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In Palestine, Everything is Relative: The settler violence you won’t hear about

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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. Thepresentation 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.

Yousef Munayyer is Executive Director of the Palestine Center. This post originally appeared on their blog Permission to Narrate.

Yousef Munayyer
About Yousef Munayyer

Yousef Munayyer is Executive Director of The Jerusalem Fund and its educational program, The Palestine Center.

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