Down for the count: 6 things to know for November 27
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Israel media review

Down for the count: 6 things to know for November 27

Netanyahu may be crowing about the turnout at his rally in Tel Aviv, but most journalists saw an underwhelming rabble of angry fanboys, and bad tidings for the PM’s future

Supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a rally held under the banner 'protesting the coup' in Tel Aviv, on November 26, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)
Supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a rally held under the banner 'protesting the coup' in Tel Aviv, on November 26, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)

1. Mad about the media: The press is expressing worries over the state of Israeli society, roundly deriding the prime minister’s backers over a rally held in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night.

  • The main takeaway from the rally appears to be that the Likud leader’s most vociferous supporters are an incorrigible rabble whose love for Netanyahu is matched only by their hate for the media and the prosecution, and it’s kind of hard to blame the media for coming away with that impression.
  • The Kan public broadcaster reports that its crew at the rally was “violently” attacked by protesters. The incident, which occurred as Yoav Karkovsky tried to deliver a live report, was partially caught on video.

  • Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev writes that “the message repeated again and again by the speakers was a conspiracy theory that could have been titled ‘protocols of the elders of the prosecution,’ a collection of fabrications and fantasies that became real to the speakers.”
  • Speaking to the Ynet website, one participant is quoted saying the “media and prosecution are a junta together. You in the media are doing everything to put the nation on trial.”
  • ToI’s man on the ground Raoul Wootliff reports that he was thanked by a protester who mistook his skullcap as a sign that he was one of them. “She wasn’t best pleased when I told her that was in fact a journalist and was only at the event to cover it,” he writes, though he says he was not harassed.
  • Piggybacking on the attacks on journalists, Army Radio reports that 90 percent of incitement complaints by journalists are found to be justified.

2. Rant against the machine: Many of the accounts portray the rally as more pathetic than anything else.

  • “It wasn’t a lion’s roar. It was barely even a cat’s mewl,” writes Alon Ben David in Zman Yisrael.
  • “This wasn’t a stormy protest or even an angry protest. It was mostly a protest without much going on. A protest without much energy. This is very bad news for the prime minister, but encouraging news for Israeli democracy,” he adds.
  • Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer writes that “One almost felt offended on Netanyahu’s behalf. The master communicator, elder statesman and longest-serving leader of Israel should be able to summon more than this disorganized motley group. Even his political rivals would say he deserved better.”
  • Yedioth Ahronoth’s Nahum Barnea writes that the turnout was “a nice accomplishment, but isn’t impressing anybody.”
  • The paper runs a photo spread of some examples of incitement from the rally, including a bloody saw with prosecution written on it, held by a hand with “media” written on it, and apparently to be used against the Israeli body politic.
  • Another picture shows a cake with pictures of soldiers promising Netanyahu that “a million soldiers are waiting for your order.”

3. Count me out: Millions may be a bit much. Most reports put the number at a more piddly 3,000 to 5,000.

  • ToI’s Wootliff writes that organizers purposely “chose one of Tel Aviv’s smaller venues over fears that the rally would be sparsely attended,” and calls turnout “woeful.”
  • In true Trump fashion, though, Netanyahu himself claimed that 15,000 showed up (or at least tweeted a picture and said “15,000 thanks”), which is at least more reasonable than the 25,000 cited by one speaker.
  • Israel Hayom, proving it’s still Bibi’s baby, also cites the 15,000 number, blasting it on its front page.
  • The right-wing blog 0404 even goes as high as 20,000.
  • One Yedioth writer allows that up to 14,000 showed up, but colleagues at that paper and others cite much lower numbers, including as low as 2,000.
  • The paper also makes sure to highlight a May tweet from Likud spokesman Jonatan Urich chortling that their political rivals were holding the rally there because it only holds 4,000 people.
  • One picture analysis, albeit not definitive, shows some 2,500 people crowded in.
  • Another, by Ynet’s Itay Blumental, shows closer to 6,500.
  • Globes uses cellphone counting technology and comes up with 7,000.
  • According to Channel 12, part of the problem is that the rally was held at the museum, not Rabin Square, where there have been enough rallies that organizers and media counters have racked up experience tallying heads.

4. Where have all the Likudniks gone? There is also no agreement over how many Likud lawmakers were there, but everyone can agree at least that it’s not a lot, with only one minister and a few MKs showing up.

  • Walla’s Tal Shalev writes that the small number of Likud lawmakers willing to show their faces shows the way the winds are blowing in the party, “dovetailing well with the sinking feeling in the ruling party the last few days and sharpening the sense that Netanyahu’s problem is political, not legal.”
  • Zman Yisrael’s Shalom Yerushalmi writes that it was the message of the rally, that of a coup and of throwing prosecutors in jail, that made it a no-go zone. “They don’t agree with the claims of a coup organized by the attorney general and the state attorney against the right. Maybe they also don’t want to beef with the prosecution and the media themselves.”
  • Yedioth’s Yuval Karni writes that he called around a bunch of senior Likud people to see if they would be going: “They filled their daily planners with loads of events, talking about ‘prior engagements,’ trips abroad or conferences, the main thing was to be as far from that forsaken area next to the Tel Aviv Museum as possible.”
  • Channel 13 writes that the rally was a test run for expected elections in 2020: “Thus the lack of Likud lawmakers is quite problematic.”
  • Haaretz’s lead editorial writes that the poor turnout “underscored the fact that there are very few buyers for his ridiculous putsch theory and his fake ‘Israeli Spring.’”

5. There are some Bibi backers left: Netanyahu can always be comforted by Israel Hayom, where columnist Amnon Lord writes that there is a coup — one that’s been ongoing for 25 years via judicial activism, or, as he terms it, “legalistic democracy.”

  • “Since there has been an ongoing fight between Netanyahu and this legalistic democracy, there is a strong suspicion that the cases against the prime minister were served after a long and not standard effort under the rubric of ‘regime corruption,’” he writes. (It doesn’t make much more sense in Hebrew.)
  • Perhaps worrying for Netanyahu is the fact that by midday Wednesday, he appears nowhere on the homepage, in Hebrew or English, of the newspaper’s website, the rally seemingly swept into the dustbin of history.
  • Ultra-Orthodox journalist Yanky Ferber on Twitter also kinda comes to the Netanyahu-backers’ defense, writing that while he condemns the violence against reporters, there is a good amount of incitement at leftist rallies as well. (He calls going to rallies a “hobby.”)
  • Channel 20’s Shimon Riklin, one of the speakers at the rally, tweets that when he sees polls showing Likud and the right rising “I understand that there is another indictment, of the people against the police and prosecution, and these voters are saying we don’t believe you and the way you investigate. It’s amazing.”

6. Loves Labour’s lost: As obsessed as Israel is with Netanyahu, the British press is with Jeremy Corbyn, after he refused to apologize for anti-Semitism in a BBC interview.

  • The story does make some inroads into the Israeli press.
  • “Four times he was asked if he wants to apologize. He refused,” reads a Walla headline.
  • Yedioth calls Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’s statement against Labour anti-Semitism, later backed by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, a “joint front against Corbyn.”
  • Most of the coverage, though, is from English speakers.
  • In Israel Hayom’s English site, Noa Amouyal quotes the twitteratti dubbing the BBC appearance a “car crash interview.”
  • In Haaretz, Nicole Lampert writes about the dilemma many British Jews who despise Corbyn but still agree with Labour’s policies are going through. “Between Jewish voters, the back and forth is endless and painful: If our core beliefs are about helping others, how can we put ourselves first? If we feel we are danger, can’t we put ourselves first? More often than not, it’s my non-Jewish Labour and ex-Labour friends who make me realise that asking people not to vote for an anti-Semite is not wrong,” she writes.
  • In The Jewish News, blogger Richard Ferrer writes calls Mirvis’s intervention “shocking.”
  • “Like the rest of the country, British Jews want a Labour Party that, at its best, mirrors British values. A party that stands up for minorities, gives hope to the young and cares for the old. That’s why, for the majority of British Jews, a vote for Labour at election time always seemed the only moral choice,” he writes. “Not this time. Not this party. The Labour Party at this election has lost its soul, its legacy, its Britishness.”
  • Corbyn’s problem also became the Washington Post’s problem after it sent out a tweet saying the anti-Semitism allegations were tied to Corbyn’s support for Palestinians.
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