How the media let Israel get away with murder

17 January 2013

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Relatives of Samir Awad mourn after the 17-year-old died of gunshot wounds on 14 January.

(Issam Rimawi / APA images)

Israel spends a lot of time talking about secure borders and how the need for them drives its policies regarding the Palestinians. With few exceptions, the media act as willing promoters of this perversion of reality.

Between 11 and 15 January, four young Palestinians — aged 17 to 22 — were shot dead by Israeli occupation forces. The murders took place in the Gaza Strip and at different points along Israel’s wall in the West Bank. In all instances the Israeli army justified the use of lethal force by invoking its need to protect the integrity of the wall and Israel’s borders.

On 11 January, 22-year-old Anwar Mamlouk was reportedly just outside the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza when Israeli soldiers gunned him down.

The next day, Odai al-Darawish, 21, was shot to death at three o’clock in the afternoon while crossing Israel’s wall in the West Bank to get to work in Israel. Initially, Israeli sources claimed the soldiers shot al-Darawish in his legs, in accordance with the “rules of engagement” (“Israeli troops kill Palestinian trying to cross barrier,” The Chicago Tribune, 12 January 2013).

But medical sources quickly revealed that he was hit in the back, indicating that he was likely shot while trying to run to safety (“Israeli forces shoot, kill worker south of Hebron,” Ma’an News Agency, 12 January 2013).

Al-Darawish was from the village of Dura, near Hebron, where in September last year a man attempted to immolate himself in a desperate protest of the dire economic conditions Palestinians face in the occupied West Bank (“Palestinian man attempts to set himself on fire in West Bank village of Dura,” Haaretz, 17 January 2013).

Mustafa Jarad was aged 21 and a farmer from Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip. He was shot in the forehead by an Israeli sniper on 14 January while working his land. But despite the Israeli gunman’s skillful marksmanship, Jarad was not killed immediately.

Doctors at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City tried to remove the bullet from his severely injured brain, but Jarad died after surgery (“Mustafa Abu Jarad, murdered in Gaza, by the Israeli army,” International Solidarity Movement, 15 January 2013).

Shooting a schoolboy

On 14 January, Samir Awad, a 17-year-old from Budrus, a West Bank village located near Ramallah, was shot from behind in the head, torso and leg while running away from soldiers.

Samir had just completed his last exam before school break and had joined a group of boys to protest the wall. Samir’s family has lost five acres of land with 3,000 olive trees due to the construction of Israel’s wall; Samir had also been jailed three times for his participation in demonstrations (“Israeli forces shot youth in the back as he ran away, say Palestinians,” Guardian, 15 January 2013).

English-language reports of these murders have been scant where they exist at all. For example, the press is in disagreement over the circumstances of Anwar Mamlouk’s death. Reuters reported that Anwar’s brother, Hani, stated that Anwar had been studying outdoors when he was shot (“Israeli forces kill Palestinian along border with Gaza: Hamas,” NBCNews, 11 January 2013).

The BBC, however, relayed only the Israeli military’s version of events and reported that Anwar had entered the “forbidden area” along Gaza’s boundary with dozens of other Palestinians (“Gaza: Palestinian farmer killed by Israeli gunfire,” 11 January 2013).

Shifting the blame

The New York Times took the murder of Samir Awad, the fourth in the spate of Israeli willful killing of unarmed Palestinians, as an opportunity to remark on the “growing unrest” in the West Bank, bizarrely shifting culpability for the deaths onto Palestinians (“Israeli forces kill Palestinian at barrier,” 15 January 2013).

It must be noted that when 17-year-old Muhammad al-Salaymeh was slain by a border police officer in Hebron on his birthday in December 2012, The New York Times remained silent.

Reading the New York Times’ coverage of the murder of Palestinians by Israelis is an apt lesson for any aspiring spin-doctor on the language of equivocation.

The paper’s reporter Isabel Kershner pivots the focus of Monday’s murder in Budrus away from Israel’s trigger-happy soldiers operating in a world of endless and unquestioned impunity and onto Palestinians’ “simmering restiveness”; their increased participation in “disturbances” of the “relative stability” that Israel has tried to maintain; and their “dire financial crisis that has prevented the Palestinian Authority … from paying … government workers.”

Notably there is no explanation provided as to why the PA has not been able to pay its tens of thousands of workers, namely that Israel has stolen the Palestinians’ tax and customs duty funds.

Omitting key facts

This is how The New York Times turns the cold-blooded murder of a teenage boy into a deliberately obfuscating story that describes an opaque haze of “tensions” and “growing unrest.”

This exonerating cloud of ambiguity is kept afloat by the newspaper’s methodical omission of facts: not only the facts of the recent murders of Odai al-Darawish, Muhammad al-Salaymeh and Anwar Mamlouk, but those of the countless incursions, demolitions and violence that Israel perpetrates against Palestinians every week (“Weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory,” Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, 10 January 2013).

These are the kind of facts that, if properly reported by the journal of record, would allow readers to know that it is Israel who is the violator of the terms of the country’s own precious “borders.” Proper reportage would give stark and unassailable lie to the notion that it in order to protect these borders, it must shoot and kill innocent men and boys, or women and girls.

Deferring to Israel

The awful truth of what happened this week lies outside stories in which gunned-down youths are identified by their intentions to trespass, and in which the wall is described as designed to keep out “terrorists.” Yet the BBC, The New York Times, Reuters and AP all deferred to Israeli military sources to report on the deaths of four young people. The result is that their readers are told that Israeli soldiers followed the proper protocol to protect Israel’s sovereignty and borders.

With the notable exception of British newspapers the Guardian and The Independent (see “Did Israeli troops deliberately provoke boy, only to shoot him in the back?” 16 January 2013), the media dutifully joined ranks with the State of Israel, grinding out the useful fiction that implicates these dead young Palestinians as menaces to the security and stability supposedly maintained by the chimera of separation.

As for borders, it’s exceedingly likely that the grief-stricken parents of the slain youths would love to see the existence of any kind of boundary on Israel that might protect their children from the presence of a threatening, violent and usurping entity.

Charlotte Silver is a journalist based in occupied Palestine and San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter: @CharESilver.

Comments

Hi
With regard to the Mustafa Jarad killing, I have twice complained to the BBC, asking them why they haven't even reported the incident. Their second response astounded me:

We mention this incident in this report http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/worl....
The Israeli army has denied being involved in the death, which is unusual, so we are not prepared to go further than we have.
Best regards,
Middle East desk
BBC News website

I am attempting to follow this up...

A testament to what ardent stenographers they are. So glad you’re looking into this. Please keep me/us updated!

How can a Palestinian violate a border that doesn't exist? Before the hystericals start screaming "anti-Semite", can those same hystericals please point me to a definitive source that specifies the limits of the Zionist territorial claim?

A testament to what ardent stenographers they are. So glad you’re looking into this. Please keep me/us updated!

Oren Persico did a good summary of the way the Israeli media didn't cover the killings. My translation of that can be found at:
https://www.facebook.com/sol.s...

Part of the challenge is that the issue is systemic. Some battles can be won on point issues, some need to be fought on a broader front. Whilst every admission of any media organisation that it has not done it's job is welcome, focusing your detractors on point issues is a tried and tested defensive strategy, and each and every campaign takes a great deal of effort and is in the main retrospective.

With the BBC I know that there have been a great many complaints, actions and responses about many specific issues; however, the problem is systemic and we need a broad, high-level discussion to start to make it visible and to start to address it.

For this reason I have started the following petition, calling for a public enquiry into how the BBC is reporting on this, which I would like to ask you all to please post and forward the following to as many people as possible.

Is the BBC biased in favour of Israel? If you think so please SIGN & SHARE:
http://chn.ge/QRPPMs

Israel's legacy of killing defenseless children is known throughout the world. From May 15, 1948 to the present, the slaughter of innocents by Israelis in Palestine numbers in the countless thousands. Apparently, Israelis hold the Prophet Amos in as great contempt as they hold the Palestinians whose land they stole at gun-point during their terroristic take-over in 1948.

Actually, the New York Times did cover the murder of Muhammad al-Salaymeh, though the report in the print edition by Jodi Rudoren included only a one-paragraph mention at the end of the article, didn't bother to give his name, and accepted the Israeli version at face value. The online blog The Lede, however, did raise questions and was remarkable, given the Times' usual practices, in devoting a full column to it.

Here's a letter I sent to the public editor of the Times:

In the national print edition of the Dec. 14 New York Times, correspondent Jodi Rudoren wrote that an Israeli "border policewoman fatally shot a teenager the day before after he brandished a weapon that turned out to be a toy." Yet in the same day's online edition of the Times, the blog known as The Lede reported that the victim's family called the border police's account a "fabrication." Why did Rudoren
accept as fact that the Palestinian youth brandished a toy weapon? Why didn't the article use language of attribution that is typical in most reports of crimes by saying, for example, that the border police claimed the youth brandished a weapon that turned out to be a toy? Surely, editors at the Times have learned to be skeptical of New York police claims that victims of police shootings were armed or appeared to be armed by attributing those statements to the police rather than just accepting and reporting those claims as fact.

Let me say first, that I - a German citizen who has resided in the US for the past 24 years - agree with many commentators charging the US media with dereliction of their civic (and moral) duty to report news in a balanced and responsible way. The quality of reporting has gotten worse from year to year. That's one problem.

The other is the fact that the bulk of Americans just don't care. Period. They don't seem to even care that their government hands over at least 3 billion dollars to the oppressive and apartheid Israeli state each year all the while all sorts of services get cut in their own country. I tell you the truth: Americans are a sorry lot. Even among my closest aquaintences (I can call a 'friend' only very few) no one cares about what crimes are committed by their own country, or countries the US supports for selfish reasons. No one cares about the inconsistencies in the official narrative of 911. No one cared about the 500,000 children deaths in Iraq under the pre-war embargo, not to mention the million plus casualties of the two Iraqi wars. Not enough people care about the gigantic homicide rate in the US. No one cares about the disappearance of civil liberties. No one cares about the legal corruption in Washington, D.C. ( Citizens United decision). I just hope I live long enough to see this horrendous country called the United States of America on her knees. I seems experiencing a catastrophe is the only way that humans learn.

According the psychologist Martha Stout ("The Psychopath Next Door"), who taught for 25 years at the Harvard School of Medicine, 1 of 25 Americans are clinical psychopaths (= people without conscience). Add to this number those Americans - a huge number - who have a conscience but that had been silenced through denial, distraction, and media desensitization to violence, and you end up at the highly pathological populace: that is today's United States of America.

Please spare me talking about Israel...

Some people do care, but the media will hide that fact, and the right wing extremists are loud and make more noise than the people with conscience. I sympathize with you because I sometimes get very discouraged and wonder if Americans in general are just evil. It does seem that way sometimes but I really think that it isn't true but that is what the media wants everyone to think. They are telling us that if we are not evil, we're alone, that everyone is with them and resistance is futile.

Time and again I have pointed out in emails to the editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, to my knowledge the only daily for metro Atlanta, that its reporting is not balanced: I find comments on the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy by what are clearly Zionists but never one which sets the record straight; it doesn't matter whether the contributor has an Arab sounding name or not. This newspaper and many others cater to brainwashed minds. Shocking to realize that. Therefore, misrepresentations and outright lies get imprinted in people's brains and it is near-impossible to get these people to consider alternative presentations. Because this brainwashing has gone on for decades I don't see any silver line on the horizon. The US morphed into a fascist state; only an adverse outside influence, such as the bankruptcy of the nation, can effect change.

I'm an American, Canadian born, and I see some of these things you see. However, your characterization of it seems to be a little extreme. I live among Americans and many of them are educated and caring about the activities of our government. Like me, they see problems all over the world, they want to help. They vote. They donate to charity. Yes, Americans are very generous on average, individually giving of their money to help people they do not know in other countries, of all faiths and cultures. But I agree the Palestinian situation is not well understood here, and is only one situation among thousands of similar situations around the world. Yes there are millions of uncaring Americans, uneducated about world events. Too many. But there are also millions of Americans who do care, and do what they can. I've travelled a little and I find there are good and bad in every country. In every country where I've travelled, many people are mostly concerned about what is happening in their own community. It is natural, but not ideal. Education is required, and it is a big world that needs educated.

It always seems to be the case that where Israel is concerned the critical thinking abilities of western media & politicians take a holiday. They simply don't want to critically analyse Israel's behaviour lest they be called "anti-Semitic". While the horrors inflicted on the Jewish populations of Europe in WW2 are one of the most appalling and distressing episodes in human history, a blind eye should not be turned toward Israel when it commits human rights abuses against Palestinians. Two wrongs don't make a right.
Come on journos & politicians the holiday is over, get your critical minds into gear!

There can be no doubt the the Western media has appeased the State of Isreal for a very long time. Its not difficult to see why the Muslim world hates the West. All I can say to muslim people is that if people in the west knew what was going on in places like the West Bank and Gaza they would be truely horrified. Unfortunately, the western media keeps them in the 'dark'.
When history comes 'knocking on Isreal's door', the western media must be held accountable for perpetuating the lies that have sustained the State of Isreal.

This is a letter to the Editor that I submitted today to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Silence in the media when it comes to Israeli violations

Hardly a day goes by in the Occupied Territories of Palestine without Israeli soldiers harassing and mistreating Arab men, women, and children. During the past week, the Israelis shot and killed 5 Palestinians, including a 21-year-old farmer, a college student studying for his exam, and a 21-year-old Bethlehem woman, Lubnah Hanash. Witnesses said Lubna Hanash and her companions were walking to al-Arroub College when men in Israeli military uniforms travelling in a civilian car shot at the group.

Since the cease went into effect just two months ago, there have been 12 Palestinians killed and numerous wounded. There hasn't been one Israeli attacked, killed, or wounded by any Palestinian. As a matter of fact every incident has been initiated by the Israelis yet the American media stays silent. Can you imagine the headline news if it were the other way around?

James J. David

James J. David, retired brigadier general, served active army service in and around the Middle East during the period 1967-1968 and served as a company commander with the 101st Airborne Division in the Republic of Vietnam 1969-1970.

PS. I don't expect this letter to get published because not only does the AJC ignore news on Israeli violations, they also ignore any letters critical of our friendly "ally." I have been trying to get my words published for the past year without any success after sending dozens of letters.

Sources:
Palestinian woman shot dead by IDF soldier, another wounded - Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper

Israeli soldiers kill Palestinian woman in West Bank - Yahoo! News

Israeli military shoots dead 17-year-old Palestinian - Telegraph

Israeli Soldiers Shoot Palestinian Farmer - YouTube

Palestinian student shot dead near Hebron - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

General David, Guenther and Great Scott: You, and the rest, are right. We came to Canada in 51, from obliterated Berlin. For 62 years I have been asked by people lacking two IQ points to rub together: " Why did you Germans let 'it' [fascism] happen ?"

Guenther correctly states, that 'it' is happening in the U.S. 'It' is also happening in Israel: one may even argue, that 'it' for Israel, was set in motion with the First Zionist Congress in Basel in the 1890s and, that Oslo, Madrid, Camp David and countless other such political theatre productions were merely so much smokescreen, behind which to hide their steadfast pursuit of their clearly-enunciated Basel program; incrementally: SOME 45 YEARS "BEFORE" THE WANNSEE CONFERENCE, [whose purpose is questioned even by some Israeli historians].

Yes, Guenther, Americans are not the brightest lights on the Christmas tree, but, they are the kindest, most generous, fair-minded and tolerant people in the world. Don't conflate their IQ with the criminal state of their so-called education, which can only be explained as a purposeful, and successful effort to dumb them down.

In 57, I attended Gordon Military College in Barnesville, Georgia. While hiking, a thorn entered my eye, forming a cataract. Dr. Jack Austin operated pro-bono at Griffin Hospital. My school paid for the hospital with a spaghetti supper. Hitchhiking to Toronto, ordinary people picked me up, gave me bed , breakfast and shower, then drove me to the best location to continue. Often.

I graduated from Athens, spent a year at Chapel Hill for graduate studies, then a year at the Freie Universitaet in Berlin. There, I was hired to take thousands of NRTA/AARP members to 80 countries, repeatedly. Comparing them to other tourists afoot, including my Germans, they always came out on top.

Courage ! Educating a country which has Moses and Goebbels as its real-estate lawyers is not for the faint of heart. Fight for a free press and a free Palestine!

I am an American and what pains me the most is how people see you as crazy when you try to explain these things to them.

It's like, as soon as you tell people here that the media is lying, they lose all credibility in you thinking you are some kind of conspiracy nut! But anyone who would investigate claims of media lying for Israel will easily see that the media does it every single day!

Israel kills 50 Palestinians in cold blood in 1 week and it is words on the bottom of the screen, but if 1 Israeli gets killed in retaliation it is breaking news and called a terrorist attack!

That is a true story by the way.
1 week I watched the news when I was off of work and all week long Israel had been murdering Palestinians. Then it came up as breaking news that 1 Israeli died and that it was a terrorist attack!

It makes me sick!
How can they sleep at night!

The media should be prosecuted for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity, war crimes, and destruction of justice!