Hebrew media review

Mount of beat it, dudes

Clashes atop the Temple Mount and questions about cops’ and others’ double standards gain the focus of the Hebrew press Monday

Joshua Davidovich is The Times of Israel's Deputy Editor

Israeli security forces arrest a Palestinian man during clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police in Jerusalem's Old City on July 26, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)
Israeli security forces arrest a Palestinian man during clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police in Jerusalem's Old City on July 26, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)

Had Mungo Jerry lived in Jerusalem, its hit song “In the Summertime” might have included the lyric “when the weather’s fine, you’ve got rocks, you’ve got firebombs on your mind,” instead of the more familiar “women.”

Alas, while frontman Ray Dorset can spend his summers in sunny Bournemouth, England, thinking about royalties and going swimming and fishing in the sea, we here are stuck with the seemingly annual parade of skyrocketing tensions around the Temple Mount.

Clashes that broke out atop the hallowed esplanade Sunday, which was the Jewish fast day of Tisha B’Av, are the focal point of all three major Hebrew-language dailies.

Dubbing the fighting the “Battle on the Mount,” Yedioth Ahronoth reports that Arab rioters had stockpiled weapons, including carts full of cinderblocks, fireworks, wooden planks and Molotov cocktails, to hurl at Jews planning on visiting the site on the day that marks the destruction of both Jewish temples thousands of years ago.

The paper describes the scene as the cops headed onto the Mount to head off any trouble:

“The day of fighting on the Temple Mount started early in the morning, when police forces stormed the al-Aqsa Mosque after getting intelligence that Palestinians were using the site to stockpile stones and firebombs. The rioters put up makeshift barriers using planks and iron bars to keep the doors at the entrance to the mosque from closing during the clash,” the paper writes, describing police attempts to lock in the protesters.

Israel Hayom traces the tensions back to Thursday, when Jewish right-wing activist Avia Morris told some Muslim women in the Old City who were harassing her that “Mohammed is a pig,” with the paper writing that the woman has refused to apologize for throwing a match into the powderkeg. The paper notes that politicians saved their harshest denunciations for the police, accusing them on taking a hands-off approach to the Temple Mount and allowing it to become an unsafe place for non-Muslim visitors.

“The situation on the Temple Mount cannot continue like this,” the paper quotes Minister Miri Regev saying. “It comes from the incompetent police treatment of Arab rioters. The Temple is holy to both Jews and Muslims alike and the government of Israel needs to make sure Jews can visit the Temple Mount, especially on Tisha B’Av.”

Commentator Nadav Shragai, while not defending Morris’s words, indicates that there does seem to be a double standard at work.

“Make no mistake. There’s no room for calls of ‘Mohammed is a pig’ in these parts, even when passions heat up, though the Muslims don’t really need it to run wild on the Temple Mount,” he writes. “They do it all year round, raising and lowering the flame at will, and calling the Jewish Temple ‘al-Mazoum,’ or the presumptive, imaginary and false. They shout from under every tree about the Jews destroying the Islamification of Jerusalem. They falsely accuse the Jewish state of intending to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque when the same country does everything to protect the place, even if it means a serious blow to Jewish rights in their holiest place. Bands of male and female cursers, who are compensated NIS 4,000 a month for their work, fly flags of the PLO, Hamas, Islamic State and the Muslim Brotherhood and incite violence against Jews.”

While a double standard may exist, a picture snapped by an AFP photographer during Sunday’s clashes showing an Arab man being led away by police in cuffs while a cop gets chummy with a Jewish kid right next to them, runs in both Haaretz and Yedioth, and presumes to show another kind of double standard.

The broadsheet Haaretz reports that the number of Palestinians held under administrative detention – that is, without charge – skyrocketed last year, from 193 in May 2014 to 473 in August 2014, following the kidnapping of three teens in the West Bank and the war that broke out right after.

The paper reports that the spike corresponds to a lowering of the bar for who can be thrown in the slammer.

“In the past, a concrete link to terrorist funds was needed,” an anonymous military prosecution source tells the paper. “Now minor involvement with the money suffices, such as someone who talked about a plan to bring in money, even if the plan is not necessarily capable of being carried out. Another example is connections with Hamas bodies outside [the territories]. In the past it was necessary to have a connection with Hamas bodies for military purposes, or a real, long and dangerous connection. Today it is enough to speak to a Hamas activist overseas in order to justify administrative detention.”

Who is IS?

Clashes atop the Temple Mount and unceasing arrest raids probably look pretty piddly compared to the war raging in the Sinai between the Egyptian army and Islamic State loyalists. Haaretz’s Amos Harel reports that the IDF has crowned the Islamic State’s Sinai Province the most effective terror group franchisee in the region, though nobody seems to know who is at the helm.

“Despite the group’s steadily improving capabilities, it seems that both Egyptian and Israeli intelligence are still in the dark about the identities of the people running it,” he writes. “The IDF admits it doesn’t know who the Sinai Province’s military commander is. And given the extremely close security cooperation between Israel and Egypt in Sinai, this presumably means the Egyptians don’t know, either.”

You might think a religious Israeli teen with cancer was a terrorist from the way he being forced into cuffs to undergo chemotherapy, which he is very publicly refusing. The case has kicked up a media firestorm and Yedioth offer two differing perspectives on the matter.

One commentator, Merav Batito, appeals to 16-year-old’s religious sensitivities and says the Torah sanctifies life and so he must also fight to live without any fear of transgression.

The second, Yigal Sarna, writes that it’s not a religious matter, but one of choice, and the youth’s choice should be respected.

“He is courageous in the fullest meaning of the word. We aren’t talking about someone who wants to kill himself because of unrequited love. For someone like that I would do everything to prevent him from taking his life, knowing that better things for him lie ahead,” he writes. “But this ultra-Orthodox youth already drank from the torments of chemotherapy and returned to life, and now he’s discovered that the disease has returned. This is the time when a man is made to choose, knowing already what lies ahead, if he chooses to fight or put an end to it. The youth has decided to die in his home under the umbrella of prayer. It’s not him that’s taking his life, but others, they are taking his life. They are afraid of death and want to place upon him their fears and rules. And so I tell them: don’t be afraid, go on your way.”

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