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Oh those peaceful settlers ‘tending trees’

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Ahmed threaten by soldier1
Ahmed Abu Hashem threaten by soldier for documenting occupation                          (photo: Palestine Solidarity Project)

The New York Times piece on the Palestinian “rite of passage” of throwing stones in the West Bank village of Beit Ummar has gotten a lot of criticism, but one thing the critics have missed is the piece’s misrepresentation of Jewish settlers who were targeted by  Palestinian boys throwing stones. In one case, the settlers were “tending trees.” In another case, they were just passing by a Palestinian funeral when kids targeted their cars. “Whack.” The settlers then got out to shout at the Palestinians, and soldiers arrived, with guns.

Israeli forces detained Mohammad Al-Alami outside funeral August 1, 2013

(photo: Alwatan)

Is that the full context? No. Settlers have been trying to take Beit Ummar’s land, settlements virtually surround the Palestinian village and choke it because it is prized territory in land the settlers want to annex.

Judge for yourself from these recent accounts of settler attacks on Palestinians in Beit Ummar that the New York Times left out:

Ma’an News reports on Friday August 2, 2013 about an attack the day before: Settlers attack Palestinians at funeral near Hebron:

Clashes broke out after Israeli forces along with settlers attacked a Palestinian funeral in Beit Ummar north of Hebron on Thursday, a local activist said.

Forces detained Mohammad Al-Alami, 23, according to Mohammad Ayyad Awad, spokesman of the popular committee to resist the wall and the settlements in Beit Ummar.

He said that that Palestinians were participating in a funeral when a settler parked near the Islamic cemetery struck one of the attendants. Fighting broke out and Israeli forces arrived to help the settlers.

Ayyad said journalists were not allowed to film the incident.

The International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC)  reported on that same attack in Beit Ummar on Thursday August 1st: Several Palestinians Injured Near Hebron:

Palestinian medical sources in Hebron, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank, have reported Thursday [August 1, 2013] that several Palestinians have been injured, and one has been kidnapped, after Israeli soldiers and settlers attacked a funeral procession in Beit Ummar town, north of the city.

Media spokesperson of the Popular Committee Against the Wall in Beit Ummar, Mohammad Awad, told the Radio Bethlehem 2000 that a number of settlers attacked a funeral procession in the town, as they were leaving a local graveyard, and also attacked a local reporter identified as Nayef al-Hashlamon.

Israeli soldiers arrived at the scene and attacked the Palestinian instead of removing the settlers.

Awad also stated that he was also attacked by a settler woman who tried to slap him in the face as he tried to take pictures of the attack, and that the soldiers pushed him around causing his camera to drop, and kidnapped one youth identified as Ahmad Younis Al-Allami, 23, after violently beating him.

There have been numerous incidents of similar attacks against locals participating in burial ceremonies and funeral processions in Hebron leading to dozens of injuries and several arrests.

Now here is the Times’s “rite of passage” article, covering a Palestinian rock thrower after that funeral. Notice how it brings in the cemetery as a site of Palestinian attacks.

And then there is the 200-year-old cemetery that slopes up from the road just north of the village entrance.

On Thursday, after the burial of a 63-year-old retired teacher, a teenager hurled a rock at a passing car with yellow Israeli plates: whack. Another teenager, two more stones: another direct hit.

The settlers stopped their car, got out, and began shouting at the small crowd. Soon, there were soldiers, rifles raised and tear gas at the ready, who eventually hauled a Palestinian taxi driver into a waiting army jeep.

Which is rather curious reporting, given the earlier reports that settlers attacked the funeral procession in Beit Ummar. The Times did not offer any quotes from Mohammad Awad, the media spokesperson for Beit Ummar’s popular committee who was present during the attack that day, nor did it point out that journalists were attacked by the settlers.

Further down in that article, the Times documents the arrest of Muhammad Abu Hashem (which we covered on July 8th, the day of the arrest):

It was the June funeral of a 2-year-old girl accidentally crushed by a relative’s bulldozer that led to his most recent arrest. “They were shooting gas, and I was with my mother in the car while the soldiers’ jeep was entering the town,” Muhammad admitted to a police officer after the arrest. “So I got out and threw stones at them.”


Mr. Awad, like many here, views the stone throwers with a mixture of pride at confronting Israel and fear for their safety. “Nobody dares to criticize them and say, ‘Why are you doing this?”

As the Times walks us thru rock throwing as a “rite of passage” does it occur to the paper of record that Israeli forces shooting tear gas at another funeral procession in June might be connected to the rock throwing? In the same way the ‘rock thrower’ in the funeral on August 1st might be connected to settler/Israeli forces assaulting mourners exiting a funeral?

More Times:

For as long as anyone here can remember, the cemetery has been a field for that game. Residents said it was often surrounded by soldiers and filled with tear gas, though the military commander said he stations his troops across the road and instructs them to unleash riot-control measures only if violence erupts.

Why do Palestinian mourners have to attended funerals with occupation soldiers planted across the street from their cemeteries? In death and in birth they are never far away.

IMEMC’s coverage claims there have been “numerous incidents of similar attacks” against Palestinians around Hebron participating in burial ceremonies and funeral processions that have led to dozens of injuries and arrests. Isn’t that provocation? Is this a conscious plan by settlers to cause the arrests of Palestinians who resist? And why prevent the filming of these attacks on funeral goers?

ahmed and daughter
Ahmed Abu Hashem and daughter (photo: PSP)

The Times does not explain why Ahmed Abu Hashem, Mohammed’s father, was arrested along with his son on July 8th. The brief video ‘confession’ provided by the New York Times doesn’t explain why Ahmed Abu Hashem was arrested either.

But Ahmed Abu Hashem is an activist member of the Beit Ommar Popular Committee. And to be clear, “Israeli army targets and arrests children in order to repress Palestinian dissent in the West Bank.” There is ample documentation as well that “children are used to implicate the leaders of the Popular Committee for incitement in demonstrations.”

Like Bassem Tamimi, the leader of the Popular Committee of Nabi Saleh ( ‘They come for our woman and our children”), Ahmed Abu Hashem works to document the occupation. Especially in towns and villages across the West Bank involved in non-violent struggle where village lands are targeted for annexation for nearby settlements and settlers are pushing Palestinians off their lands, Popular Committee members and their children are targeted.

That is the war for survival by humble villagers that the Times ignores, and reduces to a rite of passage of stonethrowing.

More context. Ahmed Abu Hashem’s land is adjacent the Karmei Tsur settlement. Peace Now-reports 27 percent of Karmei Tzur is built on privately owned Palestinian land.

From the 2012 Campaign for the Release of Ahmed Abu Hashem and His Sons:

Ahmed is the father of eight children, and is the only source of income for his family. Ahmed has a piece of land, about 3 dunams (3000 square meters), adjacent to Karmei Tsur settlement. The settlement is illegal according to international law under the 4th Geneva Convention. The Palestinian land near the settlement has been planted, uprooted and cut by settlers, and replanted again many times. It is a constant effort for Palestinians to keep their own land. Ahmed, who was arrested while trying to defend his land, has been arrested several times in the last few years. He has spent about four and a half years total in Israeli jails. His sons have also been arrested several times since they were children. Yousef (19 years old) was released on April 4th, 2012, after spending about six months in jail. Emad (22 years old), who is married with two infant children, was arrested on April 17th and is still in detention, along with their 15 year-old brother Muhammad, who was taken during a night raid on April 23rd.

This is not just about rock throwing. Take another look at B’Tselem’s map provided by the New York Times and do some research on the pressure surrounding the little town of Beit Ummar,  the kind of settlers who live there.

Settler led religious tour of Beit Ummar Cemetery

Oct 12, 2012(photo: ARIJ)

Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem (ARIJ) has documented several settler guided tours, accompanied by Israeli soldiers, roaming Beit Ummar. Two culminating in “religious rituals in a Muslims Cemetery.

Settler led religious tour of Beit Ummar

Oct 12, 2012(photo: ARIJ)

The Times account acknowledges that the stonethrowers use the cemetery. But why are soldiers posted at the cemetery? Why are settlers guiding tourists to pray at the Lady Najla altar? Do settlers want the Islamic cemetery land of Beit Ummar?

Ahmed Abu Hashem encountered the settlers on one of their guided tours last year, recorded by ARIJ: Provocative Tours in Beit Ummar town- Hebron Governorate

As soon as the Israeli Government announced its intention to expand 70 colonies in the West Bank; intensive activities of Israeli colonists were reported in Beit Ummar. Ahmad abu Hashem, member of Beit Ummar Popular Resistance Committee, staed that around 150 colonists organized tours in Khirbat al Qarn and Khirbat wardan, eastern Beit Ummar, at the beginning of February.

He said: ‘a group of colonists headed to the mountain summits in Khirbat al Qarn and Khirbat wardan and set a tent there. They stayed there for two hours before leaving. It Is not the first time they do such a thing. I headed up to the mountain when they were there and asked them what they want. One of them simply answered that they want to take over the lands there.’

Settlers want the land of Beit Ummar, but not the people who live there. Below is a list of arrests during a 5 month period last year. Are these arrests primarily about ‘rock throwing‘? Surely not. From the 2012 Campaign for the Release of Ahmed Abu Hashem and His Sons:

“There have been 84 arrests from Beit Ommar so far this year in 2012. 56 of those arrested are under 21, and 37 of them are under 18. Names, ages and dates of the arrests can be found below. “

January 2012
1. Muhammad Jamal Alqam – 17 – Jan. 2, 2012
2. Moath Jamal Alqam – 16 – Jan. 2
3. Ibrahim Yousef Sabarna – 22 – Jan. 2
4. Hamza Noaf Sabarna – 23 – Jan. 3
5. Khadr Fathi Sabarna – 18 – Jan. 3
6. Mohammad Shokat Alqam – 23 – Jan. 3
7. Raid Mahmoud Sabarna – 28 – Jan. 8
8. Yousef Mahmoud Al Alamy – 23 – Jan. 8
9. Ahmad Yousef Sabarna – 23 – Jan. 9
10. Safwat Sameer Ikhlayl – 22 – Jan. 11
11. Hasan Shaheda Salaby – 20 – Jan. 11
12. Muhammad Haitham Salaby – 21 – Jan. 11
13. Firas Ibrahim Abu Maria – 20 – Jan. 21
14. Mamdoh Basem Alamy – 18 – Jan. 18
15. Yousef Ahmad Alamy – 17 – Jan. 20
16. Azmy Muhammad Ikhlayl – 16 – Jan. 21
17. Ameer Shokat Alqam – 16 – Jan. 21
18. Nasr Fathi Ikhlayl – 22 – Jan. 29
19. Montasr Fathi Ikhlayl – 18 – Jan. 29
20. Muhammad Nasr Al Alamy – 22 – Jan. 29
21. Hamza Muhammad Awad – 15 – Jan. 30
22. Moath Jamal Alqam – 18 – Jan. 30
23. Moayed Jowad Bahr – 18 – Jan. 30

February 2012
1. Muhammad Basem Al Alamy – 23 – Feb. ???
2. Nadeem Rasm Ikhlayl – 26 – Feb. 8
3. Rafat Muhammad Al Alamy – 24 – Feb. 8
4. Yousef Abdel Hamid Abu Maria – 38 – Feb. 11
5. Saqr Sadeq Abu Maria – 42 – Feb. 11
6. Ayesh Abdel Nasr Ikhlayl – 18 – Feb. 12
7. Ahmad Mahmoud Za’aqiq – 15 – Feb. 12
8. Ehab Muhammad Abu Fanoos – 15 – Feb. 12
9. Muhammad Ahmad Abu Hashem – 15 – Feb. 21
10. Muhab Sameer Abu Maria – 16 – Feb. 21
11. Muhammad Jameel Abu Maria – 16 – Feb. 21

March 2012
1. Naseem Khadr Al Alamy – 32 – Mar. 1
2. Hasan Saadi Al Alamy – 22 – Mar. 1
3. Malek Saadi Al Alamy – 23 – Mar. 1
4. Yousef Ibrahim Al Alamy – 36 – Mar. 1
5. Malek Mahmoud Al Alamy – 20 – Mar. 1
6. Abdel Aziz Al Hindi – 38 – Mar. 2
7. Ayesh Khalid Awad – 16 – Mar. 5
8. Mataz Khaled Awad – 18 – Mar. 5
9. Basel Khaled Abu Maria – 16 – Mar. 5
10. Ahmad Mahmoud Al Salaby – 16 – Mar. 7
11. Bilal Mahmoud Awad – 16 – Mar. 7
12. Muhammad Jawdat Ali – 14 – Mar. 7
13. Zain Hashem Abu Maria – 15 – Mar. 12
14. Sami Amer Abu Juda – 15 – Mar. 12
15. Sa’id Emad Salaby – 16 – Mar. 12
16. Omar Shokat Alqam – 16 – Mar. 12
17. Ismail Issa Salaby – 24 – Mar. 23

April 2012
1. Hossein Ramzy Al Alamy – 14 – April 1
2. Muhammad Ali Awad – 14 – April 2
3. Yousef Muhammad Awad – 17 – Apr. 2
4. Muhammad Mahmoud Awad – 20 – Apr. 2
5. Muhannad Zuhair Al Alamy – 14 – Apr. 2
6. Hamza Nasr Abu Maria – 17 – Apr. 11
7. Emad Ahmad Abu Hashem – 22 – Apr. 16
8. Muhammad Yasr Al Khatib – 18 – Apr. 16
9. Jihad Yousef Alqam – 17 – Apr. 20
10. Fady Muhammad Abu Fanoos – 16 – Apr. 20
11. Qasem Ahmad Abu Maria – 16 – Apr. 20
12. Ismail Ghalib Awad – 20 – Apr. 20
13. Alaa Mousa Za’aqiq – 23 – Apr. 20
14. Ahmad Abdel Jibar – 15 – Apr. 20
15. Tariq Jamal Abu Maria – 17 – Apr. 23
16. Badran Jalal Abu Ayesh – 16 – Apr. 23
17. Nabeel Mahmoud Al Alamy – 21 – Apr. 24
18. Muhammad Yousef Al Sabarna – 18 – Apr. 24

May 2012
1. Hamza Shahda Sabarna – 18 – May 2
2. Khaled Abdel Qadr Ikhlayl – 20 – May 2
3. Hamza Muhammad Abu Maria – 18 – May 3
4. Khalil Hamad Al Alamy – 15 – May 5
5. Ramzy Nasr Al Alamy – 14 – May 5
6. Yousef Ahmad Bahr – 21 – May 6
7. Ahmad Khalil Abu Hashem – 45 – May 11
8. Muhannad Mershad Awad – 12 – May 21
9. Alaa Yousef Abu Maria – 14 – May 21
10. Jowad Muhammad Za’aqiq – 15 – May 21
11. Alaa Fahmy Za’aqiq – 32 – May 23
12. Hamad Ahmad Abu Maria – 20 – May 23
13. Muhammad Ali Sabarna – 22 – May 23
14. Hossam Sabr Abu Maria – 16 – May 23
15. Muhammad Wajeh Abu Maria – 19 – May 23

(Update: Video of events outside funeral on Aug. 1, 2013 in Beit Ummar: Jodi Rudoren intentionally obscured reality in her recent piece on Beit Ommar)

Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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10 Responses

  1. James Canning on August 10, 2013, 2:22 pm

    Great piece. Bravo!

  2. just on August 10, 2013, 2:35 pm

    Super journalism, Annie.

    These “settlers” and the governments that support them– Israel and the US ( and others)– are criminals.

    Terror is their mantra and their modus operandi. When will the world stand up and shout “NO”, “NEVER AGAIN”? How can anyone side with Apartheid Israel in its never- ending Occupation and thievery and demonization of generations of indigenous Palestinians? We have lost any morality that we ever laid claim to. All we do is to cause seemingly endless suffering and prolonged PTSD to those that are only deserving of justice and peace.

  3. ritzl on August 10, 2013, 2:56 pm

    The lists are very helpful. They take away the “faceless and nameless (and therefore not really people)” method of diminishing and dismissing the Palestinian struggle.

    Palestinians are real people being thrown away for no reason whatsoever.


  4. Dutch on August 10, 2013, 3:21 pm

    Annie, great job, thanks a lot!

  5. Bumblebye on August 10, 2013, 4:37 pm

    The aim of the NYT propaganda game is to present the Illegal, Belligerent Settlers as “normal people”, just like any (other) Americans, going about their “ordinary lives” just as the Times readers do (lady going to buy pizza?), and suffering the curse of savage stone-throwing by these terrible, alien ayrab/moooslims in their backyard!
    Thus, many of their readers will have their prejudices confirmed (or awoken, if they’ve been living in the boondocks) and the ziotimes reporters and owners will go to bed happy.

  6. justicewillprevail on August 10, 2013, 7:12 pm

    Exemplary use of painstaking research in order to inform and educate readers, placing recent events into a wider context – the NYT should use this as an object lesson in how to report on events, contrasting it with the feeble, slanted opinionated PR drivel that they customarily print. This is journalism, the NYT hasn’t a clue what that entails, or its responsibility to represent the world as accurately as possible. Their editors should be ashamed that under-resourced blogs can do a better job than the overpaid hacks they employ, who have no apparent interest in genuine reporting, or the curiosity and empathy any journalist worth their salt should possess.

  7. annie on August 10, 2013, 8:10 pm

    thanks all, i really appreciate your positive feedback. and i hope more and more people become aware of what is happening in beit ummar and what the people have to endure.

    • just on August 10, 2013, 8:57 pm

      Annie, you and the folks at Mondoweiss are truly a treasure. Your work, which is incredibly heartbreaking at its core, is much appreciated. Soon, justice will be done, thanks to heroic humanitarians like you and our friends @ Mondoweiss and many others.

  8. iResistDe4iAm on August 11, 2013, 7:17 am

    “Israeli forces along with settlers attacked a Palestinian funeral in Beit Ummar”.
    “numerous incidents of similar attacks against locals participating in burial ceremonies and funeral processions”.
    “the committee’s review of the raw footage showed that in the final scenes, which were not broadcast by France 2, the boy [Muhammad al-Dura] is seen to be alive”.

    Although China, India, USA and Indonesia (to name a few) are brutal occupiers, at least they let their dead victims Rest in Peace.

    Israel, the most immoral occupier in the world.

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