HEBRON – “As you can see we live in a cage,” Arwa Abu Haikel sighed as she walked up the steps of her home. “Because of the continuous attacks by settlers, throwing stones, breaking windows and causing injuries, we had to build the bars around the windows.” Based in Tel Rumedia, a neighborhood of Hebron, Arwa’s home possesses one of the most contentious postcodes of the occupied Palestinian territory. Hebron has been the epicenter of burgeoning violence since the outbreak of the so-called “Third Intifada” at the beginning of October, and a few weeks ago the Israeli military declared the whole of Tel Rumeida a closed military zone.
Despite this, Palestinian residents told Ma’an that Tel Rumedia’s difficulties long precede the recent spate of violence, and can be seen in the fight over the area’s archaeological ruins.
The troubled neighborhood has been at the heart of a longstanding battle — between settlers in the area, numerous rights groups and the Palestinian municipality of Hebron — over the development and management of an archaeological site that’s thousands of years old.
Critics say that the site is being used by a state-funded body for the benefit of extremist Israeli settlers living in the area, who have been aiming for decades to push local Palestinians out of their homes and out of the neighborhood.
A front for settler expansion
Based on archaeological surveys, the Tel Rumeida archaeological site dates back to the formation of Hebron in the middle Bronze Age. The site also has remains originating in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods. Excavations by the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) began in 1967, but last year new excavations started in what many criticize as a political move taken to support the presence of settlers in the area. Yonathan Mizrachi is an Israeli archaeologist who used to work for the IAA, but left the body in order to establish Emek Shevah, an organization which monitors the role of archaeology in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yonathan says the importance of and contention over the site in Tel Rumeida come from the possible implication it has for the demographic balance of the area. “In 2014 the IAA began a new excavation in Tel Rumeida on behalf of the settlers in order to make the site an archaeological park,” Yonathan told Ma’an. “When we started to monitor activity in Tel Rumeida, we began to see different ways that archaeology is used as a political tool,” he said.
“First of all, the idea of developing an archaeological park is the best way — from the settlers’ point of view — of how they can take over the land. They also realize that it can increase their power and their legitimacy over this place,” Mizrachi added.
The IAA — supported and sponsored by the Israeli government — received 7 million shekels ($1.8 million) last year from Israel’s Ministry of Culture and Sport for the Tel Rumeida project, according to Mizrachi.
Abu Haikel told Ma’an that her family owns segments of land in Tel Rumeida, parts of which have been confiscated by the Israeli military and are threatened by the expansion of the archaeological park. “Our daily life is difficult. To live in Tel Rumeida you have to be very strong, very patient and very peaceful,” Arwa said. She spoke of her fear from increasing numbers of settlers in the area, and the problem that a large influx of tourists to a settler-run archaeological park may pose for Palestinian residents. “Through the years, we have been attacked many times by settlers, especially by buses of Zionist extremist tour groups. They cause a lot of trouble for us and have physically assaulted us many times… I have a problem in the nerve of my eye from being attacked by a settler,” Abu Haikal explained to Ma’an.
The manipulation of history
Dr. Ahmed Rjoub is the director of the Department of Site Management at the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. When speaking to Ma’an about his concerns over the management of Tel Rumeida, Rjoub explained that “the conflict is all on history, and as such Tel Rumeida is a conflicted place, not just in terms of the physical space but a conflict over history and culture, heritage and identity.
“We have a lot of fears that the history, the archaeology and the remains of this site will be faked for the interests of Israeli heritage,” Rjoub told Ma’an.
Rjoub had grave concerns over the conservation of the site, especially regarding any artifacts that might be related to Islamic heritage. “They actually found some tombs and ruins relating to the Roman and Islamic period and removed them,” he claimed. Rjoub said that such excavations — their methods in particular — violate standards put in place by both Palestinian and international law, and are “against the ethics of archaeology.
“Such excavations, especially the methods of excavations, violate the international standards of Palestinian and international law, and are against the ethics of archaeology.”
“As members of the PA we tried to interfere,” Rjoub told Ma’an.
“In Oslo there is an article saying any project in Area C should be coordinated with the PA. But unfortunately Israel violates even the Oslo Accords, and refused our official requests to visit even as technical and professional archaeologists,” Rjoub said.
Explaining how the political motivations behind the excavations go against the grain of archaeological convention, Rjoub said: “They have preconceptions and interpretations over this site before they have even started the excavations.
“This is very wrong, and it isn’t a scientific method to interpret the remains before you’ve even finished excavating.”
Mizrachi also raised misgivings over the integrity of Israeli archaeological practice in the occupied Palestinian territory.
“We [Emek Shevah] are monitoring all kinds of activities of the Israelis in the West Bank,” Mizrachi said. “Based on previous and present cases that we know about, we have a lot of criticism in regards to which periods are being emphasized and narrated to the people.”
Mizrachi told Ma’an that there are those who attempt to identify the layers of ruins with a “specific culture of today,” labeling the area as a “Jewish site” or a “Muslim site.”
“In this land you might find an ancient synagogue, church or mosque, obviously it is very dear to a specific culture, but it doesn’t mean that you can claim sovereignty over it. It means that it is part of the heritage of a place and you should protect it according to the international convention,” Mizrachi said.
After lobbying efforts — carried out by the Palestinian municipality, Tel Rumeida residents, Emek Shevah and Israeli rights group Breaking the Silence — the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank agreed to cancel the lease of the site to an pro-settlement organization, Association for Renewed Jewish Settlement in Hebron, a few weeks ago. However, this does not signal that the struggle in Tel Rumeida, or for archaeology throughout the occupied Palestinian territory, is over. Rjoub spoke of a move to raise the issue with UNESCO due to the universal value of the site. “The international community has a responsibility to protect this site as part of everyone’s history”, he said.“It’s not just Palestinian cultural heritage either — this heritage is for all,” Rjoub added.
Seeing as archaeology does not conform to contemporary political borders — such as Israel’s separation wall, the Green Line, or the West Bank’s delineation of Areas A, B and C — conforming excavations to a framework of military occupation has rendered the practice problematic. There is little structure in place to enforce accountability regarding archaeological conduct, and other sites such as as the City of David’s national park in occupied East Jerusalem as well as the Tel Shilo national park have been criticized for their current management. Israeli excavations in occupied Palestinian land appear to systematically abuse the occupation force’s power and flout International Law, whilst alienating Palestinians from their cultural heritage.
Megan Hanna is a freelance photographer and journalist based in the occupied Palestinian territory.
RAMALLAH – At least 67 Palestinians were shot by Israeli military forces during ongoing clashes across the occupied Palestinian territory, the Palestinian Red Crescent said Friday.
A Red Crescent spokesperson told Ma’an that 16 Palestinians were injured by live bullets, as well as two by rubber-coated steel bullets in the Gaza Strip.
Five of those injured by live fire were shot when clashes erupted near the Nahal Oz crossing east of Gaza City, one of whom was shot in the chest and left in critical condition, according to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, Ashraf al-Qidra.
Several others were injured in the besieged enclave when Palestinians demonstrated in areas north of Khan Younis, demanding the return of Palestinian bodies currently held by Israel, witnesses told Ma’an.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that “multiple violent riots took place near the security fence” between the Gaza Strip and Israel, where Israeli forces used “riot dispersal means” to deter participants attempting to break through the security fence.
The spokesperson said that the forces opened fire on demonstrators after ignoring calls by the forces for the participants to halt.
Palestinians in the Ramallah district meanwhile staged a demonstration near Israel’s Ofer detention center, where medics told Ma’an that Israeli forces opened fire on protesters.
One of those shot by live fire was left in critical condition, medics said, adding that dozens of others suffered from tear gas inhalation.
A total of 22 injuries by live fire were reported from the occupied West Bank, the Red Crescent spokesperson told Ma’an, as well as 27 injured by rubber-coated steel bullets and over a hundred who were treated for tear-gas inhalation.
In Hebron, 14 Palestinians were hit with live bullets, and 10 with rubber-coated steel bullets, the Red Crescent said, adding that Israeli forces targeted an ambulance with tear gas, shattering its windshield.
In Kafr Qaddum near Qalqiliya, Qaisar Jihad,13, and Hamza Mutei, 22, were shot in the legs and lightly injured after Israeli forces trapped protesters and opened fire, according to a spokesperson for the village’s popular resistance committee, Murad Shtewei.
In the village of Bilin in the Ramallah district, locals told Ma’an that photojournalist Hamdi Abu Rahma was shot with a rubber-coated steel bullet in the thigh as Israeli forces fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinian demonstrators.
Over 10,300 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli forces since Oct. 1, not including those injured by Israeli settlers.
Around 160 Israelis have been injured by Palestinian individuals during the same time period, according to documentation by the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs.
Hebron, occupied Palestine – Sunday 22nd November 2015, two international solidarity activists were arrested by Israeli forces on the claim of ‘staying in a closed military zone’ in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron).
One German human rights defender passed a checkpoint manned with a group of half a dozen soldiers with two Palestinians and another international. They were not stopped on their way by the soldiers and were allowed to pass without any problems. After visiting a house in the neighbourhood however, they were immediately stopped by soldiers when stepping on the street only twenty minutes later. Soldiers immediately questioned them about what they were doing and ordered them to walk down the hill instead of up, the direction they were headed. When the internationals asked for a reason, soldiers called the police, but allowed the Palestinians in the group to leave. An American activist was also allowed to leave as she was Jewish, whereas the German was detained by the soldiers and not allowed to leave. According to the soldiers, the detained activist was ‘the reason for everything bad in the world’ and ‘should go to Syria’ to die there ‘as the world would be a better place without her.’
Another group of internationals was going to a shop in the same neighbourhood. The three of them were yelled at by soldiers, and one out of the group was ordered to come towards the soldiers whereas the other two were ordered to leave immediately or they would be arrested. Even though in the beginning the international argued that then she would be entering a closed military zone, which she wasn’t allowed to do, soldiers kept insisting. In the end the French activist did approach the soldiers as they kept requesting her to do so – only to be arrested for entering a ‘closed military zone.’
Both the French and German activists were held at the Givat Ha’vot police station in the illegal settlement of Kiryat Arba for in total nine hours. In contrast to two Palestinian prisoners held at the police station, they were treated well. One Palestinian youth, only 18-years old had been at the police station for already 16 hours when the internationals were taken there. He was visibly shaken and told the internationals that he will be taken to Ofer prison. Another Palestinian youth, about 16 years old, was walked past the internationals hand- and foot-shackled, visibly in great pain, trying to hold his stomach while walking bent over in extreme pain. No medical aid was given to him, instead he was forced to sit on the ground outside.
At one point, everyone including the two Palestinian youths, the two internationals and an Israeli prisoner were made to leave the only at least slightly heated room and forced to sit outside in the cold for about an hour as soldiers and police were bringing food and drinks and were audibly enjoying having a good time inside. Any requests for blankets or being allowed back inside were completely ignored or denied. When the internationals asked for food they were only given some bread and a tomato.
The Israeli settler, clearly phsycologically disturbed, kept talking about the ghosts talking to him, all because of a spell that a Rabbi put on him. Still, he was released after a few hours. The two internationals were released after about 9 hours only when agreeing to sign conditions barring them from the ‘Tel Rumeida area’ of al-Khalil for 15 days. Even though they were released in the middle of the night around 2 o’clock they were denied staying in their respective homes as they are in the area signed for. Unfortunately, nothing is known so far about the two Palestinian youths held at the police station. What can be said for sure though is that in Israeli military courts they will not even have the chance of a fair trail or anything at least distantly related to justice.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – In Qaitun, a Palestinian Neighborhood of Hebron, situated in Oslo-defined Area H2, Israel has the authority for administrative and security control.
Israeli administrative control results in Apartheid: Palestinians will never get permission for doing anything, as building, extending or repairing their houses, and all other sort of things. Israeli citizens get permission for almost everything they want in occupied Hebron H2.
Israeli security control results in the abuse of many human rights including extrajudicial executions and using the Palestinian neighborhoods for military training – as today.
Three teams of at least seventeen soldiers each, invaded several Palestinian homes on a random basis, and detaining the family. They went inside the house to the rooftop and tried observation and shooing possibilities from there. After some 15 minutes they went down again for raiding another home.
Most of these soldiers looked very young as if they were barely out of high school. They were heavily armed and many appeared to be nervous. This could have led to an extremely dangerous risk to Palestinians and anyone else near their training exercise.
A trainer, sided by a personal bodyguard, instructed them how to invade houses and do other military things as stopping civilians and cars in this Palestinian neighborhood.
In the three hour training they invaded more than 20 homes.
Hebron, occupied Palestine – On Tuesday, 17th November, several groups of soldiers raided houses in the Wadi al-Hurriya neighborhood of al-Khalil (Hebron), an H1 district legally outside of Israeli control. From 7.30pm, Israeli forces were present in the area, divided into groups of 7-12 soldiers and entering every house and business on designated streets. At some of the residences they entered by force, violently smashing through doors. They checked every I.D card of the residents and also, according to soldiers who confronted the ISM volunteers, searched for weapons. Later in the night they informed the volunteers that they were looking for weapons and collecting data in order to prevent potential stabbings: “yes, some people are scared. But some people have reason to be scared.”
Each group of soldiers patrolled different streets and dark alleys, checking each house and entering with backpacks, mapping equipment, bullet-proof vests, and cocked machine guns. On entering houses, 2-3 soldiers remained outside to “secure” the entrance, periodically pointing guns at passers-by and preventing vehicle and pedestrian passage through the streets.
The raids lasted until at least 12.30am, after which one unit was witnessed occupying the second floor of a Palestinian house – the other half of which was inhabited by a Palestinian family – and could be heard setting up sleeping equipment. According to the soldiers questioned on site: “no, we are not inside a Palestinian house, they are not living in this house.” The residence is located within 500 meters of an army base and checkpoint bordering the H2 restricted area of al-Khalil.
It was reported later from residents who were in contact with ISM that furniture and property was damaged on the night. This is typical of night raids on Palestinian houses, and in other incidences money and other property has also been stolen. While these raids have been used extensively in the al-Khalil district in recent weeks as part of a tactic of intimidation, it is unclear as to whether the policy of raiding the H1 district and squatting family homes will continue.
Eye-witness account of a murder: ‘They didn’t want her alive, they want her dead, they meant to kill her”
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – On 25th October 2015, 17-year old Dania Arsheid was gunned down by Israeli forces in front of the Ibrahimi mosque in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron) and left to bleed to death. One of the shopkeepers nearby the Ibrahimi mosque witnessed the events leading up to this ruthless murder and agreed to make a statement.
After school finished around 1:20pm on that fateful Sunday, Dania was on her way from the Palestinian souq (market) in the Old City of al-Khalil towards the Ibrahimi mosque. She passed the first revolving gate and the metal detector without any problems – the metal detector did not indicate any metal objects. When passing the second revolving door, soldiers at the nearby checkpoint at the entrance of the mosque called for her to come there. Upon hearing this, the witness, who owns a shop, just meters away from the revolving gate, decided to go through the checkpoint to make sure that the girl was okay.
Dania passed yet another metal detector at the checkpoint at the mosque entrance and put her bag on the table there, as requested by the Israeli forces. They searched her entire bag but they were not able to find anything. Regardless of that, Israeli forces kept asking
Dania ‘where is the knife’ over and over again – completely ignoring her answer that ‘there is no knife’. When one of the soldiers suddenly shot a bullet between her feet yelling at her, she raised her hands and moved back down the stairs. Nevertheless, the soldiers continued questioning her aggressively about a knife – even though she had her hands raised and her bag had been searched with no knife found; and Dania repeatedly asserting that she did not have any knife.
After the first shot was fired, more and more soldiers arrived to the checkpoint, so that it was impossible to tell how many of them shot the 6-7 fatal bullets at Dania – a girl who had her hands up in the air, who had been searched extensively and who had at no point posed any threat. Immediately after she was gunned down, Palestinians in the area – including the witness – were forced to move back through the checkpoint into the souq. The soldiers pointed their assault rifles at the witnesses pushing them out of the area and immediately afterwards closed off the checkpoint for anyone to enter and exit for about an hour.
The first ambulance arrived about 15 minutes after Dania was gunned down. “They didn’t want her alive, they want her dead, they meant to kill her”, explains the witness, stating that they could have easily arrested her. At no point after her body was perforated with bullets was any first aid provided, and the shooters left her lying on the ground slowly bleeding to death. Instead of giving first aid, Israeli forces proceeded to block the view so nobody but them would be able to see the 17-year old school-girl bleed to death.
“She came [to the checkpoint] and didn’t do anything – and then she was killed.”
HEBRON – Undercover Israeli forces on Thursday shot dead a Palestinian during a hospital raid in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, witnesses and hospital staff said.
Abdullah Azzam Shalaldah, 28, was shot several times by forces who raided the surgery unit of al-Ahli hospital in order to detain his cousin, Azzam Ezzat Shalaldah, 20, who was shot by an Israeli settler last month, hospital staff told Ma’an.
Abdullah and another relative were in the hospital visiting Azzam when around 20 undercover Israeli soldiers entered the hospital at around 4:00 a.m., witnesses said.
The forces tied up the relative while Abdullah, who was in the bathroom at the time, entered the room and was shot dead on scene. The undercover forces then retreated from the hospital with Azzam, taking him into custody, witnesses added.
Video footage from security cameras shows a group of around 16 men walking through the corridors of the hospital just before 4 a.m. pushing a wheel chair, when suddenly the man sitting down removes his blanket, stands up, and all the men draw guns and proceed down the hall.
The footage also shows what appears to be an Israeli agent dressed as a Palestinian woman, and other Israeli forces dressed as Palestinian Muslim men, wearing kuffiyeh’s and appearing to have fake beards.
An Israeli army spokesperson was unable to comment on the presence of undercover forces during the raid, while Israeli media reported that the forces arrived in two large vans with someone pretending to be pregnant.
The army spokesperson told Ma’an that a combined force of Israeli army and police members had entered the hospital in order to detain Azzam, when an “additional suspect attacked the forces.” The forces responded with live fire, killing the man, the spokesperson confirmed.
The spokesperson said that the forces detained Azzam on the grounds that he “stabbed an Israeli in the chest in Gush Etzion” on Oct. 25, wounding him severely, adding that “the victim shot him” as he fled the scene.
The spokesperson added that the “Shalaldah family are known Hamas operatives.”
Palestinian security sources told Ma’an on Oct. 25 following the attack that Azzam was shot by an Israeli settler. A spokesperson for Hadassah hospital said at the time that the settler, 58, had received a light “stab” wound to his chest, and had possibly been hit with a stone in his head.
Palestinian witnesses told Ma’an that they believed that the alleged Palestinian attacker had fled the scene unharmed and that Azzam had been working in agricultural fields when he was shot.
Abdullah, from the Hebron-area village of Sair, was the 80th Palestinian to be killed since Oct. 1.
The majority of those killed were shot dead by Israeli forces during alleged, attempted, and actual attacks on Israeli military and civilians.
Ten Israelis have been killed by individual Palestinians during the same time period.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – This morning, for four hours from 9am to 1pm, a group of Israeli Settlers were training on the rooftop of the illegal settlement building, Yona Menachem Rennert Beit Midrash, on Shuhada street. An instructor taught them how to hold a gun properly and how to adopt the best body position for shooting correctly. The young settlers were all carrying guns and shouted continuously during the exercises, disrupting the children and the teachers of Qurtuba school during their lessons, and also the neighborhood life, like for the Palestinian farmers who were picking olives on their land, near the school.
This kind of settler training, which takes place several times a week in the illegal settlements of Al-Khalil, are part of the Israeli settlement strategy. This is one example of how they are indoctrinating their youth, teaching them to hate Palestinians, and encouraging attacks against them.
Israeli law allows any Israeli who has a firearms license to carry a gun in the street. While the Palestinians have to endure the daily humiliation of being searched at each checkpoint as well as total military control of their daily life in case they might be carrying a knife.
RAMALLAH – The number of Palestinians who have been killed by Israeli gunfire since October 1, has reached 82, Jerusalem Center for Israeli-Palestinian studies revealed. 78% of the reported victims were executed in cold-blood.
The majority of the reported victims were from al-Khalil where 28 youths were executed by Israeli gunfire in the city.
16 children and seven women were also among the victims, the center added.
The Jerusalem Center called on international human rights groups to seriously work on putting an end to the Israeli crimes and violations of international laws.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – Israeli forces violently took over several homes of Palestinian families in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron), trapping the families inside their own homes. Large parts of the city have been declared a ‘closed military zone’, preventing Palestinians from moving, while settlers are freely roaming the streets.
Early in the morning, Israeli soldiers stormed various houses in the Tel Rumeida neighbourhood, each time locking up the residents in one room of their home. The local activist group Youth Against Settlements’ centre was taken by the Israeli army. Tom, a German volunteer states: “the soldiers searched everything and left a chaos on the lower floor; we could hear children’s voices from inside the house, so it must have been settlers inside the house”.
Whereas Tom’s release from the closed military zone was secured through the intervention of his embassy, Italian journalist Francesca Borri and Palestinian activists are still held hostage by the Israeli forces. Israeli settlers from the illegal settlements in Hebron have been seen dancing, chanting ‘death to Arabs’ and celebrating outside another Palestinian family houses misappropriated for military use by the Israeli forces.
Illegal Israeli settlers celebrating the takeover of Palestinian homes by Israeli forces
Photo credit: Youth Against Settlement
Israeli forces have also declared the neighbourhood around the Ibrahimi mosque a ‘closed military zone’, following almost a week of forced closure for Palestinian shops in the area. The Palestinian market has also been closed by the Israeli forces, denying Palestinians passage. “Soldiers and settlers are making life for the Palestinians intolerable to force them to leave their houses voluntarily. This is a crime under international law. They are targeting activists to silence the truth and stop the truth from reaching the whole world”, explains Tel Rumeida resident Abed Salaymeh. Other international human rights observers have been directly targeted by Israeli forces through arrests, evictions and settler violence.
Israeli soldiers in the Tel Rumeida neighbourhood of occupied Hebron Photo credit: Youth Against Settlement
In the last few weeks, Israeli forces have continuously cracked down on Palestinians’ right to freedom of movement by declaring the Tel Rumeida neighbourhood a ‘closed military zone’ and forcing all Palestinian residents to register with the Israeli army to be allowed access. Palestinians are subjected to regular body-checks at gunpoint or denied access to their homes while Israeli settlers, often armed with machine guns, are freely walking the streets. As one Palestinian resident of Tel Rumeida related, “Everyone is too scared to leave their house now.”
On a trip to Cuba in May, I had to look twice when an elderly man selling newspapers walked past the restaurant I was eating in. On the front page of one was a huge photograph of an Israeli soldier holding a Palestinian boy by the neck, the boy’s face twisted away from the camera in pain.
The photo said it all: an aggressive, well-built soldier wearing a helmet, bulletproof vest and carrying a machine gun was manhandling a child half his size, not more than 10 years old, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. Why was I so shocked to see such an image published on the front page of a mainstream newspaper? Because this would be a rare moment in the UK.
Over here, the images that are used to represent almost 50 years of military occupation are of Palestinian youth throwing stones, black-and white-kuffiyeh wrapped around their faces. The Cuban picture portrays the Palestinian as the subject of aggression, the UK image as the perpetrator; just like that, our media helps perpetuate the myth that Palestinians are faceless terrorists predisposed to random outbursts of violence and against whom Israel has every right to defend itself.
A closer look at how the British media has covered the recent escalation of violence in Palestine reveals some worrying trends. For the past year right-wing Israeli groups have entered the Haram Al-Sharif compound daily with their armed escorts, often chanting anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian slogans. This came to a head on 13 September when a group of settlers and the Israeli minister of agriculture Uri Ariel, protected by Israeli soldiers, actually entered the Al-Aqsa mosque shooting tear gas, stun grenades and rubber coated steel bullets at worshippers, injuring Palestinians inside and causing damage to the interior of the mosque.
With this in mind take a look at how these confrontations were described in the Telegraph : “Four Israelis and 23 Palestinians have died in 12 days of bloodshed fuelled in part by Muslim anger over increasing Jewish access to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem.”
And earlier in the year, Reuters reported that: “Those groups [devout Jews and Israeli nationalists] are at the centre of a creeping shift in Jerusalem: After 900 years, Jews are chipping away at Muslims’ exclusive control of the site, the third holiest in Islam. The shift, which has provoked violence in the past, threatens to open a dangerous new front in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, adding religious enmity to a political struggle in the very heart of the disputed city.”
Not only do these reports reduce the provocation by Israeli settlers and soldiers in the Al-Aqsa mosque to Muslim anger and a failure to compromise over increased Jewish access to the compound, but they make the current protests in Palestine sound as though they are merely a religious dispute. Al-Aqsa is the third holiest site in Islam and holds huge religious significance for Muslims across the world, but Palestinians are also protesting against almost 50 years of military occupation under which their land has constantly been taken away from them.
Since 14 September, 72 Palestinians and 11 Israelis have been killed and over 8,000 Palestinians and 134 Israelis have been injured – yet many reports have picked out and highlighted the knife attacks carried out by Palestinians, using phrases such as “Israel’s knife terror”, describing “knife wielding” Palestinians or “anti-Israeli knife attacks”. The following report published on the BBC answered the question of what is happening between the Israelis and the Palestinians in the following manner:
“There has been a spate of stabbings and gun attacks on Israelis by Palestinians since early October, and one apparent revenge stabbing by an Israeli. The attacks, some of which have been fatal, have struck in Jerusalem and in northern and central Israeli cities and towns, and in the occupied West Bank. Israel has tightened security and clashed with rioting Palestinians, leading to deaths on the Palestinian side. There has also been associated violence in the border area inside the Gaza Strip.”
Note that there is not even a mention of what took place at Al-Aqsa mosque on 13 September. The weapons used by Palestinians are specified but Israel’s excessive use of tear gas, stun grenades, live ammunition and rubber bullets is not included.
The term “Palestinian rioters” (other reports have used “Muslim rioters”) has been widely adopted in the British media; the notion of “rioters” is associated with wild disorder and conjures up very different images than the word “protesters”, which suggests a group of people who are simply asking for their rights. Another common term used in the above quotation and frequently in other articles is “clash”, which implies fighting between two equal forces– Israeli soldiers, part of the fourth largest army in the world, storming the Al-Aqsa mosque and firing tear gas and rubber bullets at Palestinians armed with stones, sticks and knives cannot be described as a “clash”.
Deaths on the Palestinian side are a result of rioting Palestinians, and so somehow justified. This headline from Reuters, this one in the Independent and this one in the Daily Mail all report Palestinian deaths but say they took place after Palestinians attacked Israelis with knives. In contrast, this article from the BBC is typical of how Israeli casualties are reported across the media: “Three Israelis killed in Jerusalem bus attacks.” No justifications or explanations of the deaths in sight.
The BBC casually writes about “associated violence” in the Gaza Strip. Between 13 September and the publication of this article, 12 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed, including 26-year-old Nour Rasmi Mohammed Hassan who was five months pregnant and her three year-old daughter, both of whom were at home when an Israeli airstrike hit their house.
Rather than recognise that their excessive use of force and almost 50 years of occupation – under which Palestinian homes have been demolished, children have been arrested, freedom of movement restricted and Gaza placed under siege – may evoke anger in some Palestinians, Israeli authorities, echoed in news reports, would rather blame Palestinian leaders and the use of social media for “inciting” violence, as seen in this headline: “Israel sentences Islamic leader to jail for incitement”; and this one too: “Is social media driving the current violence?”
In this video, Israeli security forces have planted undercover stone throwers among a group of Palestinians who then turn on one of the Palestinians in the same group before ten Israeli soldiers drag him away (note – excessive use of force). In fact there are numerous videos online that highlight Israeli aggression and incitement of violence towards Palestinians but they are not widely published in the mainstream press. This particularly disturbing video filmed on a mobile phone in Aida refugee camp last week captures an Israeli soldier announcing: “You throw stones and we will hit you with gas until you die – the children, the youth, the old people; you will all die. We won’t leave any of you alive.” This video shows an Israeli soldier running over a Palestinian then preventing paramedics helping him; this one shows settlers throwing stones at Palestinian homes in Hebron.
On 16 October, much media attention was focused on the case of a Palestinian man who dressed up in a press jacket and inflicted moderate wounds on an Israeli soldier in Hebron before being shot dead by another soldier. On the same day, four other Palestinians died, including 36-year-old Shawqi Jamal Jaber Ebeid who succumbed to injuries after sustaining a bullet wound to the head a week before whilst working in a stone factory in Gaza. His story is much harder to find and yet it is part of the media’s job to help give a voice to those who have been deliberately silenced – those like Shawqi Ebeid and his family – and to hold politicians and people in authority to account when they do something wrong; even more so if they commit war crimes. If, however, the media is complicit in silencing those same people, then in some cases we may be looking at political propaganda dressed up as news.