By Aayesha Soni: The reporting by mainstream media of the events unfolding in Israel and Palestine over the last four weeks has been abominable. The usual pro-Israeli rhetoric and inflammatory word usage against what has factually happened has depicted a grossly distorted picture of the situation on the ground.
It is only through social networking sites and connecting with people who are actually living under the Israeli occupation that one quickly becomes aware of the true circumstances surrounding the escalation of tensions in the region. Some analysts deem this as the beginning of the Third Intifada.
Muhammed Abu Khdeir, a 16 year old Palestinian teenager, was abducted in Eastern Occupied Jerusalem on his way to the early morning prayers on the 2nd of July. He was beaten, had gasoline poured into his mouth and all over his body while he was still alive and set alight; left to die in the most gruesome way.
The autopsy was carried out at the Israeli Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in the presence of an official Palestinian pathologist, Dr. Sabir al-Aloul and these findings confirmed. Thereafter, his body was dumped in a forest built on the ashes of his Palestinian forefathers who had suffered similar brutality and paid the price for being Arab- the ashes of the Deir Yassin Massacre.
In the interest of presenting a non-biased perspective as well as correlating how the media would have referred to the culprits had they been Arab, this attack and murder was carried out by suspected Jewish terrorists. The illegal Israeli settlers, occupying Palestinian land deemed illegal under the fourth Geneva Convention, who are allegedly responsible were taken into custody.
Muhammed was abducted and murdered as part of a greater campaign of revenge and collective punishment which has been perpetrated by the Zionist state of Israel. In response to 3 Israeli settler teenagers who were found dead after having gone missing for 3 weeks, a huge offensive was launched against the Palestinian populations in Gaza and the West Bank.
These have included home demolitions, mass detentions, beatings and deadly shootings. Despite the fact that no group has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings of the 3 teenagers, and Hamas, who has been singled out as the culprits, has categorically denied these accusations. Notwithstanding this, Zionist Israel has launched an offensive sparing no woman, child or civilian.
What has happened to Muhammed is not an isolated incident. Official statistics from the Ministry of Information in Ramallah have revealed that 1,518 Palestinian children were killed by Israel’s occupation forces from the outbreak of the second Intifada in September 2000 up to April 2013.
That’s the equivalent of one Palestinian child killed by Israel every 3 days for almost 13 years. Why have we not seen Barack Obama expressing his condolences every 3 days for the Palestinian mothers who have lost their children? Why do we not know their names and faces, splayed across every news outlet? Is it because a Palestinian child holds less value than that of an Israeli one?
The report also pointed out that 9,000 Palestinians under the age of 18 have been arrested since the end of September 2000. Almost two hundred and fifty Palestinian minors are being held in prison by Israel; 47 of them are children under 16 years of age. The media should be reporting these facts. The lynching of 16 year old Muhammed Abu Khdeir may have sparked the beginning of what could be the Third Intifada.
However, it is the institutionalised racist policies of Apartheid, continuous Palestinian home demolitions and illegal settler establishments, mass killings and the arrest without trial of Palestinians, including children, that has been ongoing for the past 66 years that will maintain the Palestinians spirit of resistance.
From time to time unsubstantiated reports concocted by the media and funded by governments would have us believe that Hamas was responsible for the kidnapping and killing of the three settler teenagers. The ultimate aim of this dishonourable and mendacious reporting is to discredit Hamas.
What else can be said of ‘intellectuals’ and ‘writers’ who claim that Palestinians who fight for their honour, freedom, and basic human rights are ‘terrorists’ while the illegal settler killers of Muhammed Abu Khdeir and other unknown Palestinians, who came from eastern Europe, to steal a land that belongs not to them are represented as the forces of ‘freedom’, ‘justice’ and ‘enlightenment’.
Aayesha J. Soni is a medical student at Wits University and the Vice Chairperson of MRN. She is committed to fighting injustice across a broad spectrum. Aayesha’s pieces have been published in leading newspapers, including The Star, Natal Witness, News24 and Palestine Chronicle.
Here we are again: staring at a series of terrible events in Israel and the Palestinian territories. A 16-year-old Palestinian, Mohammed Abu Khdair, was kidnapped, stabbed and then burned alive. We don’t know for sure, but Israeli police report a likely “nationalistic” motive – meaning that his killers were Jewish Israelis.
This murder comes after the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teenagers were found in the occupied West Bank last week, after an 18-day search. That military search for Eyal Ifrach, Gilad Shaer and Naftali Frankel, during which six Palestinians were killed and hundreds more detained without charge, was described by Amnesty International as “collective punishment“.
Meanwhile, the news that the Israeli teenagers had been shot dead –evidence of which was obscured for weeks while Israelis united in the campaign to “Bring back our Boys” – unleashed a rising clamour for vengeance.
A Facebook page called “the people of Israel demand revenge” rapidly drew 35,000 likes; hundreds of Israelis, looking like a lynch mob from the old American south, ran the streets of Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs” and seeking out Palestinians to attack, using Arab accents to help identity their targets; Palestinians were verbally and physically attacked on streets and on buses; an attempted kidnapping of another Palestinian child was reported in East Jerusalem, close to where Abu Khdair was later snatched.
But the ugly truth is that this bone-chillingly vengeful climate – which the families of the killed Israeli teens came out of mourning to oppose – can be no surprise. For years, there have been warnings over a toxic racismincubating within Israel – as casual as it is widespread. Israeli commentators have long sounded the alarm about the country, lamenting an isolationist, belligerent nation, broken in its own way by its imposition of the brutal occupation that has so violated the lives of Palestinians.
And the nation has for some time been led down this doomed path: the wounds of its Jewish people’s history abusively reopened by leaders who preach the most destructive ethno-nationalism – reducing to dishonest slogans a reality that demands brave nuance. Those smiling Israelis on Facebook, with their signs that read: “Hating Arabs isn’t racism; it’s values!” – who are they, if not the children of the most hardline, peace-averse, land-grabbing government the country has seen?
Instead of calling for calm at a time as critical as the day the bodies of the three murdered Israelis were found, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quoted from the poet, Haim Bialik: “Vengeance for the blood of a small child.”
Other ministers within his settler-enabling government have spoken in similar vein. Economy Minister Naftali Bennet wrote on Facebook: “Murderers of children and those who direct them cannot be forgiven. Now is a time for action, not words.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman used the clashes on the streets of Israel’s mixed cities to say that Palestinian citizens of Israel should be given a “clear message” and that “the place of these people is not Israel”.
And a former member of parliament, Michael Ben Ari, posted an online video demanding “death to the enemy”.
We cannot be surprised if these words are heard as endorsement by the hate mobs on the streets.
And it is small wonder that Israel’s former security chief, Yuval Diskin, laid the blame for current tensions firmly at Netanyahu’s government’s door.
A series of illusions
Diskin pointed to a series of “illusions” that the government had propagated for some time – not least among them the idea that “the Palestinians will just accept all that we are doing in the West Bank and not respond, despite their rage, frustration and worsening economic situation”.
Meanwhile, now, as always, media frames are set to slant the story. There is no justification for the killing of three Israeli teenagers – too often just labelled as “settlers”, as though the fact of their being on occupied land somehow negates their right to be blameless children.
But the violence did not start there. Palestinians watching Western media cover current events wonder now, as always, why the “cycle of violence” narrative never starts with their pain, with their killed children, or even with the daily violence of the Israeli occupation.
Why not wind back, for instance, to the two Palestinian teenagers, Nadem Syam Nawara, 17, and Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh, 16, who were killed by Israeli snipers on Naqba day in May?
Or how about the 19 Palestinians killed by the Israeli army just in the first three months of 2014?
What about pointing out that, for Palestinians, the detention of their children, running into thousands, is experienced as kidnapping at an Israeli-state level?
Or how about, for a start, just describing people properly – unlike theWashington Post, which, with its recent headline (thankfully now changed) “Arab’s killing fans violence” could not, even in his death, dignify a Palestinian boy with a nationality.
By now, we must know where this starts and where it ends. We have seen decades of political failure at international level – where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has the only chance of resolution – create the vacuum that begets the violence on the streets. It is clear that none of this will stop as long as the Israeli occupation continues. And in the meantime, all the pain and suffering is grotesque. It is all avoidable. It is all tragic, beyond words.