Hebrew media review

Gaza trouble, under gag order

The Israeli media tiptoes around a difficult story of captive citizens censored by the IDF, hours before it is finally cleared for publication

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

Avraham Avera Mengistu, who is believed to be held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (Facebook)
Avraham Avera Mengistu, who is believed to be held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (Facebook)

Thursday’s Hebrew papers hit the newsstands several hours before the IDF censor lifted a gag order from a bombshell of a story concerning two Israelis being held captive in Gaza, leaving the country’s leading dailies to focus on other reports and either entirely ignore the massive development, or just allude to it slightly.

In Yedioth Ahronoth, the captivity of Avraham Mengistu, 28, of Ashkelon, and a second, unidentified individual, is referenced on the front page, though the paper veers clear of providing the full details of the story, stating instead that “Hamas has a card,” and that a “security incident will be published this morning.” The paper does note that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal had stated yesterday that his Gaza-based organization will not provide any information concerning the whereabouts of the bodies of two IDF soldiers killed in last summer’s war in the Strip until Israel releases Palestinian prisoners who were detained ahead or during the 50-day-long conflict.

Yedioth instead leads with a dilemma of sorts facing the ruling Likud party, after Yisrael Beytenu, which is part of the Knesset opposition, introduced a bill which would set a death penalty for certain terrorist activities. Likud, Yedioth explains, may technically support the bill, yet voting in favor of the legislation would hand a small victory to the opposition. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for his part, has indicated that he would vote against the bill, yet some ministers in his party have stated behind closed doors that they fully support the legislation and are actually considering voting in favor at the upcoming ministerial committee meeting, counter to the Israeli leader’s position. The vote on the bill will take place Sunday.

Both Israel Hayom and Haaretz dedicate a portion of their front pages to the New York Stock Exchange’s mysterious three and a half hour trading halt yesterday apparently caused by a technical issue. Israel Hayom, however, raises the option that the stock exchange had actually come under a hacking attack, citing vague references to a trading halt made by apparent members of the cyber-anarchic group Anonymous in the days before the NYSE’s blip.

Haaretz covers a dramatic rise in the rate of home demolitions throughout various Bedouin communities in the country’s south. According to Haaretz, 1,073 structures deemed not to have the necessary state permits were destroyed in the south last year, a 54% rise compared to 2013. Many Bedouin homeowners who received demolition notices from the state carried out the destruction by themselves, Haaretz notes, so as to avoid extra penalty payments to authorities.

Yedioth reports on two apparently new rockets unveiled by Hamas on the anniversary of last summer’s war, the Qassam A and the Qassam SH. However, the group failed to state the range or capacity of the two new rockets.

A short report in Israel Hayom informs readers that Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan removed senior police officer Tzvi Rosenberg from his position following accusations that the security representative sexually harassed a female subordinate. Rosenberg’s firing comes amid numerous reports of sexual misconduct among the police’s top brass.

In the same vein, Israel Hayom further reports that the remand for a rabbi in the country’s north who is suspected of sexually assaulting several women over the years has been extended by eight days. A total of eight complaints have been lodged against the rabbi, whose name remains under gag order for the time being.

Haaretz reports that a recent hack into a top Italian cyber-security firm revealed that the Defense Ministry and Israel Police showed interest in acquiring advanced spyware tools. The report states that it was unclear whether the tools were in fact purchased or if they were actually put to use.

Finally, Yedioth offers an amusing tale of pride and plagiarism, reporting on an Albanian pop star who made use of the tune from Israeli singer Pe’er Tassi’s smash hit Derech Hashalom in a new song. The Albanian, who goes by the name of Blero, made slight changes to the melody and added a rap segment, all without informing Tassi or his producers of the move. The music video accompanying Blero’s version of the song was viewed over a million times on YouTube, an impressive amount but still less than the unprecedented rates of Tassi’s version, which has been watched a total of 21,090,258 times, as of the writing of this paragraph. In response to the plagiarism, Tassi said he was flattered, but would have nonetheless appreciated if Blero had contacted him before using the tune. Tassi added that he himself did not particularly like Blero’s version, as it was not “professional enough.”

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