It is a story that most of the world is more than familiar with and one that presented its most recent chapter earlier today when a Palestinian man, driving his father’s car, rammed his vehicle into a group of pedestrians at a light rail stop in Jerusalem. The incident has left eight people hurt and caused the death of an infant, only three months old, all of whom were injured when the vehicle allegedly ran over the top of them.
Unsurprisingly, media coverage of the incident has exploded across the internet, much of which seems to be focused around how this incident was a deliberate act of “terrorism” on behalf of the driver, who has since passed away in hospital after being shot by police while trying to flee the scene. Adbel-Rahman Shaloudi was 21 years old and according to Israeli officials had already served out a prison sentence in Israel for “terror activity.”
But what the media has generally failed to draw attention to is where in Jerusalem Shaloudi was from. The Silwan neighborhood in which he lived lies in the eastern reaches of the city and has been a focal point in violence and rioting in recent weeks, after Israeli settlers forcefully evicted the Palestinian residents from 25 separate apartments in late September. The move, which the Palestinian residents in the area quite naturally oppose, has led to clashes between Jewish and Arab inhabitants which escalated into rock-throwing and rioting. Only three days ago a similar incident occurred in the same suburb, during which more Israeli settlers occupied a nearby apartment complex accompanied by an armed guard and under cover of darkness.
These occupations, which are considered illegal and condemned by government leaders worldwide, including U.S. President Barack Obama, are just the latest in a series of similar moves by Israel which have systematically forced Palestinian residents from Jerusalem suburbs for years on end. But such action has received very little media attention, even though the move in September allegedly set off an argument between White House officials and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
It is an example of how one-sided the coverage of the Israel-Palestine issue has become that the forcible eviction of hundreds of Palestinians from their homes in a Jerusalem neighborhood can be all but ignored. However, as soon as an Arab becomes the antagonist, in this case a young and clearly impressionable resident from the very same suburb, the world leaps upon the opportunity to report the latest “terrorist activity.”
As usual, media attention has also begun to smother Netanyahu and other key Israeli figures, who have wasted no time in condemning their Palestinian counterparts for the attack, accusing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of “inciting violence” in the city of Jerusalem. Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennet was perhaps the most outspoken, claiming that “not even Satan” was capable of avenging the death of the infant girl.
While the death of a baby girl is by no means acceptable, the question of why this tragedy occurred must still be asked. This is the job of the media, to sweep aside the propaganda and dig into the real truth and underlying motives of why such an event may have happened. But as always, the western journalists and the major networks they work for will simply accept the information they are given from Israeli press reports, perhaps even copy the words written in Israeli papers that freely publish the vilifying claims of Israel’s government leaders without a single comment made by their Palestinian counterparts.
In this case, it is no stretch of the imagination to suggest that Shaloudi might have felt angry and oppressed by the forceful eviction of his Arab neighbours from their Jerusalem homes. It is even less surprising to suggest that the surge in violence throughout the city might have been ignited by the same thing. But the media does not bring these things to the forefront and it does not allow for these facts to be considered. Instead it focuses on how Israeli police have labelled Shaloudi a terrorist, accepting this without feeling any need to ask for proof, and how Israeli officials are responding to this tragic act with increased security, painting the picture of a victimized government, determined to defend its people against an enemy incapable of negotiation.
And in doing so, the media chooses to forget that the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem is considered illegal, along with the systematic colonial expansion of its suburbs and surrounding area. It also forgets that Israel considered the launch of Operation Protective Edge, during which over 1400 Palestinian civilians were killed, an appropriate response to the rising Hamas threat. Most comically of all, the media forgets that it was the Israeli government who encouraged and often actively supported the rise of the Hamas group during the reign of Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
This insistence on forgetfulness, this habit of reporting only the Israeli version of the facts, has led to a tragically one-sided view on the political and cultural division of Jerusalem and the ongoing issue of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. But now, as the Gaza Strip begins to rebuild after its most recent devastation, as Israeli and Palestinian officials hurl abuse at one another across the floor of the United Nations, it is time for the media to take a step forward and reveal the facts. It is time for the truth of the matter to be unveiled and for all parties, whether they be Israeli or Palestinian, to be held accountable for their actions.
Opinion by Mathew Channer