Media whitewash Israeli lynch mobs that preceded murder of Palestinian teen

Bystanders observe a right-wing mob during riots in Jerusalem, 1 July.

Tali Mayer ActiveStills

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.

Prior to the kidnapping, hundreds of Israelis rioted in Jerusalem, chanting “death to the Arabs” while assaulting Palestinians in what have been labeled “lynch mobs.” 

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.

That’s it. 

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. 

False equivalence

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.

Race riots

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.

CNN seems to have missed the ongoing threat posed by gangs of Israelis chanting “death to Arabs” and looking for Arabs to attack.

Whitewashing hatred

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.




Where in your article is the struggle between rival political factions in Israel? Between the left and right wings? Why not focus on the condemnations of violence from both Abbas and Labour politicians? Why do you focus only on the antagonistic factions from both sides. You're just as bad as the mainstream media, seeking to award attention to the most extreme factions and ignoring the moderates. You're only fueling the worse segments of both societies, the segments who are least likely to compromise. Oh yeah, while you're mentioning only the actions of the radicals, you haven't mentioned that Hamas has remained silent on this entire issue and hasn't condemned the attacks on Israeli teenagers. Or the Hamas member who was killed by the IDF... while throwing grenades.

You can't fight fire with fire. Just like you can't fight subjectivity and bad journalism with more bad journalism.

And I hate to break it to you, but the U.S. was founded by colonists. I sure hope you're advocating for the creation of individual Native American states and calling for white people living in former Native American territory to assimilate into those states. Please stop using buzzwords without delineating nuances. Nuances MATTER; to think otherwise just leads to misinformed thinking and poor policy.


You can excuse Israel's illegal occupation and oppression of the Palestinians all you please but you clearly have an agenda that is not sustainable. Israel is an apartheid state which imposes its terror on a hapless people through superior military power. Palestine has no army, no air force, no navy, no tanks, no attack helicopters, no fighter jets. Palestine is defenseless beyond some crude missiles - none of which could reach an Israeli until the settlement of Serdot expanded deeper into Palestinian land and became reachable - and rocks thrown by children. Israel inflicts on Palestinians what was inflicted on Jews by the Nazis. It's sick.


Why does the world tolerate this brutal occupation and oppression of the Palestinians by Israel? Why is the media so biased as to actually hide the truth of what is happening in the Occupied Territories of Palestine?


The Mainstream media sure knows how to spin for Israel and trash the Palestinians. This has been going on for decades. The Mainstream media supports the persecutors, not the persecuted in Israel/ Palestine. It is a travesty that hangs on and on. What to do to change this?


BBC "Today" program. Settler-politician Danny Dayan says: "[actions against perpetrators and] all the human infrastructure that allows them to act". The human infrastructure? It went unquestioned and unchallenged by the interviewer.

Allowed to say "apologists of [a] terrorist organisation".

Presenter Sarah Montague does not use the fact that the accused are suspectes only, and that there is no evidence.

BBC Today is a daily 'flagship' new program on Radio 4. On 2 July 2014, from 2:45:00


On July 3, 2014 the BBC program "Today" interviewed Dr. Abdullah Abdullah of Fatah. Interviewer is presenter/journalist John Humphrys.

JH: "They have names of the two men who did it".
AA: "No, they have the names of [suspects]".

JH: "You can't prove who killed that Palestinian" (b.t.w., why does JH not state exactly the same for the three Israelis? Why not?).
JH: "You say, nothing can move forward 'till Israel is destroyed".
AA: "That is what YOU say. What I say is that Israel has to be held responsible".

AA: "You should report that instead of condoling his family, they took his father for 6 hours investigation". "They came to protect the settlements, not protect the families that [were] bereft. You have to draw attention to [that]".

JH: "Where do we go from here?"
JH: "Can we cut the rhetoric for a moment and try and deal with practicalities?"
AA: "[Israeli government] is a government of gangsters. It has to be exposed."

The first two exchanges show prejudiced and incorrect statements by the BBC. The latter two show that Abdullah Abdullah answered what JH asked for. In short: JH: What to do? AA: Expose it! Especially you! JH clearly could not handle the answer for what it is (namely, and answer and a critique of the BBC reporting). A bit grotesque then is that JH calls to "cut the rhetoric", while he himself is repeating the Israeli spin about the suspects-without-evidence, and injecting his invented statement about 'destroying Israel'.

Lousy journalist. Lousy BBC.

Today, Radio 4, July 3, 2014.

I recommend listening to the description of the situation by nieces of the murdered Palestinian at 2:12:00. The Abdullah Abdullah interview then follows, at 2:15:35.
At 2:38:50, Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev is allowed to repeat the "proof" nonsense against the two suspects. No probing or challenging by Humphrys. No "cut the rhetoric" stance this time. No prejudiced questions for Regev.


I feel sorry for the teens who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Seeing what I have seen---even from a distance---I cannot mourn the
products of Israeli hate. I think that is asking too much of me.

I mourn the Palestinians whose lives have been (purposefully) wrecked by
the Israeli's, whose families have been separated, whose children have
been killed.... whose homes have been wrecked, and on and on.

The stories from the photos from Palestine from last month alone are enough
"proof" for me. Most do not dare to look. Perhaps they too believe
that Israelis are "us" and "civilized" and what happens to inferior groups
makes little difference.

Rania Khalek

Rania Khalek's picture

Rania Khalek is an independent journalist reporting on the underclass and marginalized.