Hebrew media review

Learning from carnage in the heart of Europe

Covering the terrorist attack in Barcelona, dailies argue that authorities have internalized the Islamist threat and are getting better at dealing with it

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A person is helped by Spanish policemen and two men after a van ploughed into the crowd, killing at least 13 people and injuring around 100 others, on the Las Ramblas Boulevard in Barcelona, Spain, on August 17, 2017. (AFP/Nicolas Carvalho Ochoa)
A person is helped by Spanish policemen and two men after a van ploughed into the crowd, killing at least 13 people and injuring around 100 others, on the Las Ramblas Boulevard in Barcelona, Spain, on August 17, 2017. (AFP/Nicolas Carvalho Ochoa)

Yesterday’s deadly terrorist attack in Barcelona’s popular Las Ramblas promenade that killed 13 people is the main focus of the Hebrew-language dailies, with pundits and opinion writers waxing over what Spanish and other European authorities should learn, can learn, and already have learned from Islamist terrorism all over the world.

Yedioth Ahronoth‘s Ben-Dror Yemini writes that the “world is paying” for allowing itself to ignore the emergence of radical Islamist ideology over the past 50 years, both in the Middle East and in Europe.

Yemini categorizes the attack in Barcelona as separate from acts of terrorism perpetrated by individuals fighting for the Basque, Northern Irish, or even Palestinian causes, and argues that the Islamic State’s sole purpose, unlike groups motivated by nationalist goals, is to force its particular and extremist interpretation of Islam on the entire world.

“Since the terror attacks [on September 11, 2001] in New York we are talking about terror that does not require of the states against which it is directed to act nice or fulfill certain demands,” Yemini writes. “This is a terror that stems from the mere existence of ‘infidels.'”

In Haaretz, correspondent Anshel Pfeffer commends Spanish security forces for their hasty and professional response to the attack in Barcelona, and asserts that the country has internalized the lessons from previous acts of terror at home and across the Continent.

“Adding armed police officers on main streets and providing reinforcement for a rapid response in the city centers required massive funding, training, and tactical assessments that are very different than what had been customary in those countries,” Pfeffer writes of the western European states. “[These policy implementations] reflect an understanding that as long as the motivation is there, it will be very difficult to prevent such attacks from taking place.”

Amid a barrage of condemnations and criticisms of US President Donald Trump’s response to the racially charged violence and anti-Semitic outpouring in Charlottesville, Virginia, Israel Hayom stood out Thursday for all but completely ignoring the issue, leading instead with a report on the UN chief’s upcoming visit to the region.

On Friday, however, the daily finally addresses Trump’s controversial statements, and, while vaguely noting that of course neo-Nazis are wrong and the violence at Charlottesville was their fault, attempts to divert attentions from the right toward cases of anti-Semitism on the left.

Israel Hayom writer Isi Liebler’s entire op-ed is directed at Jewish organizations which, he claims, are facilitating anti-Semitism by ignoring or even participating in verbal attacks against the Jewish state.

“The tolerance that [these organizations] show toward those who incite against Israel is often accompanied by public criticism of Israeli policy,” Liebler writes. “The Jewish community [in the US] must self-examine itself, or else it will lose its influence on the government,” he concludes.

Haaretz, unsurprisingly, takes the opposing stance on the matter, and continues to expand its criticism of Trump to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was careful not to directly address the US president’s comments over the past days.

“Netanyahu’s silence in the face of anti-Semitism is joined by his meeting in Hungary with Viktor Orban, the prime minister who, during that time, led a campaign against the Jewish tycoon George Soros and praised the Hungarian anti-Semitic leader during the Holocaust, Miklos Horthy,” reads Haaretz’s editorial. “In his embarrassing silence toward Trump’s [statements] and his meetings with nationalist leaders with anti-Semitic sentiments, Netanyahu chooses to cooperate with a right that believes in nationalistic-religious purity, a right that is working to destroy the liberal order, that is fighting human rights and the separation of powers, and is moving toward a state in which the democratic establishments — the courts, media, cultural establishments, education, and civil society — will be under the government’s control. Netanyahu is placing Israel on the dark end of history,” the piece dramatically concludes.

Yedioth also partakes in its usual dose of Netanyahu bashing, but instead of the Trump fiasco, focuses on the prime minister’s alleged excessive spending habits and his wife’s public complaints about the state of the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.

The daily prints an entire Facebook post by Michal Diamant, the granddaughter of the late prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, who explains that during her grandfather’s time in office, she never once recalled any grievance having to do with the Israeli leader’s living conditions.

The piece comes in response to a viral video shot by Israeli businesswoman Nicol Raidman, a close personal friend of Sara Netanyahu, at the prime minister’s home in the capital, in which she complained that the estate looked horrible, and that “even jailed terrorists” were better accommodated than the current Israeli leader and his wife.

“I was shaken by the obsessiveness of the Netanyahus about how their home looks,” Diamant writes. “My grandfather, Yitzhak Shamir, never engaged himself in the question of whether the house was luxurious or not.”

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