Media silence about routine killing and abduction of Palestinian boys
Cartoon by Amos Biderman. Sayed Kashua knows from the airwaves that Haneen Zoabi kidnapped three Israeli teenagers. See first item below
1) Israelis – these crimes depend on you; 2) IDF order to remove the revealing camera; 3) ISM records two more deaths of Palestinian boys this week; 4) Ameena Salem on the media silence about abducted Palestinians
The teens’ kidnapping is terrible, but seeing only half the picture is no less terrible.
By Sayed Kashua, Haaretz
June 20, 2014
Sometimes, during difficult periods, I try to ignore what is said on the radio and printed in the newspapers. But somehow, the news in this country is transmitted through the air. Even though I blocked my ears and shut my eyes, I still know that MK Haneen Zoabi kidnapped three settler teenagers. And even though I made a point of listening only to music and of following the games in Brazil – I know that the army is setting up roadblocks, imposing closures, invading homes, embittering lives. And even though I tried to read only the culture news online, I feel that the country’s Arab citizens have been taken hostage again and are being used as a convenient punching bag to vent national nerves.
In such volatile days, when fates are being sealed, it’s very hard to write a column on Wednesday for publication on Friday, but there’s no choice: The Haaretz Hebrew magazine is printed on Wednesday and I’m late. I’ve already received messages from the paper reminding me that I’m late in sending my column, and soon the phone will ring and I’ll get yelled at politely and told in effect that the paper is about to go to press and the illustrator is sitting in his office, waiting only for me to deign to send him something to illustrate.
It’s my fervent hope that by the time this column is published the boys will be back home, safe and sound. Home? I write that and immediately feel a stabbing in the chest. Does the hope that they will return home imply some sort of declaration that the settlements can be considered legitimate?
Okay, I’ll try to reformulate: It’s my fervent hope that by the time this article is published the boys will be back with their families, in the hope that they will not go back to being part of the suppression, plunder and trampling of the freedom of other nations. It’s my fervent hope that the suffering being endured by their parents will end, and that the fathers and mothers will be able to embrace their loved ones.
I would be lying if I say that immediately upon hearing the grim news about the kids, I didn’t think about the parents and wonder what they are feeling now. And whether – somewhere, some place, when no one is listening, and when God, who issued precepts and promised lands, isn’t looking – they feel a bit guilty.
No, not because of the hitchhiking. The problem isn’t the hitchhiking. The problem is a lot more serious, and I know you know that. Or maybe you don’t know? Now, when I play back in my mind what I heard from politicians, army personnel and the media this week, I wonder whether you understand at all.
It’s true, after all, that the prime minister said immediately that the kidnapping isn’t necessarily connected or related to anything in particular: Instead he attributed it to an element of the laws of nature, to an innate trait of a different nation.
The prime minister said that this was simply a bloodthirsty enemy that does not balk at killing children, women and old people. Our prime minister did not say who exactly that enemy is, but I understood what he meant when I heard him on the radio.
My children were in the car, too, and they heard the prime minister and were scared, and my little boy asked, “Daddy, who are ‘they’?” Turning my head to the back seat for a second, I almost said, “Us, you, he’s talking about you, too.” But I didn’t tell the kids the truth – I said nothing.
So, could it be that he really doesn’t understand? Doesn’t he visit the territories and see how the state continues to seize Arabs’ land? How it’s arresting, suffocating, trampling – in a word, occupying? Could it be that he really thinks the Palestinians enjoy freedom just like the settlers?
No, it’s absolutely not because of the hitchhiking. And no, what goes for Hebron does not go for Tel Aviv. Not yet. It depends on you. And by the way, it always depends on you. You are strong, you dictate the rules of behavior and the laws.
Kidnapping is a terrible thing, and if, heaven forbid, it should turn out that something happened to those kids, it will be an unmitigated tragedy. Sorry for the generalization (you started it …), but you really don’t understand what Arabs feel when they see images of children who were killed and a uniformed army that is whitewashing, setting up commissions, maybe even holding trials – and in the best case saying it’s a mistake, or sometimes, when it’s really serious, apologizing. Apologizing? I don’t remember that anymore.
Sometimes I wonder whether, if the Palestinians were capable of invading homes in Israel, of sending in soldiers to wrest people out of their beds in front of their families; if they had intelligence that was able to come up with the names of perpetrators, planners, instigators and simply people with the potential to be dangerous one day – what would things look like then? If the Palestinians possessed military capability like the Israelis have – sophisticated planes, smart missiles and the ability to strike only at military infrastructure – who would behave a little more humanely in that case?
This kidnapping is a terrible thing, and my heart goes out to the parents, whether they feel a bit guilty or whether they are certain of the rightness of their actions.
I don’t believe I still have to write this, but I no longer know what you believe and what you don’t. So here it is: Harming these children will be a terrible calamity and has no justification whatsoever. Not the occupation, not the settlements, not the condition of the Palestinian prisoners.
What I am trying to say, perhaps, is that I know the Arabs can be terrible and cruel, and, as the prime minister said, maybe they sometimes balk at nothing. I only ask you not to think for a second that you are any loftier than they are.
Palestinian boy, handcuffed, blindfolded, abducted from his home in Halhul near Hebron, June 16th. Photo by Oren Ziv / ActiveStills.
Unlawful killing of two Palestinian teens outside Ofer
Charlotte Silver, Electronic Intifada
June 20, 2014
On 15 May, Israeli security forces fatally shot Nadim Nuwara, 17, and Muhammad Abu al-Thahir, 16, at a demonstration near the Ofer military prison in the occupied West Bank village of Beitunia. Four days after the killings, on 19 May, Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCI-Palestine) released footage from Zayed’s security cameras that showed the boys walking slowly in a calm scene when they were shot.
Now the Israeli military has ordered Fakher Zayed, the man whose security cameras captured the closed circuit TV footage that shows Israeli security forces shooting the two teenage boys, to dismantle his cameras within 24 hours or face legal proceedings/ (The footage and an earlier interview with Zayed can be seen in the DCI-Palestine video here.)
The Israeli military had already confiscated Zayed’s recording equipment on 22 May, and on 13 June seized all other recording equipment in the area — such as that owned by other shopkeepers. They now demand that Zayed remove his security camera as well, from which a live stream can be watched but not saved for subsequent viewing or examination.
On 22 May, CNN released its own footage from the day’s events showing an Israeli security officer shoot in the direction of Nuwara. The soldier caught firing the gun in that footage was suspended. On 11 June the autopsy on Nuwara was completed. It indicated the boy had been killed by live ammunition, confirming all other physical evidence and eyewitness reports.
In the face of the autopsy and video footage, the Israeli military continues to claim that the footage was doctored and that no live ammunition was fired. It is currently conducting its own investigation into the killings.
“You are nothing”
According to statements given to Human Rights Watch (HRW) and DCI-Palestine, on the afternoon of 17 June, four Israeli military vehicles and more than twenty Israeli soldiers arrived at Zayed’s carpentry shop in Beitunia while he was making deliveries, and warned an unnamed witness, “if [Zayed] is not here in five minutes we are going to burn this carpentry shop down.”
When Zayed returned, the Israeli soldiers “confiscated his identification document, told him and his employees that he was not being arrested but taken for questioning, and drove him to the nearby Ofer military base,” as DCI-Palestine and HRW reported.
At the military base, the military officers repeated their original allegation that his footage was forged and told Zayed that he was “up against a very powerful force.” He said that they told him, “We will squish you like a bug, you are nothing” and threatened to “unleash dogs on my children.”
The videos prompted international attention and outcry. After reviewing the footage, witness statements and photographs, Human Rights Watch called the shootings a “willful killing of civilians” and a “war crime.”
But it must be noted: while the attention these killings garnered is exceptional, the use of lethal force by the Israeli military during demonstrations by Palestinians is not. In February, Amnesty International published “Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank,” a report that documents Israel’s use of force against Palestinians protesters. In 2013 alone, for example, 22 people were killed, 14 during demonstrations.
Speaking about his interrogation by the Israeli military, Zayed told Human Rights Watch and DCI-Palestine: “They told me that the video I gave to the press was fabricated, that everything I said and all my testimonies are a lie, that this is a serious violation of the law, and that I made the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] look bad and caused a lot of problems.”
On 13 June, the Israeli military, led by “Sabri” (the same commander that detained Zayed this Tuesday), came to Beitunia and confiscated all video recording equipment in the vicinity of Zayed’s shop.
DCI-Palestine and Human Rights Watch have stated that these actions suggest the military is not conducting “good faith investigations” into the killings.
Israeli impunity has always been guaranteed by the military’s insistence on conducting internal investigations — for most of which the findings have yet to be revealed. Clearly, Zayed’s camera poses a threat to this impunity.
From International Solidarity Movement
June 22, 2014
15 year old Mohammad Dudeen shot dead by the IDF in his home town of Dura on June 20th. Photo from Defence for Children International Palestine.
On Thursday 12th of this month, three settler youth disappeared while hitchhiking in the Hebron area of the West Bank. No Palestinian group or organisation has taken responsibility for the disappearance.
15-year-old Mohammad Dudeen was murdered in the early hours of Friday morning (20th) after he was shot with live ammunition by the Israeli military. This was during a raid on his home village of Dura, near the city of Hebron.
Mohammed was not the only youth killed on Friday. The Israeli military raided Qalandiya refugee camp (south of Ramallah) and shot three youths with live ammunition. Mustafa Hosni Aslan, 22-years-old, was shot in the head and died of his wounds later the same day.
Mustafa Aslan at the hospital before he died from his injuries. Photo from Maan News.
A Palestinian man in his sixties died of a heart attack on Saturday, 21st, after the Israeli military invaded his home. Hajj Jamil Ali Jaber Souf was at his home in Hares village, near Salfit, when the Israeli military violently broke in and attacked him. One of his nephews stated that the soldiers prevented the family from moving Jabber to a local clinic to receive medial treatment.
The Israeli army invaded the city of Nablus last night at approximately 2AM. The youth took to the streets and clashes ensued as they attempted to drive the soldiers out of the city. Many stun grenades were used throughout the night and a final barrage of tear gas was fired on the youths as the were leaving the city centre at approximately 5AM.
An ISMer in al-Khalil (Hebron): “For the past week in Hebron, there has been a heavy military presence. Solders from the Israeli military have been taking over Palestinian homes for their own use and harassing people in the streets with body searches. Many people have been detained, beaten, and arrested.
Settlers from the illegal settlements walk around armed and have been attacking Palestinians on the streets. Today the Israeli army attacked the residents of the Qeitun neighbourhood in Hebron. They entered several times during the day, but this evening the solders attacked an 11-year-old boy by hitting him on the mouth. They arrested two Palestinians and searched the locals for no reason. The solders continued the violence with property damage, ripping apart a local car under the guise of a ‘search’.”
Last night Israel’s army invaded Ramallah district from three directions – Qalandia, Beituniya and Beit El, reaching as deep as Arafat Square inside the city. Pal Media offices in Baloa’ were raided. In Burj al-Sheikh, the army raided the office of a prisoner that was released in the Shalit exchange deal, and used it as a firing post against youths attempting to repel them from the area. The youths sustained multiple injuries from rubber coated steel bullets. In Batn al-Hawa the army raided a charity building and confiscated computers.
These are just some examples of life in Palestine over the last nine days. According to Maan News, approximately 370 Palestinians have been arrested since last Thursday. The Israeli military have been brutal in their tactics of collectively punishing the citizens of Palestine for the disappearance of three Israeli youths. All over the West Bank, in villages, towns, and cities, Palestinian homes and offices have been raided, cities have been held under siege, people have been injured, arrested, and executed.
In Gaza, Israeli warplanes have targeted several locations and caused extensive property damage and injuries, spreading panic among Palestinian civilians.
The Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 33, states that: “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. Pillage is prohibited. Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.”
Israeli military forces arrest two brothers, Mohammed and Abdul Majid, and Rami Abu Alillat in Hebron March 2011. These boys were taken to an unknown destination. Photo from Occupied Palestine.
By Amena Saleem, Electronic Intifada
June 17, 2014
In the first ten days of June, seventeen teenage boys were abducted in the occupied West Bank. The youngest was thirteen, the oldest seventeen.
Some were dragged at gunpoint from their homes and family in the middle of the night; others were seized from the streets in broad daylight.
All of the abductions were documented by the Palestinian Monitoring Group. None were reported by the international media. No Western politicians called for the release of the boys.
On 12 June, three more teenage boys went missing in the West Bank. Their disappearance sparked worldwide media coverage, cries of terrorism and demands for their release by the US Secretary of State and the UK Foreign Secretary.
Those three are Israeli. The seventeen others are Palestinian.
And, if the case of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, taken by Palestinian forces in Gaza in 2006 and released in 2011, is any indication, Western interest in the case of these three Israelis will not wane until they are found.
Conversely, the seventeen Palestinian boys seized by heavily armed Israeli soldiers will disappear into the same silent black hole as all the other Palestinian children taken on an almost daily basis by the occupation forces.
Some will be detained for days, weeks, or months, beaten, interrogated and then released. Others, however young, will find themselves put through Israel’s military courts and jailed, often on the basis of coerced confessions.
According to the rights group Addameer, there are currently approximately two hundred Palestinian children being held in Israeli jails. Some of those children will suffer periods in solitary confinement; all are at risk of physical abuse amounting to torture.
If their plight is anything to go by, the seventeen Palestinian youngsters taken by the Israeli army at the beginning of June will merit not a word spoken or written about them by the same journalists now eager to tell the world about the disappearance of three Israeli teenagers.
If children and teenagers disappear in the West Bank as a result of the occupation, it should be reported, whether those youngsters are Palestinian or Israeli. But, in the highly selective Western media reporting on Israel’s occupation, Israeli suffering always trumps that of Palestinians.
Since the disappearance of the three Israelis last week, the Palestinian town of Hebron has been held under siege by the Israeli army, up to 1,000 soldiers have been going door to door in towns and refugee camps across the West Bank searching and ransacking civilian homes, two hundred Palestinians have been taken into detention, a twenty-year-old Palestinian has been shot dead, and the Israeli government has been threatening the forcible transfer of some West Bank Palestinians to Gaza for supporting Hamas.
This is the degree of control that Israel exerts over Palestinian lives. But that control seems to be so accepted, or ignored, by Western media that there has been next to no comment on Israel’s actions, and the illegality of them, over the last five days. The sole focus is on the Israeli teenagers, with scarce journalistic attention left over for the collective punishment being meted out to thousands of Palestinians by a country which calls itself democratic.
No Palestinian mothers
The case illustrates starkly the difference in the attitude of Western media towards Israelis and Palestinians, an attitude exemplified by the BBC.
BBC news bulletins have carried regular updates on the missing Israelis, and backed them up with online stories. In one online article, headlined “Israel accuses Hamas of abducting missing teenagers,” an embedded video features the mother of one of the Israelis talking about her wish for his safe return.
While BBC audiences have been made well aware of his situation and that of his two friends, they remain in the dark about the Palestinian children and teenagers regularly abducted by Israeli soldiers.
BBC reporting also shields them from the frequency with which Palestinian children and youth are killed by Israeli forces.
There were no BBC reports on the killing of 14-year-old Yussef Shawamreh, shot in the back and hip while gathering thistles in March, or of 18-year-old Saji Darwish, shot in the head as he tended his goats that same month. The killing of seven-year-old Ali al-Awwar in an Israeli missile strike on Gaza last week also fails to warrant a report. There are no embedded video interviews with the mothers of Yussef, Saji or Ali, mourning the permanent loss of their sons.
In response to questioning by Palestine Solidarity Campaign about the failure to report on the killing of Palestinian children by Israeli forces, the BBC responded: “There is no mandate to report every killing.” Would BBC editors have felt the same way if seven-year-old and fourteen-year-old Israeli children had been killed by Palestinians?
Media’s cloak of silence
The last few days have highlighted the extremely narrow framework, not just of the BBC’s reporting on the occupation, but of the Western mainstream media as a whole.
More than 5,000 Palestinians are currently held in Israeli jails, where torture has been documented by organizations including Amnesty International. Approximately two hundred are incarcerated without ever having been charged or tried for a crime, for indefinite periods of time, under a system known as administrative detention, according to Addameer. And more than two hundred have been on hunger strike since April in protest of Israel’s use of administrative detention. The BBC’s response to the mass hunger strike, now in its second month, and Israel’s attempts to rush through legislation allowing force-feeding, has been silence.
The same silence cloaks house demolitions (15,000 Palestinian homes demolished by Israel since 1993), the destruction of entire communities, with Palestinian villages being bulldozed both in the West Bank and within present-day Israel, the killing of Palestinian children (1,405 killed by Israel since 2000), the denial of sufficient water for drinking, washing, cooking to Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank, and the true effects of the siege on Gaza which denies Palestinians everything from essential medicines to electricity.
The list goes on and on. How many consumers of mainstream news reports in the West know any of this? How many know that Israel’s apartheid wall in the West Bank is more than twice as high and four times as long as the Berlin Wall that we all in the West were taught to loathe? How many know that the Palestinians had their country seized from them in 1948, that Israel was created on that stolen land, and the total lack of justice or reparations since then, coupled with ongoing brutal military occupation, has led to this present situation?
The number will be as limited as the mainstream news reporting that keeps them in the dark. Their lack of knowledge will display in a total lack of understanding of Israel’s occupation and its devastating impact on every aspect of Palestinian life.
These are the audiences created by Western mainstream journalists, with the kind of selective reporting we’ve witnessed this week, audiences whose ignorance can only be to the detriment of Palestinians and to the benefit of Israel.