For months, disabled people in Israel have been protesting loudly, blocking roads and main highways and trying to insert their fight for more government benefits into the national agenda. The protests have become so commonplace that the opposite has occurred and they’ve kind of become a familiar background noise.
On Sunday morning, after a weekend that saw little in the way of news either domestically or internationally, their fight finally makes it to the top story of the Yedioth Ahronoth, one of the country’s most widely read newspapers — kind of.
In what can possibly be seen as a large screw you, while the story of disabled Israelis unable to make ends meet garners double-truck treatment on pages two and three, it’s almost nowhere to be found on the paper’s front.
Instead, the largest picture and much bigger headline for those perusing newstands is reserved for someone else in a wheelchair, actress Lucy Dubinchik, who is pictured luxuriating in a hospital bed, wearing leopard print pajamas, holding a lollipop like a cigarette and with one foot in a cast, a month after falling out of a four-story window. Her situation could not be further from the plight of those who can’t walk that people should actually care about.
(Dubinchik’s story, which gets two pages and massive headlines and pictures further inside the tabloids, is merely a preview of a larger story to be run in the paper’s Friday edition. Start saving your agorot now.)
But at least the paper does give coverage to the disabled protests, and more importantly, their plight. The paper reports that 24% of families with a disabled person live below the poverty line, and just one in five disabled Israelis is able to find work, with the rest forced to live off a pittance of NIS 2,343 a month in state help. But their protests don’t seem to be gaining much traction.
“The disabled have held more than 30 protests and road blockages over the last half year demanding that their minuscule benefit be raised. And how many Knesset discussions have there been on in the issue in that time? Correct, zero,” the paper’s lede reads, leaving no doubt as to where its sympathies lie.
In case there was any doubt, though, reporter Telem Yahav also puts on his opinionating hat, writing that this is an issue that everyone should be protesting, not just the disabled.
“The reason nobody wants to identify with the disabled protest is because nobody wants to think it can happen to them. Nobody wants to imagine that suddenly they can wake up one morning handicapped,” he writes. “Well, start to think. As soon as you realize that you could also find yourself in this situation, you will want the option of buying a little honey candy for the kids on Rosh Hashanah without having to worry about which medication you’ll have to give up.”
Haaretz’s front page has a preview for another protest that’s unlikely to gather much in the way of support among the wider public: ultra-Orthodox pushing for more respect given to the day of rest, Shabbat.
The paper reports that ultra-Orthodox leaders are planning a rare summit to strategize how to stop work on Israel Railways being done on Shabbat, thus desecrating the day for everybody, though really the train is just a wagon to hitch their cause to.
“Israel Railway’s work on Shabbat is just a symbol of something much wider,” a source from a Haredi political party is quoted telling the paper. “It’s a fight against the ongoing erosion of the status quo in recent years. We are seeing more and more places such as grocery stores and malls open on Shabbat, in addition to steps to approve public transportation and the opening of entertainment venues in Jerusalem on Shabbat.”
While Israel Hayom’s lead story deals with an investigation being opened into the Clalit HMO over suspicions of graft, the paper also plays up more than the other papers results from a polygraph test taken by Sara Netanyahu to prove her innocence against an expected indictment for diverting public funds for her private housekeeping expenses.
Despite the fact that polygraphs are considered barely more than a quack science and are inadmissible in Israeli courts (which the paper notes), the tabloid plays up the fact that she was found innocent by the test, with headlines saying just that on the front page and page 5.
Perhaps the police need to take a polygraph. The story on Sara Netanyahu also reports on protests against her husband, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Petah Tikva. A claim by anti-Netanyahu activists that police are using a drone to identify and track them is denied by a police spokeswoman who says the police don’t use any drones.
Just a few pages later, though, the paper runs a gung-ho story about police starting to use drones, with 20 going out to stations around the country last week.
“The drone can give an independent situational picture from the air to the station commander or police unit about scoping a scene, looking for a missing person, looking for a drowning victim, a break-in or getaway, public order, protests and car crashes,” the head of the police’s drone unit tells the paper.
Getting to the truth isn’t always so simple. On Haaretz’s op-ed page Uri Misgav cares less about Sara Netanyahu’s truth and more about her husband’s, after he revealed he spoke to Israel Hayom publisher Sheldon Adelson on average 0.75 times a week from 2012 to 2015.
To Misgav, Netanyahu’s use of statistics are a way of muddling the court-ordered truth, recalling a joke about a statistician drowning in a pool that had a 20-centimeter average depth.
“Using the statistics, Netanyahu is trying to avoid the real thorns,” he writes, noting that revealing the timing of the calls will allow the public to see how much influence he may have had over the tabloid. “And that’s not all. From 2012 to 2015 there were two elections. A flurry of calls before a vote would provide a basis for the assumption that Israel Hayom was used as a propaganda tool for Netanyahu and Likud.”
Netanyahu is not the only one performing impressive acrobatics or jumping through hoops. After Linoy Ashram comes away from the World Rhythmics Gymnastics Championships with a bronze in both the ribbon and all-around, Yedioth Ahronoth celebrates her as “wonder woman.”
The paper notes that Ashram’s medal is the best ever placement for an Israeli in the competition, and sings her praises higher than contestants throw those batons.
In an accompanying column Neta Rivkin, who represented Israel at the London Olympics in the sport, has high hopes for Ashram in Tokyo 2020.
“We’re talking about sports so anything can happen, but in general, this is what the campaign to get to the next Olympics will look like: Linoy needs to stay healthy, practice hard, maintain the level she’s showing today, and then the sky is the limit,” she writes. “There was a reason she was standing on that podium.”