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Israel media review

Still a nation divided: 7 things to know for July 3

Though some of Tuesday’s rallies against police brutality devolved into chaos and violence, media outlets strike a mostly sympathetic tone to Ethiopian-led protests

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

An Israeli woman holds a poster of Solomon Tekah, a young man of Ethiopian origin who was killed by an off-duty police officer, as members of the Israeli Ethiopian community block the main entrance to Jerusalem on July 2, 2019 to protest his killing. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)
An Israeli woman holds a poster of Solomon Tekah, a young man of Ethiopian origin who was killed by an off-duty police officer, as members of the Israeli Ethiopian community block the main entrance to Jerusalem on July 2, 2019 to protest his killing. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

1. The angry protests over the police killing of an Ethiopian-Israeli teen that devolved into violence and acts of vandalism dominated the headlines in Israeli newspapers on Wednesday.

  • The fatal shooting of 19-year-old Solomon Tekah on Sunday has drawn fresh accusations of racism and police brutality against Israel’s Ethiopian minority, and while some of Tuesday’s protests saw clashes with security forces and acts of vandalism, Hebrew-language media stuck a mostly sympathetic tone to their plight.
  • The papers report that dozens were arrested and more were wounded throughout the day Tuesday, as crowds of protesters battled police and blocked highways on at least 15 junctions across the country. According to police, 47 officers were hurt in the low-level clashes.
  • Reports said an estimated 60,000 people were stranded for hours in traffic jams caused by the day-long protests.

2. The main papers are careful to note that most of Tuesday’s protesters were not engaged in clashes or vandalism. The burning of a car by protesters in Kiryat Ata — one of the most shocking scenes from the demonstrations — was labeled “unusual” and an “extraordinary incident” in the reporting.

  • Yedioth Ahronoth daily offers by far the most extensive coverage, dedicating the first 10 pages of its Wednesday paper to the mass demonstrations, including pages of full-size photos and numerous op-eds.
Members of the Ethiopian community block a road in the coastal city of Netanya on July 02, 2019, to protest the killing of Solomon Tekah, a young man of Ethiopian origin who was killed by an off-duty police officer. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
  • “This what it looks like when a protest gets out of control,” the paper says about some of the uglier incidents seen at the protests. “This is an unusual incident at the Ethiopian-led rallies, and constitutes a step up in the severity of these types of protests.”

3. In a front page op-ed, senior Yedioth columnist Nahum Barnea blasts police for failing to learn any lessons from previous incidents of violence against the Ethiopian community.

  • He says that the absence of anger by the stranded drivers (who he says would usually be honking, shouting or shamelessly trying to maneuver around the massive traffic jams) “says something about the guilt that many Israelis feel about this issue.”
  • Barnea goes on to say: “Israeli society is steeped in racism. Despite our Jewish history this is our reality. We have racism toward people based on their skin color; black people and Arabs mostly, as well as towards new immigrants.”
  • “There is no simple or easy way to eliminate racism, and unfortunately, the current government is not doing anything to help, but is actually making it worse, by bringing racism to the forefront. This government encourages a quick finger on the trigger,” he adds. “What happened in Hebron did not stop in Hebron,” he said, linking the Ethiopian-led protests to the deeply divisive 2015 case of an IDF soldier shooting dead a disarmed Palestinian assailant.
Family and friends mourn at the funeral of Solomon Tekah, in Kiryat Haim, on July 2, 2019 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

4. Yedioth’s Merav Batito also blasts what she says is the government’s failure to address the systemic discrimination against Ethiopian-Israelis. She says the mass protests on Tuesday resulted in the inevitable overflowing of anger and frustration among the minority community.

  • “The line between murkiness of the [situation] and racism is getting increasingly blurred,” she says, noting that 12 Ethiopian men have been killed by police in questionable circumstances since 1997.
  • Batito says the Tekah’s death should serve as a wake-up call for Israel.”The marginalization of Ethiopian immigrants comes with a price,” she writes. “There needs to be a complete overhaul of the police force, army, judiciary, education, health and welfare authorities regarding this issue.”
  • “No one in charge seems to be connecting the dots here — the high drop-out rates, percentage of army deserters — to why we can’t keep these kids alive.”

5. Israel Hayom also dedicates its front page to the “clashes, violence and pain” at Tuesday’s mass rallies.

  • In a front page op-ed, Ethiopian-Israeli activist Ayano Perda Senbato calls on the protesters to refrain from violence at future demonstrations.
A member of the Ethiopian community of Israel is arrested by the police during clashes in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya on July 2, 2019, during a protest against the killing of Solomon Tekah, a young man of Ethiopian origin, who was killed by an off-duty police officer. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)
  • “We who are crying out against the police’s violence against us must show restraint and not block the roads,” he writes. “The police have an interest in provoking us to justify their actions.”
  • He also calls on the government to do more to foster inclusion for first-generation Israelis of Ethiopian descent. “It’s time to wake up, there is a sense of alienation and marginalization among the generation who were born and raised here, and they are not prepared to tolerate this in silence,” he says. “State and local authorities must do more to solve these complex issues.”

6. Buried in the later pages of Wednesday’s papers are the results of the Labor Party primaries. Veteran Labor lawmaker Amir Peretz’s win in Tuesday’s vote to lead the beleaguered opposition party gets limited coverage.

  • Haaretz says Labor voters picked veteran lawmaker Peretz over the younger generation of contenders, Stav Shaffir and Itzik Shmuli. “Peretz will face a formidable task,” the daily says. “Picking up the pieces of the once-dominant party after the most disastrous election result in its history.”
  • In the last election, Labor under the leadership of Avi Gabbay won just 6 Knesset seats, the worst electoral result in the center-left party’s 71-year history.
Amir Peretz delivers a speech at a Labor party conference in Tel Aviv on January 10, 2019. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)
  • Israel Hayom calls the Peretz’s victory a “new/old win” for what used to be Israel’s largest party, and its political cartoon shows Peretz, Shaffir and Shmuli desperately clutching to pieces of debris falling from a burning plane called “The Labor party” as it plummets to the ground.

7. Meanwhile on Wednesday, a top Pentagon official told Haaretz the Trump administration has warned Israel against acquiring Chinese 5G cellular network technology.

  • US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John Rood, who is visiting Israel to attend the Herzliya Conference, told the paper that Beijing is “challenging global order” in a way that is threatening US national security interests.
  • “We’re not asking Israel to avoid all dealings with China. In Israel’s case, as a growing economy, we certainly expect that there’s going to be trade,” Rood told Haaretz. “Our main concerns is that we’ve seen China engage in predatory economics elsewhere in the world… We’ve told our friends in Israel about some of the experiences other states have had,” he said.
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