On Thursday 15th two Palestinian teenagers were shot dead by Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank. Kevin Squires reports what the Irish media shamefully ignores.
Nadeem Nawara (17) and Mohammad Abu Daher (16) were shot, from a distance, with live ammunition following a demonstration outside the notorious Ofer prison, an Israeli detention centre located near Ramallah.
Inside Palestinian prisoners, interned without trial are currently on hunger strike. Neither were armed, nor where they “posing any threat to the life of members of the Israeli forces or anyone else” according to Amnesty. In short, they were executed in cold blood. One shot in the chest and the other in the back. In addition, two other demonstrators aged 15 and 23 were also wounded in their torsos, indicating a shoot to kill policy was in operation.
If you regularly check the news from Palestine, where 20 other people have already been killed by Israeli forces this year, then you’re probably thinking, ‘so far, so routine’.
Unusually, this unprovoked violence was caught on CCTV. The video, released by Defence For Children International, shows the teenagers calmly walking around at the times – more than an hour apart – of their deaths.
The Israeli human rights monitoring group B’Tselem said that there was “grave suspicion that the killing was wilful”, while Amnesty called the shootings part of a “pattern of unlawful killings by the Israeli forces in the West Bank”.
The fact that the killings were recorded has forced even the UN and US to call, separately, for investigations of the incident.
Not that one would be aware of any of this from a casual look at the Irish media – print, broadcast or online. Only two stories have appeared, both wire reports; one on the RTE website and one in the print edition of the Irish Times.
This is the sum total coverage of an incident where Israeli forces are caught, on camera, snuffing out the lives of two Palestinian children who posed no threat.
Still, those reports that did appear are worth taking a few minutes to deconstruct, for they reveal much about the (mis)reportage of the Palestine-Israel issue in the mainstream Irish media.
The RTE piece, which is in part an edited wire report from AFP, is entitled “UN wants probe into ‘unarmed’ Palestinian deaths”. Note the scare quotes around unarmed. While the lead paragraph refers to the clearly unarmed dead boys as “apparently unarmed”. The accompanying image is of a Palestinian youth slinging a stone near some burning tyres. Of its 21 sentences, 8 are given over to Israeli voices, 4 to US voices, and 3 to the UN. Only one line comes from a Palestinian actor, and while multiple Israeli sources are citied (military, government and media), only “Palestinian leaders” are allowed speak for Palestinians.
Although it reports the UN and US calls for internal Israeli inquiries, it fails to note anywhere that such inquires are akin to asking the fox to investigate the henhouse massacre.
The Israeli group Yesh Din reported last August that since 2000 there have been only six convictions of Israeli military personnel for the deaths of Palestinians, and none of those were murder convictions. This despite the killing by Israeli forces of over 6,660 people, including more than 1,500 children, in that time period.
Aside from this omission, there is a striking lack of context throughout the piece, relying on the ‘he said, she said’ style of allegedly objective reporting. The report makes reference to the demonstration “marking the 66th anniversary of the Nakba – or ‘catastrophe’”, but neither explains what the Nakba was (more of that later), nor why they were specifically demonstrating outside the prison (ie, because of the ongoing hunger strike by internees).
It nowhere tells the reader that according to Amnesty, last year, “22 Palestinian civilians were killed in the West Bank … at least 14 of them in the context of protests. Most were young adults under the age of 25. At least four were children,” or that the organisation “has extensively documented the use of unnecessary and excessive force against Palestinians … leading to a rising number of unlawful killings, some of which may be wilful killings amounting to war crimes”.
Moving on to the Irish Times piece, a Reuters wire report condensed into four sentences, and consigned to the sidebar on page two of the World News section. The opening paragraph at least gives voice to Defence For Children International.
Alas, the rest is taken up with more “he said, she said” reportage. As with the RTE report, there is no mention of the ongoing hunger strike inside the prison, and there is again a passing reference to the Nakba, described as “when Palestinians mark the loss of their homes in the 1948 war”. On closer inspection, this is an incredible use of the passive voice to describe the events of the Nakba. How did Palestinians lose their homes? In the long grass? Did they leave them on a bus?
The Palestinians did not lose their homes; their homes were taken from them by force. The Nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe”, is what Palestinians call the period between roughly late 1947 and 1949, when over 700,000 Palestinians were violently ethnically cleansed from around 500 towns and villages in their homeland by Zionist paramilitary groups and military forces in order to ensure the birth of the State of Israel, declared on May 15th 1948.
The use of such passive language abrogates Israel of responsibility for the creation of the Palestinian refugee crisis (and the conflict more generally); and of course the piece nowhere mentions that Israel has systematically denied Palestinian refugees, who now number in the millions, their UN mandated Right of Return for over 66 years, condemning the majority of them to live in refugee camps scattered around the Middle East. This exile has seen refugees become victims of crises in their host countries, sometimes forcing them to relocate for a second or even third time.
Furthermore, it seems the heavily edited Reuters piece wasn’t deemed newsworthy enough for the Irish Times website, where perhaps an expanded report could have been published, and the videos even embedded for readers to see for themselves.
On the other hand, a fluff piece – with accompanying video – about a cat that ‘threw’ a baseball at a game in the US is apparently of crucial interested to readers. No, seriously. I’m not making this shit up. Baseball cat > Dead Palestinians. The paper of record in action.
All of this points to a serious problem with reporting of the Palestine-Israel issue in the mainstream Irish media. Supporters of Israel and anti-Palestinian racists (often one and the same people) are frequently heard to cry about the “pro-Palestinian BIAS!!” and “anti-Israel LIES!!” of the Irish media.
Having been an observer of said media for more than a decade, I know this is not the case. Israeli, Irish and international voices are routinely privileged over Palestinians – perhaps the most egregious example is the Irish Times itself, which has employed at least two Israeli reporters.
Previously, David Horowitz (who went on to edit the right wing, anti-Palestinian, Jerusalem Post newspaper, and has since founded the right wing, anti-Palestinian Times of Israel website) and currently, Mark Weiss (who frequently adopts the lexicon of Zionism, referring to the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories as “disputed territories”, and illegal Israeli colonial settlements on Palestinian land as “Jewish neighbourhoods”).
As far as I’m aware, the Irish Times has never employed a Palestinian journalist to report on the issue, and certainly would never allow the use of phrases like “Zionist entity” to refer to the State of Israel.
I think there is a case to be made that the mainstream media is, on the whole, not merely indifferent to Palestinian rights and Palestinian narratives, but actively hostile to them.
Kevin Squires is National Coordinator of the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.