The darkness and the city of lights
Hebrew media review

The darkness and the city of lights

The Hebrew media ponders future of Europe and war against Islamic State in wake of France’s deadliest terror attack in recent history

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

An Eiffel tower figurine is pictured among lit candles at a makeshift memorial in front of Le Carillon restaurant one of the sites of three deadly attacks in Paris, November 15, 2015. (AFP/DOMINIQUE FAGET)
An Eiffel tower figurine is pictured among lit candles at a makeshift memorial in front of Le Carillon restaurant one of the sites of three deadly attacks in Paris, November 15, 2015. (AFP/DOMINIQUE FAGET)

The shots and blasts heard during the unprecedented attacks in Paris claimed by the Islamic State group are still echoing around the world, and Israel’s papers attempt to grasp at any information that may help explain how the deadly jihadist ideology managed to grow so rampant in Europe. Yesterday’s airstrikes by the French military on the Syrian city of Raqqa — the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital — added yet another dimension to the mix of emotions presented by the Israeli media, and have given rise to many fresh theories as to what the future of the war on terror may hold.

Dozens of blazing candles illuminate the dark background of the Yedioth Ahronoth’s front page, as the paper leads with a massive photo taken at a nighttime vigil held in Paris in memory of the victims of the worst attack on French soil since World War II. “The victory of life,” reads the headline of an op-ed by longtime Yedioth analyst Nahum Barnea. “Paris took to the streets yesterday,” he writes. “Thousands came to lay white roses, memorial candles, notes of prayer. In Paris, the Candles Youth (a reference to Israeli youngsters who crowded Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square — then known as Kings of Israel Square — following the assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin) is made up not only of youth: They range throughout all ages, all religions, all communities.” Barnea, who is currently in Paris to cover the aftermath of the deadly attacks, optimistically notes the masses of Frenchmen and women, who expressed to him their determination to continue living their lives as they had before, despite the incredible tragedy. “They are already winning,” Barnea says of the Parisians.

Israel Hayom’s outlook on the prospects of Europe is painted in much darker shades, with the paper warning of the impending threat posed by the “Islamic State nests” presumably present in many major cities across the continent. “In the city center they are mourning, but in the suburbs not everyone condemns [the attacks],” an Israel Hayom underline reads. “On the outskirts of the capital they are sure — this is where the next terrorist will come from,” the paper continues, basing its report on writer Boaz Bismuth’s encounters with locals in Paris and the surrounding suburbs.

Haaretz prints an op-ed by the prominent French public intellectual Bernard Henri-Levy, who stresses that following the carnage in Paris, France and the free world are now engaged in a new form of war, a borderless battle against the radical forces that seek to bring the West to its knees. BHL urges France to recognize that the Islamic State and its ideological allies are in fact an enemy, and advises the countries fighting the organization to refrain from calling the group terrorists, but rather to refer to them as organized fascist fanatics. “These are not a pack of ‘lone wolves’ or individuals who have strayed from the path,” he writes. “A war against such an enemy must be merciless, but the urgency of the struggle must not distract us from the second war, which is also important, for a different Islam, an enlightened Islam.”

Under the headline “A positive strengthening,” Israel Hayom reports a significant spike over the past several years in the number of Orthodox women who join the IDF, though the army does offer them the option to be exempt from military service on religious grounds. “Despite the fierce opposition of rabbis and the obstacles on the way, the number of religious women who don a military uniform has doubled,” the paper reports. In the past five years, Israel Hayom continues, 1,800 religious women joined the army annually, as opposed to fewer than 800 on average in the years beforehand.

Haaretz reports on the Egyptian military’s shooting to death of 15 asylum seekers on route to Israel in the Sinai Peninsula, the largest number of Africans to be killed by the Egyptian army in a single incident since 2005. The Israeli media has in recent months pretty much dropped the topic of African migrants and asylum seekers aiming to cross into Israeli territory from its agenda, but the Haaretz article highlights the fact that the issue is far from being resolved. Many African asylum seekers setting out to Israel place their entire fortune and fate in the hands of Bedouin smugglers in the Sinai, Haaretz notes, and are in many cases subject to exploitation, harassment and even torture. The barrier built by Israel along the southern border with Egypt has been effective in slowing down the rate of asylum seekers entering Israeli territory, but nevertheless, Haaretz reports, 176 people fleeing Africa have managed to cross the border into the Jewish state since the beginning of the year.

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