Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Missing the trees for the wood

It’s New Year and The Independent , following a number of other western papers, appears to be limbering up for a year of Israel bashing.

The Palestinian propaganda machine is cynically using the tragic death of Jawaher Abu Rahma to turn her into the new poster girl for their anti-Israel campaign.

Jahawer died last Friday after reportedly inhaling tear gas used by Israeli soldiers to disperse rioters protesting against the Israeli security fence separating Samaria (the “West Bank”) from Israel’s densely-populated coastal region. This demonstration takes place every week.

Details of the incident remain sketchy but after the demonstration, the Palestinian Authority, as it always does, provided Israel with a summary of injuries. The initial summary listed two people who had been lightly injured.

The following morning, however, the Palestinians claimed that Jawaher Abu Rahma, who was not one of the two injured, had died from inhaling tear gas. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat labelled Jawaher's death as the latest in a long string of “Israeli war crimes.”

The Palestinians did not allow Israel to directly investigate the death, and initially refused to release medical documents related to the case.

When Israel finally obtained official hospital reports, it discovered some suspicious inaccuracies, most notably that although Jawaher was described as being in good health, she was also receiving medication typically used on leukaemia sufferers.

Although Israel initially responded by suggesting Jawaher had not been present at the demonstration, evidence appeared to confirm that she was indeed present at Friday’s riot.

But, as Israel Today observes, the Palestinians and the Israelis are both missing the point. The Palestinians miss it on purpose, while the Israelis miss the point because they are desperate to deflect yet another blood libel.

The point is that even if the unfortunate Jawaher Abu Rahmer did die as a result of inhaling Israeli tear gas, the firing of tear gas at a violent demonstration does not indicate lethal intent. The Israelis were not trying to kill Jawaher or anyone else in the crowd; they were using a common and globally accepted form of crowd control.

If that method of crowd control resulted in the death of one of the protesters, the death must be put down to either a freak accident or a reaction resulting from an undisclosed medical condition.

To suggest that Jawaher's death in some way demonstrates malicious Israeli intent is the kind of propaganda that has come to characterise the Palestinian position. And not just from fringe apologists, but from the very Palestinian leaders with whom Israel is supposed to be making peace.

If there is to be peace between Israelis and Palestinians there will have to be significant trust between both parties. Cheap point scoring such as this indicates not only a contempt for Israel on the part of the Palestinian propaganda meisters but also a cynical disregard for the life of one their own.

Honest Reporting makes the importanat point that, unlike its Arab neighbours, Israel has a vibrant and highly self-critical free press. The story of Jawaher Abu Rahma was covered extensively by the Israeli media and there were even demonstrations by Israelis protesting against their own army and government following the woman's death. It is extremely rare that a negative story concerning Israel in the international press has not already been covered by the Israeli press. Most of these negative stories are lifted straight from the pages of the international journalists' paper of choice, Ha'aretz.

The IDF's latest findings led the headlines for some time on the Ha'aretz website while the story also appeared on page 2 of the print edition. Do international journalists cherry pick stories from Ha'aretz that suit their political agenda while ignoring those that do not?

Those media outlets that reported on the original story have a duty to inform their readers of the latest developments lest Abu Rahma's death becomes yet another in a long list of anti-Israel allegations presented as unassailable fact employed in the delegitimization campaign against Israel.

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