Israel media review

Tortured reasoning: 8 things to know for January 7

A Jewish terror incident sparks vows to treat it the same as Palestinian terror, but with the Shin Bet under fire, it may just be lip service

Joshua Davidovich is The Times of Israel's Deputy Editor

Illustrative: A right-wing Jewish activist holds a sign reading, "Do not torture me" outside the Duma terror attack trial in Petah Tikva on December 28, 2015. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Illustrative: A right-wing Jewish activist holds a sign reading, "Do not torture me" outside the Duma terror attack trial in Petah Tikva on December 28, 2015. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

1. A farewell to Arens: Israel is mourning the death of former defense minister and foreign minister Moshe Arens, who died Monday at the age of 93.

  • The US-raised and -educated Arens is remembered by daily Haaretz, where he wrote columns until nearly the very end, as “one of the top representatives of national, liberal and democratic Zionism.”
  • Despite being a leading figure in the right-wing Likud, and holding some very right-wing views, he is remembered as a throwback to the party’s more moderate roots, before its turn to the hard right over the last decade.
  • “Arens was a constant fixture at the paper, always original, independent and fascinating. His stance was always for promoting Palestinian citizens and integrating them into Israeli society,” Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken writes on Twitter.
  • Many of the reports note the role Arens had both in developing Israel’s military industries, and in discovering and developing a little-known political acolyte: “In the early 1980s, he was the first to recognize the skills of a young Benjamin Netanyahu and brought him into Israeli politics,” the Associated Press writes.
  • In Walla, Amir Oren notes that Moshe Aren’s short time as an ambassador to the US was still marked by success, partly because he was so American himself.
  • “Arens, who was born in Latvia, spoke the mother tongue of American politicians and officials, with no accent,” he writes in a piece originally published in August. “This gave him a huge advantage over other diplomats: It was easy for a senator from Louisiana to believe he was talking to ‘one of us.’ This was also the advantage of the kid who progressed thanks to Arens, Netanyahu, and the reason he has sent Michael Oren and Ron Dermer — Americans who moved to Israel — as ambassadors to the US.”

2. Biting the hand that throws: There is a fair amount of anger and soul-searching following the arrest of a group of stone-throwing settler youth suspected of killing a Palestinian woman.

  • The top headline in Yedioth Ahronoth screams out that “we will stop terror no matter what terror it is, Jewish or Palestinian,” a quote which does not actually appear in its story.
  • “Anyone who tries to kill for nationalistic reasons is a terrorist, even if most of the time he is a normal, nice kid, a good son to his parents and a studious pupil to his teachers,” right-wing columnist Shlomo Pyoterovsky writes in the same paper.
  • But in Haaretz, legal scholar Mordechai Kremnitzer notes that Jewish terror suspects are not treated the same as Palestinian ones, especially under harsh penalties against stone throwing enacted by the Knesset in 2015, which include punishing the thrower’s family, even if the stones don’t actually cause any harm.
  • “Suddenly, when they are Jews, the penalty for people who throw stones at moving vehicles seems too severe, even if the thrown stone is suspected of having produced a lethal result. … It turns out that when the hand doing the throwing is Jewish and the victim is Palestinian, the significance of the act changes and its severely antisocial character evaporates almost completely, especially when the suspects are teens who study Torah, and are therefore ‘children.’ Even if they are proved guilty, nobody would dream — and rightly so — of denying their parents social benefits,” he writes.

3. So far right, they are left: As if it is somehow as bad as the murder, there is a fair amount of hand-wringing over the fact that a video of a burning Israeli flag and another Israel flag with a swastika scrawled on it was found in the rooms of one of the suspects.

  • Israel Hayom’s headline on the story leads with the swastika and burned flag, only getting to slain mother Aisha Rabi last.
  • “Shocking: ‘The children of everybody’ burned a flag and in their room a flag with a swastika on it was found,” Kan reporter Roy Sharon writes on Twitter, drawing a link to nationalists who defended Hebron shooter Elor Azaria.

4. Shun Bet: There are also voices rising in defense of the suspects and against the Shin Bet for alleged torture methods used in interrogations, which comes up every time alleged Jewish terrorists are arrested.

  • Speaking to Army Radio, Minister Yariv Levin accuses the Shin Bet of having double standards — against Jewish terrorists. “Most stone-throwing cases are not investigated, but one case is blown way up,” he complains, apparently forgetting that this is a murder investigation.
  • Likud MK Nava Boker tweets “when Jewish youths are suspected of throwing stones, suddenly they experience KGB investigation methods. It would be better if the Shin Bet spent its time trying to prevent murderous Palestinian terror and not torturing Jewish boys.”
  • Israel Hayom’s own story on the protests is basically a platform for the lawyers of the minors to say what they want, and is headlined with an accusation accusing the Shin Bet of running a “banana republic.”

5. Saturday the rabbi said it was okay to drive: As some have pointed out, it’s quite disingenuous to cry about interrogations right after coaching the minors on how to withstand questioning, possibly necessitating the harsher methods.

  • A Yitzhar resident tells ToI’s Jacob Magid that they got permission from a rabbi to break Shabbat and drive over to the youths to coach them on withstanding Shin Bet methods, citing an older incident in which a suspect tried to commit suicide while undergoing interrogation, which they said made the matter a case of life and death.
  • “The Yitzhar resident said that when the group of community leaders reached the conclusion that they had to warn the Pri Haaretz students of what they soon might endure, they reached out to a prominent rabbi in the settlement to receive permission to violate the Sabbath, in order to drive the roughly 10 miles to Rehelim,” Magid reports.
  • While the rabbi at first said they could only check the news about whether Jews were being blamed, he later gave them permission to drive over.
  • The Kan public broadcaster reports that the coaching happened the same day Shin Bet agents told the yeshiva they would be investigating students over the killing, but not until after the end of Shabbat in order not to harm religious sensitivities.

6. Al-Tanf for Katzrin: Reporter Barak Ravid of Channel 10 news and Axios reports that Netanyahu is renewing his push for the US to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

  • “Netanyahu decided to raise the issue again in the context of the U.S. pullout from Syria — hoping for a diplomatic gesture from Trump,” he reports.
  • Netanyahu made a point of mentioning the “tremendous importance of the Golan” to Trump security adviser John Bolton during a meeting Sunday, though a planned trip by the two up north was stymied by snow.

7. Shanghaied: Though not mentioned in the readout, there were reports that part of the conversations between Netanyahu and Bolton would revolve around tensions between the US and Israel over Jerusalem getting closer to China, specifically allowing a Chinese firm to operate the Haifa port, which is used by the US military,

  • On Monday morning, Haaretz’s Amos Harel writes that Israel is considering curbing its growing ties with China given the American concerns, though the report contains little more than a previously reported meeting on the subject last year.
  • One interesting tidbit, though, is that the IDF and other defense bodies in Israel are apparently wary of Chinese spy tech making its way into cellphones.
  • “Most of Israel’s defense companies recommend or sometimes even forbid their employees to buy Chinese-made cell phones. The Israel Defense Forces made sure that requests for bids to supply cell phones to officers at the rank of colonel or higher be restricted solely to iphones,” Harel writes.

8. Ice cold and cool as a cucumber: The IDF has released radio chatter after an F-15’s canopy flew off at 30,000 feet during a training flight last week.

  • Despite their terrifying situation, in the recording, both the pilot and navigator sound “calm as a Hindu cow, cool as a cucumber,” in the words of ToI military correspondent Judah Ari Gross.
  • With some news you will hopefully not need to use, Yedioth includes a short explainer on how to survive (or actually how you are unlikely to survive) when you are suddenly exposed at 30,000 feet: In a word, bundle up, get your oxygen mask on, and keep calm.
  • “The temperature is between 40 and 50 below … At that height oxygen is thin, without an oxygen mask they would lose consciousness. The speed of the plane also makes insane noise with the canopy off. Without [the mask] it will be very difficult for the pilot and navigator to communicate with each other and with air control.”

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