It’s all about the spin

Headlines in Europe are full of Israel’s retaliation against Syria, and an Italian daily puts football over security.

IDF soldier [file] (photo credit: REUTERS)
IDF soldier [file]
(photo credit: REUTERS)
European newspapers seemed to have recovered from last week’s embarrassing miscalculations of the number of rockets sent from the Gaza Strip, with reports ranging from 25 projectiles to 100, as reported in this column.
Last week, they had more concrete news to go on – reporting the March 18 explosion on the Syrian border that wounded four IDF soldiers.
World news outlets widely reported on Israeli retaliation against Syrian targets – with a headline in The Guardian reading “Israel bombs Syrians on Golan Heights” – but in Rome, an article with a different take on Israeli aggression made its way to the newsstands.
Last Saturday, journalist Luca Pisapia of the left-leaning, anti-Berlusconi daily Il Fatto Quotidiano republished a story that claims Israel purposely targeted members of the Palestinian national football team, citing an incident reported in February that two Palestinian players were targeted by Israeli gunfire and attacked by dogs. The IDF countered that Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd-al Raouf Halabiya, 17, were about to throw a bomb at security forces. The Palestinians were taken to Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem and were told their injuries would end their careers. Nasser and Halabiya contend that there was no prior warning before the soldiers opened fire.
“It is suspected that the soldiers knew that the teenagers were prominent football players on the Palestinian national team,” Pisapia wrote on March 22.
He quoted Dave Zirin, a political sportswriter for The Nation, a US publication known as more leftist: “What happened to Jawhar and Adam is just the latest case in which Palestinian football players are targeted by Israeli army and security forces. Death or imprisonment have been, and still are today, a reality for several members of the Palestinian national squad,” Pisapia quoted Zirin as writing.
This is not the first time the Italian newspaper has “suspected” a purposeful targeting of Palestinian football players by the IDF. Back in 2009, Mahmoud Sarsak, a Palestinian football star playing for the national team, was interrogated and allegedly tortured by Israeli security forces who suspected he was affiliated with Islamic Jihad. After three years of imprisonment, and an additional 96 days of hunger strike due to his detention, which irreversibly damaged his organs, ll Fatto Quotidiano quickly concluded he was illegally detained in an international news story in 2012. The first sentence of that article in the Italian newspaper read: “Take away the ball of a child and destroy his dreams, and that of an entire nation.”
Sarsak’s story caused outrage from pro-Israel critics, who condemned how media outlets underplayed the proof of Sarsak’s connections to Islamic Jihad – which, among other things, showed the football player in an Islamic Jihad scarf, as well as pointing out that the terrorist faction considered him a member.
In other news
Palestinians are looking to drill for oil in the West Bank
Die Zeit, Germany, March 19
Palestinians in the West Bank are requesting the support of international companies in a plan to dig up oil wells near the Green Line. The particular oil field is close to a field owned by Israeli company Givot Olam, which is located within the Green Line. The initiative is a joint effort between the US, Russia, the EU and UN; the world powers hope this will boost the Palestinian infrastructure. Last November, Givot Olam said it was looking to expand into the Palestinian territories of the West Bank. The brokered initiative is an effort to break the stalemate of the peace negotiations.
Israel: Washington might liberate a spy
Le Figaro, France, March 24
The United States might release convicted Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard in an effort to bolster the peace process, which is close to imploding, according to Le Figaro in quoting Israel radio. According to the statement, Obama administration officials might be willing to “give a green light” to the liberation of Pollard.
By the end of this month, the last contingent of prisoners will be released. His eventual discharge would be a concession from the US to bolster peace negotiations, Le Figaro reported.
China seeks strategic foothold in Israel
Deutsche Welle, Germany, March 24
In an effort to establish a foothold in the region, China is looking to invest in a freight rail link between the Red Sea port city of Eilat and Ashdod on the Mediterranean.
The link is expected to cost $2 billion and take five years to complete, and is slated to begin next year. The German daily cited Oded Eran, a retired Israeli diplomat, saying that he believed this was a move from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to bolster strategic ties with China. The railway would be a potential alternative to the Suez Canal, which is an expensive transport route, although it has proven stable in spite of political turmoil in Egypt.
Israel prepares for war against Iran without waiting for US
Rádio e Televisão do Portugal, Portugal, March 19
Plans to attack Iran, in a hypothetical situation, are already budgeted for, a leading Portuguese daily reported, saying the price tag would run around $2.89b.
The political framework has apparently already been planned by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. RTV reported that in the hypothetical situation, Netanyahu would act without the approval of the P5+1 world powers – the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China – who are in peace talks with Iran. In the hypothetical scenario, reported on RTV, the P5+1 would continue peace talks with Iran. Some Israeli participants criticized the US for entering into negotiations with Iran, which means Israel “has to act as if there is nobody looking out for us.”