Democracy in danger
Hebrew media review

Democracy in danger

Another Prisoner X worries commentators, an ultra-Orthodox mob worries the police, and NGOs worry lawmakers (again)

Border Police stand in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim after a mob attacked an IDF soldier and police officers on Tuesday night (photo credit: Flash90)
Border Police stand in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim after a mob attacked an IDF soldier and police officers on Tuesday night (photo credit: Flash90)

A perusal of the various Hebrew dailies on Wednesday makes one thing clear: there are serious threats facing Israel. But depending on which paper you read, those threats are completely different.

Yedioth Ahronoth’s front page boastfully follows up on its Tuesday exclusive about an additional Prisoner X. While Wednesday’s report doesn’t offer too much more than the previous day’s, the bulk of the story comes from quotes from Avigdor Feldman, a lawyer who claims to have been briefly involved in the case, which he says is extremely serious. “The crimes include failures much more serious for the security services than in Zygier’s case,” Feldman said, referring to the Ben Zygier aka Prisoner X.

Yedioth is in full Prisoner X  mode, reporting that the Prisons Service conducted a very loose investigation into Zygier’s death with nothing being written down at the time. The report quotes a prison guard who said that every order was spoken, not written, and “from the beginning they told us not to ask questions.”

On that topic, Israel Hayom prints an op-ed piece by Gonen Ginat that takes issue with the reporting on the second Prisoner X. Ginat takes a swipe at Haaretz for posting quotes from Feldman on its website on Tuesday (apparently unaware that the same quotes are printed opposite his piece), but saves his vitriol for Yedioth. “It was once the ‘newspaper of the country.’ Aren’t they supposed to know what Israelis feel when someone exposes their most sensitive secrets? Don’t they understand that if Americans are willing to live with [the NSA] hacking emails and phone taps — Israelis may be more willing?” He concludes his piece by accusing his competition of acting irresponsibly and harming Israel’s security and calling the paper a “disgrace.”

Israel Hayom’s front page features an ultra-Orthodox mob attack against a soldier in Jerusalem Tuesday evening. The story itself, buried on page 15, describes how dozens of ultra-Orthodox residents of the Mea Shearim neighborhood attacked an ultra-Orthodox soldier who was visiting his family. The soldier managed to escape and call the police, who upon arrival at the scene were also pelted with rocks and eggs. Police say that they took photographs of the mob and are planning on making more arrests. Politicians from all the major parties issued statements, including Shas leader Aryeh Deri, who said, “This act is neither Jewish nor religious — it’s an act of blasphemy.”

Haaretz’s front page largely ignores Prisoner X and focuses on the latest attempt by Knesset lawmakers to pass a bill restricting funding for left-wing NGOs. The first attempt was in 2011 when Netanyahu froze the bills, despite saying he supported them in principle. The latest version was submitted by Jewish Home MK Ayelet Shaked and would restrict foreign funding to groups that call for a boycott of Israel or support indicting Israeli soldiers. “It would be enough for a single paid employee of an organization, or someone who sits on its board, to call for a boycott of Israel to apply the restrictions,” Haaretz chides.

Looking abroad

Maariv is the only paper whose front page doesn’t focus on domestic issues and instead looks north again to the mess that is Syria. “Syrian rebels: A foreign power attacked the missiles at Latakia,” reads its headline, referring to a mysterious explosion last Thursday. The statement by the rebels hints at Israel as the foreign power, but they refrain from specifying. The paper reports that the missiles being stored at the facility were recently imported from Russia and had a range of over 300 kilometers. Israeli officials, as usual, did not comment on the subject.

Yedioth focuses on a more recent explosion, one that occurred on Tuesday in a Hezbollah-controlled neighborhood of Beirut. “Close to Nasrallah,” reads the front-page caption on a picture of burning rubble from the car bomb. Alex Fishman writes that the explosion was a major blow to Hezbollah, as whoever detonated the bomb was able to reach the heart of Hezbollah’s territory. “The message is clear,” he writes, “get your hands out of Syria.”

Haaretz reports that there will be a new Israeli messenger to the United States, Ron Dermer. Dermer will be replacing current US ambassador Michael Oren sometime this fall. Netanyahu praised Dermer, who happened to be one of Netanyahu’s political advisers for the past four years. Yet Haaretz doesn’t seem excited by the appointment, mentioning that Dermer was a big supporter of Mitt Romney in the last election and expressing doubts whether he believes in a two-state solution. The paper quotes Dermer, “A two-state solution is a childish answer to a complicated problem.” However, Haaretz doesn’t give an exact date for the quote, saying vaguely it was “after Netanyahu’s first visit to Washington.”

Finally, Yedioth carries a fun piece about Jared Morgenstern, the Facebook developer who created the ‘like’ button. Morgenstern decided to quit his job at Facebook and take a trip to discover his roots in Israel. Morgenstern is currently hiking through the north of Israel and the piece shows a smiling Morgenstern giving a thumbs up. The headline sums the article up perfectly, “He gave a ‘like’ to Israel.”

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