Hebrew media review

Old news is bad news

They may be a day late, but Hebrew papers lead off with the Boston attacks, and how Israelis reacted to terror in an unexpected place

In this image from video provided by WBZ TV, spectators and participants run from the twin explosions that shook the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. (Photo credit: AP/WBZTV)
In this image from video provided by WBZ TV, spectators and participants run from the twin explosions that shook the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. (Photo credit: AP/WBZTV)

Israeli papers were too busy barbecuing on Tuesday’s holiday to report on the Boston Marathon bombings, but made up for it Wednesday with all four front pages leading off with the terror attack and ignoring the fact that they are a day late to the disaster.

Maariv, following the dictate that if it bleeds it leads, fails the breakfast test spectacularly. It leads off with a gory picture of bloodied and severely injured victims in the moments after the blast that would make anyone upchuck their Kariot. The other three run the no-less-dramatic snap of the moment of the second blast, seen above, saving the grislier photos for the inside pages.

All four papers also have a man (or woman) on the scene in Boston, who all diligently report the facts of the case. Strangely, Haaretz calls the attack the most fatal since 9/11 and Israel Hayom calls it the only terror attack since the Twin Towers, apparently ignoring the Newtown shooting, the Aurora, Colorado, attacks, the Sikh temple massacre and the Fort Hood shooting, to name just a few attacks that happened in only the last few years (and Israel Hayom’s claim is even stranger considering the fact that just a few pages inside, it has a timeline of American terror, including the 2002 shooting at an El Al counter at LAX).

All the papers do their darndest to find an Israeli connection, which wasn’t too hard considering the 16 Israelis who ran the fateful race. Maariv quotes Yuval Tubin, who was some 200 meters from the finish line when the explosions went off, and who tells the paper that he didn’t think it was a bomb: “My Israeli head told me it was an attack, but my logic said this was Boston and it didn’t make sense.”

Yedioth Ahronoth quotes the Israeli consul, whose office is about a block from the finish line and who heard the bombs as he left to pick up his kids from kindergarten. “I heard the explosions, but it wasn’t a strong blast like we know from Israel, so I didn’t think about it much,” he tells the paper.

The paper also finds an Israeli connection by noting that one of the stores only a few meters from the second bomb was Israel’s own chocolate maker Max Brenner, and will likely fuel conspiracy theories by reporting that one of the more iconic photos from the blast, of 78-year-old-runner Bill Iffrig getting up to finish the race after the blast, has an Israeli flag fluttering in the corner of the frame.

Israel Hayom’s Boaz Bizmuth goes for the poetic by calling the fight against terror a marathon, though his rambling piece is a bit of an ironman challenge itself, jumping from calling on the FBI to release the names of the bombers to calling out Obama for “ending the war on terror.” “If it turns out to be Islamic terror, will he restart the focus on terror? Even if it’s homegrown, he’ll have to restructure his agenda. The world is a lot less rosy than the government thinks.”

Haaretz, which has the strange juxtaposition of a quarter-page ad hawking Jerusalem’s “Marathon of Tours” kitty-corner from its Boston coverage on the front page, runs an analysis by Amir Oren pointing out that the attack caught American intelligence services with their pants down.

“If there were no warnings, that means there was no intelligence. Here, too, there are two possibilities. Either preparations were carried out below the radar of the extensive network of federal, state and municipal, or there were no suspicious preparations,” he writes.

Of Meirs and mayors

Continuing the theme of reporting old news, both Yedioth and Maariv have stories about Memorial Day, which ended Monday night (there was no paper on Tuesday, hence the last edition went to bed Sunday night, before all this news broke).

Yedioth gets to the bottom of the heartbreaking picture of a little boy hugging his father’s grave, which hit social media hard on Memorial Day. It turns out the photo is of Lahav Cohen, who lost his father Michael Cohen, an anti-terror fighter, to cancer a year ago. The picture was taken by a family member last May, and they decided to put in online in honor of Memorial Day on Monday.

“It was the first time Lahav saw his father’s grave and it was hard for him to let go,” the boy’s mother, Pazit, tells the paper. “When he had the chance he got up on the grave and hugged his father.”

Maariv’s story is about another son who lost his father, though readers might be less inclined to shed tears for him. On Sunday night, the paper reports, Meir Schijveschuurder was briefly arrested (but not charged) after he flew a Nazi cross at the entrance to Jerusalem to protest the state’s treatment of his family. Schijveschuurder lost his parents and three siblings in the 2002 Sbarro attack and says the state is refusing to compensate him for 40 dunams of land near Motza that has been frozen from use due to the expansion of Route 1. The Schijveschuurders are not exactly known for moderation. In 2009, Meir and his brother Shvuel vowed to hunt down and murder the Sbarro bomber if he was released in a deal for Gilad Shalit, and when he was released, Shvuel was arrested for defacing the Yitzhak Rabin memorial in Tel Aviv.

“Our society respects symbols. It doesn’t respect people,” Meir, whose family was in the Holocaust, tells the paper. “I am forced to fly the flags of our enemies in newspaper pictures. I see our politicians shaking hands with my enemies in newspapers, after they murdered my family.”

Haaretz’s editorial uses the occasion of Independence Day to take the country’s leadership to task for not denouncing racism when it manifests right on their doorstep. Extensively quoting Upper Nazareth’s mayor, who wrote of his joy upon keeping too many non-Jews from moving into the city, and Ma’alot-Tarshiha’s deputy mayor, who wrote of keeping Arabs in the mixed city from bidding on lots in Jewish neighborhoods, the paper calls for those at the top of the urban food chain to make a difference:

“On the public level one must question the silence of other Israeli mayors. Shlomo Buhbut, head of the Union of Local Authorities in Israel and the mayor of Ma’alot Tarshiha, was shocked by the racist remarks of Beitar Jerusalem fans, but not by those of his deputy. It is not harsher laws that will uproot racism, but rather public denunciation and the personal example of the leadership.”

In Israel Hayom, Yossi Beilin writes of John Kerry’s mistakes in trying to manage a new peace process by pushing for a partial final deal: “The result is a flawed decision, which failed already in the talks last year in Jordan and which will fail this year as well — to take two of the five main issues that will be dealt with and to try and reach a final agreement on them only. Whoever understands that there is no choice now but to try to reach an interim agreement needs to understand that this process needs to includes intermediate steps, and that an attempt to reach the end of the road on only a fraction of the parts of a final status agreement has no chance, since all the parts rely heavily on each other.”

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