Hebrew media review

Damn the torpedoes

You won’t find reports about Netanyahu’s submarine scandal in Israel Hayom, but you will find Assange’s cat in Yedioth Ahronoth

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

The INS Rahav, a Dolphin class made by German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp, sets off from the German port of Kiel toward Haifa, December 17, 2015. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
The INS Rahav, a Dolphin class made by German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp, sets off from the German port of Kiel toward Haifa, December 17, 2015. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

What can be said about the illegal Amona outpost today that hasn’t been written about the past two days of it being the noise of the news? The government’s problem — that the court ordered it to be demolished — is still there, the proposed law to legislate the illegal settlement remains contentious, and there isn’t complete support in the cabinet to push the bill through.

Whereas a day earlier the papers were chock-full of opinions and analyses and color pieces about the soon-to-be former illegal outpost, Wednesday’s papers lack the depth and insight on the issue, instead focusing on the insider baseball of coalition politics surrounding the bill.

More interesting are the sideshow stories swirling around the Amona issue in the headlines of the Hebrew press on Wednesday.

Not to diminish from the significance of the issues involved, but Haaretz‘s two top stories are both based on other news outlets’ reports. The paper plays up a Channel 10 report according to which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal lawyer serves as the representative of the German company that’s trying to sell Israel military submarines, and which Netanyahu has been pushing for Israel to buy against the will of the IDF and former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon.

The connection between attorney David Shimron, Netanyahu’s attorney, and the German submarine company “may shed light on the prime minister’s eagerness surrounding the German deal,” Yedioth Ahronoth says in its front page report.

And which newspaper completely ignores this report of shady cronyism at the highest level of government? If you guessed Israel’s most-read, free daily newspaper Israel Hayom, you’d be right. The scurrilous rumor finds no mention in its pages.

The other big story in Haaretz is based on a report from Ynet about Israel Police chief Roni Alsheich’s remark that anonymous testimony against police officers is as problematic as the sexual harassment the victims suffered. What either of those have to do with newly discovered sketches attributed to Vincent Van Gogh, the main image on Haaretz’s front page, or why that story deserves such significance, is unclear.

After yet another Channel 2 news report with Netanyahu in the spotlight amid allegations of abuse of employees, Israel Hayom does what it does best — it puts the cart before the horse and runs a front page response story to the charges. The Prime Minister’s Office calls the channel’s reporting an “ongoing absurd method” whose sole aim is “to bash the prime minister.”

At the same time the paper highlights the increasingly volatile labor crisis at the national airline, El Al, as flights to New York and London suffered massive delays. The cause? Pilots who are unsatisfied with their pay, which stands at around $25,000 a month, or roughly what the average Israeli makes in a year.

But the most intriguing front page inclusion is saved for last: why does Yedioth Ahronoth have a picture of Julian Assange’s cat on the front page. I get it. The three things that drive most online content are cats, dogs and sex, but putting a necktie-wearing kitty holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on the front page of a newspaper seems a bit silly.

The tabloids lend significance to the ultra-Orthodox parties scuttling a parliamentary vote on a bill seeking to ban loudspeakers on religious buildings, legislation deemed to specifically target mosques. The ultra-Orthodox party’s eleventh-hour move was ostensibly because the bill could also be applied against the siren sounded in many cities to mark the commencement of the Jewish Sabbath on Friday evening.

Haaretz’s editorial addresses the bill’s content, noting that while Muslim and European countries have legislation restricting the volume of the muezzin’s call to prayer, there’s also “the aspiration of secular Jews and Arabs alike to reduce the control of religion in the public space, whether in the form of noise from houses of worship or imposition of religion on public institutions or the private space.”

The paper’s bottom line is that limiting noise from houses of worships need not be a legislative circus: “We can reach understandings with the heads of Muslim communities and with the administrators of mosques, we can also propose technological solutions to replace the noisy call to prayer.”

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