Hebrew media review

Asylum seekers, infiltrators or refugees?

The papers use a variety of terms to describe thousands of protesters in Tel Aviv; Liberman praises the peace talks; and oops! wrong baby!

Protesters hold up signs at Sunday's demonstration in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square (photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)
Protesters hold up signs at Sunday's demonstration in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square (photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)

Monday’s Hebrew press displays a decidedly Rashomon effect in its reporting on the story that unites the respective front pages: the rally in Tel Aviv held by (depending on who you read) Africans/asylum seekers/infiltrators.

Haaretz gives the most space to the rally, calling the protesters “Eritrean and Sudanese citizens” who are protesting against Israel’s “detention policy.” In addition to the 20,000-strong rally at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, the paper reports, the protesters are going on a three-day work strike to protest being treated like criminals. The paper quotes one protester saying, “We didn’t come here to stay our whole lives; we want to return to our home countries once the situation improves.”

Haaretz also transcribes the text of Somiah, a 22-year-old Sudanese woman who spoke at Sunday’s rally, highlighting the plight of a lot of the protesters: “We left our countries due to prosecution, war, and genocide – and we are treated like criminals.”

On the other end of the spectrum is Israel Hayom, which calls the protesters “infiltrators” and selects a headline that quotes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official Facebook page, “Protests won’t help.” The paper goes on to quote further from Netanyahu: “We completely halted the infiltration into Israel and now we are determined to remove the illegal infiltrators.”

Where Haaretz reprinted the speech from the rally, Israel Hayom gives space to former interior minister (and current Shas Knesset member) Eli Yishai, under whose watch the detention facilities were established and deportations began. Yishai says he hates to deport a child who speaks Hebrew, or to see a husband and wife here for years deported. “But,” he writes, “I wasn’t elected as a public servant to ignore what I don’t like.” He goes on to write that while the Jewish people should be sympathetic to the suffering of others, that sympathy shouldn’t endanger the state. The protesters don’t want freedom, he writes, they want to change Israel. “They pose an existential threat like Iran, but the danger for our future is not merely in the form of nuclear Iran but also an African Israel,” he writes.

While Haaretz and Israel Hayom clearly stake out their positions in the debate, Maariv and Yedioth try different tactics to stay in the middle. Maariv puts a large picture of the rally on its front page, but then buries the story on page 12. Calling the protesters “asylum seekers,” the paper mentions that the protest was peaceful and the police didn’t need the reinforcements they had called up. Also in the crowd were Israelis who were rallying alongside the protesters. Uri Gottlieb, who owns a bar in Jaffa, said of the protest and strike, “If we have to work in your stead, we’ll do it, because you have helped us so much. There isn’t just hate for you here in Israel, there is also love.”

Yedioth Ahronoth shows a picture on the front page with the headline, “The infiltrators conquer Rabin Square,” but inside it tries to stay in the middle by calling the protesters “asylum seekers.” The report on the protest is a short one, but there is also a short op-ed piece by Noah Klieger who writes that this “situation cannot continue.” While Israel has had to deal with this situation almost alone, he opines, any solution must not be only in Israel’s interests. “We need to find the most appropriate solution — for us and for the infiltrators.”

Liberman comes around?

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman seems to have embraced the American proposal for a framework agreement with the Palestinians. Yedioth’s front page quotes him saying: “The American proposal is the best that we’re going to get.” He even seemed to cozy up to US Secretary of State John Kerry as well, saying, “I appreciate all of Kerry’s efforts.” However, Liberman also cautioned that nothing is a done deal and “no one has any illusions — the road ahead is long and difficult.”

Maariv also picks up on Liberman’s speech but at a different point – that Liberman expects the border of a future Palestinian state to be very close to Highway 6 along Israel’s eastern spine. Liberman was raising, once again, the idea of swapping an area known as the “Triangle” in central Israel (where 300,000 Israeli Arabs live) for land in the West Bank. Liberman said, “Without an exchange of territories and populations Yisrael Beytenu will not support any agreement.”

Under new management

Seeming not to want to report on the protests or Liberman’s statements, Israel Hayom chose as a top story the not-surprising change of management at IDB. The paper gives four pages to the fall of Nochi Dankner, the man who built IDB — and seems to enjoy his demise. On Sunday judges ruled definitively that the takeover of the company by Eduardo Elstein and Moti Ben-Moshe could go forward. Dankner, who had built IDB into a global player only to misuse funds and mismanage the company, said he would not appeal the decision.

Finally, the Laniado hospital in Netanya might want to consider new management for its nursery. Yedioth reports that the fears of every new parent were realized when babies were mixed up and one mother received a baby that wasn’t hers. It was actually the mother who discovered the mistake. While holding a baby she thought was hers in her arms, she realized it was not a big as the baby she just delivered. The mother immediately raised the alarm and the correct babies were matched with their biological parents. The hospital apologized for the error and wished the babies and their families the best of health.

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