At a time when violence is flaring between Israeli Jews and Palestinians, Americans are being deprived of crucial information about the conflict. Our press portrays the clashes as a cycle of violence between two groups with ancient enmity; and while there is some truth in that description, it is vacuous if reporters fail to describe the power balance here. At the very least, reporters should say that the violence is taking place in the context of a 48-year-old military occupation of Palestinian lands by Israelis.
Today National Public Radio did a piece on the latest violence in Israel and Palestine and referred again and again to events in occupied territory, but never provided that simple fact to readers. Host David Greene began by saying that the latest stabbing took place “just outside Jerusalem’s Old City.” Yes: it took place in occupied East Jerusalem, at the Damascus Gate. Palestinians who live there can’t even vote for the government that controls their lives.
NPR’s correspondent Emily Harris reported that the stabbing “didn’t come out of nowhere. There are always tensions simmering at some level here, though it does go up and down.” The ancient enmity idea. Then she referred to the murderous arson attack in a “Palestinian village last summer.” That July 31 attack was inside the occupied territories, and said to be perpetrated by Israeli colonists. She didn’t say so.
Harris went on to talk about the dispute over access to the Holy Sanctuary, or Temple Mount, in occupied Jerusalem. Again, not a word about occupation, and religious zealots were made out to be “interested” in equal rights:
Jewish groups that are interested in expanding Jewish rights on the Holy site
Harris spoke of Israeli security forces’ efforts to “figure out how to respond to” Palestinian attacks; again, not a word about their being occupiers. And spoke of the killing of an Israeli couple “in the West Bank” and another stabbing at “a checkpoint.” That couple were settlers killed deep in the occupied West Bank. Checkpoints exist to enforce an occupation.
The terrible paradox here is that other parts of the world are getting this information. In today’s Guardian, imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti writes that the occupation is the root cause of the violence:
Imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti on Sunday delivered an impassioned plea to the international community to tackle the root causes of violence between Palestinians and Israelis, as he praised the “new Palestinian generation” for resisting the Israeli occupation.
In an article for the Guardian written from his cell in Hadarim prison – his first for an international publication since 2002 at the height of the second intifada – Barghouti said he was pleading with the world as then to “to deal with [the violence’s] root causes: denial of Palestinian freedom”…
Here are excerpts of Barghouti’s op-ed:
“This new Palestinian generation has not awaited reconciliation talks to embody a national unity political parties have failed to achieve, rising beyond political divides and geographic fragmentation.
“It has not awaited instructions to uphold its right, and its duty, to resist this occupation. It is doing so unarmed, while being confronted by one of the biggest military powers in the world….
“The escalation did not start with the killing of two Israeli settlers [in the West Bank]. It started a long while ago and has been going on for years. Every day there are Palestinians killed, wounded, arrested.
“Every day colonialism advances, the siege on our people in Gaza continues, oppression and humiliation persist. As many want us today to be overwhelmed by the potential consequences of a new spiral of violence, I will continue, as I did back in 2002, pleading to deal with its root causes: denial of Palestinian freedom…
“Some suggested that the reason why a peace deal could not be reached was late President Yasser Arafat’s unwillingness or President Mahmoud Abbas’s inability, while both of them were ready and able to sign a peace agreement.
“The real problem is that Israel has chosen occupation over peace and used negotiations as a smoke screen to advance its colonial project. All governments across the globe know this simple fact and yet so many of them pretend that returning to the failed recipes of the past could allow us to achieve freedom and peace.”
Shouldn’t NPR be reflecting this perspective? Any Palestinian would describe the conflict in these terms, if not so eloquently. They just want their freedom.
“Apartheid in South Africa was a picnic compared to what we have seen in the occupied territories,” Parliamentary Speaker Baleka Mbete said following a visit to Palestine.
A picnic compared to South African apartheid. I was told very much the same thing nine years ago in Hebron by a South African church worker. Jimmy Carter tried to tell Americans Palestine was headed for apartheid that same year and was slamdunked by Terry Gross for the analogy. Charney Bromberg regretfully told a Columbia audience it is apartheid, The Nation has said it’s “apartheid on steroids,” even Jeffrey Goldberg has said it’s apartheid but “temporary” or “provisional.” When will our press decide that the public is adult enough to hear this truth? I do believe that #BlackLivesMatter is our greatest ally in this discursive struggle, because its efforts have been treated fairly, even sympathetically by many NPR journalists, including Arun Rath and Audie Cornish.
Thanks to James North.