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Hebrew media review

Belabouring the anti-Semitism

The Israeli press finally gets a crack at the scandal roiling the UK’s shores, and tries to figure what’s got into the Labour Party

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn  on April 26, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL)
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on April 26, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL)

Britain: home of scones, unnecessary “U”s, royal babies, and apparently, a whole lot of anti-Semites. At least that’s the picture a reader of the Hebrew press could come away with Sunday morning, as a mounting scandal over alleged anti-Jewish sentiment among the Labour Party becomes the hottest news to come out of England since the White Paper, or is it the White Album?

The story isn’t the only one to make waves across the media landscape though, with Yedioth Ahronoth blowing the lid off an exclusive that President Reuven Rivlin will consider pardoning rapist ex-prez Moshe Katsav, and papers also covering some reignited German-Israeli tensions.

Nobody would have mistaken Ken Livingstone for a true blue-and-white supporter of the Jewish state, but his statement Thursday that Hitler was pro-Zionist before becoming a Jew killer was beyond what apparently anybody thought was possible from him.

The episode seemed to mark the crest in a wave (a metaphor used by pretty much everyone) of scandal after scandal of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements by Labourites in recent weeks, but it took a full three days for the incident to crash upon Israel’s print media shores, held up by the long Passover holiday weekend.

Tabloid Israel Hayom is the only paper to actually lead off with the British anti-Semitism story, reporting under the headline “Labour’s disgrace in Britain” that “The anti-Semitic cat has been let out of the bag, and refuses to disappear,” perhaps a reference to a Kitler.

Strangely enough, in trying to bash Britain’s far left, the paper’s Boaz Bismuth seems to also cotton to the idea that Hitler was a crypto-Zionist, or at least that he just didn’t want the Jews in Europe, whereas the Labour lefties are even worse.

“This week we will mark Holocaust Remembrance Day. Exactly this week we will be reminded how the far right in Europe didn’t want us living there. And exactly this week we see that the radical left in Britain doesn’t even want us to live in our land,” he writes. “On the coming Independence Day we will happily remind them, for the 68th time, that we have a historic mandate – and not a British one — to stay here forever”

Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer tries for a less visceral look to figure out why the party is mired in this crisis and comes up with the theory that some of its members don’t really believe they are anti-Semites, just class warriors.

“The unspoken argument begins with the belief that Jews are no longer an endangered minority group and have evolved instead into a powerful ‘white’ elite. It doesn’t matter that this sounds dangerously like classic anti-Semitism. As far as those whose worldviews are informed by a Marxist class-warfare perspective think, Jews went over to the dark side when they were no longer persecuted and joined the middle and upper classes in their societies,” he writes. “Livingstone certainly believes this, as only four years ago, during his losing campaign to be re-elected mayor of London, he told a group Jewish Labour members that he wasn’t expecting London’s Jews to vote for him as they were wealthy and wealthy people didn’t vote Labour anyway. He refused to apologize as he simply couldn’t understand why anyone would find that offensive.”

Winning the inappropriate juxtaposition award may be Yedioth, which runs the story under the headline “London Blitz” and then couples it with coverage of tensions with Germany, after news broke that Chancellor Angela Merkel is uberpissed at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing him of taking advantage of Israel’s special relationship with Germany, and is coming around to the Palestinian point of view.

The paper’s Ben Dror-Yemini, though, focuses in his commentary on Britain, and dismisses those who would see the Labour issue through the lens of confusion over the fuzzy line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

“There’s no difference between demonization of Jews as individuals and of the state of the Jews. One needs to differentiate between legitimate criticism of one policy or another of the State of Israel and against negating the right of Israel to exist, and one needs to differentiate between criticism and demonization. But the left has a hard time differentiating. It long ago crossed all the red lines,” he writes, going on to note Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s support of Hamas and Hezbollah, sworn to Israel’s destruction.

Haaretz leads off with the Germany tensions, re-reporting the Der Speigel report and adding in official Jerusalem’s promise that “everything is cool, nothing to see here. We are still bestische of freunds.”

“It seems these statements are an internal German attempt to hurt Merkel over her close ties with Prime Minister Netanyahu,” the paper quotes a “senior official in Jerusalem” as saying.

Barak Ravid, the same reporter who faithfully transmits Jerusalem’s anonymous attempt to get its message out without actually going to the trouble to put a name behind the statement, gives his PMO handlers a penful over the response, while also showing off his vast knowledge of German treats.

“The response from ‘senior diplomatic officials in Jerusalem’ was particularly ridiculous, even Orwellian. As if day is night and night is day. As if Israelis were aliens who had just landed from another planet and had not been here over the past seven years,” he writes in an accompanying analysis. “Ties with Germany are outstanding, the response said. The relationship between Merkel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is close. What is there to say? Life is like a bowl of cherries, or why even cherries? Like German custard cake, cremeschnitte.”

Life is a bowl of crap for Katsav, though, whiling away his days in prison, according to Yedioth, which reports that just weeks after the former president was denied parole, Rivlin is thinking of giving the rapist a free pass anyway “given his poor mental state.”

The report quotes “sources close to Katsav, including his family and lawyer,” who say Katsav has taken a serious turn for the worse since being turned down, and judicial sources who confirm that a pardon request will be filed in the coming days.

(Rivlin’s office said Sunday morning that it had not received a request and would deal with it when it arrives.)

“The sources expressed confidence that the request would be received positively if a psychiatrist’s opinion attesting to Katsav’s mental state is attached it,” the paper reports, while noting also that requests soon after a parole denial are extremely rare. “If all these things will figure into the new pardon requests, judicial sources assess, President Rivlin will grant them and pardon Moshe Katsav.”

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