The charred body of Muhammad Abu Khudair — a 16-year-old from the Palestinian neighborhood of Shuafat in occupied East Jerusalem — was found early this morning shortly after his family reported that he was kidnapped.
Since news broke that his murder was likely a “revenge killing” for the three Israeli teens slain in the West Bank more than two weeks ago, mainstream media outlets are struggling to whitewash the incitement coming from the highest levels of the Israeli government and the race riots that preceded Abu Khudair’s suspected lynching.
This came on the heels of direct incitement from Israeli government officials and politicians, who have been calling for revenge following the discovery on Monday of the bodies of the three Israeli teens.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed “revenge” on behalf of “the entire Jewish people” against the “human animals” who killed the teens, adding with no evidence that “Hamas is responsible, Hamas will pay.”
On the more extreme end, former Israeli lawmaker Michael Ben-Ari released a video statement imploring Israel to “transfer the pain to the cruel enemy” by transforming “Ramadan into a month of darkness.” These sentiments were echoed by the Israeli public on social media, where calls for genocide against Palestinians are common.
Already, the murder of Abu Khudair is being celebrated, with some Israelis calling for more lynchings.
Burying the story
The New York Times, which had completely ignored this incitement, was forced to acknowledge Israeli race riots in the wake of Abu Khudair’s murder. Still, the Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren and co-author Isabel Kershner made sure to bury the story, waiting until the nineteenth paragraph to mention violent protests.
Offering few details, Rudoren and Kershner write:
As the funerals [of three slain Israeli teens] were underway, hundreds of extreme-right protesters gathered in Jerusalem demanding that the government avenge the deaths. Chanting “Death to Arabs,” they tried to attack Arab passers-by who had to be extricated by the police. More than 40 protesters were arrested.
There’s no mention of the roving gangs of Israeli youth asking dark-skinned people on the streets of Jerusalem for the time to determine, based on their accent, whether they are Arab, or the Israeli mobs storming restaurants like McDonalds looking for Palestinian workers to attack.
Instead the article focuses on quoting Israeli government officials condemning the murder and promising to carry out a full investigation.
Sadly, the Times’ style of minimizing the widespread violent hatred against Palestinians in Israeli society is par for the course in the mainstream press.
Meanwhile, the BBC quotes several Israeli officials condemning the murder and calling for calm as Israeli police investigate. Sandwiched between these calls for restraint — in contrast to the incitement prior to the discovery of the Palestinian boy’s body — is a threatening statement from Hamas: “[Israel] will pay the price for these crimes.” Once again there is no mention of the belligerent speech emanating from Israeli leaders in recent days.
Several paragraphs later, the BBC finally gives attention to the race riots but does so by quoting an Israeli who makes a false equivalence with no basis in reality (emphasis mine):
Scores of Israelis had angrily protested in Jerusalem late on Tuesday, after the funerals of the three Israeli teenagers.
Ghonit Sela, director of the Human Rights in East Jerusalem Project, told the BBC further attacks were feared.
“We saw dozens of people walking in broad daylight in the streets, yelling ‘death to Arabs’, trying to attack Arabs.
“I know my Palestinian friends today are not taking public transportation, they’re afraid of what would happen. I also know that myself and my Jewish friends would be scared to go today into a Palestinian neighbourhood.”
Equating the violent state-sponsored racism Israelis exhibit toward an occupied and defenseless people with legitimate Palestinian anger at Israel is absurd. It’s even more absurd to complain that Israelis are unsafe in Palestinian neighborhoods their government is colonizing, where Jewish settlers are free to attack Palestinians with the protection and encouragement of Israeli occupation forces. If anything, it is Palestinians who are unsafe in their own neighborhoods as they struggle under the boot of an aggressive colonial regime.
Reuters made a similarly ludicrous comparison.
After noting that “several hundreds Israeli demonstrators, some chanting ‘Death to Arabs,’ blocked the main entrance to Jerusalem” yesterday, Reuters adds:
Cries for revenge have echoed throughout the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
They can be heard at the emotionally charged funerals of Palestinians killed by Israel, and the phrase “May God avenge his death” is often invoked at the burials of Israelis slain by Palestinians.
Painting Palestinians and Israelis as equally vengeful erases the disproportionate violence Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid have inflicted on Palestinians.
Israel is only responding
After learning of Abu Khudair’s death, Palestinians in Shuafat were attacked by heavily-armed Israeli police who sealed off and surrounded their neighborhood, injuring more than 170 Palestinians and at least six journalists, according to Ma’an News Agency.
As Palestinian youth dodge Israeli tear gas, stun grenades, rubber-coated steel bullets and live fire, mainstream media uniformly blame them for provoking it with stone-throwing.
“Protesters threw stones at officers, who responded by firing sound bombs, tear gas and rubber bullets,” reported the BBC.
“Dozens of teenagers, some using slingshots, hurled stones at the security officers, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades,” said The New York Times.
The Washington Post’s Ruth Eglash, whose husband runs a marketing firm that propagandizes for the Israeli government, reported that “Palestinian protesters hurled firebombs and stones at Israeli police and soldiers” who “responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and smoke grenades, injuring two journalists, one seriously.”
Even when Israeli forces injure journalists, Palestinian stone-throwing is to blame.
Fifteen paragraphs later, Eglash finally informs her readers of the race riots, the first of which is reduced to a demonstration against government ineptitude:
Elsewhere in Jerusalem on Wednesday, a few hundred Israeli students protested what some perceive to be inaction by the government in responding to the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teens. Netanyahu has convened his security cabinet for the past two nights to discuss a response to the killings but has announced no decision yet.
The students gathered at the Western entrance to the city and chanted: “The people demand collective punishment” and “all supporters of murderers are terrorists.” They held up large posters with the faces of the slain Israelis.
Eglash frames the daytime riots as less violent and completely separate from evening protests, though no distinction was made in the Israeli press and Arabs were attacked throughout the day. Eglash writes:
On Tuesday evening, as the teens were buried, several hundred right-wing Jewish activists rioted in Jerusalem shouting “death to Arabs” and calling for revenge. According to local media reports, they attempted to identify Arabs by speaking to them in Hebrew and listening to their accents. Five Arabs were attacked and two needed medical treatment, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. Police said Wednesday that 50 of the protesters had been arrested.
What lynch mobs?
CNN’s lengthy report on Abu Khudair’s killing devotes just one sentence to the riots.
“On Tuesday, after the teens’ funerals, several large groups of men marched around Jerusalem, chanting “Death to Arabs,” reports CNN, immediately followed by “The deaths of the three Israeli teenagers … have become a symbol of Israel’s fight against terrorists.”
More details were contained in a single tweet from CNN’s own correspondent, Ben Wedeman, who was on the ground and reported witnessing mobs in Jerusalem chanting “death to Arabs” and threatening to attack Palestinians after sundown.
As for the clashes in Shuafat, according to CNN, “Residents threw stones at Israeli security forces. The Israelis responded with occasional volleys of stun grenades or tear gas.”
The article has since been updated with details about a Jerusalem rally against racism, which presents the lynch mobs as an exception:
On Tuesday, after the teens’ funerals, several large groups of men marched around Jerusalem, chanting “death to Arabs.” Packed crowds gathered Wednesday to reject that and all forms of racism at a Jerusalem rally.
“So great to be among Israel compatriots who less than a day after a suspected hate crime are here to say ‘no to racism,’ ” columnist Meir Javedanfar wrote on Twitter.
“We are not a people of revenge but a people of comfort,” said Nitzan Horowitz, a member of the Israeli Knesset, according to a tweet from professor Michael Pitkowsky.
Minimizing and whitewashing Israeli hatred as it spirals dangerously out of control can have deadly consequences. And media outlets that continue to willfully ignore Israeli incitement against Arabs and distort the narrative to frame Palestinians as everlasting villains are actively complicit in Israel’s ongoing crimes.