Y. Agnon's first novella, 'And the Crooked Shall Be Made Straight.' (photo credit: Courtesy HUC/JTA)
The opening pages of a 1912 copy of S.Y. Agnon's first novella, 'And the Crooked Shall Be Made Straight.' (photo credit: Courtesy HUC/JTA)

There isn’t a lot in common across today’s front pages, save for one story — the discovery yesterday of the Flame virus, which has infected computers across the Middle East and which some believe is a kissing cousin to the Stuxnet and Duqu viruses that temporarily damaged Iran’s nuclear program.

Israel Hayom’s headline “Who is responsible?” might lead readers to believe they are in for a whodunit, complete with who actually done it, but alas, their reporters know no more than anybody else who done the powerful bug. All they can offer, by way of a filched quote from the Telegraph (are there no computer experts in Israel?), is that it probably wasn’t Oded from down the block on his home PC. “This wasn’t written by some spotty teenager in his/her bedroom. It is large, complicated and dedicated to stealing data whilst remaining hidden for a long time,” computing expert Alan Woodward is quoted as saying.

In Yedioth Ahronoth, Iranian attack expert Ronen Bergman calls the supervirus a silent attack, but says that while the Middle Eastern cyber war is continuing, an analysis of Flame shows it to be a different animal than Stuxnet or Duqu, and could be used for different aims. “It’s possible that the reports on the discovery of the two earlier viruses gave international underworld figures the idea to try to copy it for criminal purposes. It’s possible that Flame is a criminal stepchild that was sent out to collect data for crime tycoons, as opposed to its parents, Stuxnet and Duqu, which operate under official auspices against the imperial baddie from Tehran.”

Speaking of kissing cousins, Haaretz has a massive picture of outgoing Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Rivlin locked in passionate embrace with Supreme Court president Asher Grunis (we can only imagine the shot was a prelude to a big sloppy smooch). Its  lead story, though, focuses on Syrian opposition members who say they have plans in place to seize Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons stockpiles — not to use them, they say, but to keep them safe from terrorists once “day after” chaos ensues. “We know the locations of the chemical weapon stores and we will be ready to move and secure them quickly. I can’t promise that nothing will be removed but we have our information and it is not so simple to move around chemical weapons,” the opposition fighter, who requested anonymity, told the paper.

Yedioth leads off with news of a letter signed by 15 battalion commanders warning that the army is dangerously understaffed and unprepared for war. The letter is to be delivered to the Knesset today and also details a number of rights that reserve soldiers were supposed to receive but didn’t, leading to a situation in which reserve duty has become something of a joke. “In another five years you won’t find officers that want to move up in rank, above platoon commander or company commander. This isn’t a prophecy of doom, this is the reality. On the day we are called to action the question will be: Will everyone come? Will they remember how to use a gun?” the letter states.

Israel Hayom has a report on a novel plan to stop crime in Tel Aviv: Londonize the city by putting cameras everywhere. The city already has some 60-70 cameras keeping an eye on things, but recently put out a tender to purchase enough to blanket every square inch of public space. Having Big Brother making sure everything is hunky dory doesn’t come cheap though, and the paper details that the city will likely tax citizens an extra NIS 100-150 for the pleasure. Say cheese.

A tax bill you can’t refuse

Maariv features an interview with Israel’s leading man of Holocaust letters, Aharon Appelfeld, who speaks out about the way African migrants are being treated in the country. “We are pushing the refugees toward crime, toward killing and toward raping. The fix for so much of these problems is patience and understanding.”

Have you won some money betting on the ponies or rolling the dice abroad? The Israeli government wants you to give it a little taste. A story in Yedioth reveals that the tax authority will soon come after people to collect on gambling profits. And like a classic mafioso, the government will be sure to break your legs, figuratively, if you don’t pay up on time, tacking on interest and fines and maybe a little jail time to make you sure you don’t try to lowball Bibi and the gang again. Capice?

And coincidence of coincidences, on the 100th anniversary of the publication of S.Y. Agnon’s first book, “And the Crooked Shall Be Made Straight,” guess who found a “long lost” copy of the book from its first run in his bedroom? That’s right, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, according to a story in Maariv. Well it wasn’t all that lost, considering the copy, which was given to Rivlin’s father by Agnon himself, was given to Rivlin in 2001 as a gift from Yaakov Adler from the Bialik Foundation. Plus, it was found sitting next to his bed, not in a forgotten library. Maybe tomorrow Maariv will also have a story about how Ehud Barak discovered his “long lost” glasses on his nightstand?

A sporting chance

In Maariv’s op-ed section, Ofer Shelah, who maybe still thinks streets in America are paved with gold, says that unlike the United States, where the public has a right to know what it pays for and why its sons are killed, in Israel, we are just allowed to pay and to be killed, without knowing why. “The American army isn’t a ‘people’s army.’ Its draftees are a small part of the public. And yet despite that, the discourse on going to war is public,” he writes.

Haaretz’s editorial says that while popular sports like basketball and soccer are languishing under scandals and overhyped play, Israelis are excelling across the globe in less-well known sports and should be lauded for their hard work away from the media spotlight. “A different culture of sport — straightforward, professional and based on hard work — has taken root, without receiving the respect and attention it deserves. Last weekend, one of the best in the history of Israeli sports, that culture was awarded official recognition.”

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