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Hebrew media review

Where the sun don’t shine

A day after a Jerusalem stabbing and a Gaza tunnel's timely demise, a ball-kicker is a hero and pundits wonder whether Hamas has any

Israeli border police officers check a men near the Scene of a terror attack where a Palestinian man stabbed an Israeli man at the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem, on December 10, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli border police officers check a men near the Scene of a terror attack where a Palestinian man stabbed an Israeli man at the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem, on December 10, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel’s twin battles against the low simmer of Palestinian street violence and a more explosive kind of threat are on full display in the country’s main newspapers Monday morning, a day after a stabbing attack in Jerusalem and an announcement that a Hamas attack tunnel crossing into Israel from Gaza had been discovered.

Each story is accompanied by its requisite level of response, the stabbing played as a dramatic tale of horror intruding onto the plane of placid domesticity and heroism from ordinary citizens, and the tunnel story accompanied by threats and warnings of wide-scale death and destruction.

Showing it knows how to play up the drama, Yedioth Ahronoth fills its first few pages with pictures of terrorist Yasin Abu al-Qur’a being captured at the Jerusalem bus station and massive pullquote headlines like “My father risked his life to save others” and “Pray for my father,” from the son of stabbing victim Asher Elmaliach.

The paper focuses not on the wider implications of the stabbing, such as the context placing it amid a wave of violence in the wake of the US’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, though that is what makes a stabbing news and not just random violence. Rather, the paper quotes extensively from the heart-string-pulling words of Elmaliach’s ex-wife and son, who only found out about Elmaliach being stabbed when they saw videos of the aftermath posted online, yet seem to know everything about it.

“I know my dad, and I know that he did this in order to prevent a more murderous attack. The terrorist looked suspicious from the start, and without my dad there he would have entered the bus station and carried out a mass casualty attack. My dad decided to risk himself to save others,” the son Ofek is quoted saying, though he clearly has no way of knowing his father’s inner thoughts, nor should he be seen as an official source of information as to the plans of the terrorist.

But why let facts get in the way of a good story? Like that of taxi driver Yossi Benamo, whom Yedioth hails for helping stop the terrorist. In Israel Hayom, Benamo is called “hero of the day,” which is apparently a thing, despite video clearly showing him accidentally trying to help the terrorist by pulling his actual captor off of him.

“In the beginning I thought it was a fight and I ran over to separate the two and then they yelled at me that he was a terrorist,” Benamo tells Israel Hayom, a sentence after saying that he saw the whole thing go down, which only raises more questions. “I immediately went up, bent over and punched him in the lower part of his body and he collapsed on the ground.” (For those keeping score at home, Benamo told another news outlet Sunday that the lower part of the body was actually his balls.)

One would need to open broadsheet Haaretz to place the stabbing within the wider context of the violence that has been wracking the West Bank and other areas since last week. Yet the paper notes that while the violence continued, “it was at a much lower strength.”

Even if violence is on a downswing, Sunday saw Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman call for a boycott of Arab businesses in the Wadi Ara region in the wake of violent protests there, and the paper is not about to let that slide.

While Haaretz lets Liberman’s words pretty much stand alone on page 1 before the jump inside — letting readers recoil on their own — inside, the paper’s lead editorial is a direct challenge to the defense chief.

“Lieberman, whose citizenship is no more legitimate than that of Arab citizens … has made it a practice of inflaming passions, of provoking and dividing, yet not a single cabinet member, certainly not the prime minister, has stood up to defend Wadi Ara’s residents. A cabinet minister who incites against citizens and calls for a boycott of them cannot serve in his position. The only response to this disgrace is a citizens’ initiative not only to refuse to cooperate with the boycott but actually to go shopping in Wadi Ara,” the editorial reads.

Israel Hayom also goes on the attack against Liberman (albeit not quite so prominently), and columnist Dror Eydar asks why he thinks being right-wing means hating Arabs.

“Liberman comes along and suggests boycotting Arabs in Nahal Iron as a punishment,” he writes, using a Hebrew name for the region. “The majority are trying to live among us, and an Islamist or nationalist minority are trying to stop that. Who does Liberman serve by making comments like these?”

Shopping for a tunnel solution, but is war the price?

Yedioth Ahronoth quotes Liberman as well, but on a totally different matter — the discovery of a Hamas tunnel running into southern Israel from Gaza. The paper quotes him saying the world is interested in buying Israel’s anti-tunnel solution, which involves detecting tunnels and then sending unmanned vehicles in to check them out and then blowing them up or bulldozing them, according to the tabloid’s best guess of how the super-secret system works.

Yet columnist Yossi Yehoshua notes in the paper that with each tunnel Israel destroys, it brings death and destruction upon everybody closer, with the chances of war increasing.

“There’s no doubt that the IDF’s operations put Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar in a tough bind: whether to go for broke against Israel before it finishes building its underground barrier. And meanwhile Israel has made it clear than any attempt to disrupt its construction will lead to war. So in the meantime Sinwar is keeping his lips sealed: He has more of an interest in staying in power than hurting Israel. The real question is how long that will last and if the army will manage to blow up as many tunnels as possible while it does,” he writes.

In Haaretz, Amos Harel comes to much the same conclusion, noting that the tunnel buster “reflects a shift in the military balance between Israel and Hamas.” and it’s clear that Hamas is even going beyond not using its tunnels in trying to keep violence to a low simmer.

“Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh may have called for a new intifada because of [US President Donald] Trump’s Jerusalem announcement, but that referred mostly to the territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank,” he writes. “The confrontations along the border fence between Israel and Gaza over the weekend were of a limited nature. After Salafi organizations fired a few rockets from Gaza into the Negev, Hamas took steps to rein in the firing of any missiles.”

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