Israel media review

If you build it, they will come (and demolish it): 7 things to know for July 23

Israel’s razing of several structures in East Jerusalem neighborhood earns jeers from critics, cheers from some Israelis and a big yawn from the rest of the country

Joshua Davidovich is The Times of Israel's Deputy Editor

Israeli security forces razing one of the Palestinian buildings in the West Bank village of Dar Salah, adjacent to the Sur Baher area which straddles the West Bank and Jerusalem, July 22, 2019 shows. (Ahmad GHARABLI/AFP)
Israeli security forces razing one of the Palestinian buildings in the West Bank village of Dar Salah, adjacent to the Sur Baher area which straddles the West Bank and Jerusalem, July 22, 2019 shows. (Ahmad GHARABLI/AFP)

1. Razing hell: Israel on Monday went ahead with planned demolitions of dozens of homes in several buildings in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher.

  • Though Israeli demolitions of homes found to be built illegally are not uncommon, the location of the homes in areas under Palestinian Authority control brought extra attention and condemnation over the measures.
  • The homes are in an area that is perhaps a perfect microcosm of the byzantine soup of authorities at play in the liminal zone at the edges of Jerusalem (a) in a neighborhood that is mostly inside Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, but (b) in a part of the neighborhood that lies outside those boundaries, in an area of the West Bank under Palestinian Authority control, and (c) on the Jerusalem side of the security barrier that supposedly runs between East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
  • Among those to criticize Israel was Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry, despite recent moves by Manama and Foreign Minister Khalid al-Khalifa that Israel had touted as a sign of growing friendship.
  • “In line with the EU’s longstanding position, we expect the Israeli authorities to immediately halt the ongoing demolitions,” a spokesperson for the EU is quoted telling AFP.

2. Nothing to see here: While the demolitions made international news, in Israel they are barely paid attention to by the mainstream press.

  • Yedioth Ahronoth puts a few grafs in a box on the bottom of Page 16. Israel Hayom pays a little more attention, running its story at the top of Page 9 and acknowledging the complicated nature of the proceedings.
  • Haaretz is the only major paper to put the operation on its front page. The news outlets can’t even agree on whether 12 or 13 structures were ultimately destroyed.
  • 972, a local left-wing news website, also plays up the news, running a dispatch from a journalist who joined other activists staying over in the doomed homes. “It’s 3 a.m. and my heart sinks. All I can think about is what I am about to walk into. I follow others down the stairs, out the door, and into the cold summer morning, wondering how I would cope if my home was permanently under threat of demolition,” A. Daniel Roth writes.

3. Demolition man: Few Israeli officials paid much heed to the demolition either, beyond Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.

  • Erdan started off his Monday on Twitter by slamming the EU for buying into what he called the Palestinians lies. In a tweeted statement, Erdan insisted that the razings were allowed under the Oslo Accords and were necessitated by security needs.
  • By Monday night, though, he seemed to be taking some pleasure in the destruction of people’s homes, tweeting out videos of the demolitions from several angles.
  • “It’s cool if you need to demolish. But what’s the deal with you making porn out of the razings like some sort of teenager that never saw an explosion in your life,” on person responds to him on Twitter.
  • It’s not just Erdan. Channel 13’s Or Heller tweets a video of soldiers cheering the same explosion.
  • B’Tselem activist Sarit Michael writes of the video, “This joy at a job well done, at ruining the future of dozens of families is, for me, the best reflection of the utter dehumanization and degradation of the occupation.”
  • Channel 13 journalist Barak Ravid writes that “for those confused, the people photographed here celebrated did not just complete the Entebbe raid, but rather erased a building in a civilian neighborhood meant to house Palestinian families.”

4. Stone by stone: Juxtaposed against those videos are the stories of the displaced homeowners and others who saw homes they had been attempting to build for years reduced to rubble.

  • Jafar Abu Hamed, a 33-year-old resident of Sur Baher, tells ToI’s Adam Rasgon that he invested NIS 600,000 ($171,000) in the property that security forces destroyed.
  • “I’ve put so much into that place,” Abu Hamed, a father of three, says in a phone call. “We had finished building the first floor and we were working on the second floor and then they came and destroyed it.”
  • “I built this house stone by stone. It was my dream to live in this house. Now I am losing everything,” said Fadi al-Wahash, 37, is quoted telling Reuters as a bulldozer destroyed his unfinished home. “I had a permit to build from the Palestinian Authority. I thought I was doing the right thing.”
  • Reporting from the demolition area, Al Jazeera’s Rob Matheson says he watched as “they took [a] family away – we heard screaming and shouting. And within two hours, 50 percent of the building has been destroyed.”
  • Turkey’s TRT World notes that “Palestinians fear that the razing of village buildings near the fence will set a precedent for other towns along the route of the barrier, which runs for hundreds of kilometres around and through the Israeli-occupied West Bank.”

5. Outposts are in: With impeccable timing, the demolitions came as Peace Now published a report on the flowering of wildcat outposts in the West Banks.
While 14 were set up in the last four years of US president Barack Obama’s tenure, the two and a half years since have seen another 18 illegal outposts go up.

  • ToI’s Jacob Magid notes that according to Peace Now, most of the newer outposts are agricultural concerns, which allow settlers to grab more land for planting and grazing and need relatively little infrastructure.
  • The Associated Press writes that the group also accused the Israeli government of backing the outposts, despite them being illegal.
  • “Most of the illegal construction is carried out in an organized manner by officials and with extensive funding from the public coffers,” it quotes from the report.
  • Haaretz’s Ido Baum reports that settlement authorities want to have their cake and eat it too, demanding Israeli law be applied to the settlements, but seeking to skirt those laws when convenient, like a rule prohibiting communities from charging inflated development fees to homebuilders.
  • Using the case of a lawsuit against the fees filed by residents of the settlement of Eshkolot, he writes that “the WZO, the Hebron Hills Regional Council as well as the Eshkolot community association are arguing before the court that the rule on fees should not apply to Judea and Samaria,” he writes. “The Hebron Hills Regional Council’s stand is particularly surprising because like other settler regional councils, it has been insistently calling for Israeli law to be applied in the settlements.”

6. Get Saudi: The Peace Now report also gets almost no play in the Hebrew press. What is covered though, and widely condemned, is a series of videos showing a Saudi blogger being attacked, spit at and insulted while visiting Jerusalem.

  • The blogger is sometimes called a journalist and sometimes called an influencer (he has a whopping 11,500 followers on Twitter), but what he most definitely is is an unabashed supporter of Likud and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he frequently praises on social media.
  • Channel 12 news calls the altercation an “embarrassment.” Walla News write that the weblogger was “treated to a not nice welcome.”
  • Yoseph Haddad, another pro-Israel Arab (though one who can actually vote Likud, if he is so inclined) tells Channel 13 that the incident is a screw-up by the police. “They need to immediately arrest these troublemakers. It can’t be that they can hatefully attack a blogger, tourist or one of our citizens without a response.”
  • Fuming over the incident, Ynet journalist Attila Somfalvi goes even further, and then some: “This isn’t some side item. This is the main story. The Palestinians will never have a state. They don’t deserve a state. This is a group that knows nothing outside of violence. What an embarrassment. What a disappointment. The most successful country in the world will have to live side by side with the most failed nation. A shame.”
  • In case you are wondering: yes, the Hebrew-language tweet is badly ratioed.

7. Bisht-smacked: The Saudi is one of six “journalists” from the Arab world, including Iraq and elsewhere, brought to Israel by the Foreign Ministry as part of a scheme to spread Israel love across the world, but more than a few people seem on board with the harsh criticism of him.

  • The Hamas-linked Shehab news agency shares the videos and pictures of Saud, writing happily that Palestinians managed to kick him off of the al-Aqsa mosque compound.
  • Walla quotes the Iraqi journalists’ union saying that it “condemns the visit and will level sanctions on any journalist who visits Israel.”
  • Scholar Dana El Kurd writes on Twitter that Saud is “a two bit social media ‘influencer’ being used to poison both palestinian and saudi public opinion. Who walks around wearing a bisht like that? Is he going to a wedding? It’s clear he was purposely wanting to provoke and spread the word.”

8. Persian incursion: Perhaps Mahmoud Ahmedinejad can be next. The former Iranian president and hardliner seems to be softening, going as far as speaking to a journalist from The Times of Zionist Entity.

  • Okay, he actually spoke to the Samuel Thrope for The Nation, though Thrope publishes the story behind the interview in ToI.
  • “I first approached Ahmadinejad’s media spokesperson asking to speak to the former president for ‘an English-language newspaper located in a country in the region that does not have ties with Iran’; Israel is a taboo subject in Iran, and I did not want to put anyone in danger by being too transparent,” Thrope writes. “The spokesman demurred, saying that Israeli media was out of the question, but added that Ahmadinejad would be available for an interview, in Persian, with an American publication, and suggested The Nation. While I never said explicitly that I live in Jerusalem, that information is readily available, and I presume the spokesman looked me up before agreeing.”
  • “Ahmadinejad denied he is an anti-Semite, called for the United States and the Islamic Republic to resolve their conflict through dialogue, and criticized Iran’s involvement in the Syrian civil war,” he says.
  • And he tries to erase his anti-Semitic, image, though he does not disavow his various anti-Semitic statements or actions, like organizing a Holocaust denial conference.
  • “You’re Jewish and I’m Muslim, and we’re talking,” Ahmedenijad is quoted saying in the telephone interview, which was conducted in Persian. “Are we fighting? Are we at war?”

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