Mar 12, 2011

In Palestine, Everything is Relative: The Settler Violence You Won't Hear About

When I heard the horrific news last night that 5 Israeli settlers were murdered in their home in the settlement of Itamar, I knew it would only be a matter of hours before a shoddy piece of journalism describes the murders as the end of a "lull in the violence" or the end of "relative calm" since 4 Israeli settlers were killed in an attack near Hebron last summer. At that time, the Washington Post ran an editorial saying that the attacks then ended "three years of peace" in the region which we posted about.

So I suppose it should come as no surprise that the Washington Post's own Janine Zacharia leads the way this morning by displaying a complete ignorance of the situation she is supposedly covering or an overt pro-Israel bias (or both). Here's Zacharia's story and the critical excerpt:

The Israeli daily Ha'aretz, citing a preliminary investigation, reported that the children killed were ages 11, 3 and a 3-month-old baby. The newspaper also said that another 12-year-old daughter and two of her younger brothers managed to escape.

The attack shattered a relative calm that had prevailed in the West Bank in recent months as Palestinian security forces assert greater control in the territories where they are allowed by Israel to operate and as Israeli and Palestinians forces coordinate security efforts.

Last August, four Jewish settlers were killed in a drive-by shooting in the West Bank.

Zacharia's chronology is likely representative of the broader mainstream media's coverage of these events, sadly. American readers or consumers of mainstream media (MSM) are delivered a simple, straightforward message: Israelis are killed about 6 months apart and in between everything was calm.

The problem is that for Zacharia and much of the MSM "relative calm" means no Israelis were attacked, injured or killed and ignores the ongoing occupation and violence against Palestinians.

In this period of "relative calm", the Israeli Human Rights group B'Tselem recorded at least 41 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in occupied Palestinian territory. This includes Omar Qawasmeh, the 66 year old Palestinian civilian who was massacred in his bed while he slept by raiding Israeli soldiers and two 20-something Palestinian unarmed civilians shot and killed at the same checkpoint less than a week apart.

That reports can describe the killings of dozens of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers as "relative calm" and finding them completely unremarkable is disgusting in itself. Still, it's only part of the story.

Readers may know that one of our ongoing research projects at the Palestine Center is the recording and analysis of Israeli settler violence against Palestinian civilians. This past fall, we made an extensive presentation of these data that shed light on a facet of occupation almost never discussed. The presentation covered data from Jan of 2009-Aug. 2010 and included over 1000 instances of settler violence. Since then, we've undertaken the coding of a much more significant period of time that would span 6 years and give us the ability to understand more about the history and trajectory of Israeli settler violence. This would be the most comprehensive analysis of settler violence that I am aware of. I was
hoping to make an updated presentation covering this new data in the fall, however given the recent surge in Israeli settler violence we've expedited the project and will make the presentation this spring.

So what instances of settler violence were there in the period of "relative calm" that Zacharia describes? There were, in fact, over 300 instances of settler violence during this period which left over 85 unarmed Palestinians injured, 4 dead, and inestimable property damage (Including thousands of torched or uprooted olive and almond trees). Among these events were over 26 acts of Arson, 59 acts of destruction of property, 32 physical attacks, 20 shootings, 60 acts of stone throwing and 23 instances of theft. There were also 10 instances of vehicular attacks where settlers mowed down Palestinian civilians including a 5-year old and 11 year old in Hebron, an 85-year old in Salfit and this horrifying act caught on video in Jerusalem.

Attacks originated from the settlements of Adora, Ariel, Ateret, Bat Ayin, Beit El, Beitar Elit, Bracha, Dulip, Efrat, Eli, Eli Zehav, Elkana, Elon Moreh, Haggai, Halamish, Harsina, Havat Gilad, Immanuel, Itamar, Kaida, Karmei Tzur, Karmel, Karnei Shomron, Kedumim, Maale Mikhmas, Maon, Maskiyot, Neve Daniel, Rehalim, Revava, Shama, Shuvot Rachel, Shilo, Sussia, Talmon, Kfar Tappuah, Yaki, Yash Adam and Yitzhar. These attacks were directed against 79 different Palestinian villages and cities in every district in the West Bank....and this is only in the past 6 months.

If these 6 months can be described as "relative calm" one really has to wonder just what extent of violence against Palestinian civilians would be considered noteworthy by the mainstream media?

In a world where everything is relative, it seems the mainstream American press has decided that Palestinian lives are relatively worthless compared to Israeli lives. But this is also a world where the mainstream media is losing its grip on the control of storytelling and information that directly contradicts faulty journalism is available at everyone's finger tips.

We'll continue to do our part to bring this information, especially about settler violence, to you and we hope you'll share it with others who'd otherwise be mislead by a relatively worthless mainstream media.

4 comments: on "In Palestine, Everything is Relative: The Settler Violence You Won't Hear About"

Lisa said...

Yes, calling the period between Hebron and this weekend "quiet" is a ridiculous characterization. But the innocent Palestinian killed in his own bed was all over the news. And many, many people, among them myself, an American zionist, expressed disgust and revulsion.

But somehow, in this long article of yours, you cannot find it in your heart to condemn this act of savagery. You don't even have to say with certainty that it was a Palestinian. How about, "though the killer has not yet been found . . . ."

Also, Israel has committed acts of terror. But nowhere have I read anything about an IDF member, or asshole settler, sneaking into a private home and slitting the throats of children, a baby included. Does Israel play a part in the breeding of this violence? Yes. But let's get real. Sweets were handed out to villagers at the news of this disgusting crime. Don't become so busy defending a people that you end up looking like a one-sided jack-ass.

burntbeans said...

Thank you so much for doing this work.

Leigh said...

Lisa, the difference is that the case of the man shot in his bed was explained away by mainstream media as a little mistake, unavoidable, shame the poor soldiers couldn't help it because the man moved when he started waking up. Same as the gas case was dealt with in January: gosh, those incompetent Palestinian doctors killed her, it wasn't us, they were throwing stones at us, hey was she even at the protest? That's how the whole of Cast Lead was treated too: it's not our fault if Hamas hides among the civilian population, we have good rules of engagement that protect civilians, unavoidable civilian casualties when fighting such an immoral enemy.

So even when mainstream media covers Palestinian deaths, the coverage is terribly different. They're certainly not explaining this murder away as: unavoidable due to the level of anger and hopelessness of the Palestinian population, it's those settlers' fault if they drag their children into illegal settlements which form the frontline in a war zone, it's Israel's fault if the Palestinians snap due to a lack of legal remedy for settler violence on them, etc. Your comment reveals the same kind of thinking by implying that cutting throats in a private home is worse than dropping bombs on private homes, firing white phospherus into hospitals, dropping drone missiles on children playing on roofs, shooting people who speak on mobile phones and killing women and children that walk with white flags.

As for condemnation, Yousef called it horrific news. That expresses disapproval of the act. His attitude of not condemning a Palestinian for the murder is understandable; until evidence emerge, any condemnation of anyone without evidence is irresponsible. You're also overlooking the fact that the state of Israel with their democratically elected governments is responsible for violence on the Palestinian population, while this was most probably perpetrated by some lone rogue, unrepresentative of his population, without a mandate to act on their behalf, the type of criminal like the Israeli man who killed a family of 6 in Rishon Letzion in 2009. Everyone did not expect of every Israeli to condemn that, even though most of them did when specifically asked. Another double standard.