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Israel media review

We’re going down: What the press says about the coalition’s flubs and fights

The government is sniping over Omicron, leaving the press to bewail Israel’s state and score points along the way; plus the slaying of a 4-year-old earns long-overdue attention

MK Yair Golan pictured during a Knesset plenum session, January 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Yair Golan pictured during a Knesset plenum session, January 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

1. No plandemic: It’s a sign of Israel’s collective exhaustion with the coronavirus that even as the country hits new daily highs and barrels headlong into hard times, and with the government swerving wildly across all six lanes of the Health Policy Highway, the media appears to be keeping little more than half an eye on the pandemic.

  • Indeed, not one of the daily papers Friday leads with the pandemic, unless you count Haaretz’s ink-curdling lead headline: “The peak of the pandemic is flooding the Knesset with bad blood.”
  • And yes, Yossi Verter’s analysis in fact does well represent the corpus of Israeli journalism’s askance aperture into the pandemic at this moment, or at least that half that is concerned with untangling the government’s coronavirus guideline de la minute and with trying to get inside the government’s proverbial head (the other half being the relentless tally-watching, Eran Segal-quoting and doomsday-predicting one).
  • “It seems that [Education Minister Yifat] Shasha-Biton doesn’t miss an opportunity to wrangle and row and any temporary lull is just a regrouping for a future attack,” he writes — that apparently being where the blood blood comes from. “Particularly at a time when, with the most contagious variant of the pandemic, it seems as though matters were predicted, analyzed and managed in a more than reasonable way — one can always count on cabinet ministers to mess it up with their squabbles and ego battles, and thoroughly bewilder the public that is already confused and exhausted.”
  • In Israel Hayom, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu fanboy Jacob Bardugo goes for an easy layup against current Prime Minister Naftali Bennett over his outburst against MK Orit Struck on Wednesday, and tries to draw the plus-one by playing the Omicron card.
  • “On live TV, we got confirmation of the feeling that the state and its citizens have been abandoned to their fates during the Omicron wave. There’s no hand on the wheel,” he cries out.
  • Speaking to Army Radio, dejected tour guide Ari Melnik fumes that the government’s flip-flopping is killing his ability to make a living. “What tourist is going to come to Israel for a vacation after they were forced to suddenly  cancel for Christmas. The government doesn’t even update the information online, there are no policies — you have to guess. The situation is on life support, and there’s no compensation, we’re alone in the valley of the shadow of death,” he says, getting very dark very fast.
  • But he may have a point. On Tuesday, a Kan radio host asked the head of the Maccabi HMO’s health unit for help figuring out whether his son, who had been exposed to a carrier in a daycare a week earlier, had to quarantine. Poor Dr. Miri Mizrahi Reuveni could not give a straight answer. “There are rules, and then there’s reality,” she offered.
  • Aside from a preponderance of guides attempting to explain all the newest rules, there’s also a decent smattering of soothsaying, with all sorts of predictions, almost all of them bad, as in containing ill tidings, but also possibly wrong. (Sometimes it feels like half the reporters here went to the Karnak the Magnificent School of Journalism.)
  • Yedioth Ahronoth puts the head of Shaarei Zedek Hospital, Prof. Ofer Marin, on its front page, along with his prediction that “this month will be especially hard… ERs in Israel already look bad, and by next week they’ll look drastically worse. The pictures expected out of ERs will be very difficult, we’ll shudder from them. The hallways will also be full. I’m not even talking about beds.”

2. Subhuman Homesh blues: Whoa Debbie downer. Let’s switch over to a more mellow subject, like a furor over a deputy minister who called extremist settlers “subhuman.”

  • Israel Hayom would like all the attention focused on Yair Golan, and it does its part by running a top front-page headline — “Right-wingers are calling for Bennett to fire Golan” — as if the identity of the deputy economy minister is the most important story of the day.
  • The paper pulls out the biggest gun it has against Golan, a Holocaust survivor: “For someone in Israel to call us ‘subhuman’ is unfathomable,” she says, throwing in her support of the illegal outpost of Homesh for good measure.
  • Haaretz’s lead editorial takes the opposite view, even without the cachet of having a survivor behind it. “Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan (Meretz) was right to harshly criticize those who ‘perpetrate a pogrom on others’ and ‘destroy property.’ The fact that the political establishment went out of its way to denounce Golan for calling the violent settlers at Homesh ‘subhuman’ is an excellent example of diverting attention from the main issue, turning a minor issue into a major one – anything so that the settlers can continue to live as lords of the land.”
  • In Zman Yisrael, Shalom Yerushalmi writes that this is just one small part of a much bigger headache for the government. Squabbling over what to do with the illegal yeshiva at the outpost of Homesh, he writes, “is cracking the foundations of the coalition and especially of Yamina.”
  • “Bennett, associates say, has decided not to evacuate the yeshiva at Homesh, but that has not stopped the harsh attacks and verbal violence against his Yamina colleagues,” he writes.

3. One killing too many: It’s not like Hebrew-language media ignored the crisis of the spiraling murder rate in Arab communities. But it was largely treated as a side story, never at the top of the agenda.

  • That changed this week, with the unfortunate killing of Ammar Muhammad Hujayrat, a 4-year-old boy who was at a playground in Bir al-Maksur with his mom when he was shot, apparently by stray gunfire.
  • The killing led all major broadcasts Thursday night and is on the front page of all major print publications on Friday.
  • “What is he guilty of,” yells Yedioth’s top headline, stamped with the word “Enough”.
  • “He was a quiet kid who loved to play, he loved to take off his shoes when he saw a puddle and play in it. He came to his parents after 17 years, the fifth kid after four girls, it’s impossible to take. They say it’s from God, but not like this,” Hujayrat’s uncle tells Army Radio.
  • Channel 13 reports on official data showing that Arab kids are twice as likely as Jews to be victims in fatal accidents, which apparently includes incidental gunfire: In 2020, 57% of accident victims were Arab minors, twice their representation in the population.
  • In Walla, soccer player Mohammed Gdeir, a Bir al-Maksur native, writes heartbreakingly and furiously of how the killing hit home.
  • “Yesterday, I took my kid to the playground. I saw how much fun he had, and like any other parent, had a smile plastered on my face,” he writes. “Today, I was told that at the same playground, where my daughter played yesterday, a little toddler was killed, and all because of power, money and pride.”

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