It’s hard not to come away with the feeling that Israel is a land of deep contradictions after looking at the country’s three main Hebrew-language newspapers, which herald at the same time Israeli interfaith unity and the deepening isolation of Arab Israelis in the wake of Tuesday’s terror attack.
While Wednesday’s Hebrew-language newspapers were filled with images of gore and sadness after Tuesday morning’s shocking terror attack on a synagogue, Thursday’s front pages seemingly turn from bloodied prayer books to the blood bond between the Jewish and Druze communities.
It’s not all kitten whiskers and niceties in the wake of the attack though. Israel Hayom heralds Israeli unity with the headline “We’re all one family” accompanied by a picture of the funeral of policeman Zidan Saif, killed in a shootout with the terrorists Tuesday. But the front page also reports on an order (likely illegal) from Ashkelon’s mayor to bar Arab construction workers building bomb shelters from city kindergartens.
Similarly, Yedioth Ahronoth warns of a wave of firings of Arab workers, calling it the “fear effect,” though it carries the unsettling headline below a picture of Jerusalem chief rabbi Shlomo Amar embracing Muslim religious figurehead Mohammed Kiwan alongside the words “blood covenant.”
And Haaretz leads off with a story noting that a new “Jewish State” bill to be pushed forward by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won’t include language enshrining equality for all the country’s citizens, essentially a blow to the Arab-Israeli community. A Yedioth report on the same bill, by contrast, reports that it does include an explicit commitment to equality, and is deemed acceptable by the Justice Ministry’s legislation department.
Israel Hayom plays up the coexistence side of the coin, leading off with Saif’s funeral and noting that “thousands of Israelis from all segments of society” attended the ceremony.
The paper adds a cherry on top of its coverage with a commentary penned by Naif Elian, the father of Ghassan Alian, the Druze head of the Golani infantry brigade who was one of the first people seriously injured in the summer’s war with Gaza.
“We Druze are part of the Israeli nation,” he writes, using the term am Yisrael, which often also denotes the Jewish people. “I never felt that there was a difference between me, or my relatives and friends, and Jewish people. We are one family and that’s how we will always stay.”
Of all the non-Jewish minorities in Israel, Druze may be the best integrated into society. For the rest of the country’s Arabs, though, the feeling of being second-class citizens may be deepening in the wake of the attack.
From Jerusalem to Ashkelon, Yedioth reports, employers are firing Israeli-Arab employees out of a fear of working with “the enemy.”
The paper doesn’t provide any hard numbers to back up its claim, but does offer anecdotal evidence to prove its point, like this Bnei Brak event hall owner who fired 17 Arab dishwashers: “I’m sick of providing them a living and getting an axe in the back in return,” he is quoted by the paper saying. “They know how to work but I don’t trust them.”
The paper notes that it’s not clear if the firings are legal, but most employers don’t care about discrimination legislation and figure they can skirt whatever trouble they run into.
Those workers won’t find any succor in a new bill going through the Knesset defining Israel as a Jewish state, at least according to a Haaretz report that a version put forward by Netanyahu Wednesday could enshrine in law their place below Jews on the Israeli societal ladder.
While the paper reports that the proposal wouldn’t remove Arabic as an official language, it also would not guarantee equality for all the country’s citizens, as a previous version bruited by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni does. “Under the Netanyahu version, which is subject to change before it goes to the cabinet on Sunday, only Jews will have the right to national self-determination in Israel, which the bill defines as both a Jewish and democratic state,” Haaretz reports.
Yedioth’s take is rather different, and it quotes from the Netanyahu draft as follows: “The right to national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people. The State of Israel is a democratic state, founded on the principles of freedom, justice and peace, in accordance with the vision of Israel’s prophets, and upholds the individual rights of all of its citizens according to the law.” This wording is designed by Netanyahu to make plain that Israel is not obligated to extend national rights to its minorities, Yedioth says. Nonetheless, it reports, the legislation department of the Justice Ministry considers the Netanyahu draft to adequately represent the necessary principle of equality. It quotes a legal opinion prepared by the department to this effect: “A correct legal reading of the wording shows that equality is included among the principles that form the basis” of the proposed legislation.
The newspapers all write that life in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Har Nof, where the attack took place, has returned to some semblance of normal, with prayer services taking place at the very same synagogue where five people were killed just 24 hours earlier.
“Everything here seems normal, they set it up even too good, but inside there’s a vortex of feelings swirling,” one worshipers tells Israel Hayom.
In the rest of Jerusalem, though, and even farther afield, demands and efforts for increased security are growing, the papers report.
Haaretz writes that the army, police and Shin Bet security service are setting up a joint command in order to work together in thwarting terror emanating from East Jerusalem. The new command desk would actually allow the Shin Bet security service to redact secret information before passing it on to the police, allowing the bodies to work together without upsetting the balance between security agencies.
“The police are generally the agency to deal with rioters and criminal elements that might also be involved in terror, but after terrorist attacks Shin Bet investigators usually take the lead; this is also the case with intelligence about the Temple Mount. As a result, the Shin Bet often has information that is unknown to the police,” the paper reports.
Meanwhile, it’s not only Jerusalem that’s on edge, according to Yedioth, which reports on groups of parents agitating for beefed up security outside kindergartens in Netanya and Holon, where kids are pictured holding up signs reading “yesterday a synagogue, tomorrow a kindergarten.”
“Next to the kindergarten there’s a construction site, and workers there—minorities – go in the kindergarten to make coffee or use the bathroom,” one parent tells the paper. “This scares us.”