There is grief in Israel today. Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, had gone missing in mid June, and their bodies were found yesterday in a shallow grave in the occupied West Bank. The grief in Israel echoes the grief of Palestinians whose children have been targeted far more often and almost always with impunity by settlers and by the Israel Defense Forces. In March of this year 15 year old Youssef Shawamra was shot to death by IDF troops as he picked wild thistles to be used for a meal. In May Israeli forces killed Nadim Nuwara, 17, and Muhammad Abu al-Thahir, 16, in an unprovoked attack caught on CCTV. And just this month Mohammed Dudin, 15, was shot to death by Israeli soldiers in the infamous “Operation Brother’s Keeper”. And these are only a few cases.
The killing of any child is abhorrent, but looking at American media coverage, or lack thereof, regarding such tragedies reveals an insidious bias and an endemic racism. In the last decade thousands of Palestinian children have been killed or maimed by Israeli occupation forces and settlers, and many more have been snatched from their homes in the middle of the night and spirited away to military detention centers. According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem and the UN there is ample evidence of torture and inhumane treatment at these facilities. But this reality is obscured by the mainstream media. It is as if they do not exist at all.
As Prime Minister Netanyahu begins his rampage of collective punishment in the West Bank and Gaza this lack of fair and unbiased journalism only pours fuel on the fire of animus and indiscriminate violence and fosters the myth that the conflict is equal. Israel has a military, has occupied Palestinian territories for decades, colonized its lands and kept its population in a constant state of terror and oppression through home demolitions, destruction of fields and orchards and carving up properties with the wall of separation. Israel controls the sea and air space and routinely fires on farmers tending their fields or fishermen attempting to bring in their catch. When militants respond with rockets, Israel responds with collective punishment through bombings that level entire apartment blocks or critical infrastructure or the use of white phosphorus that blinds and burns children.
Of course the abduction and murder of these three Israeli teens is deplorable and the criminals should be found and punished. But it should be noted that these boys were the children of illegal settlers in a region where settlers routinely harass and persecute the indigenous population, and vandalize property and destroy wells and farm land with impunity. To ignore the conditions out of which this tragedy was born is nothing less than irresponsible, and as long as it persists the result will continue to be the same.
There is no excuse for the crime of harming or murdering children. And as we mourn Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel whose lives were mercilessly cut short, we should take care to remember and mourn for Youssef Shawamra, Nadim Nuwara, Muhammad Abu al-Thahirand and Mohammed Dudin, whose lives were also robbed of them by meaningless violence, and whose worth as human beings was not one bit less.
Kenn Orphan 2014