Hebrew media review

Rally around controversy

Trump’s statements about who is to blame for the violence in Charlottesville rile up the Hebrew-language media, and the condemnations spill over to Netanyahu

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

US President Donald Trump delivers remarks at Trump Tower, August 15, 2017 in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)
US President Donald Trump delivers remarks at Trump Tower, August 15, 2017 in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

US President Donald Trump has managed, with his choice of words while discussing the violence that erupted at a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, to strike a nerve not only in his own country but also thousands of miles away across the Atlantic, as Israel’s center-to-left-leaning newspapers outdo each other in condemnations of the leader of the free world.

“Disgrace,” reads Yedioth Aharonoth’s main headline, plastered in yellow above a photograph of Trump. “They marched with torches, cried out against Jews, and ran over and killed a demonstrator,” the paper says of the far-right protesters in Charlottesville. “But the president of the United States chose to condemn both sides.”

The daily stresses that Trump’s statements were criticized by “Republicans and Democrats, whites and blacks, authors, athletes, and Hollywood stars,” and labels the demonstrators in Charlottesville as “neo-Nazis.”

But Trump is not the only target of Yedioth’s rage. The paper’s writers are heavily critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing him of ignoring the controversy in the US for cheap political reasons, and of jeopardizing Israel’s relations with Jews in America.

“After making it out [as if] Trump were the greatest thing to have happened to the Jews in 5,000 years, how can Netanyahu now condemn an anti-Semitic and racist president,” Sima Kadmon writes. “Our big problem is not only with the president of our greatest ally who is an anti-Semite. Our problem is the rift with American Jewry which will continue to grow. Now it is not only conversion or the Western Wall [causing the rift], but this silence in the face of a burst of anti-Semitism.”

In Haaretz, US editor Chemi Shalev takes the criticisms against Trump to new levels, asserting that the US president is an “assistant” of Nazis and racists. The Hebrew word for assistant which Shalev uses, “saiyan,” carries with it connotations of non-Germans who turned in Jews to the Nazis, or even murdered Jews themselves, during the Holocaust.

“Anyone who stands behind Trump now, without saying a word of criticism, from Vice President Mike Pence to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will be tainted by the filth that was spewed from his mouth,” the Haaretz correspondent writes.

For that reason, Shalev argues, Netanyahu’s son, Yair, who in a Facebook post on Wednesday echoed Trump and said that American left-wing groups are more dangerous than neo-Nazis, is causing a serious disservice to the Jewish state. “It would be a fine idea if the father shuts his son’s mouth, or at least disconnects him from Facebook, before he does any further damage.”

Israel Hayom, which is associated with both the Israeli and American right and which had all but explicitly endorsed Trump for president during the US elections in 2016, skips over the most recent controversy involving the president entirely. Instead, the daily’s front page discusses Israel’s plans ahead of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s scheduled visit to the region — more than a week from today.

“The message to the UN chief: Stop the Iranians,” the paper’s main headline reads, referring to Israeli security experts who are set to present Guterres with information about the aspirations of Lebanese terror group Hezbollah as well as the organization’s backers in the Islamic Republic. Israel Hayom explains that Hezbollah, assisted by Iran, has recently began mobilizing near the Israeli border for the first time since the 2006 war fought between the Jewish state and the Shiite terrorist group.

The paper also covers a recent report according to which Israeli youngsters are showing less motivation to serve in the IDF’s major combat units, which, the daily warns without elaborating, might have a profound effect on Israeli society in the long run. Israel Hayom quotes MK Avi Dichter, the head of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, as vowing to push and make combat service more attractive to future soldiers.

But despite the article’s generally worried tone, and Dichter’s promises, a closer look at the facts reveal quite a different picture. Buried within the stats featured by Israel Hayom one can see that while motivation to serve in established combat units such as the Golani and Givati Brigade has indeed dropped, other combat units — among them the Kfir Brigade and the Border Police unit — have seen a steady increase in requests to join them. The reasons for this change of patterns is attributed by the army to a “migration of motivation,” likely due to the generally stable security situation in the country.

Yedioth Aharonoth in its back page alerts readers that supermodel Shlomit Malka, 23, who suffered a head injury following an electric scooter accident on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard, has been released from the hospital in good condition, and that she even uploaded to Instagram a photo of herself smiling broadly.

“So after a few nerve-wracking days I want to say that I am perfectly fine, recuperating at home,” Malka wrote to her fans, according to Yedioth. “I truly believe that love has the power to heal and I have witnessed this myself, thank you, thank you, thank you,” the model concluded.

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