Tests, schools and lessons about democracy: 6 things to know for June 1
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Israel media review

Tests, schools and lessons about democracy: 6 things to know for June 1

The press looks at what increased testing actually means, how going to school can get you sick and whether cops will have the power to battle the virus in your living room

Magen David Adom medical workers test Israelis at a drive-through site to collect samples for coronavirus testing in Jerusalem on May 31, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Magen David Adom medical workers test Israelis at a drive-through site to collect samples for coronavirus testing in Jerusalem on May 31, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

1. You get a test, you get a test, everybody gets a test: Coronavirus concerns are continuing to lead the news agenda on Monday, after Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced that testing would expand beyond those who are in quarantine and showing symptoms.

  • The move comes weeks after the Health Ministry claimed it had too many tests and not enough people to use them on, and following complaints from people in old age homes and elsewhere that they were being denied tests.
  • While running the news under the headline “Go and get tested,” Yedioth Ahronoth’s coverage makes clear that the pool of people who may get tested is far from wide open: “Tests will be given to people with no symptoms who were in close contact with a confirmed case at school, or people without symptoms who were in close contact with another resident at a living facility.”
  • Israel Hayom notes that “the announcement goes against the positions of senior Health Ministry officials… who opposed wide testing of asymptomatic patients.”
  • Kan looks at the wildly varied prices of private tests being charged by hospitals and labs, none of which are cheap. According to the report, “the private Salus clinic, which does the testing at the lab at Ichilov hospital, charges NIS 1,300 per test done at the patient’s home. Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem charges NIS 603 for a swab and NIS 520 for an antibody test, and Assaf Harofeh Hospital charges NIS 450 for a test.”

2. School of super-spreaders: Despite officials insisting that schools are not the only culprit, they are continuing to get much of the attention around the outbreak.

  • The news that a sick person at a school in Hadera has sent 2,000 people into quarantine makes headlines Monday morning.
  • “I hope this is not Gymnasia 2,” one parent of a kid at the school tells the Walla news site, referring to the Jerusalem high school that has become ground zero for what some fear is a second outbreak.
  • Channel 13 news says that the Gymnasia school is at the center of “a significant cluster that is now spreading to other schools,” with anchor Nadav Eyal noting that Seoul shut down its nightlife “over a much smaller cluster.”
  • Amid charges that the outbreak is the work of a single “super-spreader” teacher, Ron Balicer in Haaretz notes that the virus, “according to all the evidence of recent weeks abroad and in Israel, does not spread monotonously from one person to another, but in ‘explosions’ of mass infection among unprotected groups.”
  • “Mass gatherings without masks, and contradictory advice from experts who managed to confuse the public so that some stopped being careful, created a fertile ground for super-spreaders – the scientific name for a single, highly infectious person who enters an unprotected setting,” he writes.
  • The paper also says that the ministry’s dealing with the Gymnasia case “points to doubts about whether it can deal with an acute outbreak.”
  • In Yedioth, Prof. Idit Matot blames policy flubs on public pressure. “The obsessive counting of coronavirus cases, reported each day, blurs the considerations of policy makers and their risk analyses,” she writes. “As a public, we have the responsibility to stop another violent outbreak by keeping the rules: without hysteria, without fear and without tense press conferences.”

3. Little person, little person, let me in: Pressure is mounting over the government’s pushing of new laws that would seemingly codify the coronavirus regulations but are seen by some as overbearing and including clauses that can give the government the power to chill democracy or let cops enter homes without a warrant.

  • Kan quotes Defense Minister Benny Gantz trying to defend the law and vowing that police won’t break into peoples’ homes “arbitrarily.”
    Speaking to Army Radio, Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn says the law “will not outlaw protests and will not stop the work of the Knesset or the courts. And it will reconsider the scope of authority given to police to enforce the measures.”
  • Haaretz’s lead editorial calls the measures draconian and an existential threat to human rights: “The draft bill would authorize the cabinet to promulgate regulations and allow it to continue dictating rules that undermine freedom of movement, the right to demonstrate, freedom of assembly and personal autonomy just as if the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty and the Basic Law on Freedom of Occupation had never been enacted, or as if they were irrelevant in the coronavirus era.”
  • In Yedioth Ahronoth, Ben Dror-Yemini calls the law “both unnecessary and shameful. … There is no connection between it and the coronavirus.”

4. Gulf buddies: Israel Hayom leads off its paper with a claim that Israel is holding secret talks with Saudi Arabia to have it take an active role in the management of the Waqf trust that administers the Temple Mount, in a bid to help Jordan counter Turkish influence there.

  • “These are sensitive and covert contacts that were conducted in ambiguity and low intensity by a limited team of senior diplomats and security officials from Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia as part of the contacts to advance the [White House’s Middle East peace] plan.”
  • It also quotes an unnamed Arab diplomat saying that “If the Jordanians allow the Turks to operate unhindered at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, within a matter of years their special status in charge of the Waqf and Muslim holy sites would be relegated to being strictly ‘on paper.’ They need the Saudis’ money and influence to block Erdogan. Israel and the US also have an interest here because they want Saudi support for the US peace plan and Israeli annexation initiative, and because Saudi Arabia can ensure support from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.”
  • This comes days after the paper claimed that there was support in the Gulf for annexation “under the radar,” but on Monday morning, the UAE makes it clear at least that there are no dice on that front.
  • “More like 20,000 leagues under the radar,” jokingly tweets Haaretz journalist Noa Landau alongside a link to an article about the UAE’s comments.

5. A threat by any other name: The ambassador from France, which has not been silent on annexation, sharpens his rhetoric somewhat, telling ToI’s Raphael Ahren that annexation will carry “consequences,” but insisting that it’s not a threat.

  • “You cannot compare a tender for a new neighborhood in a settlement — which we consider a bad thing, indeed a violation of international law — with annexation. Annexation is much more serious — it’s a declaration that this is now Israeli territory. That’s entirely different,” Eric Danon says.
  • Kan quotes unnamed senior Jordanian officials saying that there are no talks with Israel regarding annexation. The words from the Israeli side “do not encourage talks and the impression is that Jerusalem has made up its mind,” a source is quoted saying.
  • The source also warns that while Amman prefers to stop annexation by using diplomatic levers, it may follow the Palestinians in pulling back security coordination with Israel.

6. Black protests matter, even in Israel: Israeli news outlets are also continuing to watch riots in the US with a wary eye. While some outlets give it more coverage than the killing of autistic East Jerusalem man Iyad Halak, much of the coverage remains facile.

  • The flames in the US are rising,” reads a headline on Channel 12’s website.
    Possibly trying to jump on the “Last Dance” bandwagon, Kan decides to highlight the “extraordinary” response of Michael Jordan to the protests.
  • Haaretz’s Amir Tibon gives a neighborhood by neighborhood account of the rioting and protests in Washington DC, ending with a poignant moment at the White House: “Shortly before midnight, the lights that usually illuminate the White House during night hours, making the building visible from miles away, were turned off. The reason for it was a security decision by the Secret Service, but there was also a symbolic value to it: Washington was entering another dark night, and so was the White House.”
  • Israel Hayom’s Eithan Orkibi, meanwhile, chides those who would dare try to connect racial injustice in America and racial injustice against the Palestinians:
  • “The comparison between Minneapolis and Jerusalem gives its presenters a semblance of sophistication, but it’s part of a known rhetorical method to reduce the discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to escape its complexity,” he writes, coining the terrible term “Blackwashing.”
  • “To a considerable extent, this tactic harms the black struggle,” he adds. “The pathos-laden statements of solidarity hide a calculated effort to appropriate the legacy of civil rights movements and to flaunt their values in order to hide the Palestinian responsibility for violence.”
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