To err is human, to request immunity is divine: 8 things to know for December 30
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Israel media review

To err is human, to request immunity is divine: 8 things to know for December 30

Netanyahu is looking to get Israeli voters to buy him a pass from prosecution, though it’s not a great look, and anti-Semitism in New York sparks fear and finger-pointing

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a state memorial service at Mount Herzl on October 29, 2019 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a state memorial service at Mount Herzl on October 29, 2019 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

1. Then they came for the Jews, but we were busy getting immunized: A day after a stabber went on a rampage at a Hanukkah party in New York, knifing five people in the latest in an apparent rash of anti-Semitic attacks in New York and across the US, the Israeli press has more important things on its mind, like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinting at an immunity bid, and flu shots.

  • The Hanukkah stabbing attack gets short shrift in the mainstream print press. In Yedioth Ahronoth, the story merits only a sliver on the bottom of the front page, which is 95% made up of a picture and headline about a shortage of flu shots (the paper’s crusade of the month). Even that small piece is told as practically a human interest story about the heroism of one person who fought off the attacker.
  • Already on Sunday, in the hours after the attack, attention quickly turned to other matters in much of the web media in Hebrew, such as suspected dirty lawyer Efi Nave, the appointment of Yaakov Litzman, and the aforementioned immunity for Netanyahu, which leads most of the print press on Monday morning.
  • On the Walla news website Monday, a video of a shooting at a church in Texas gets higher billing (apparently for the clicks), and it’s not the only site to have it that way.
  • The English-language press in Israel as well as much of the ultra-Orthodox press do give top coverage to the Monsey attack throughout Sunday and early Monday, including in print and online.

2. So let’s talk about immunity: As widely expected, Netanyahu gave what is regarded as a strong indication that he will seek immunity, calling it a “cornerstone of democracy,” in a speech Sunday.

  • That argument is front and center in Israel Hayom, seen as a mouthpiece for the prime minister, which splashes the quote in large letters across its front page.
  • Picking up their cue, Netanyahu’s allies have taken to the airwaves to defend the idea of him requesting immunity, which he says he will decide on in a couple of days.
  • Likud MK Miki Zohar tells Kan radio that requesting immunity is the last refuge of a duly elected official being hounded by a witch hunt: “The idea of immunity was born from a situation in which there is a feeling that politicians could be chased down just because of their [political] stances.”
  • Zohar doesn’t expound on what political stance Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is so opposed to that he is prosecuting Netanyahu out of office, but adds that “I fully hope he decides to request immunity.”
  • Minister Yariv Levin claims to Army Radio that Netanyahu still has not made a final decision, but even if he does go for immunity “he’s not evading justice.”

3. The immunity vote: Haaretz notes that assuming the prime minister does file a request, it will push his prosecution off by several months at the very least.

  • “A special Knesset committee, which according to Israeli law would have to discuss a request for immunity, has not been appointed since Israel held the April election. A new committee is not expected to be assembled until after the next election on March 2, so if Netanyahu does file a request to be granted immunity a discussion about it will likely be postponed by several months, at the very least,” the paper reports. “If a new government is not formed after the March election, the discussion on Netanyahu’s immunity could potentially be further postponed. It is not possible to file an official indictment of Netanyahu to the court before a committee discusses his request.”
  • In Zman Yisrael, Shalom Yerushalmi writes that immunity will be the name of the game as Netanyahu campaigns, given the fact that he needs everyone who joins his potential governing coalition to support it: “Just immunity, just bullying law enforcement, just political prosecution. This is the campaign and there is no other.”
  • Following that line of thinking, Likud’s David Bitan tells Channel 13 news that any voter who votes for Netanyahu (or seemingly any other politician who is aligned with him) is voting for immunity, and knows it. “If the nation gives him 61 seats, he gets immunity without any connection to anything else. Would somebody who votes for him not know that he’s been charged? Anyone who votes for him wants his immunity.”

4. A day that shall live in immunity: Even if he wants immunity, it’s still kind of a dirty word; hence his seeming hesitation and attempts to dress it up as a defense of democracy. Several people are noting the juxtaposition of how immunity fits in with the behavior of past leaders and of Netanyahu’s statements himself.

  • Haaretz’s Chaim Levinson on Twitter places it alongside other historic pronouncements, from David Ben-Gurion’s proclamation of the country’s independence, to Menachem Begin pleading for peace and Yitzhak Rabin appealing for an end to violence.
  • Yedioth, which christens his speech “the immunity address,” makes sure to print a picture of Netanyahu being interviewed on Channel 12 news earlier this year in which he reacted with shock when asked if he would pursue immunity.

5. Roger, Roger, what’s our vector, Victor? Netanyahu also takes shade for quipping during his speech that he never saw a cockpit with four people in it, referring to Blue and White and its four leaders, which are referred to as “the cockpit.”

  • “Cockpits are our forte,” the Israeli pilot’s union tweets at him, “so in every flight over 13 hours there are four pilots in the cockpit (Takeoff/landing) (A captain and first officer on the controls, and another captain and first officer in the observation seats.) What’s correct is that there is a Pilot In Command. Happy to help.”
  • Channel 12 news helpfully digs even deeper into the cockpit cock-up and confirms that four pilots are standard on long-haul flights: “Sometimes there’s no room for them in the cabin, so they need to sit together in the cockpit,” a pilot tells the station, explaining that the pilots switch off shifts so they can rest during the flight. “This is the standard everywhere, not just here.”

6. Heroes and packing heat: Though the Israeli press didn’t grant much prime real estate to the Monsey attack, it did manage to find heroism in the story.

  • Yedioth Ahronoth calls Joseph Gluck, who fought off one of the attackers, “the hero” of the incident.
  • “When he got to the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenburg in Monsey for a Hanukkah ceremony, he surely did not think a few hours later he would be pointed to as a superhero who saved lives.”
  • But Gluck, who helped fight off the attacker by throwing a table and chairs at him, tells ToI that he is no such thing. “There was one big hero — Hashem,” Gluck says, referring to God. “God gave me the energy to do it, looking back. I’m not a brave man.”
  • Hashem and tables are great, but Channel 12 reports that some Jews are picking up some more serious ordnance, interviewing three young men armed with semi-automatic rifles and at least one dressed in what appears to be Israeli army surplus patrolling the street.
  • “The armed Jew is the modern Jew,” one of them tells the channel. (Watch the interview in English here.)

7. Frayed ties: Channel 13 news places the rash of attacks near New York in the context of tense Jewish-black relations: “Until the 1970s there was real cooperation between the communities. But that covenant has withered and on the radical edges of the black community a phenomenon is growing that few want to talk about.”

  • In Israel Hayom columnist Avraham Ben Tzvi also sees it as a symptom of worsening black-Jewish relations, which he places in an even larger context.
  • “Without minimizing the responsibility of the Trump administration, which contributed a not-small amount to the radicalization of the public dialogue that has become so loaded, and without minimizing the role of the far-right in this escalation, the real roots of the tsunami of anti-Semitism are anchored in the radical wing of the Democratic party, which has begun to seep into the protected space of the political consensus,” he says.
  • Haaretz’s Danielle Ziri writes, though, that locals reject the idea that there is a larger black Jewish divide driving the hate. “The African American community probably can identify with the Jewish community more than others because they have gone through similar types of incidents that the Jewish community is currently dealing with,” local politician Aron Weider is quoted saying.
  • Yisrael Cohen, a journalist with the Haredi Kol Barama radio station in Israel shares a compilation video of many of the attacks on ultra-Orthodox Jews, seemingly all in Brooklyn, over the past year, overlaid with a mournful Jewish song.

8. Worst since WWII: Reporting from the scene, ToI’s Luke Tress writes that he’s reminded of covering terror attacks in Israel, but some of those in New York see a different parallel: “It starts with the Jews, it ends up with everybody. The Jews are the first ones to get beat up,” says Monsey resident Yaakov Greenberg, referring to anti-Israel sentiment on US campuses.

  • “It’s going out of control. That’s it. It’s like before World War II,” another person says.
  • Speaking to Kan Radio, Jewish Agency head Isaac Herzog calls what the community is going through “the worst since the Second World War.”
  • “Interpersonal relations in general have gone completely off the rails. History teaches us that in times like this the Jews are the first to suffer,” he adds.
  • In the Atlantic, Deborah Lipstadt writes that just as disturbing as the physical attack is the fact that a synagogue in The Netherlands has stopped publicly posting when it is hosting services, a sign that Jews are going underground, like Jews who secretly lit candles during the Spanish Inquisition.
  • “When Jews feel it is safer for them to go ‘underground’ as Jews, something is terribly wrong—wrong for them and, even more so, wrong for the society in which they live. Jews have taken and are taking anti-Semitism very seriously,” she writes. “Non-Jews must do the same.”
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