Hebrew media review

Hotovely said Americans aren’t fighting. Now everybody is

Deputy foreign minister’s remarks — and ensuing outrage — have everyone in a huff, from those actually aggrieved, to those mistaken for Americans, to those defending her

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely in Washington, November 2017. (Shmulik Almany/MFA)
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely in Washington, November 2017. (Shmulik Almany/MFA)

Tzipi Hotovely’s foot was already shoved in her mouth after she made the mistake of saying out loud what many Israelis think in their heart of hearts — that American Jews have “convenient lives” and don’t send their kids to fight in the military. On Friday morning she gets an assist from the press and outraged Jews in jamming her toes even further in there, though some try to stick their own feet in as well.

While the remarks were made Wednesday night, nobody seemed to notice them until Thursday morning, making Friday’s papers the first in which they appear.

Hotovely since apologized for/clarified/kind of repeated her remarks originally made to i24 News, but in a sign that the furor isn’t going anywhere, the brouhaha remains front and center in Israel’s major dailies Friday morning, along with an ongoing crisis over rail work being done on Shabbat.

“The insult and the fury,” reads the headline in Yedioth Ahronoth, writing that Hotovely’s remarks “added fuel to the fire” with the rift between Israeli and US Jews already deepening (and good luck untangling that mixed metaphor).

The paper dutifully recounts Hotovely’s remarks and runs down the list of condemnations from politicians and others, though for examples of US Jews’ anger it lists statements from the Israeli heads of the Reform and Conservative movements. The fact that a paper ostensibly representing Israel’s mainstream did equate Reform and Conservative Israelis with Americans, whether or not they are, goes just as far to explain a lot of the rift as Hotovely’s actual remarks.

Apparently having American Jewophobia, the paper discounts the point of Hotovely’s remarks, which seemed clearly aimed at American Jews not in the American army, and ignores the hundreds of Jewish servicemen who have fought and died for the United States. The paper instead opts to vent its outrage via cases of US Jews who moved to Israel and fought and died in the Israeli army, including Sean Carmeli, who grew up in California but was actually Israeli.

“To me, she doesn’t understand the reality Americans are living in at all. It’s another world,” father Alon Carmeli is quoted saying, kind of agreeing with her. “Why would an American Jew, who has no existential threat, send their kids to the American army? Sean had friends who joined up, but not out of patriotism, but rather for a career or because they were looking for adventure overseas.”

Israel Hayom runs a pretty much identical roster of what it calls “wall-to-wall condemnation,” though it leaves out the part that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was said to be considering firing Hotovely. Instead it reports that she had already been asked several times not to make these statements, meaning Netanyahu knew she was a liability.

Yet the paper accompanies its story with a column by Amnon Lord defending Hotovely and going even further in slamming American Jews as a bunch of bleeding heart Uncle Toms who see the deputy foreign minister and Israel as a liability.

“American Jews live in a rapidly changing society and always need to rethink their place in it. When the Democratic party slides left and blacks become more and more radical, Israel becomes excess baggage from the view of students on campus who need to identity with Linda Sarsour and Black Lives Matter,” he writes. “So we get this despicable display at Princeton University, where Jewish students can’t deal with a religious Israeli woman.”

One has to veer all the way to Haaretz to find actual American Jews like Reform movement leader Rabbi Rick Jacobs, condemning Hotovely’s remarks.

“If an American politician had made these comments, we would not hesitate to call them out as anti-Semitic,” the paper quotes Jacobs saying. “At a minimum they evidence a shocking ignorance.”

Columnist Chemi Shalev asserts that Hotovely’s thoughts are consistent with those of “dedicated anti-Semites,” and says it’s not surprising, given the Netanyahu government’s “affection for white supremacists who share their admiration for Israel and, it often seems, their disdain for liberal American Jews.”

He also makes a point overlooked by many others, that Hotovely is actually correct about Jews being underrepresented in the armed services (though it’s not clear where he gets his statistics from), but life is about more than grabbing a gun and killing Muslims.

“For a right-wing nationalist like Hotovely, the only valid litmus test for determining whether one can comprehend life in Israel – and thus knowledgeably criticize it – is apparently military service. Those who don’t partake are condemned to the ‘convenient lives’ she sneers at,” he writes. “American Jews may have played, and may continue to play, an oversized role in American arts and letters, academia and intelligentsia, medicine, law, philosophy and the entertainment industry … indeed, American Jews may have contributed to modern American society and democracy above and beyond any comparable religious or ethnic group.”

Also played up in the press is an ongoing crisis over demands to halt train work on Shabbat, which could either mean no trains or no government.

Yedioth, clearly displaying where it falls on the issue, runs a front page headline pointing out that soldiers who rely on trains for getting home and back to base after weekend leave will have their Shabbats ruined if the work isn’t allowed to go ahead.

“The ones who mainly pay the price are soldiers serving in the south,” the paper reports.

Haaretz’s lead editorial predicts that the ultra-Orthodox making the demands may think they are winning, but may soon be pushed off the tracks.

“The last time the Haredim pushed the secular community into a corner, the Shinui party, headed by [anti-Haredi politician] Tommy Lapid, won 15 seats in a general election. We have to hope that the disproportionate coercion that the Haredim are exerting this time will eventually generate a counterresponse so that in the end not only will railway maintenance be done on Shabbat, but public transportation will run every day of the week, as in any properly running country,” the editorial reads.

Lastly, Israel Hayom’s top story has some good news for Israelis who wish they could partake in the shoving and fighting over toys that Americans are getting today, or at least the online version of it: the end of import tariffs making it too expensive to buy stuff online.

While the paper plays it up as “major good tidings for consumers” it also notes that the taxes will only be removed on items not made in Israel, though it says that’s pretty much everything.

“If you look around right now, you’ll see that almost everything you see is made abroad: clothes, shoes, glasses, watches, computers, video games and more,” the paper writes. “All of these are expected to be cheaper soon.”

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