To the Bibicades: 5 things to know for July 15
Israel media review

To the Bibicades: 5 things to know for July 15

A protest against the prime minister turns violent, giving the right wing a chance to try and dunk on the left, as culture wars on both sides of the Atlantic take no prisoners

Police use water cannon on demonstrators during a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, July 14, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Police use water cannon on demonstrators during a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, July 14, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

1. Black flag, black stain: A rowdy protest and ensuing crackdown outside the Prime Minister’s Residence on Tuesday night, seemingly the culmination of days of smaller cracked-down protests, leads the news agenda Wednesday morning.

  • The messaging of the protesters, who were demonstrating against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for continuing to be the head of the government despite indictments against him in three criminal cases, is mostly lost in media coverage that focuses on the scuffles, light rail blockages, skunk water and garbage fires that ensued.
  • “A group of anarchists who led a few hundred youths on a march that was accompanied by vandalism,” Channel 12 news quotes Jerusalem’s police commander saying.
  • Several Hebrew media outlets report 50 arrested at the protest, focusing on fighting between demonstrators and cops, attempts to storm a police barricade and other violence.
  • The Walla news site notes that the rally was held under the banner of Bibistille Day, a riff on the French independence holiday of Bastille Day celebrated Tuesday and named for the Paris fortress overtaken by French revolutionaries.
  • “Some of the protesters held flaming torches and chanted ‘Netanyahu to Maasiyahu Prison,’ ‘Our state and not Netanyahu’s,’ ‘Netanyahu go home,’ ‘Quit,’ ‘ Bribery, fraud and breach of trust,’ and ‘Money, rule, the underworld,’” the site reports.
  • Channel 13 news reports that protesters tried to storm barricades set up by cops, and were accused by police of throwing stones, eggs and “other objects,” and causing damage to personal property.
  • “After six hours, the black flag protest is over,” Army Radio’s Yuval Segev tweeted at around 1 a.m. “A protest that began calm and relatively standard and which ended as one of the most violent events I have ever covered.”
  • Several reports note other protests that took place Tuesday as well, such as an event in Tel Aviv meant to mark nine years since the Cottage Cheese Socioeconomic Rothschild Boulevard Tent Protests of 1,000 Names, and protests in Tel Aviv and around the country held by youth groups to protest funding cuts, leading Channel 13 to cleverly dub it “the night of protests.” But coverage of the rest pales in comparison.

2. Why the anger? Some blame it on Netanyahu and a lack of hope, and some blame it on the kids.

  • Asked why the normally peaceful protests had reached this level, demonstrator Elhanan Marks tells ToI’s Aaron Boxerman that “every morning, I read the paper and it feels like a slap in the face. It’s time for a change, but still no one’s listening.”
  • “I was born in ‘96. That means I have not known a world without Bibi. I don’t know what it is to have a decent prime minister, someone who thinks about the people,” another protester is quoting telling Haaretz.
  • Yedioth Ahronoth notes that the protesters tended to skew younger, in contrast to an “apolitical” protest against the government’s handling of the economic crisis wrought by the coronavirus pandemic Saturday night.
  • “I’ve been to a lot of protests, but I don’t remember one like this,” one of the olds, a 37-year-old from Ramat Hasharon, tells the paper. “Anger and energy are breaking out. For a moment it seemed we were on the cusp of an explosion. I think the economic crisis brought the kids to the street.”
  • An Army Radio correspondent says the young people were responsible for much of the fighting after breaking off from the main crowd.

3. Hack a journalist: Israel Hayom, which had attempted on Sunday to play up piddly violence on the sidelines of an economic protest in Tel Aviv, now goes for the jugular.

  • The tabloid runs a front page headline “Violence in the heart of the capital: A protest out of control,” above pictures of angry-looking protesters, including one in which Channel 13 reporter Avishai Ben Haim was heckled and accosted (or attacked in the words of the paper) by protesters.
  • For contrast, fellow tabloid Yedioth runs a similar picture of torch-wielding protesters in unfortunate white masks, but with the more neutral headline “Burning protest.”
  • Israel Hayom columnist Meir Indor accuses the protesters of being so filled with hatred for Netanyahu that they are willing to endanger the whole country. And then he goes on to throw a few more (baseless) accusations at them for good measure.
  • “The protesters are mostly from the anarchist strain, the same ones i see from leftist protests against ‘the occupation.’ They are actually sure that the coronavirus is made up. This theory could cost lives. They are spreading infections among their families and they could drag the moderate left along with them,” he writes.
  • Ben Haim tells Army Radio that most of the abuse was verbal, but asked about a protester heard yelling into a megaphone that he is a “piece of Morrocan garbage,” he says “of all the harsh words, this was like a dagger.”
  • Video from the protest shows demonstrators grabbing microphones from Ben Haim and fellow Channel 13 reporter Yossi Eli, hassling them as they try to report from the scene.
  • “To those that attacked journalists doing their jobs, remind me what you’re protesting,” tweets journalist Lucy Aharish. “For Israeli democracy and freedom of speech? For violence and incitement? Just remember not to get outraged and come out against the attackers who assault journalists when they are in your position at the next protest … got it?
  • Video also shows protesters attacking a man, who by some accounts was a right-wing provocateur, by other accounts an undercover cop, giving the right wing another chance to slam dunk on the protesters.
  • “Maybe now at least it’s clear that there is severe violence and fear-mongering on the left, writers, tweeters and celebrities from that camp will do some soul searching and lower the tone, because after last night they can no longer say our hands did not spill this blood,” tweets Makor Rishon’s Ariel Schnabel.
  • Fat chance. One of the protest organizers tells Kan that the ones responsible for the violence were nothing but right-wing plants.
  • The attacked man, who is seen in a video being protected by Pluralist! editor Iair Levy, tells Army Radio that “what happened yesterday is the most terrible thing that could have happened. If the police didn’t save me, I don’t think I would be talking to you today.”

4. Good night and good lock: Meanwhile, talk of a possible lockdown isn’t going anywhere, but also isn’t getting any closer, with ministers and experts unable to agree on steps forward.

  • After a meeting Tuesday between Netanyahu, medical experts, ministers and Health Ministry officials ends without any decision made on further steps, Netanyahu appears to go on the attack against “partner” Benny Gantz, blaming him for “undermining the necessary steps to slow down the virus and save lives,” according to a statement carried by several outlets.
  • Channel 12 news reports that during the meeting, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein repeated his warning that if the current rend of rising infections continues, there will be no choice but to impose a full lockdown.
  • Edelstein tells Yedioth that that he “does not see any other tools that can be used aside from a lockdown.”
  • “What else can we do. Unless there is a miracle, and we see a slowdown, and then we’ll have some more time,” he’s quoted saying.
  • Israel Hayom reports that at the meeting National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat “asked the government to close down synagogues, yeshivas, public pools, gyms, summer camps, and restaurants.”
  • Haaretz reports that minister Izhar Shay suggested a lockdown, but only on nights and weekends, when economic activity won’t be affected as badly.
  • “The full lockdown was good, but we can’t do that to the economy, we need to shorten it as much as possible,” Shay tells Channel 12.
  • Yedioth columnist Sever Plotzker writes that the issue is not Israelis not following rules, but the government failing to impose rules that can actually help, like forbidding gatherings. “Forbidding gatherings at weddings, parties, pools, houses of prayer and other places could have stopped the virus, had it been imposed in a sustainable way and enforced. It did not happen, and now Israel is at the point of no return: we need a lockdown immediately.”
  • Yesh Atid MK Idan Roll, who has some ideas of his own, tweets that the government has no legitimacy to impose a lockdown, but apologizes after coming under fire, albeit without removing the tweet, and putting the blame on others for misunderstanding him.
  • Asked why he left it up by Kan’s Kalman Lieberman, who berates him for issuing the “dangerous” statement and blaming others, he answers that there’s no point: “As a young public representative, I respect the conversations on social media. What is this erasing? It’s on the internet to stay.”

5. To the Baricades: Now-ex-New York Times columnist Bari Weiss would likely agree about the power of tweets for the worse, after huffily leaving the New York Times with an open letter that accuses the gray lady of accepting the social media mobs as its editor on high.

  • The resignation barely registers a blip in Israel, but makes a splash in the world of Jewish journalism, given her focus on Jewish issues during her time at the paper.
  • “The end of Weiss’s tenure at the Times is a watershed moment for the paper both in terms of its short-lived experiment at editorial diversity that her hiring represented, and the way it treats Jews and the issue of anti-Semitism,” writes JNS editor Jonathan Tobin.
  • Noam Blum, an editor at Tablet, tweets that “Cancel Culture is not the central aspect of the Bari Weiss story. The environment that was allowed to exist in that workplace is. But the REASON it was allowed to exist is that Weiss was deemed cancelworthy, whether it eventually succeeded or not. Wouldn’t be for lack of effort.”
  • Former New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren writes in the Forward that she is “terrified at the rapidity and range of the changes inside this institution I have so deeply loved and admired for so long.”
  • But at the same time, Rudoren says issues on the Opinion change should not keep people away from the paper’s excellent news-gathering operation. “The foreign correspondents I worked with who risk their lives to bring us truth about the Uighurs and Rohingya, Hong Kong protesters and Russian oligarchs, are guided by pure intellectual curiosity and devoted to serving that curious public,” she writes. “When I was bureau chief in Jerusalem, I fielded so much criticism by advocates on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but I knew that I was there not to feed their well-crafted narratives, but to inform readers in Nebraska and Nepal who did not have a particular stake in the game. In other words, I was working for people who did not already know what they thought, who wanted to understand their own instincts with more nuance.”
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