Boys in black and blue
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Boys in black and blue

The emergence of another sordid high-level affair in the force has the media singing an elegy for the 5-0

Police chief Yohanan Danino, left, whispering in the ear of Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch on Thursday November 13, 2014. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Police chief Yohanan Danino, left, whispering in the ear of Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch on Thursday November 13, 2014. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

It was the poet Hayim Nahman Bialik who wrote that when the Jewish state had its own prostitutes and thieves it would be a normal country. How fitting then, that alongside front page headlines marking 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, are stories about the sordid affairs of Israel’s police force. What better way to herald our resurgence from the guttering flame of the Holocaust than with a massive crisis within the police force, the same kind of scandal that can happen in any state, Jewish or not?

One need look no further than tabloid Yedioth Ahronoth for a glimpse at how big a crisis has enveloped the 5-Oh, with a headline screaming out “Embarrassment.” What’s so embarrassing? Well, a recent group picture of the police brass with eight (8) of them circled for being involved in one sordid affair or another, provides a clue (though two of the baddies are photoshopped in).

The paper writes that out of 11 top police commanders considered natural candidates to be the next police commissioner, only three remain, the rest felled by this or that affair. It has gotten so bad, the paper posits, that whoever takes over the Public Security Ministry after March elections may decide to bring in someone from the outside who hasn’t yet been soiled by serving in the force.

Its count of eight dirty cops is two higher than Haaretz and Israel Hayom, which both (only) include six police commanders in their count of officers investigated for various offenses.

Israel Hayom calls the newest allegations, that Deputy Commish Nissim Mor sexually assaulted and harassed a policewoman, a “tough day for the police.” And as is its wont, its puts those words in quotes, even though nobody is quoted in the paper saying that.

If the paper didn’t want to make up a quote, it could have used one from police chief Yohanan Danino, who is cited leading the soul-search party over the incident. “This is a severe incident which is part of a series of incidents involving senior officers. These incidents damage public trust and the police need a root canal. This depresses me on a personal level,” he is quoted as saying.

Danino D.D.S. isn’t the only member of the handwringing brigade. In Haaretz, Amir Oren eulogizes the police, carried to its hoary end by six rotten pall-bearers.

“The popular saying about every institution having its rotten apples can’t explain the disaster that has befallen the police. Something is fundamentally wrong with a system that can neither identify character flaws in its officers in time nor deter those who reach the top,” he writes.

After Auschwitz

While Tuesday’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day is small potatoes in Israel compared to Yom Hashoah, plenty of black ink is still used for papers to mark the occasion.

With Israelis taking scant note of the occasion, it’s little surprise that an outsider, in this case US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, is the one to mark the day in Yedioth. The US, Shapiro promises on the paper’s op-ed page, has committed to upholding the ideal of “never again.”

“Today, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the United States reiterates its commitment to remember, to work for justice, to help survivors, to prevent the recurrence of atrocities and to combat the growing scourge of anti-Semitism. President Obama and other official officers often bring up the Holocaust in their speeches in the US and abroad, to assure that the nations of the world will not forget, and in order to fight against Holocaust deniers. Our leaders continue to visit Nazi extermination sites to pay tribute to the six million murdered,” he writes.

Israel Hayom goes with the tried and true strait-laced dispatch from Poland, where the paper’s correspondent notes the return of some hundred survivors as “victors.” Israel’s official representative at the ceremonies, Minister Silvan Shalom, is less upbeat in his assessment of the situation, though.

“Just two and a half weeks ago we were reminded that anti-Semitism can raise its head at any moment,” he is quoted as saying, referencing the Paris supermarket attack. “Anti-Semitism struck on French soil, as if 70 years had not passed since the Holocaust of the Jews in Europe.”

Haaretz comes at the anniversary from a different angle, with a story about a mystery surrounding some love letters from Auschwitz that contained painted vistas, which may now be solved thanks to the estate of former Holon resident Max Hut, who died in 2011.

The paper reports that one of the letters, from a prisoner named Erwin Olszowka to his lover Walcia, contained a picture of a snow-capped mountain with purple tulips in the foreground. Experts at the Ghetto Fighters Museum, where the picture is currently housed, had assumed Olszowka had painted the picture, but a new investigation reveals it was actually made by Polish ski champion Brunoslav Cik, who was born in the Zakopane region depicted.

“Aside from being an excellent athlete, Cik was a proficient painter and sculptor. In the camp he worked in the woodshop and after that he made sculptures, wooden spoons, boxes and even drew on glass. In his off time, he would paint pictures for his fellow prisoners, who would attach them to the letters,” the paper’s Ofer Aderet writes.

Positives and negatives

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyau has taken numerous shellackings in the press and elsewhere lately for his decision to speak before Congress in March, against the wishes of the White House, but who’s keeping count. Well Israel Hayom, for one, which dives deep into media criticism to chide Yedioth Ahronoth over disrespecting the Bibi.

The paper counts a whopping seven (7) headlines about Netanyahu in Monday’s Yedioth, all of them negative, and over 4,000 words about the prime minister, without a single “the” “and” or “a” in support of the prime minister.

“The camp which calls itself ‘Zionist’ doesn’t need to come out with campaign ads. Yedioth is doing the work for them, for free as of now. The bill will come in the form of legislation to close Israel Hayom,” Haim Shine writes.

Israel Hayom will likely be pleased to see not a single article in Tuesday’s Yedioth devoted to Netanyahu’s kerfuffle with the States, positive or negative, and an article even going so far as to defend the prime minister and his wife from the humiliations of having their alleged humiliations of others exposed.

Yoaz Hendel, a former Netanyahu apparatchik, takes to the op-ed page to issue a plea for the media to leave the prime minister’s family out of any diplomatic fisticuffs.

“The story of Netanyahu’s wife is not one of leftist Israel haters, but of values-haters,” he writes. “Nobody has yet convinced me that Netanyahu’s problems come from his family. The positives and negatives of the man come only from him.”

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