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Hebrew media review

Family business

The papers cover the investigation of Shlomo Deri, brother of Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, and hit back at the health minister for daring to criticize the McDonald’s empire

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

File: Interior Minister Aryeh Deri's vacation home in northern Israel (screen capture: Channel 2)
File: Interior Minister Aryeh Deri's vacation home in northern Israel (screen capture: Channel 2)

A report revealing Shlomo Deri, the building contractor brother of Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, as the “very close” associate questioned under caution as part of an investigation into suspected irregularities in the Shas leader’s real estate holdings, is the only common thread between the leading Hebrew-language papers’ front pages, as the dailies each prefer to deal with other issues closer to their particular agendas, such as poverty, BDS activists, and settlement construction.

Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel Hayom, and Haaretz all dedicate about an eighth of a page to the brother Deri, each highlighting the contractor’s insistence that his name be made public, and his determined statements according to which he has “nothing to hide.” In what seems to be a sneaky move deliberately aimed at the Shas party leader, Yedioth links Deri’s corruption allegations to police investigations into three Israeli mayors suspected of committing various criminal offenses — ranging from breach of trust to actual threats — while in office.

The investigation concerning Deri centers on unreported real estate owned by Deri and members of his family, including a vacation home in northern Israel and apartments owned by each of his nine children. Deri, who has already served a prison sentence for graft offenses that took place during his previous tenure as interior minister, has sought to downplay allegations about his real estate holdings and said he would cooperate with the investigation to prove his innocence.

Meanwhile, Yedioth devotes nearly its full front page to a recent UN report on poverty, which finds that children who are considered to be in Israel’s tenth percentile from a socioeconomic standpoint rank lowest among developed countries in terms of access to proper education and health care, as well as in terms of household income. According to the study, 27.5% of Israeli children are considered poor, a figure which in absolute terms is higher than such countries as Chile, Mexico, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Greece. The full report is set to be published by Yedioth on Friday.

Israel Hayom, on its part, is more concerned with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the Jewish state, as it launches an attack on Israeli NGO Who Profits, which focuses on government policy in the West Bank, as well as on companies that benefit from Israel’s control of the territories captured in the 1967 Six Day War and of the Palestinians residing in the area. According to Israel Hayom’s self described “exposé,” Who Profits receives funding from several organizations based in Europe, and the information provided by the NGO has been cited in reports of several BDS activists. The paper, very notably, however, does not refute any of the NGO’s reports, nor does it accuse the organization of receiving illegal donations — or of any other alleged illegal activity, for that matter. A quick look at Who Profits’s website also reveals that all the details given in Israel Hayom’s exclusive report are readily available for anyone to see. The NGO regularly publishes a report on its foreign donors, and in the age of the internet, it seems a far stretch to accuse the NGO of specifically handing over information to BDSers, since reports on the matter can be easily accessed online, regardless of one’s political leanings.

Keeping all that in mind, on a surface level, it is not entirely clear what Israel Hayom seeks to criticize or reveal with regard to Who Profits, and why the issue deserves such attention from the daily. And so, in that light, it would seem safe to assume that Israel Hayom’s report aims not to reveal any misdeeds, but instead to serve as the basis for a new front against Who Profits. One can bet that like Breaking the Silence before it, the NGO’s name will soon become much more familiar to the average Israeli ear, and that in no time at all, politicians will call for a ban on Who Profits or label the organization as a threat to the future of the Jewish state.

Haaretz reports that after three years of relative freeze in West Bank settlement construction, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon have authorized housing projects in several Jewish communities throughout the region. According to the Haaretz report, construction of hundreds of apartments will soon begin in the settlements of Tekoa and Nokdim in the southeastern West Bank, in Ganei Modi’in and Givat Ze’ev in the central part of the region, and in Har Bracha in the north. Haaretz notes that some of the settlements in question are home to many Likud party activists, in what seems to be a bit of an unfair attempt to attribute the authorizations to narrow political considerations rather than to ideology.

A day after Health Minister Yaakov Litzman called on the country to downsize its consumption of junk food in general and to boycott McDonald’s specifically, Yedioth rushes to the aid of the American hamburger giant, asserting that having a Big Mac every once in a while is, like, totally fine, and that hey, other fast foods are unhealthy too, ya know. The paper provides an infographic, no less, showing the caloric intake of a standard McDonald’s meal compared with various other foods, like pizza, sushi, shawarma, and even cholent. The paper sends reporter Rotem Eliezra to do some hard-hitting investigative reporting in a Rishon Lezion McDonald’s branch, where she discovers — prepare for a shocker — that some people are still eating out at the venue despite Litzman’s warnings. Eliezra bravely goes on to interview several dietitians, who all passionately insist that a Mickey D’s meal here and there is not that bad for you after all.

Now, I don’t know or particularly care whether McDonald’s burgers are healthy or not, but the immediacy with which Yedioth and yesterday, Channel 2, commissioned reports and summoned so-called experts in what seems to be a clear effort to defend the company from the criticisms leveled against it seems a bit suspicious. Would you like to supersize that healthy Happy Meal?

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