Say it, don’t spray it: What the press is talking about on July 24
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Say it, don’t spray it: What the press is talking about on July 24

More demonstrations lead to more reports of questionable police tactics, as a headless force contends with topless protesters and angry youth by getting wet and wild in Jerusalem

Police use a water cannon to disperse demonstrators during a protest against Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his residence in Jerusalem, early Friday, July 24, 2020.  (AP/Ariel Schalit)
Police use a water cannon to disperse demonstrators during a protest against Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his residence in Jerusalem, early Friday, July 24, 2020. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

1. Water fight: Protests broke out yet again outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence, with some 4,000 angry people calling for him to resign.

Much of the news, though, focuses on the detainment of 55 of the protesters and police tactics in dealing with the demonstrations, including the use of water cannons and other riot dispersal methods.

  • ToI’s Aaron Boxerman and Anat Peled report that police told protesters to disperse, but as they did, the cops opened up their super-soaker water cannon trucks, spraying those trying to leave and forcing them into a nearby park, where mounted police pushed them back into the line of fire.
  • “The police wouldn’t let us stay and they wouldn’t let us go, either,” one protester tells them, while another notes that she was just trying to get to her home nearby, and followed police instructions, only to get blasted by the stuff of life for her trouble.
  • A video of the trucks clearing Paris Square and sending protesters scurrying for cover tweeted out by Kan news makes Jerusalem look like the set for a Maximum Overdrive/Water World crossover flick.
  • While many protesters say they escaped into the park to get away from the water trucks, Channel 12 news regurgitates the police line that anyone in the green space was there to protest and needed to be cleared out.
  • Walla News reports that the trouble started when protesters didn’t quite disperse but instead tried to move their protest to the center of town: “We allow the protesters to disperse, but not to go to another procession or to disturb public order,” it quotes police saying.
  • A video tweeted by Army Radio’s Shahar Glick shows a protester injured by a water cannon being tended to as a police officer asks “Is this real, or are you just doing this to mock us?” “You’re killing us,” a protester tells the cop, begging to be allowed to leave.
  • An article in the left-wing Mekomit news site notes that thus far cops are making do with water and not the skunk liquid they shoot at other protesters. The site recommends protecting your back and neck from the blast of water, and whatever you do, don’t run, because that’s how they bring you down.
  • (If they do start employing the skunk liquid, a healthy dose of ketchup applied topically and a swim in the sea can help get it off, according to the article.)

2. Force errors: The cops also take it on the chin for sending out a message that one of the people removed from the protest was an activist who is carrying the coronavirus and is breaking isolation, leading to reports about it by nearly every major Israeli news outlet. About an hour later, the police send out another message admitting that oops, the protester has actually been cleared to leave isolation.

  • “I hope they are a bit more thorough and in-depth with murder investigations,” quips journalist Barak Ravid on Twitter.
  • The protester tells left-wing activist Achiya Shatz that five cops “jumped on me violently,” but then backed off once they thought they found out he had COVID-19. When the matter was finally cleared up, he still got a NIS 500 fine for not wearing a mask correctly.
  • Kan looks into whether the protests actually fuel more infections and notes on the one hand that protests in the US did not lead to a major rise in those cities. However it also says that whistles and vuvuzelas, which are widely used, are great for dispersing virus slobber all over the place. Hence the importance of masks, “which protesters aren’t always sure to use.”
  • A video shared by Ynet’s Itay Blumenthal shows what he says is a woman, 72, being “aggressively” detained by police in Tel Aviv when they tried to tell her to wear a mask “between sips,” while she sat outside drinking coffee and eating cookies, though the video actually appears to show the cops trying to keep their cool while the woman and her dog lose theirs.

 

  • Another video tweeted by an ultra-Orthodox journalist from a protest forgotten about by the secular press shows a kid being manhandled by cops as he is removed. “No spokesperson can justify this against a 10-year-old.”
  • Former police commissioner David Tzur tells Army Radio cops aren’t having a blast themselves, with the force still lacking an appointed leader. “The whole organization is stretched to the extreme, with a lack of manpower, with enforcing coronavirus rules, being pushed into major confrontations with the public and everyone is jumping on the police’s backs.”

3. Why not throw in some hooliganism too: It’s not just the cops that are the problem. A pro-Netanyahu protest was also held nearby, and among those who came out were members of the La Familia Beitar Jerusalem soccer hooligan club.

  • Haaretz reports that protesters said they were attacked by members of the gang: “There were four people from La Familia who yelled ‘It’s a shame that Hitler didn’t finish the job,’ and ‘You don’t deserve someone like Bibi, you deserve someone like Hitler.’ Then a bigger group approached me and I started filming them, pushed me and knocked my phone out of my hand,” Shatz, the left-wing activist, is quoted saying.
  • A video shared by the paper’s Josh Breiner shows the group walking down the street from the protest and possibly starting trouble.

 

  • Another video shared by Channel 13’s Tal Shorrer shows the lovely group singing a song in praise of Yitzhak Rabin assassin Yigal Amir.

4. Naked ambition: Yedioth Ahronoth focuses on who the protesters actually are, or rather what they are: Young.

  • “The youth of Israel have awakened, that’s already a fact. Though it’s only been a fact for a little more than two weeks, for this generation, weeks feel like forever,” writes Dana Spektor. “It’s like someone threw a match into a stack of rolling papers. In one go, without coordination and without leaders, without new organizations to fund them and without buses rented by Ehud Barak or some Soros frontman, they suddenly got up as one and went to Balfour, and to their Instagram stories.”
  • They are also naked, or some of them are, as the number of women protesting topless multiplied Thursday night, apparently taking inspiration from a woman who climbed on top of the menorah outside the Knesset with her shirt off at a protest on Tuesday.
  • The media has taken notice, and that’s the point. One of the women tells the media that if it takes showing some skin to get media attention, then that’s what they will do.
  • The group held signs reading “tits photograph better than…” listing a gaggle of ills, such as the occupation of the West Bank and the police killing of autistic Palestinian man Iyad Halak.
  • “The idea is that even a protest that touches on every possible area and manages to bring together various strata of society, there are still things that nobody wants to deal with. The murder of Iyad happened in one of the most surveilled parts of the country, and no footage of the incident has been released. In contrast, bare boobs in public get media coverage in every possible place, because tits photograph better,” one topless protester tells Channel 12 news.
  • Pundit Jonathan Klinger notes on Twitter that being naked in public is not illegal, so long as you are wearing a mask.
  • What about keeping your fly zipped? A woman who lives right near Netanyahu’s residence gets on the horn with Army Radio to complain that “I live in the center of the drain. When the protesters do their business, they do it in my yard. Why can’t they put up chemical toilets or garbage receptacles?”

5. How to fix everything: In Israel Hayom, editor Boaz Bismuth writes that protests are fine, but actually on second thought these protests are not and instead Israelis should be focused on unifying against the pandemic.

  • “The past week has demonstrated that the coronavirus pandemic is capable of bringing out the worst in us. Let’s show it that it is possible to do things differently. Solidarity is not a dirty word. Protesting and pointing fingers is allowed, as long as we make sure we do not miss our mark,” he writes.
  • The opinion is not necessarily popular, with others saying that while unity may be needed, changes at the top to reverse the government’s mishandling of the virus are even more important.
  • “Israelis are capable and perceptive. We saw with the arrival of COVID-19 that the government — particularly Netanyahu — recognized the danger of the pandemic, and was keenly focused on thwarting it. … Not so now. The incompetence is plain for all to see,” writes ToI editor David Horovitz. “The way back — the way to regain public confidence, and thus to regain public readiness to comply with restrictions — is not merely to impose regulations, but to inform and explain.”
  • Haaretz’s lead editorial is even blunter: “A criminal defendant cannot serve as prime minister, and especially not at a time when public trust is essential to cope with both a viral plague and an economic plague of historic proportions. Netanyahu has proven over and over that in a choice between himself and the country, he will always choose himself. At this point, the only responsible thing to do to avoid destabilizing the country once again is to declare Netanyahu incapacitated – and the sooner the better.”
  • Walla’s Tal Shalev writes that what is needed is some good old fashioned female leadership. “The whole world is paying attention to the fact that female leaders are managing the crisis a bit differently: with modesty and grace, using intelligence, sensitivity and showing empathy and identification with what the public is going through. In Israel, people love to romp through through the nostalgia of the days of Golda Meir, though the brass is making decisions about the virus almost without a single woman.”

6. In a Bei-rut: And for something completely different, northern tensions have apparently reached enough of a boiling point to grab a decent chunk of the media’s attention.

  • The general vibe is that Israel and Hezbollah are again at each others’ throats after a Hezbollah man was killed in an alleged Israeli attack in Damascus, but respective crises, especially in Lebanon, should keep a lid on tensions.
  • “All due respect to the Hezbollah member killed this week, but Nasrallah and his people need a much better and critical reason to launch a wide confrontation with Israel,” writes Kan’s Roi Kais.
  • “We have absolutely nothing to do with Lebanon’s domestic crisis. Every effort must be made not to get involved in it,” IDF Northern Command head Maj. Gen. Amir Baram tells Haaretz. “In principle, a scenario could develop in which Nasrallah will try to point an accusing finger at Israel and heat up the situation with us. I don’t think he will do that now. He’s at a critical juncture … The crisis in Lebanon is so deep that Nasrallah isn’t talking about Natanz. He is occupied with the future of his movement, with day-to-say survival. I don’t think it’s all that urgent for him to deal with other matters.”
  • Still, Israel Hayom quotes the head of the Haifa naval base saying that Hezbollah is looking for ways to attack Israel.
  • “The threat exists and is significant, but we are looking first at the gas drilling platforms,” Brig. Gen Gil Aginsky is quoted saying. “If Hezbollah wants to cause strategic damage, it will try to hit the platforms. But if it manages to hit a boat along the way, it won’t mind.”
  • Ynet’s Ron Ben Yishai writes that Israeli officials “cannot dismiss the threats [of revenge] and the IDF needs to raise its readiness, as well as the Mossad and the Shin Bet and others responsible for the security of Israelis and Israeli institutions abroad. But in order to not waste resources on being overly prepared, the intel community needs to clarify for its clients — the government and the defense system — how much the Iranian and Hezbollah threat of revenge is immediate and try to figure out how and with what strength that will hurt us.”
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