Hut, hut, help: 6 things to know for October 13
Israel media review

Hut, hut, help: 6 things to know for October 13

Sukkot holiday editions of major dailies prominently cover plight of an Israeli-American held hostage as a bargaining chip in a diplomatic spat between Israel, Russia and the US

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Naama Issachar and her mom Yaffa in a post to Issachar's Instagram page in July 2018.
Naama Issachar and her mom Yaffa in a post to Issachar's Instagram page in July 2018.

1. From Russia with vengeance: The prison conditions of an Israeli woman arrested in Russia for marijuana possession and sentenced to 7.5 years on Friday were worsened shortly after Israel approved the extradition of a Russian hacker to the US — strengthening the prevailing assessment in Jerusalem that her trial was a tit-for-tat move by Moscow.

  • The two major Israeli papers — Israel Hayom and Yedioth Ahronoth — open their respective holiday editions with extensive coverage of Naama Issachar’s plight. In the former, Issachar’s mother Yaffa pens a letter to her daughter vowing to do whatever’s necessary to bring her home.
  • “We didn’t understand why two weeks after deciding to charge you for possession of marijuana that had been forgotten in your backpack and slap you with a fine, they suddenly changed your charges to drug smuggling and trafficking. We didn’t understand when they decided to transfer you to a remote, isolated detention center. We didn’t understand when the Russian judge repeatedly refused a house arrest alternative with an electronic monitor despite letters from the Jewish community officials [on your behalf],” Yaffa wrote.
  • “We didn’t know, and were very angry when they decided to prevent you from making phone calls and receiving letters. We didn’t know why they refused to bring you kosher food. We did not know what was behind the refusal to send you a prayerbook for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We did not know why fateful hearings were delayed and rescheduled on Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur, the holiest day for the people of Israel, when you are forced to arrive pale and exhausted from the fast.”
  • Yaffa recalls her daughter’s plight in further detail in Yedioth, using various calls, letters and  texts she has received from Issachar over the past six months. “I try to do yoga and meditation and teach the girls in the yard to do exercise and not just eat. I try to elevate their moods. Someone didn’t have any clothes so I gave her my clothes,” Issachar wrote to her mother over a month into her time in prison. “I’m going through a personal journey here. Apparently it is something I needed to go through. I help so many people here, and I’m learning about myself. Everything will be okay. It’s a journey that I am going through. That’s how I see it.”
  • But as the months go by, Issachar’s optimism begins to break. When it got colder, Issachar asked her mother for extra clothes. “But  don’t bring me clothes from home,” Yaffa recalls Naama telling her. “I don’t want those clothes from home being associated with this place.”
  •  Yaffa writes that her daughter understood that she had become a bargaining chip in a much bigger political dispute when she entered the courtroom for a sentencing hearing and saw the amount of press and senior Russian officials there. “Mom, promise me, please promise me you’ll get me out quickly,” Naama said upon hearing her sentence.

2.  We’re all Mr. Kurd: Dozens of Israelis join thousands of others across Europe protesting against the Turkish assault on Kurds in northern Syria.

  • “As a Jew, I cannot watch what is happening and remain silent,” organizer Roni Lesser tells the Ynet news website. “My daughter just returned from a trip to Poland and we are speaking about ‘never again.’”
  • Over one hundred more attended an additional protest this morning in front of Turkey’s embassy in Tel Aviv. “I’m a third generation Holocaust survivor and we ask all the time why the world was silent. Now we are a part of the world, and the least we can do is to not be silent and to show solidarity,” protester Tehilla Friedman tells Ynet.
  • In the Haaretz daily, Amir Tibon says that US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull American troops from Syria — which has led to the Turkish onslaught of Kurdish towns — has placed the ironclad support his administration has enjoyed from Evangelical Christians at risk. Senior members of the faith have spoken out against the “abandonment” of the Kurds.
  • “Trump is seen by most evangelicals as the most pro-Israel president ever, and as someone who has moved American policy in the Middle East in a good direction,” Evangelical author and activist Joel Rosenberg tells Haaretz. “But it’s worth noting that this is the first time such criticism has been leveled at him from the evangelical community. I don’t think it would be wise to just ignore it.”

3. Anti-Semitism at the anti-Semitism conference: The Forward’s Batya Ungar-Sargon recalls her experience being invited to speak at a conference on anti-Semitism being hosted by New York’s Bard College in which she found herself encountering quite a bit of anti-Semitism.

  • The journalist — who has come under fire in recent months from certain circles on the Jewish far-left for her outspoken stance on anti-Semitism on the left — writes that she prepared to speak on a panel relating to anti-Semitism and one related to Zionism and was surprised to discover that protesters from the Students For Justice in Palestine group were only interested in disrupting her talk on anti-Semitism.
  • “The conversation about anti-Semitism is already inherently about Israel,” one of the students archly explained, repeating a deeply anti-Semitic trope that has been voiced across the spectrum from David Duke to Louis Farrakhan to Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters. “Right-wing anti-Semites see any accusation of anti-Semitism as a Jewish conspiracy to take away the rights of whites, while left-wing anti-Semites sees the same accusation as an attempt to silence Palestinians,” writes Ungar-Sargon.
  • At a subsequent party for conference speakers, a professor chided the Forward reporter for “silencing Palestinians” by not including any on her panel.
  • At this point, Ungar-Sargon says she decided to change the script and give one final address at the conference in which she would chide organizers who provided the protesters free rein. “The next time someone says, ‘What have you done to help Jews as anti-Semitism has spiked across the nation, as Jews have been murdered at their place of worship and Orthodox Jews get beaten to a pulp day after day in Brooklyn,’ you can say, ‘I sat idly by as Jews were protested for trying to talk about anti-Semitism. I allowed a Jewish woman to be held accountable — because of her ethnicity — for the actions of a country halfway around the world where she can’t even vote. I egged the protest on, in fact. And then I went to a party.’”

4. Healing in Halle: ToI’s Yaakov Schwartz spends the Sabbath in Halle, Germany, where the small Jewish community is recovering from the deadly shooting outside its synagogue on Yom Kippur.

  • As a few dozen regulars trickled into the bullet-ridden synagogue on Friday evening, thousands of supporters from the neighborhood began crowding around the building in an expression of  solidarity.
  • “This is our answer. This is for the Jewish community, and all the world, who are looking to Halle to see what it means to respond to terror. And I wish everyone, the entire world, a Shabbat of peace, a Shabbat of healing, and a Shabbat of blessing,” a visiting rabbi tells the crowd after reciting the Kiddush prayer.
  • “Maybe it’s because the people killed were regular Germans and not Jewish,” a 25-year-old teacher who came to the showing of support tells ToI. “But this has really brought people together. I feel like now there’s no real difference between Jewish and non-Jewish people here, because everyone feels like this terror affects them personally.”
  • “We’re standing between two flames,” said the synagogue’s gabbai (warden), 59-year-old Josef Levin, who came to Germany from Ukraine in 2004. “On the one side we have the neo-fascists, and on the other, we have immigrants coming from Syria and other places in the Middle East, who hate us just as much. And we’re stuck in the middle, burning.”

5. Police provocation: Haaretz publishes an exclusive video taken from the body camera of an officer operating in the East Jerusalem village of Issawiya, where law enforcement has been carrying out a months-long operation of raids and arrests that have been a source of major tension with the Palestinian locals.

  • “This is simply to provoke them. Why are we provoking them on purpose?” the officer can be heard asking his brother in arms in the middle of an operation in Issawiya. Over 350 of the neighborhood’s residents have been arrested this summer, but fewer than a dozen have been charged.
  • In a later clip, the officer can be heard asking his superior whether their mere presence was causing further problems in the city. “That’s the goal,” the other cop responds to him.”
  • The latest footage comes two months after it was revealed that police officers planted a rifle in the home of an Issawiya resident only to “find” it during the filming of a television docudrama.

6. My job is so secret, even I don’t know what I’m doing: Mossad director Yossi Cohen provides a rare interview to the ultra-Orthodox Mishpacha magazine in which he reveals that he sees himself as a candidate to succeed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

  • “People tell me I can fill Netanyahu’s shoes. I definitely see myself in Israeli leadership in the future as well. But I haven’t decided yet,” Cohen tells Mishpacha in remarks far more political than those typically given by someone in his sensitive security situation.
  • Channel 12 political correspondent Amit Segal takes major issue with Cohen’s comments and urges him to take to heart the slogan of the Mossad’s sister security-intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, which is “Defender that shall not be seen.”
  • “Defender that shall not campaign for [Likud] primaries while he is still in the post,”  says Segal, chiding Cohen. “He of course is not the first person in the Israeli security establishment to think about the jump into politics. But there’s a huge difference between thinking in your heart and saying what he said.”
  • “Imagine how people would have reacted if Benny Gantz had given an interview on the eve of stepping down as IDF chief of staff and announced that he intended to run for the head of a party. It is simply not appropriate,” Segal concludes.
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