Opinion

To Listen to Palestinian News Every Morning Is Torture

Palestinians watch a family house destroyed by Israeli authorities in east Jerusalem's neighborhood of Silwan, April 17, 2019.
AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean

Fatma Sleiman, a teacher from the village of Tuqu in the southern West Bank, was killed Thursday in a car accident. Witnesses said an Israeli truck hit her car. This wasn’t reported in Israel and certainly will never be investigated as a suspected car ramming. Even Palestinian media coverage was skimpy, and reports of events following her death were found only on Facebook and local news sites. More on that below.

To listen to Palestinian news every morning is torture. First of all, the content deflates the illusory bubble of normalcy, the desire for a little quiet, to forget that every bubble is surrounded by barbed wire fences. To forget the numerous army camps, the roadblocks where soldiers aim their guns right at you, the prosperous settlements, hostile outposts and multi-lane roads that connect Amona to California, and shrink Palestinian communities into an architectural lump of car repair shops, sewing factories and smoky falafel stands interspersed with homes, densely populated high-rise apartment houses, mounds of dismantled cars, gaudy villas that look like they fell out of Texas or Doha, and a few fine ancient buildings or modest ones from the 1950s, covered with billboards and faded slogans about the liberation of Palestine.

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A second reason the news is torture is because the reports are usually laconic, molded into permanent formulas – with only the date and location changing. There’s not a lot of journalistic initiative here to rely on, just the many loose ends that you can’t catch every day: The occupation army arrested 12 people throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem, settlers broke into Al Aqsa, four young men were injured from army fire in a clash on the village’s land, the army raided villages X and Y, a child lost his eye from a tear gas canister, President Mahmoud Abbas flew to Kazakhstan, the occupation expropriated 400 dunams of fertile farmland to pave a detour road for settlers, settlers beat up local residents in their orchard.

And so it continues: The Rafah crossing was opened and 200 people left Gaza, another 20,000 are waiting for their turn to leave. The occupation demolished a tent at Sussia and a house in Kubar, a 15-year-old boy was killed by soldiers’ gunfire at Al Bureij in Gaza and 38 were wounded, a man demolished his own house in Jerusalem so as not to pay the occupation municipality’s expenses, President Mahmoud Abbas said that without Gaza there is no state and there will be no state only in Gaza, the occupation announced construction of another 200 housing units in the settlement of Gilo, the Israeli court permitted the occupation authorities to deport/destroy/expropriate/arrest, soldiers executed a young woman, claiming that she had carried out a knife attack. And on and on. Every day, almost every newscast. Every Palestinian news channel.

These reports are also torture for a third reason: They don’t even reach the people who should hear them – that is, Israeli Jews. If only to reassure them that everything is under their control. Theoretically this would be our task, the journalists’ task, to fill screens and pages with reports of what the army of the Jewish people is doing, all the time, without a break.

But news media love what’s new and unusual. “A military judge unusually released an administrative detainee”; “For the first time in 38 years a dunam of state land in the Jordan Valley was released to the jurisdiction of a Palestinian village”; “Two sick hyenas from the Gaza Zoo received an exit permit for medical treatment from the coordinator of government activities in the territories.” All the rest is news that repeats itself, and so it isn’t news. And then Facebook comes along and adds torment to the torture with details of its own. For anyone who thinks they can get away from the Arabic, Tamar Goldschmidt from Jerusalem is there to translate, word for word, the local reports, including the translation of Thursday’s event in Tuqu.

For the past 10 days the army has closed off all exits from Tuqu. Only one dangerous side road leads to the main road, where upgrading is the prerogative of Israel alone. There are no warning signs or stoplights and “the settlers drive at crazy speeds,” the report reads (although I allow myself to add than not only they do). The teacher Sleiman was killed, the funeral was held on Thursday. Local residents blame her death on the occupation, the dangerous road and the Israelis. The funeral ended, the young men demonstrated. Maybe they threw stones; how else will they tell the Israeli overlords that they’ve had enough?

Border police and army troops arrest a young man, cuff him, cover his eyes with a white undershirt. He sits bent over and cuffed on the ground. A soldier with a helmet aims his gun at him. A humiliating scene. Cuffed by the legs, the young man, a high school student, tottered far away from the soldiers. What courage! A soldier shoots him. What cruelty.

A video and photos on Facebook show the injured Palestinian, an Israeli paramedic treating him, another soldier aiming his gun at a woman approaching. She bravely pushes the armed soldier and goes to the injured Palestinian. What courage! A shot in the air. A soldier aims his handgun, residents move forward anyhow. What courage! They carry the injured Palestinian to the car that will take him for treatment. The villagers wish him a speedy recovery.