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Netanyahu's paper uses Orlando massacre to demonize Israel's Arab citizens

Sometimes all it takes is a single visual to drive home the point. For Israel’s most read newspaper, visuals have become a way to race-bait and incite against Muslims, specifically against Israel’s Arab population.

A photo comparison of Omar Mateen, who murdered 50 people in an Orlando gay club, and Neshat Melhem, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who shot three Israelis to death earlier this year. (photo: Israel Hayom)

A photo comparison of Omar Mateen, who murdered 50 people in an Orlando gay club, and Neshat Melhem, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who shot three Israelis to death earlier this year in ‘Israel Hayom.’ The paper called the two ‘chillingly similar.’ (photo: Israel Hayom)

On Monday morning, pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom published a photo montage comparing Omar Mateen, the American citizen who murdered 50 people at an Orlando gay club on Sunday, and Neshat Melhem, who murdered three Israelis in a shooting spree in Tel Aviv on New Year’s day. Above the side-by-side mugshots of the two killers, the editors of the paper decided to print the words: “A chilling similarity.”

The background: Israel Hayom is owned by far-right American casino mogul and Republican bankroller Sheldon Adelson. The paper, which is handed out for free, was created by Adelson as a platform for Netanyahu’s politics, all while circumventing Israel’s extremely strict campaign finance laws. He finances the paper reportedly at a considerable loss, selling ad space significantly below market value to put his competitors at a disadvantage. The paper, now the country’s most widely read, has dramatically upended Israel’s media landscape, and is considered just one of the ways Netanyahu, who also serves as the country’s communications minister, is able to maintain control over the public discourse.

The reason: Mateen and Melhem both wear glasses, and their heads are shaved. Oh, and they are both Muslims who have committed acts of terrorism and murdered innocents. And because it is not convenient to mention the more obvious parallel — between Mateen and Yishai Schlissel, who attacked the Jerusalem Pride Parade in June 2015 and murdered a teenage girl with a knife. Their crimes are far more similar; the only significant difference being that Schlissel was not able to use an assault rifle to inflict mass damage in the crowded parade. Mateen, on the other had, had little difficulty purchasing his weapons in Florida.

The context: The photos were used to illustrate an article by Israel Hayom columnist Boaz Bismuth — known for his ties to Sheldon Adelson and support for Donald Trump — who writes about the Orlando attack as proof that Obama cannot contend with Islamic terrorism let alone recognize it. The schadenfreude is hard to miss:

Another Islamist terrorist attack in Barack Obama’s America — the same America that decided to wipe the term “Islamist terrorism” from its lexicon. Alas, the terrorists are doing Obama’s job for him. How embarrassing.

Bismuth refers to Israel only in passing when he writes about last week’s attack by Palestinian gunmen, which left four Israelis dead in a central Tel Aviv restaurant:

This is a toilsome war that could last decades. Who knows this better than Israelis? Just a few days ago, in the middle of a popular city market in Tel Aviv, four Israelis were murdered. Yesterday it was 50 Americans. That’s 54 people who wanted to go out and live life, not have their lives cut short.

According to Bismuth, Israel and the United States are fighting a common enemy. The only difference is that unlike “Obama’s America,” Israel is not bogged down by nuisances such as political correctness. Unlike our liberal friends in the United States, we have no issues speaking openly about the problem, and know exactly what it takes to deal with it.

And finally, the image: The decision to publish Melhem’s photo alongside Mateen’s amounts to race-baiting and incitement of the worst kind against a fifth of Israel’s population. As The Seventh Eye’s Shuki Taussig put it, the subtext of the photo isn’t difficult to parse: “The Arabs are murderers, and they live among us.” Apparently the author of the article missed that message, though, because the text never actually mentions Melhem’s Tel Aviv attack at all.

And there’s a reason Bismuth didn’t make the comparison himself. Nearly 100 percent of terrorist attacks in Israel are not carried out by Palestinian citizens, Muslim or otherwise. Over the course of 68 years, terror attacks by Palestinian citizens, or even cases in which they were an accomplice, have been exceedingly rare. Melhem, from the northern village Ar’ara, was known to have a troubled mental history and has sparked no copycat attacks among Israeli citizens. His actions were horrific and deadly, but were shocking mainly as an exception to overwhelming majority of Israel’s Arab citizens.

The photo montage is an accurate depiction of Israel Hayom‘s patron’s worldview. If Netanyahu believes that Israel is besieged by predatory beasts from both within and outside, then there is certainly no reason his newspaper to take a different editorial line. Unfortunately the decision won’t likely cause a ripple outside limited media and political circles, while many Israel Hayom readers, and perhaps even most Israelis, will simply view it as ordinary, normal — and self-evident. The lack of desire to think critically and embrace immutable, almost divine truths is on full display, courtesy of Israel’s prime minister and his foreign backer.

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    1. Jan

      What else would one expect from someone like Sheldon Adelson, the man who said that he regretted that he had not served in the IDF rather than in the US army. Would he compare Dylan Roof, the Christian gunman who murdered nine people in their church in South Carolina not so long ago? Of course not. Roof was not an Arab nor a Muslim so there was no way that Adelson would seek to demonize him. Did Adelson try to stir up more hate against Arabs in Israel by comparing the daily horrific gun deaths in America to the few gun deaths committed by Israeli Arabs? Of course not. That would not serve Adelson’s purpose which is to demonize the population of Israel that isn’t Jewish.

      Reply to Comment
      • Carmen

        You sure got that right. Let’s not let Michael Oren off the hook though. This murderer was driven by his homophobia, not that it would matter to the Netanyahoos, Sheldon Adelson’s and Michael Oren’s of the world, all that mattered to them was he was Muslim.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      So apparently if you are a peaceful Palestinian protester engaging in a bicycle protest by villagers trying to reach their land beyond the wall, you get arrested and an Israeli prosecutor will argue before an army tribunal to reincarcerate you in order to distance you from your “bacterial surroundings.” This neo-fascist, anti-Palestinianist terminology was used not by Benzti Gopshtayn but by an Israeli prosecutor, an official agent of the state. Seventy-one years after the defeat of fascism in Europe.
      Palestinian Activist Must Be Jailed to Keep Him Away From ‘Bacterial Surroundings,’ IDF Prosecutor Says

      Reply to Comment
    3. Bruce Gould

      Well, we’re up to around 700 “administrative detentions” (love this orwellian language!), including a Palestinian clown accused of….I’m not sure what, exactly, no one knows.


      Reply to Comment
    4. Nate

      What the biased article! All the same: “the terrorists do not have identity, just crazy people”, “lone wolfs”. Not true, they do! They do have Muslim identity, they do scream “Allah akbar”, they do use Islam as a guidance. If you don’t know define your enemy you can’t fight it. Simple. Just learn to say “radical islam”. It’s pandemic.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ben

      The United States’ recent experience with the appalling Donald Trump may help non-Israelis understand better the average Israeli and the politicians who manipulate them. As Israeli Chemi Shalev explains, Donald Trump speaks a language that most Israelis are very familiar with:

      Reply to Comment
    6. Lewis from Afula

      Yes, its all co-incident I say you!!

      The Muslim guy who stabbed the French Policeman this morning in Paris, butchering him and his wife, just happened to be Muslim. The Brussels attackers just happened to be Muslims. The San Bernardino killers just happened to be Muslims. The rapists who attacked 1000 German women in the New Year just happened to be Muslim. The same with the literally THOUSANDS of British Girls that were preyed upon by Pakistani Immigrants in Rotherham, Burnley, Luton, Oldham and dozens of other UK cities. Charlie Hebdo and Kosher Supermarket attacks were other co-incidents. The cold-blooded murder of 130 people in Paris in November were also co-incidental.

      Why are the bad guys like Bibi & Trump just focusing on these random co-incidences?

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Glad you brought that up. Bibi of course does it to deflect attention from the occupation and peddle racism and divisiveness, and above all, fear. (And distract from his and Sara’s various thefts and abuses.) It’s his stock in trade. Trump does it because he’s a manipulative psychopathic opportunist, a con artist. And he’s peddling fear. Both want you to be vey, very afraid. And to think he is your salvation. That’s the con. Bibi shares many of Trump’s traits he’s just slicker about it. And unlike Trump Bibi actually has a background ideology. But Bibi and Trump both are quintessential con artists and bombastic demagogues.

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        And ‘Nate’, no one is “afraid” to say “radical Islam”–that’s just a rhetorical trick–but they are wise to the misuses of that term in the hands of men like Donald Trump and Michael Oren.
        Why are you afraid to say “radical messianic occupation”? Go on, just say it. Just say “occupation.” And do something about it.
        Here, Peter Beinart explains why “radical Islam” “sounds menacing but is intellectually worthless. Much like the man who now puts it at the center of his presidential campaign.”

        Reply to Comment
      • Jan

        So far in 2016 there have been 6045 gun deaths in America, some of them considered mass murders when there are more than 4 victims. The same day that 49 people were killed in Orlando, a New Mexico man murdered his wife and three children. He was not a Muslim. Only two of these mass murders have been committed by Muslims. Who does Adelson want to blame for all the other murders? Or does he keep quiet when the killers are of other religions or of no religion?

        Reply to Comment
    7. Tommy Goldberg

      And I do see a photo of ANOTHER man with rectangular glasses and closely-cropped facial hair one this very page! They’re coming for you, Edo. http://static1.972mag.com/wp-content/uploads//2015/01/EdoKonrad.png

      Seriously, the Israel Hayom piece is reprehensible — but unfortunately not surprising.

      Reply to Comment