Israel’s press, deeply embroiled in the twists and turns of the US election yesterday, had its fascination with Donald Trump’s latest vulgarities swiftly cut short with the news of a deadly and devastating terror attack that took place Sunday morning.
The Jerusalem shooting, in which a Palestinian man known to Israeli security services and with links to Hamas shot dead two people and injured eight others, is the focus of all the Hebrew media on Monday with a version of the “five stages of grief” at play.
To be sure, Trump and Clinton still make appearances in all the major publications, but the anticipation and excitement for the second presidential debate — newspapers in Israel went to print before the epic battle (which took place early Monday morning Jerusalem time) — is relegated to the inner pages of the newspapers, behind a thick veil of grief.
On its front page, Yedioth Ahronoth expresses both sadness and anger at the terror attack with the headline “The failure and the heroism,” underneath a photo of the weeping family of First Sergeant Yosef Kirma attending his funeral Sunday night.
That heroism is detailed inside the paper in a profile of Kirma with the headline “Yossi charged against the bullets.” The piece details how the police officer was killed during a gun battle with the terrorist, thereby preventing even more injuries. The paper also make particular note of other heroic acts carried out by Kirma.
“In December 2015, Kirma was patrolling the Jerusalem area when he noticed a suspicious man walking next to a preschool. Kirma and his partner decided to check the man, and found a knife on his person. The suspect admitted to planning a stabbing attack when later questioned. Kirma was given a commendation from the Jerusalem District police commander for his actions,” the paper reports.
But after the moving account of Kirma, as well as a separate piece honoring fellow victim Levana Malihi, 60, the paper takes a different tone. It details the celebrations that took place beside the East Jerusalem home of the attacker, and the “failure” of Israel’s security services to prevent the attack, after apparent signals that were missed.
In 2013, the gunman — whose identity is still under gag order — was indicted for assaulting a police officer in Jerusalem’s Old City. The case was dropped that year, but it was reopened in 2015. He was convicted and sentenced to four months in prison, a term that was set to begin on Sunday.
“Given his history as a repeat offender, questions have been raised as to why he was able to walk around freely while he previously served a number of prison sentences for a variety of offenses, including aggravated battery, illicit military training and setting fire to vehicles. He was photographed wearing Hamas paraphernalia and supported Hamas in general,” Yedioth writes.
A range of emotions are also on display in Israel Hayom, which leads its coverage of the attack with the eulogy given by Kirma’s widow, whom he married a few months ago.
“We had so many plans together, a home, children, and you always supported my career. You loved me always, unconditionally, even more than I loved myself. My Yossi, look how many people came just for you. You are my light and my heart,” said Noy Kirma, in a speech Israel Hayom prints in full.
The paper’s columnists, however, are less sentimental, directing anger over the attack at a number of different sources.
Nadav Shagrai blames the incitement of the Palestinian Authority, saying the attack “was a direct result — the classic product — of this murderous incitement, and it was preceded by dozens of heinous attacks in Jerusalem.”
“How much Jewish blood must be spilled before Israeli law declares the blood libel of ‘Al-Aqsa Mosque is in danger’ to be a serious crime punishable by an equally serious prison sentence? How many terrorists should be allowed to go out and kill Jews in the name of this modern blood libel for it to cross the legal line from ‘incitement’ to a threat of murder or attempted murder?” Shagrai writes. “This blood libel constitutes a terror threat, similar to those posed by rocket fire or explosive devices, and it must be treated as such.”
Fellow Israel Hayom columnist Moshe Elad blames social media, saying that “today, the Palestinian child sees Twitter as his father and Facebook as his mother.”
“Anyone asking why Palestinian parents don’t prevent their children from these hasty actions has already missed the point. This isn’t happening for the same reason as during the Second Intifada, which began in 2000, when dozens of youngsters blew themselves up on buses and in cafes and restaurants ‘simply to kill Jews.’ It isn’t happening for the same reason as in the First Intifada, in 1987, when children spearheaded the violence, disregarding their parents, teachers, religious leaders and clan elders. At the time, these 15-year-old ‘street generals’ considered the PLO and Hamas their parents,” he writes. “A lethal combination of unbridled and sophisticated incitement with eager, ideologically driven consumers, who are not deterred by the likelihood of death, requires a reassessment of the preventative and punitive courses of action that need to be taken.”
The Haaretz lead editorial seems to be in another of the stages of grief, offering a critique of the psyche of the Israeli right, as expressed by the current government, saying that blaming incitement or Facebook represents a “ridiculous denial of reality.”
“Here is where denying reality comes full circle: Instead of the Palestinian issue being the central focus of the Israeli government; instead of understanding that only bold moves to end the occupation are likely to reduce the violence, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is turning Israel into a hopeless place that endangers the lives of its people,” the editorial claims.
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