News Nosh 02.24.14

APN's daily news review from Israel
Monday February 24, 2014

Quote of the day:
"Shin Bet agents are decent people carrying out an indecent task."
--Nazareth-born award winning film director, Hany Abu-Assad, shares his views and discusses his award-winning controversial films, including the latest, Omar, which is up for an Oscar.**

Front Page News:
Yedioth Ahronoth
Israel Hayom

News Summary:
Today's top story was about a drama in an Israeli jail, when a Jewish-American murderer serving his sentence in Israel opened fired on prison guards, injuring five people before being shot dead. The papers all wanted to know: Where did he get the gun? But the key story was focused on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to Israel today. Meanwhile, "Israel Apartheid Week" opens on US and Canadian campuses today and the Foreign Ministry has prepared PR and manpower to counter it.  A Meretz MK has petitioned the Attorney General to probe the Yesha settler Council funding. And an Israeli officer, who 10 years ago gave permission to fire on Israeli left-wing activists, has been promoted to command the very area where the incident occurred.
Merkel arrives this evening with 16 ministers and already another 'treat' to sweeten her visit in Israel: automatic work permits for Israelis visiting Germany for short terms. During her visit, a total of 19 cooperation agreements on various subjects from security to economy to judicial and diplomatic issues will be signed. Yedioth writes that these gestures are meant to dispel the tension in the wake of the downturn in Israel-Germany relations and to improve cooperation. But she also intends to push Israel on the peace-making front. Indeed, Der Speigel listed in its editorial described the issues of dispute between the two countries: tense phone calls between Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over the Palestinian issue and settlement construction; lack of trust in the Israeli government that it really is interested in promoting the peace process; the dispute over science agreements; the Israeli criticism of the Knesset address by the President of the EU Parliament, German citizen Martin Shulz; and Germany's abstention at the UN over recognition of a Palestinian state, notes Yedioth. Moreover, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged Israel to make tough decisions in the US-brokered peace talks and stressed Germany's strong support of Israel in an Op-Ed published in Yedioth today. Yedioth's Shimon Shiffer writes in an Op-Ed that Merkel will stand at Israel's side completely except over the Palestinian issue. He notes that she has said in closed circles that she cannot understand how Netanyahu talks about two states and at the same time continues to encourage settlement construction.
Also today, the BDS movement that focuses on sanctions against Israel opens 'Israel Apartheid week' on US and Canadian campuses, reports Maariv/NRG Hebrew. The activities include workshops and demonstrations against 'Israeli racism,' and the screening of "Five Broken Cameras," which describes the struggle of a Palestinian from Bil'in against the Separation fence. The Israeli Foreign Ministry says there is nothing to worry about: "anti-Israeli activity is weakening," Nevertheless, Israeli Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Hasbara (PR) are planning pro-Israeli demonstrations to face off the BDS demos. Moreover, they will not only send youth to campuses, but other organizations such as the Israel Project and Stand With US will be involved, as well as a large delegation of Jewish Agency envoys from across N. America "to defend Israel's interests," writes Maariv's Tzvika Klein. Israeli soldiers will present the IDF's and State's angle at the events.

Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg has asked the State Attorney General to investigate the Yesha settler Council funding, NRG Hebrew reported. "Yesha Council is a political organization that turned into a channel for governmental funding of political campaigns," she said. In her petition, Zandberg wrote that the campaign of the Lobby for Greater Israel, which uses Knesset symbols and signatures of deputy ministers and MKs, while giving publicity to their name and their position, ends with the sentence "provided as a public service by the Yesha Council." MK Sandberg asked to examine whether it was okay for a Knesset lobby to use funds of an organization in order to attack government policy.
A decade ago Maj. Gen. Shai Kalfer [a graduate of the Shavei Hebron Yeshiva in Kiryat Arba - OH] gave his troops permission to open fire on left-wing Israelis (and Palestinians) throwing stones at the separation fence, opposite Elkana settlement.  [The incident was considered exceptional because the soldiers shot at Israeli Jews. - OH] Two people were injured, one of them an Israeli, Gil Naamati. A probe determined that the military unit did not come prepared to the event, did not equip itself with riot control measures or a public address system to dispers the protesters. Klapper had to attend a disciplinary hearing after the incident, but in the end, the chief military prosecutor decided not to file a criminal case against him, enabling him to continue his advancement in the IDF.This summer he will be appointed division commander of Samaria in the West Bank, the area where the incident occurred, Maariv/NRG Hebrew reported.

Quick Hits:
  • Arab League releases report on Palestinian, Arab prisoners in Israel - The report said that several Palestinian prisoners who were previously released were subsequently detained again by Israeli forces, who either imposed new sentences or forced prisoners to finish previous sentences despite the fact that they had already been pardoned and released. (Maan
  • Israeli forces issue stop-work orders in Hebron village - Israeli forces entered the village of Ithna and delivered stop-work orders for buildings that were being constructed without permits. The village is in Israel-controller Area C. Figures from the Israeli NGO Bimkom show that some 95% of applications for building permits in Area C are rejected. (Maan)
  • Israeli forces close 2 Nablus checkpoints - Israeli forces closed the Huwarra and Zaatara checkpoints south of Nablus in order to examine suspicious objects. An Israeli army spokeswoman said that two Palestinians near Yizhar settlement were found carrying "six IEDs," though she could not immediately confirm whether this caused the checkpoint closures. (Maan
  • Bennett urges 'zero tolerance' for Israeli Arabs' national aspirations - Economy minister speaks at Kohelet Policy Forum conference, which aims to secure in law the concept of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish People. (Haaretz+)
  • Jerusalem antiques dealer slams Israel-Egypt 'plot' - Maher Aweida claims to be 'victim of politics,’ following seizure of 90 antiquities last year by Israel Antiquities Authority acting on behalf of Egypt. (Haaretz+)
  • Masked and armed, Palestinian militants march near Jerusalem - March in Abu Dis, under Israeli security control, marks 45th anniversary of establishment of DFLP. (Ynet
  • Thousands rally outside US embassy for Pollard's release - For first time, lawmakers from across political spectrum will reportedly hold joint protest for release of Israel spy in jail for 29 years. (Ynet)
  • Arab professor unanimously elected to key role at Israeli education council - Prof. Faisal Azaiza praised by Education Minister Shay Piron for using his skills and experience to integrate into Israeli society. (Haaretz+) 
  • Prime Minister's Residence worker claims he was exploited - PM residency's superintendent claims he was exploited, overworked and lied to while serving Netanyahu's household staff. Residency rejects claims. (Ynet
  • Finance Ministry to grant tax breaks to more than 400 communities - Few settlements qualified for benefits – only Kiryat Arba, those within the Jordan Valley, and nine small settlements south of Mt. Hebron. For the first time, the list of tax break recipients includes military bases. [Note: the article does not consider communities in the Golan Heights as settlements, but many there did get tax breaks - OH] (Ynet
  • Top brass says Knesset committee’s work may lead to manpower shortage - Commenting on the proposed service packages for Israeli men, women and religious men, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz says 'you can’t pick and choose and then expect nothing to change.’ (Haaretz+)
  • Knesset committee looking to expand pool of ultra-Orthodox military recruits - In rare move, ultra-Orthodox parties to meet to present unified front against military draft bill. (Haaretz+) 
  • New anti-terror bill sparks controversy - Government bill that aims to create uniform legislation on the war of terror offers law enforcement, security forces broad authority. Human rights groups warn authority "disproportionate," bill infringes on democratic values, civil and human rights. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israeli military sheds light on its humanitarian aid to Syrians - From providing baby food and blankets to civilians to evacuating fighters for treatment, Israel forces have their hands full on Syrian border. (Haaretz+)
  • Military police searching for truly incriminating texts on soldiers’ cell phones, without warrants - IDF soldiers suspected of drug offenses are often asked to hand over their cell phones to be searched. A current military trial will determine whether such actions are permissible, or whether a warrant is required. (Haaretz+)
  • Hamas govt says to privatize Gaza crossings - "The government is to give the private sector the opportunity to handle the technical management of crossing points from the Gaza Strip," Hamas deputy prime minister Ziad al-Zaza told AFP. (Agencies, Maan)
  • Ma'an holds journalism training course in Gaza - Imad Eid said in an opening brief that the main goal of the UNESCO-funded course was to train journalists how to cover conflict-sensitive issues. (Maan
  • Future Israeli diplomats meet with Jordan's Prince Hassan - Foreign Ministry cadets visit Amman and blog about their encounters with the prince as well as senior government and business officials. "The Jordanians are warm, welcoming people," the cadets write. (Israel Hayom)
  • Ministers reject bill that would turn every Israeli into an organ donor - Intention of bill was to boost rate of organ donation in Israel, which is one of the lowest in the West. (Haaretz+)
  • Protesters in New Zealand face off over BDS outside Batsheva show - Dozens of demonstrators gather in Wellington where the Israeli dance company performed as part of an arts festival. (Haaretz)
  • Turkey takes fight with Israel to the waves - Ankara's costly expansion of naval capabilities could adversely affect its prospects of benefitting from the new Israel gas fields. (Ynet
  • Egypt prosecutor says Morsi spied for Iran - Muslim Brotherhood were conspiring to destabilize the country and cooperating with foreign groups, including Palestinian Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah, statement says. (Agencies, Haaretz
  • Netanyahu: Iran is getting everything but giving nothing - Comments come day after US official says Iran may be left with some uranium enrichment capabilities. (Ynet)
  • Gantz: Iran handing out torches to pyromaniacs - Israel Defense Forces chief of staff says Iran involved in all fronts against Israel. Gantz on Gaza Strip: Hamas, other organizations building up power. Third Palestinian intifada unlikely, lDF official says. (Israel Hayom)
Israel is not alone, it has an abiding friend in Germany (German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Yedioth/Ynet) In exclusive op-ed, the German FM vows his nation's enduring support for Israel as faces the challenges ahead. 
Mayor of the occupation clamps down on free speech (Haaretz Editorial) Palestinians in East Jerusalem say Israeli police have been strictly monitoring social networks and hampering freedom of expression. 
Israel and Germany: From the Holocaust to the Palestinians (Shimon Shiffer, Yedioth/Ynet) Israel can no longer base its relations with Germany on what the Nazi regime did to the Jews, and can no longer deny the Germans the right to criticize its behavior towards the Palestinians. 
Rebuilding common ground between Israel and Germany (Raanan Eliaz, Haaretz+) The visit of Chancellor Merkel and her cabinet provides an unprecedented chance for Israel to make its case to a new and more distanced post-war German political generation. 
Open letter to visitors at Israeli Apartheid Week (Yishai Mishor, Oded Steinberg, Oxford, Ynet) There is no difference between Jewish extremists, who don't recognize the Palestinian right to statehood, and those who don't recognize the Jewish right to one. 
Why my son will never patrol the streets of West Bank (Oudeh Basharat, Haaretz+) If the Israeli government really intends to draft Christian Arabs into the army, it should start building more prisons now. 
Obama's foreign policy objectives (Richard Baehr, Israel Hayom) American foreign policy objectives now match those of Europe; Obama has chosen a good model for managing a nation in decline.
Does it sound better in German? (Avraham Burg, Haaretz+) Naftali Bennett and his party prove that it's not the language on someone's tongue but the ideas in their head that are the most telling. 
To rally American Jews, Netanyahu places Israel on a permanent 'gevalt’ footing (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) Lessons he learned from his father’s years in New York during the Holocaust may have inspired the prime minister’s Munich-1938 Iran analogies and his anti-boycott battle cries. 
The threat of Israel boycotts more bark than bite (Crispian Balmer, Reuters,Ynet) Contrary to Israel's growing concern that boycotters are economically isolating State, trade with foreign countries not harmed; exports to Europe rise 6.4 percent in 2013, global brands invest in country. 
Pure racism (Ben-Dror Yemini, Maariv/NRG Hebrew) Yemini discusses 'Israel Apartheid Week' which is currently underway on many college and university campuses in the US. "In the forefront of the struggle are not just Islamists but many Jewish students who have been brainwashed...Apartheid Week is, in effect, Racism and Anti-Semitism Week even though Jews and Israelis take part in it as organizers and spokespeople...Almost none of those involved in 'Apartheid Week' deny the right of other peoples to define themselves. They deny the right of self-determination only to the Jews. The struggle is not against outrages, it is against the national state of the Jewish People. The struggle is not against racism, it is racism." Yemini notes that Hamas and its supporters are part and parcel of the campaign and of the BDS movement and asks why they, "do not protest against the mass slaughters being perpetrated by political Islam everywhere it has an iota of power?"
Settlement factories are just what Palestinians need (Moshe Arens, Haaretz+) Those calling for a boycott of Israeli investments in Judea and Samaria may have the best interests of the Palestinians at heart, but seem to lack knowledge of basic economic principles.

**Award winning film director Hany Abu-Assad: "Shin Bet agents are decent people carrying out an indecent task"
The filming of Hany Abu-Assad's 'Omar' took place in coordination with the IDF. Today he regrets that a bit, "for the first time they did not bother me, and now I have no stories to tell." In the interview he talks about the Israeli competitor Bethlehem ("a film without balls" ) and explains why some have been opposed to the way presented the General Security Service [known by its Hebrew acronyms of Shin Bet and Shabak]: "I don't want to blame the ordinary person for the crimes of the occupation."

The Israeli public has become accustomed to seeing Arab actors on television and in films, sometimes it even embraces them warmly to its collective heart. But what about filmmakers? It's a totally different story, especially when it comes to those who criticize the Israeli powers-that-be and Israel's Occupation of the [Palestinian] the Territories. And 52-year-old Hany Abu-Assad fits the bill. The Nazareth-born filmmaker who lives in the Netherlands, is remembered for Paradise Now, which caused quite a stir, given that it deals with suicide bombers. But it also won accolades and awards (Golden Globe for Foreign Film in 2006). Now he comes back to us with another talked-about film, Omar, which combines a love story between young Palestinians, the political situation and a pursuit by the Shabak. (Interviewed by Amir Bogen in Ynet Hebrew on 7 January 2014 and translated by Sol Salbe of the Middle East News Service, Melbourne Australia.)

Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.