News Nosh 5.2.21

APN's daily news review from Israel - Sunday May 2, 2021

Note: News Nosh will be off Monday, May 3rd.

Quote of the day:
“With a pained heart I continue to follow the terrible tragedy at Meron that has left dozens of mourning and torn families. Along with the shock and loss there are many citizens who have come to help, proving that solidarity crosses nations and religions, and providing a small ray of light within the great tragedy."
Arab MK and Joint List leader Ayman Odeh said following the killing of 45 ultra-Orthodox boys and men in a stampede at a religious festival on Mount Meron. People in nearby Arab villages set up stations with free food and drink for the evacuees from the site.**

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • Take responsibility (for the disaster at Mt. Meron)
  • The price of the negligence: All the faces and the names (of those killed)
  • It won’t be fine // Nadav Eyal on how police said they couldn’t close the event because they would have been fired
  • In a civilized country // Sima Kadmon says leaders, such as Public Security Minister Ohana must take responsibility and resign
  • Black Sabbath // Shoshana Chen
  • The guard at the entrances is not to blame // (former police commissioner) Roni Alsheikh against blaming the police (Hebrew)
  • In the nearby kingdom // Chen Artzi-Srur says government must take back the authority it relinquished to religious organizations
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
  • The negligence and the disaster - Israel is in mourning, flags at half mast
  • Responsible, not to blame // Ben Caspit
  • Incomprehensible // Haim Weingarten
  • Inside the storm // Police commander Leah Leshem
  • One’s heart is broken // Omri Hochman
  • “We hoped for a miracle” - Families who came to identify bodies
  • Mutual guarantee - Food deliveries and blood donations
  • Disaster known in advance - State Comproller report from 2008
  • Will demand an extension - Likud members expect Netanyahu to ask President for more time to form coalition

Israel Hayom

  • National mourning - Meron disaster - Whole country mourning over 45 victims
  • Calls to establish state inquiry commission: Ohana: I’m responsible, but the responsibility is not guilt
  • A wave of tears, a wave of questions // Boaz Bismuth
  • When my son informed me, "Mom, I'm alive" // Yifat Ehrlich
  • Sparks of light inside the darkness // Mati Tuchfeld on how the tragedy brought out the unity of the Jewish people in Israel
  • Find answers, as soon as possible // Amnon Lord

Top News Summary:
The Hebrew newspapers dedicated their whole front pages to the disaster at Mt. Meron, where 45 ultra-Orthodox boys and men were crushed to death in a stampede at a religious festival for the holiday of Lag B'Omer. The papers reported on what happened, how and who, in their views, should be held responsible for it. (See Commentary/Analysis below).

Meanwhile, Israel’s Mossad chief Yossi Cohen met in Washington with US President Joe Biden in an attempt to persuade the US administration not to renew the nuclear deal with Iran. Earlier, Cohen met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Currently the nuclear deal is being re-negotiated in indirect talks between the Americans and Iranians through the Europeans in Vienna. On Saturday, Iran’s chief negotiator said there was progress, but slower and that he expects the US will lift sanctions on oil, banks and other sectors and on most individuals and institutions. NOTE: A fire broke out today at a chemical factory in Qom in Iran and local authorities warned of health risks to the people nearby from the materials burned.

***Israel marked today as a national day of mourning following the killing of forty-five people, a number of them from the US, Canada and Argentina and a third of them teens and children. Over 2,000 Israelis from all walks of life donated blood and Arab-Israelis living in nearby villages set up stations offering food and drink to evacuees. All cultural and sports events and political talks scheduled for today were postponed, leading to questions about extending the mandate to form a coalition government. Haaretz reported that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would NOT ask the President for an extension to his time limit to form a coalition government. ‘Israel Hayom’ reported that Likud officials expected that he would. Netanyahu’s mandate ends on Tuesday.

The question of blame has been bouncing around between the Israel Police and the Ministry of Religious Services, with questions about how high up should people be taking responsibility. In a rare move for an Israeli official, the regional police commander Shimon Lavi declared on television that he was responsible, but it took a lot of public pressure until the Minister of Public Security Amir Ohana did the same the following day. Still, Ohana said he was “not to blame.” The analysts reported that politicians and ultra-Orthodox leaders made the decisions regarding the site and the police confirmed that the Ministry for Religious Services is “responsible by law for the compound.” The papers wrote that the writing has been on the wall for some time. State Comptroller reports going back a decade have warned about the dangers at Mt. Meron.  A top official at the Ministry for Religious Services warned two hours before the tragedy occurred that it could happen and he blamed the police. Netanyahu said there would be a thorough investigation, but people are waiting to hear if it will be state commission of inquiry. Israel Hayom reported that some ultra-Orthodox men at the scene attacked the female soldiers attacked who were helping evacuate the injured at the scene of the stampede. [NOTE: The article does not explain that for ultra-Orthodox Jews it is prohibited to be touched by a woman who is not their immediate relative or wife. - OH] Condolences poured in from across the world - and from across the Green Line.  Palestinian President Abbas sent a message of condolences to President Rivlin. And Biden called Netanyahu and offered aid. Meanwhile, in Dubai, Jews and Muslims celebrated the Lag B'Omer holiday together. Jewish Iranians celebrated the holiday in Iran.
Quick Hits:
  • A Month Later, Israeli Military Admits Detention of Palestinian Children Was Improper - Military says some of the five boys aged 8-13, who were detained while foraging while vegetables in the South Hebron Hills in the West Bank,should not have been detained because it could be seen (VIDEO) that they might be under 12, the age of criminal responsibility. (Haaretz+)
  • Two Palestinians shot, injured as Israeli forces suppress Kufr Qaddoum weekly march - Israeli soldiers fired rubber bullets and shot teargas canisters Friday at protesters, injuring two youth in the back. The protesters rallied against Israel’s closure since 2003 of the main road to the city of Nablus. (WAFA)
  • Israeli police attack Palestinians protesting against eviction of seven families in E. Jerusalem - Israeli police attacked demonstrators, arresting four, who protested against Israel’s imminent eviction of seven Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood early next month in favor of Israeli settlers. (WAFA)
  • Israeli Cop Shoots Palestinian After Suspected Stabbing Attack in West Bank - A day after the Palestinian elections were cancelled, a Palestinian at a checkpoint started approaching the police officer while holding a broken glass bottle. He was shot after the officer asked him to stop and he refused to do so. (Haaretz+ and Israel Hayom and Ynet Hebrew and VIDEO)
  • Euro-Med: Israel’s Detention of Palestinian Journalist is an Attempt to Hide Violations - The wife of Palestinian journalist Alaa Al-Rimawi, 40, said Israel’s interrogation of her husband lasted for about four days and focused on the nature of his journalistic work. The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor called on Israel to release Al-Rimawi from administrative detention (prison without trial or charges). (IMEMC)
  • Christians Flood Jerusalem's Holy Sepulchre for Holy Fire Ceremony - After last year's ceremony was restricted due to COVID, jubilant worshippers gathered for one of the most colourful spectacles of the Orthodox Easter season. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Israeli police attack Christians commemorating Holy Saturday in occupied Jerusalem - Local witnesses said Israeli police set up several checkpoints around the city of Jerusalem, obstructing Christians’ access to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to perform prayers and physically assaulting them. (WAFA)
  • J Street admonishes Abbas over PA elections postponement - The left-wing group J Street came down hard on Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas for postponing Palestinian parliamentary elections, which were scheduled for May 22, saying that the Palestinian people deserve to hold free and fair elections. (Israel Hayom)
  • Delayed Election: Abbas Rivals Seethe, Palestinians Reacts With Apathy - In an effort to quell criticism of the decision to delay the Palestinian election, associates of Abbas say he will work to form a unity government with all other factions – including Hamas, if it agrees. (Haaretz+)
  • COVID Vaccine Drive Commences in Last Sliver of Rebel-held Syria - The AstraZeneca vaccines were delivered through the enclave's only border crossing, as the Assad regime's inoculation campaign takes place separately. (Agencies,Haaretz)
  • Judo Federation Suspends Iran After It Banned Athlete From Competing Against Israeli - Iran's national federation forced Saeid Mollaei to throw a match rather than face an Israeli opponent. Since then, Mollaei had fled the country and competed in Tel Aviv. (Haaretz)

Israeli Troops Shot a Palestinian Boy in the Eye, and Didn't Even Try to Save It
A 14-year-old Palestinian, standing at the entrance to the vegetable store where he worked in the heart of Hebron, took a sponge-tipped bullet in the eye. The soldiers didn’t bother to give him first aid, and it took 11 hours for him to reach an East Jerusalem hospital. Now he is half-blind. (Gideon Levy and Alex Levac, Haaretz+)
Gaza’s COVID Crisis: Vaccine Shortage, Domestic Violence and Few Hospital Beds
A doctor and humanitarian worker in the Gaza Strip tell of hospitals at breaking point, children collecting plastic from junkyards, and the feud between Hamas and Fatah hampering the distribution of COVID vaccines. (Jotam Confino, Haaretz+)

Jewish Israelis Should Stop Being Afraid of the Nakba (Aluf Benn, Haaretz+) 1. Ramat Hasharon is flanked on both sides by security facilities. When I was a kid we called them “the factory” and “the camp.” Today they’re called “the Ta’as compound” – using the Hebrew acronym for Israel Military Industries (IMI) – and “Unit 8200” – referring to the famed elite IDF intelligence unit. Both of these areas have been earmarked as real estate. My mother used to tell me about the previous residents of these lands – to the east was Abu Kishk, where IMI was set up along with the Morasha neighborhood. To the west was the village of Jalil, which contributed its name to Glilot Junction. She remembered Abu Kishk as a scary, dark place with barking dogs. Going there was a test of courage. In contrast, the rich sheikh of Jalil, who drove an American car, was seen as a good neighbor and was on friendly terms with my grandfather, who rode a donkey and operated the wells in the area. My mother remembered a family celebration at the sheikh’s that she and her parents were invited to…I found out how the neighborly relations ended years later in an interview with Eliyahu Binyamini, a member of the local aristocracy, son of the first head of the Ramat Hasharon Council, on the eve of his death in 2002. When the War of Independence broke out in 1947, all the area’s Arabs gathered in the elder Binyamini’s yard, the son told interviewer Yoav Karni. “We brought over cars for them and sent them away.” The Abu Kishk sheikh wasn’t keen to leave, and his family left the furniture in the Binyaminis’ large yard, on the hill near the square. “They assumed they’d be back in a few weeks. In other places they got a kick in the ass, like in Sheikh Munis [today’s Ramat Aviv], for example.” Binyamini recalled that Sheikh Abu Kishk and his fellahin – farmers – were told by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee to leave their homes for a few weeks until they would return like victors with the Arab armies. But they lost, and the sheikh died abandoned and impoverished a few years later in Lod, the only one of his clan who was permitted to stay in Israel. This explanation of the Arab’s departure – that they eagerly left the area and on instructions from above – was accepted in the Israel of my childhood. In our house this was repeated by my uncle Shalom Gutterman, who grew up in neighboring Herzliya. In his service as a guard at the end of the British Mandate era, he knew the neighbors from Jalil and Abu Kishk. Contemporary historians have found no corroboration or documentation supporting this explanation. Palestinian researcher Walid Khalidi revealed already in 1959 that the story about the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee’s order to flee villages and towns was invented by a Jewish American supporter of the right-wing Revisionists, as fuel for the young country’s propaganda. But its echoes are still heard today in the arguments about the practical and moral responsibility for the uprooting of the Palestinians…In Benny Morris’ book “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949,”….there was also the chapter about the Arabs’ departure from Jaffa and Haifa, an upheaval in favor of the Jews in the war’s first months, and the description of Yigal Allon, the Palmach’s commander and the beautiful sabra of the good old Israel, as the chief expeller of the country’s Arabs. Such stories were completely taboo in those days, and I felt I was partner to a big national secret. I asked my parents what they remembered of those events. My father spoke little about his younger days in the Palmach and the role he played in 1948. He said he fought in Operation Broom in the eastern Galilee, north of Lake Kinneret, in the days before the Declaration of Independence. “We fired into their tents and they fled,” he said, concluding the matter…It’s time to stop being afraid and to tell the truth: Israel arose on the ruins of the Palestinian community that lived here before 1948. We must talk about the Nakba, not only in Palestinian memorial processions to the villages of their fathers and mothers, in small conferences held by Zochrot and in books by opposition historians, but in prime time, in a documentary series like the Hebrew-language “The Inverted Pillar of Fire,” in high school classes and in university lecture halls…
Bennett and Abbas have broken a barrier (Merav Batito, Yedioth/Ynet) The actual outcome of the meeting between the head of the right-wing Yamina and the leader of the Islamist Ra'am is inconsequential when compared to the fact that it even took place, smashing the wall that Netanyahu built between Arabs and Jews.
So Israel’s an Apartheid State. What’s Next? (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) Perhaps it isn’t actually Israel that has crossed the threshold.
The ramifications of a US return to the 2015 nuclear agreement (Prof. Efraim Inbar and Dr. Eran Lerman, Israel Hayom) By ignoring Israel's views on an issue critical to its security, Washington will cast a dark shadow over its status as a key ally in the Middle East.
Israel's Chance of Influencing Biden-Iran Nuke Deal Is All but Gone (Amos Harel,Haaretz+) The Israeli delegation to Washington seems to have achieved little in practice regarding the Iran deal. Still, sources say Israel will try to secure upgraded aerial capabilities as a kind of insurance policy.
How Biden is smashing America's moral compass (Melanie Phillips, Israel Hayom) Former President Barack Obama repudiated the "Durban Declaration and Program of Action" on the grounds of its unjust demonization of Israel and the "hateful and anti-Semitic displays" around its creation. The Biden administration has embraced it.
Iran’s Two-pronged Diplomatic War in the Middle East (Zvi Bar’el, Haaretz+) In the run-up to the June presidential election, Tehran aims to improve relations with Riyadh in part by ending the war in Yemen, on top of a quick, new nuclear deal.
As Palestinians Face the Pandemic Unprotected, Israel's Vaccination Rate Is Worthless (Friday Haaretz Editorial) Vaccinating the Palestinians is not only a matter of Israel’s moral and legal obligation as an occupying power, which must not be minimized, but also of its own medical and epidemiological requirements. The so-called Green Line has long since been blurred, with legal and illegal traffic of Palestinians into Israel and hundreds of thousands of settlers who have contact of one kind of another with their Palestinian neighbors. Given these circumstance, Israel’s refusal to vaccinate the Palestinians, with the exception of those who enter it with a permit for work or who work in the settlements, is not only an injustice, but also folly.
Hamas' banal tango with Israel spinning in circles (Yoav Limor, Israel Hayom) Total victory is not on the table at the moment, meaning that regardless of the scenario the sides will ultimately have to return to the starting point.
Two Glorious U-turns Prevented an Israeli-Palestinian Flare-up (Amos Harel,Haaretz+) Israel removed the Jerusalem roadblocks and Hamas quelled the Gaza tensions. Even Abbas' move to postpone Palestinian election is unlikely to lead to a confrontation, but the calm may not last long.
Abu Mazen lost again, and Israel needs to worry (Dr. Michael Milstein, Yedioth Hebrew) His party crashed amid preparations for an election that didn’t take place, and he himself is accused at home and abroad of preventing democratization and national reconciliation. This is a warning sign for the day after his tenure.
Hamas is the big winner in Palestinian election farce (Daniel Siryoti, Israel Hayom) Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will call off the upcoming elections not because Israel is preventing them from being held in east Jerusalem, but rather out of concern Fatah may lose control of the West Bank.
Postponing of Palestinian Election Proves Abbas Is Closer to Israel's Interests Than His Own People (Amira Hass, Haaretz+) Parliamentary elections are bad for the president and the unelected officials who run the Palestinian Authority, who sanctify the fake status quo to control the West Bank's enclaves.
Elections or not, the PA is intensifying its authoritarian rule online (Marwa Fatafta, + 972mag) The run-up to PA elections has alarmingly shown what Palestinian political activism is facing in the digital age: more surveillance, more repression.
After 45 Killed, Israeli Officials Evade Responsibility for the Mount Meron Disaster(Amos Harel, Haaretz+) The Israeli politicians who are behind planning the tragic stampede where 45 worshippers were killed have no interest in creating an investigative body with extensive powers. The Lag Ba’omer hillula that ended in mass casualties on Mount Meron was not the only large gathering that was scheduled to take place in the Galilee last week. Tens of thousands of members of Israel’s Druze community had planned to visit the grave of Nabi Shuaib in Kfar Hittim on April 25, for the Habi Shuaib festival. But the Druze leadership canceled the pilgrimage in the wake of heavy pressure from the commander of the Israel Police Northern District, Maj. Gen. Shimon Lavi, and Israel’s coronavirus czar, Prof. Nachman Ash, on the grounds that it could become a superspreader event. Ash even sent a florid thank-you letter to Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif, the spiritual leader of the Druze community. Later in the week, when the Druze asked about the scheduled Lag Ba’omer celebration, the police told them that it simply wasn’t the same thing. When it came to Meron, the decision was in the hands of the political leadership...
Forget the guard at the entrance, a state commission of inquiry is needed (Former police commissioner Roni Alsheikh, Yedioth Hebrew) Imposing the investigation of the disaster in Meron on the Justice Ministry's Department for Investigating Police, which is authorized to deal only with the police, will make those actually responsible very happy and will not allow the strategic problem to be addressed. 
Netanyahu's Rotting Regime Is to Blame for Israel's Lag Ba'omer Disaster (Yossi Verter, Haaretz+) Only in a system led by a corrupt leader busy with his own affairs can tragedies like the stampede that killed 45 people on Thursday occur.
The fall of Netanyahu (Ariel Kahana, Israel Hayom) Every great leader must step down at some point.
Israel Turned a Blind Eye to the ultra-Orthodox Autonomy – Until Disaster Struck(Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) There are places that are beyond the police’s jurisdiction and autonomies where the state doesn’t even try to assert its sovereignty.
The political implications of the Mount Meron crush (Itamar Eichner and Tova Zimuk,Yedioth/Ynet) The tragic Meron disaster befell Israel only a few days before Netanyahu's government mandate expires, begging the question whether he will now seek an extension and what part will the launch of an independent commission of inquiry play in government talks.
Facing Moment of Truth, Bennett Still Undecided on Netanyahu (Yossi Verter,Haaretz+) What we know at the end of a week of intense coalition talks between party leaders.
In Israel ‘It’ll Be Just Fine,’ Until It Isn’t (Gideon Levy, Haaretz+) Mount Meron as a fable: It’ll be just fine, the ultra-Orthodox said. It’ll be just fine, the police said. It’ll be just fine, the politicians said. And all of them were right. For many years, everything was just fine. A bit crowded, but just fine…Mount Meron as a fable: “It’ll be just fine” is a cornerstone of Israeli society. Along with “nobody’s sucker” and “we’re the best, bro,” we’ve built a braggadocio culture. It’ll be just fine, they said before October 1973, and in the years between the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War, everything was just fine, until it wasn’t. It’ll be just fine, they said before November 4, 1995, until Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated…
Meron tragedy proves cutting corners is Israel's form of governance (Chen Artzi Sror, Yedioth/Ynet) Proper regulatory conduct is perceived as excessive burden in Israel; it has been this way since the country was founded and on Thursday it led to 45 deaths; government must take back the authority it relinquished to religious organizations.
Israel Just Can’t Say No to the ultra-Orthodox (Akiva Novick, Haaretz+) For the Meron failure not to be whitewashed, the future investigative committees must not limit their concerns to the strength of the bleachers, the width of the fences or the rickety paths on the mountain. All these are small problems compared to the major malfunction: the absence of governability vis-à-vis Israel’s Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox communities. Sometimes this is seen in huge weddings and the forgoing of coronavirus fines, sometimes it’s seen in negligence like at Mount Meron. The tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is an extraterritorial enclave inside the State of Israel. It’s managed by a jumble of religious trusts, wheeler-dealer organizations and cronies of Haredi politicians. The state has problems enforcing even basic building laws there or suitable maintenance and sanitation. What happens at the site is dictated by captains of the Haredi world.
Israel's First Arab Woman to Become a Neuroscience Professor Wants to Erase Your Fear
Mouna Maroun’s trajectory as a neuroscientist extends from a Druze village to a postdoc in France and department head in Haifa. She is now developing a treatment to erase the negative emotions that accompany trauma – and also working to open the door to an academic future for young Israeli Arabs. (Interviewed by Yael Belkin in Haaretz+)

‘One system, one policy’: Why Human Rights Watch is charging Israel with apartheid
Israel has made it irrefutably clear it intends to make Jewish domination over Palestinians permanent between the river and the sea, says HRW's Omar Shakir in interview following landmark report. (Interviewed by Amjad Iraqi in +972mag)

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