There has been a lot of coverage in the US media regarding the kidnapping of three Israeli teenage settlers who were abducted last week while hitchhiking outside of the occupied city of al-Khalīl (Hebron) in the West Bank. Of course this incident is nothing less than abhorrent and every person of conscience hopes that these boys will be returned safely to their families. But once again the egregious bias that the US media displays in covering incidents like this in Gaza and the West Bank is rearing its ugly head.
In contrast to the kidnap story, little to nothing was reported about the shooting deaths of two Palestinian teens last month, who were protesting on Nakba Day (the day Palestinians remember the “catastrophe” when they were driven from their homes by Zionist militias in 1948). In fact what little attention it did receive was orchestrated by officials in the Israeli government. Former ambassador Michael Oren was given a prime spot on CNN to throw out repugnant claims including one that suggested the killings were “staged” and that these boys may not even be dead. In fact, the boys were killed and another wounded. And, according to CCTV footage and eyewitness accounts, they appeared to pose no visible danger to anyone. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) immediately claimed that no live fire was used, only rubber bullets. But an autopsy done on one of the boys revealed that this claim was patently false.
Children have become the saddest casualty of the occupation on both sides of the Green Line. Both Israeli and Palestinian children have been maimed or killed by indiscriminate violence. But Palestinian children have suffered far more by the numbers and by the extent of the violence they are subjected to on a daily basis by IDF forces and illegal settlers. According to a recent UN report, Israel has incarcerated thousands of children in the past decade, some as young as 12 years of age, and placed them in a military tribunal system which subjects them to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.” Children have been ripped from their homes in late night raids by the IDF and taken to detention centers far from their families, usually for the offense of throwing stones at army tanks. The report also pointed out that “in no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights.”
All people who care about justice and universal human rights hope for these kidnapped children to be returned safely to their families. But to report about this incident without context is both unjust and reckless. By many accounts Hebron is ground zero for the occupation. Settlers, with protection of the IDF, have been successful at making ordinary Palestinians’ lives a living hell. Scores of people along Shahuda Street, a once thriving thoroughfare in the city, have been literally sealed in their homes, their front doors having been welded shut by the IDF, with the only escape route being their rooftops. Intimidation and attacks from settlers have become the norm and this harassment is committed with impunity. Segregated roadways are enforced by military personnel, with settler roads being the more well maintained and widest. Palestinian children are routinely terrorized on their way to school, often having stones lobbed at them.
It is within this ecology of hopelessness and despair that this tragedy has emerged. It is the product of systemic bigotry, dehumanization and discrimination. It is the offspring of apartheid. And until the entire story is told, justice for all sides will continue to be submerged in a sea of oppressive jingoism and meaningless rhetoric.
Kenn Orphan 2014
(Photograph is of Palestinian children being detained by Israel Defense Forces in Hebron: Abed Al Hashlamoun/EPA)