The death of yet another child from unexploded ordnance has been reported from the Gaza Strip on the very same day that a Palestinian man in Jerusalem drove his car into a group of pedestrians in what Israeli officials are calling a “terrorist attack.” Palestinian child Muhammad Sami Abu Jrad was only four years old and suffered severe injuries after touching the bomb, which then exploded. According to Palestinian Health Ministry Spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra, the boy was rushed to the nearby al-Shifra hospital, where he later died, despite the best efforts of doctors to save him.
Jrad’s tragic death is far from unique in the war-torn Gaza Strip, where tonnes of leftover ordinance has now claimed 10 lives since the end of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. Despite the continued efforts of police sappers another six people were killed in August and three in September. Even before Israel’s assault upon Gaza, the threat of leftover ordnance, remnants of the 2008-09 conflict and the more recent Israeli operations in 2012, was already a constant danger for young Palestinian children, who often fall victim when they associate the explosives with toys.
Not only is Jrad’s death tragic and heartbreaking, it also serves to shed some light on just how uneven the world’s view on the Israel/Palestine issue has become and what may or may not be considered terrorism. According to media coverage, Jrad death was a tragedy and the boy was not a victim of terrorism. But another incident in nearby Jerusalem, where the Israeli population was victimized, has been treated very differently.
Within hours of Jrad’s death in the Gaza Strip, Adbel-Rahman Shaloudi, a Palestinian man who lived in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem, had driven his father’s car into a light rail stop filled with pedestrians, injuring eight and killing three-month-old baby girl Chaya Zissel Braun. While it is reasonably safe to assume that the incidents were unrelated, what should not be unrelated is how the world responds to the two equally tragic events. The actions of Shaloudi, which Israeli officials were quick to brand as terrorism, became the top story across dozens of online news pages within hours. As the day progressed, even more articles were published around the harsh words of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials, who wasted no time in blaming Palestinian authorities for the incident, appealing to the world as the victims of an outrageous and unexplainable crime.
Such terrifying and poetic language was used by the Israeli government in response to the attack in Jerusalem that readers could be forgiven for believing Israeli officials when they claimed themselves as the last bastion of defence against a seemingly relentless horde of Arab terrorists. Minister Eli Yishai said that Jerusalem’s Jewish residents were “hopeless hostages” against increased Arab rioting. Minister Danny Danon went so far as to declare that there was a war within the city and that the “blood” of its residents “had become cheap.” Most outrageous perhaps, was President Reuven Rivlin who stated that Arab violence was carrying Jerusalem into a “maelstrom” of pain and destruction.
The media, of course, was eager to repeat these accusations and even more eager to print the word “terrorist” across its headlines, after Israeli officials declared that Shaloudi had already served a prison sentence for “terrorist actions.” Even a day later, the news of Braun’s death and Shaloudi’s barbarism continues to take up the headlines. History will be written as such and Shaloudi will forever be known as a terrorist. Israel will now forever be his victim.
So by this standard, the death of four-year-old Jrad from Israeli ordnance, left behind after an excessive and violent Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip, one that led to over 2,100 Palestinian deaths and 11,200 injuries, should be met with equally fierce coverage of Palestinian outrage. The world and the media should therefore be just as quick to throw its support behind the struggling civilians of the Gaza Strip, who live with just as much fear as their Jewish counterparts in Jerusalem, fear that does not come from a murderous driver but an explosive device buried in rubble or maybe lying unobtrusively by the side of the road.
But hardly anybody has breathed a word about Jrad’s unfortunate death in the Gaza Strip. Helped along by the subservient western media and its willingness to throw words like “terrorism” around as if it were fashionable, Israel has placed itself at the center of the world stage, ready to soak up the sympathy of all who follow the news. But for young Jrad there is hardly a mention and barely a word has been breathed.
But this is not the way it should be. If Jerusalem’s citizens live in constant fear of terrorism, if their blood has become cheap, then so too has the blood of the children who run through broken, bomb-filled streets in the Gaza Strip. If things have become so bad in Jerusalem that the city is sinking into a “maelstrom” like Rivlin was so quick to suggest, then the Gaza Strip has already vanished far beneath the surface and its residents are already living with the pain and destruction that the Israeli President spoke of.
To live in fear of death every day, whether it be from a bomb or an angry mob or an erratic car: this is terrorism. And while the civilians in the Gaza Strip may not suffer from the riots and violence that is plaguing Jerusalem, they instead live in fear of the hundreds of unexploded bombs and shells that have been lying scattered across their tiny territory for years. So it is unfair to label baby Braun in Jerusalem as a victim of terrorism if Jrad, killed on the same day by unexploded ordnance in the Gaza Strip, is not. Though their deaths occurred in separate states and were caused by very different circumstances, each is the result of terrorism from within the same conflict, which hangs oppressively over every civilian within Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank.
Opinion by Mathew Channer