Hebrew media review

In Istanbul, protesters aplenty, but nary an Israeli reporter

The ‘Turkish Spring’ dominates the Hebrew papers, which are happy to see Erdogan in trouble

Ilan Ben Zion is an AFP reporter and a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

Riot police clashing with protesters in Istanbul on Saturday (photo credit: AP)
Riot police clashing with protesters in Istanbul on Saturday (photo credit: AP)

Mass protests in Istanbul make front page news in the Israeli press; if only the Hebrew press were there to cover the violent clashes between police and Turkish civilians. Not one of the major Israeli newspapers had a correspondent in Turkey covering the unrest, and so most had to rely on foreign papers.

Haaretz runs a fantastic front-lines piece by Louis Fishman, whose English article was translated for the Hebrew print edition. Reporting from Istanbul (which is more than can be said for Israel Hayom‘s coverage), Fishman writes that the flame that ignited over turning an iconic park in Istanbul’s Taksim Square into a shopping mall metamorphosed into a fierce conflagration, with “thousands of canisters of tear gas… fired at hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters throughout the city.”

Fishman writes that “more and more Turks have become tired of a prime minister who promotes policies that interfere with their daily lives,” and consequently they took to the streets to demand an end to this.

But, he says, “[Saturday’s] massive protests in that sense were not a revolution; they were not set on overthrowing the government; the protesters’ aim was to have their voices heard and to demonstrate that even if Turkey is a democracy according to the books, that a democratic system should ensure rights for all, as well as fostering a climate of debate.”

Maariv must have been caught off guard, because it purchased and translated its coverage of the Istanbul protests from The Guardian’s sister paper The Observer. Constanze Letsch says the demonstrations were “the biggest challenge to [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s] 10-year rule,” and reports that “Erdogan, usually quick to respond to major events, also remained silent until Saturday, when he delivered a lengthy address… calling for an immediate end to the protests.”

Despite fierce popular opposition to the plan to level Taksim Square’s Gezi Park, Erdogan “pledged that the government would press ahead with the construction of the controversial shopping center,” The Guardian reports.

Its analysis piece comes from Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News’ Mustafa Akyol, and it, too, was translated from English.

Israel Hayom devotes a meager handful of paragraphs to its coverage, and it writes that “the protest harks back to the Arab Spring, and stems from a large portion of the Turkish public’s mounting frustration at Erdogan’s Islamist ideology.” Yedioth Ahronoth goes so far as to call it “The Turkish Spring” on its front page but, like its competitors, it relies entirely on English news reports (Hurriyet Daily News) for its coverage of the upheaval.

Israel Hayom’s writer says that “the severe police reaction” to the initial protest against the park’s demolition “turned the demonstration political and caused an outbreak of anger from thousands of Erdogan opponents.”

In case its readers didn’t know where Istanbul — the city of which Napoleon famously said “If the Earth were a single state, Constantinople would be its capital” — was, Israel Hayom provides a map.

Yedioth Ahronoth takes it from square one, explaining why people took to the street, and reports that the clashes left at least 10 injured, some severely (more recent reports indicate two killed and close to 1,000 injured in clashes nationwide).

Taking a more local angle, the paper reports that Israeli tourists on the Turkish Riviera “don’t feel a thing.” According to Yedioth, tourists at the Mediterranean resorts in Antalya on Saturday “didn’t feel extraordinary tension, and life continued as usual.”

Bottom line: The Israeli press is elated that Erdogan is on the ropes.

In local news, Haaretz reports that US Secretary of State John Kerry upbraided Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a second time in as many weeks over Israeli settlement construction. It quotes a State Department spokesperson saying that settlement expansion “harms peace.”

“Thus far,” Haaretz reporter Barak Ravid writes, “despite intensive efforts with both sides, it doesn’t appear as though Kerry is close to a breakthrough regarding renewed negotiations.”

Israel Hayom reports (again) that starting Sunday the VAT increase takes effect. The all-encompassing purchase tax rose by 1%, to the dismay of everyone.

On the northern front, Syrian loyalists are plotting to invade the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, according to a Sunday Times report published in Maariv. Citing a senior government source, it says that Syrians, Palestinians and “other Arab volunteers” are training for an assault on the Israeli high ground. According to the report, Syrian President Bashar Assad is not directly involved in organizing the militias, but has given them his seal of approval.

As for the Syrian arms issue, Yedioth Ahronoth reports that Moscow intends to sell cutting-edge fighter jets to Damascus, and has not yet delivered the S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems. It also quotes a report from the Financial Times in which a senior British official said the UK would send weapons to Syrian rebels this summer. Earlier in the week the EU lifted its weapons embargo to Syria, potentially opening the floodgates for arms to the opposition.

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