Jammed up: 8 things to know for July 4
Israel media review

Jammed up: 8 things to know for July 4

Ethiopian-Israeli protests sputter out over fears of heavier police violence, but anger still simmers, including over the press’s obsession with traffic reporting

Police block the road during a protest against police violence in Tel Aviv on July 3, 2019, following the fatal shooting of Ethiopian-Israeli man Solomon Tekah by an off-duty officer. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Police block the road during a protest against police violence in Tel Aviv on July 3, 2019, following the fatal shooting of Ethiopian-Israeli man Solomon Tekah by an off-duty officer. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

1. Hands up, don’t shoot: After much hype, massive protests by members of the Ethiopian-Israeli community and their allies failed to materialize in large degree Wednesday.

  • The fizzling out, a day after protests descended into violent chaos, is seen as a result of the family of slain teen Solomon Tekah asking demonstrators to take a hiatus until after the seven-day mourning period as well as a heavy police hand.
  • Responding to widespread tie-ups Tuesday caused by protesters blocking roads, officials said throughout the day that they were sympathetic to the protesters but would not abide violence or the blocking of roads (though police themselves blocked the intersection in front of Tel Aviv’s Azrieli towers, a major junction and the focal point of the city’s protests a day earlier).
  • Channel 12 news also reprints a WhatsApp message apparently sent around the community which claimed that organizers were calling off the protests because police had been given a free hand to use whatever violence they wanted to stop the rallies.
  • “Throughout the day, protesters were asked not to go out and demonstrate after it was understood that the police would act with a heavier hand than in the days past, and in their words they did not want to fall into their trap,” Haaretz’s Bar Peleg reportsd from the Krayot outside Haifa, where Tekah was killed and many of the protests have been centered.
  • Peleg reports that some 200 people still came out, marching alongside oodles of police and the remnants of stun grenades from the night before.

2. It’s not about the traffic: As at least one person pointed out on Twitter, authorities drawing the line at blocking roads, a hallmark of major demonstrations, is not exactly showing sympathy for the protests.

  • In the Walla news site, Nadav Menuchen exclaims exasperatedly at the fact that so much of the reporting on Tuesday centered on road tie-ups.
  • “A teenager is shot to death, masses come out to the streets to protest it and wider racism against them,” he writes. That’s the story. But alongside the reports on the violence, the media emphasized stories of victims of another kind, people stuck for hours in traffic and guests who didn’t make it to a wedding.”
  • Haaretz’s Vered Lee writes that beyond that, the community feels that the media is on the side of the police, giving the coppers cover where none is warranted and overly focusing on traffic jams and violence.
  • “The rhetoric of the reporters and presenters included infinite use of the word anger,” she writes, “and little by little the word ‘anarchy’ also crept in. It’s important to pause here for a moment to stress how these important protests by the Ethiopian community against the killing of an 18-year-old were covered by the most popular television newscasts beneath the heading of ‘anarchy,’ and were compared to the riots in France.”
  • Among those she berates is her colleague Josh Breiner, the police reporter for Haaretz, who also got into trouble when he was literally too close to the cops.
  • A video tweeted out by Kan’s Roee Yanovsky shows him, Breiner and cameraman Yaron Sudari coming under a hail of rocks and getting gashed in the face because they were standing next to the police during the rioting.
  • “Next time I’ll stand in a safer area,” Yanovsky writes.

3. Cool it: A day after printing a paper with the word “anarchy” splashed across its front page, Yedioth Ahronoth barely even mentions the protests on its front page, apparently having moved on.

  • Inside, both it and fellow tabloid Israel Hayom use the identical headline “On a lowered flame.”
  • Israel Hayom’s front page does feature the protests, but mostly in the form of a picture of one of the few people arrested Wednesday, alongside a column by poet Erez Biton about how the violence has gotten out of hand.
  • “Everything must be done not to smash everything to bits, so we don’t end up being cornered by hate, anger and revenge,” writes Biton, known mainly as the voice of the marginalized Mizrahi communities, aiming his comments at the Ethiopian-Israelis.

4. Resignation letter: What did Yedioth lead off its paper with? A report on infighting at the top of the Israel Defense Forces’ Military Intelligence Directorate, in what the paper calls a “sharp crisis” and a “shakeup.”

  • According to the report, a second senior commander has stepped down in anger after finding out through media reports that his predecessor was being asked to come back to replace him.
  • The military is reportedly scrambling to find a replacement for the commander, known only as Gimel, as the previous commander of the Special Operations Division — who can be identified only as Brig. Gen. “Alef” — has not yet given an answer as to whether he is willing to resume the position he held in 2015-2016.
  • Gimel has informed his commanders that he will leave his position on August 1 regardless of whether a replacement is found, saying he doesn’t want to be a “lame duck.”

5. Sourcery: The opaqueness of the IDF also shines through in a strange exclusive report run by i24 news Wednesday reporting on Israeli airstrikes against weapons shipments in Egypt.

  • The report, which is unsigned, is attributed to “Palestinian sources” but contains detailed information about both IDF operations and claims about the origin and destination of the weapons shipments.
  • More likely, the report is the product of an Israeli defense source, who told the reporter to attribute it to Palestinian sources — an all too common, and downright unethical, phenomenon in Israeli media.
  • Despite certainly being plausible, the report is not picked up by most of the Israeli media.

6. Trolling Kushner: Getting a bit more play, senior White House adviser and Donald Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner told reporters that the US president remains very fond of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, hinting that the PA leader was being led astray by outspoken negotiator Saeb Erekat.

  • Kushner also dropped hints about releasing more details on the US peace plan next week and indicated that his plan will seek to better integrate Palestinian refugees inside Arab countries rather than endorsing or advancing the Palestinian demand, rejected by Israel, for a “right of return” for millions of Palestinians to today’s Israel.
  • Kushner in particular discussed Lebanon integrating Palestinian refugees. In a sign that Beirut may not be on board, the Daily Star headlines a story about his comments with the dismissive headline “I know what Lebanon wants: Kushner.”
  • Out-trolling the Daily Star, Vanity Fair runs Kushner’s comments under the headline “In charm offensive, Kushner calls Palestinians ‘hysterical and stupid.’”

7. Bad plan: Kushner claimed that Palestinians were quite interested in his economic plan discussed in Bahrain, but ToI’s Adam Rasgon reports that a survey by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that around 80% of Palestinians backed the Palestinian decision to boycott the Bahrain meet and thought that independence trumps prosperity.

  • In Haaretz, Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and Victor Kattan write that the economic plan, which is based on turning Palestine into a south Asia-esque powerhouse, is “ambitious – but also ignorant, absurd and even dangerous.”
  • The two write that comparing the Palestinian non-state to Singapore, South Korea, Taiwian and Japan is like comparing apples to oranges.
  • “The lessons of these Asian economic success stories is fairly straightforward: sovereignty was key to transforming these states into Asian economic power houses embedded in strong states that could drive development policies,” they write. “Without this fundamental ingredient, even the best laid economic plans are bound to fail. At worst, these plans will perpetuate economic deprivation, unrest and violence.”
  • A report by Human Rights Watch concurs that economic growth is more tied up in a political solution than the plans authors care to admit.
  • “The plan avoids addressing key obstacles to economic development: the closure of Gaza and, in the West Bank, Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international humanitarian law, and a two-tiered discriminatory system that treats Palestinians and the settlers separately and unequally. The lack of economic growth is not just a byproduct of these abuses, but the result of deliberate Israeli policies,” Sara Saadoun writes.

6. Philistines are just Cretans: The mystery of where the Philistines came from has baffled historians for centuries, with theories galore, but a new study claims to have found the answer — southern Europe, with Crete a leading contender.

  • “After analyzing the ancient DNA of 10 individuals buried at a Philistine archaeological site, an international team of researchers found that the Philistines descended from people in Greece, Sardinia or even Iberia (present-day Spain and Portugal). These ancestors migrated across the Mediterranean during the late Bronze Age or early Iron age, about 3,000 years ago,” Live Science reports.
  • Daniel Master, who led the archaeological team that did DNA tests on the bones from an Ashkelon cemetery uncovered in 2016, tells ToI’s Amanda Borschel-Dan that the Philistines likely came ashore after fleeing a Southern Europe in flux following the Trojan wars. They settled on the coastal plains, but their run-ins with the Israelites left them remembered in history as Biblical villains.
  • “Their bad press, primarily in one book, has gone viral in the most ancient of ways,” Master says. “As archaeologists, we’re saying let’s take a step back and understand them, the people themselves and what else we can tell of their story — not just as opponents of the Israelites, but where they came from, how they developed in cultural achievements, [whether they were] marrying in and out, and ultimately how they ended at the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians” in 604 BCE.
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