Imagining Iran’s day after, before the revolution really begins
Hebrew media review

Imagining Iran’s day after, before the revolution really begins

Optimistic protesters and their backers make it into Israeli tabloids, but one pundit notes that they have yet to really be tested

University students attend a protest inside Tehran University while a smoke grenade is thrown by anti-riot Iranian police, in Tehran, Iran, December 30, 2017. (AP Photo)
University students attend a protest inside Tehran University while a smoke grenade is thrown by anti-riot Iranian police, in Tehran, Iran, December 30, 2017. (AP Photo)

With Iran continuing to be roiled by protests, Israeli news keeps one eye on happenings over there while casting another on more local matters Tuesday morning.

Israel Hayom is the only paper to lead off its front page with the Iran demonstrations, though it doesn’t go full Persian immersion, with the tabloid burying its actual coverage fairly deep inside the paper.

Haaretz also places Iranian unrest prominently above the fold, but gives top billing to a story regarding migrants being deported or jailed, and Yedioth Ahronoth leads things off with what is says are new revelations in the German submarine bribery scandal.

Iran still simmers heavily in the background, though. Israel Hayom’s front page is dominated by a quote from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wishing the protesters luck, though they may need more than that.

The paper runs a translated dispatch from a Jordanian journalist in the thick of things in Tehran, who says the protesters are “not afraid,” and are dealing with regime efforts to keep them from communicating.

“We know that if the regime shuts the internet, we’ll just meet at the same place at the same time the next day. We are documenting the crimes of the Basij [security forces] and the Revolutionary Guards and will distribute it around the world,” Ghassem Abdul Hadi A-Shami quotes a protester saying. “We don’t rely on the US and [US President Donald] Trump, but he’s still better than Obama’s silence.”

Not everyone has someone on the inside or is so gung-ho about Trump. Yedioth Ahronoth bases its coverage on Iranian exile Munishar Ganji, who speak excitedly of the protests, but is not happy with the way the US president is dealing with planning for the day after.

“He and his people are in contact with the Mujihadeen, a terror group also responsible for the killing of Americans,” he’s quoted saying, likely referring to the MEK. “The American government is building the wrong opposition. According to our estimations, there are some 7 million Iranians in the diaspora and most want to return to Iran when the regime falls. If the uprising is successful, we will return and rally around a local figure who can return Iran to its glory days.”

Of course he may be getting ahead of himself. Columns in Haaretz, which devotes nearly a whole page of its broadsheet to the protests, note that both protesters and the regime are standing at the precipice of an event that can quickly turn bad for either side, with tough decisions to be made, especially by the regime, which may or may not decide to crush the opposition with brutal force.

Anshel Pfeffer, who has covered other protest movements up close, notes that the actual test of whether the rallies will effect longstanding change will only come once the bullets and batons really start to fly, and until then comments like Netanyahu’s and Trump’s will only serve to hurt the demonstrators.

“The moment of truth for any potential revolution comes when the regime gives the order to its security forces to open fire on the protesters,” he writes. “The Iranian regime has hundreds of thousands of police, soldiers, Revolutionary Guards and militia members at its disposal to put down protests that challenge the hierarchy built over nearly 40 years since the Islamic Revolution. The question of whether these will be enough to prevent a wider uprising, and whether the protests can disrupt the functioning of the Islamic state, will take weeks, perhaps months, to answer. Meanwhile, any outside intervention or statements by Western or Israeli politicians will mainly serve the regime in its claims that the protests are somehow being organized by foreign powers.”

Meanwhile, on the paper’s op-ed page, Amira Hass has a hot take that Israelis are just as bad or worse than the ayatollahs because they won’t even bother blocking social media when suppressing Palestinians, showing they have no shame and don’t care about public opinion.

“In Iran, the protests reveal a dichotomy between the citizens and the regime. The citizens have nowhere else to go, and the regime – with all its jails and its arrests, all its means of suppression – knows it can’t do without them. Moreover, it is committed to holding some sort of elections to preserve its legitimacy,” she writes. “The people who rule the Palestinians, on both the bureaucratic and political level, don’t depend on their votes to get elected or be appointed and earn their living. Quite the contrary: The more they oppress the Palestinians, the more assured their livelihood is.”

Hass also claims that economic and other sorts of protesters in Israel are mollified by the oppression of Palestinians and the purchase of more arms, which is a strange claim, seeing that there are weekly anti-corruption protests in Tel Aviv, focused not on the need to kill more Palestinians, but rather on holding the government to account for dirty dealings, including allegations surrounding the purchase of submarines from Germany.

Yedioth reports on fresh details about what middleman-turned-state’s witness Miki Ganor told investigators, including the fact that he wielded massive influence over making sure the Defense Ministry chose the subs being made by the German firm he was representing and not any rivals by controlling the right people.

In one case, he was able to torpedo a meeting between defense officials and South Koreans competing for the contract with a call to Netanyahu’s cousin and attorney David Shimron, whom he had hired as part of his team.

“I called David Shimron in a panic and I told him the director general of the Defense Ministry and his team were supposed to be taking off for Korea and that he must prevent the meeting,” he is quoted as saying. Shimron later told him it had been “taken care of,” according to the report.

I drink your votes, I drink them up

Papers also give wide coverage to something not yet taken care of, a law shuttering mini-markets on Shabbat, which was pushed off after the coalition was unsure it could muster a majority, with one MK sick and another out because his wife died that morning. The paper reports that the opposition stuck to its guns on not offering to sit two MKs of its own out to offset the absences, but columnist Moti Tochfeld slams it as “insane with wanting to embarrass the coalition” and says the Zionist Union is just digging its own grave by focusing on issues of state and religion, which is opposition partner Yesh Atid’s strongest suit.

“They don’t notice, but their real enemy Yair Lapid is standing to the side with a straw and sucking up seat after seat. One more parliamentary victory like this and they’ll be in single-digit territory,” he writes, conjuring images of Lapid as milkshake-drinking Daniel Day Lewis. “So long as the conversation around state and religion continues, Lapid will keep leading the left-wing camp in a head-to-head battle with Netanyahu.”

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