Opinion |

When Israeli 'Journalists' Channel Settlers

The mayor of Silwad, a Palestinian village whose land was stolen for Amona, said that the settlers expelled from the outpost should go back to Europe. Israel Radio reported the comments – but failed to explain the context.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
A Palestinian teen rides his horse in the village of Silwad, east of the West Bank city of Ramallah, Jan. 5, 2017.
A Palestinian teen rides his horse in the village of Silwad, east of the West Bank city of Ramallah, Jan. 5, 2017. Credit: Majdi Mohammed, AP
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

While the circus in Amona was being covered from every angle, and by affectionate murmurs of understanding for the land thieves, Reshet Bet of Israel Radio went to the trouble of bringing us the view of the Palestinians, too. Indirectly.

The head of the local council of Silwad, one of the villages whose land was stolen for the outpost, was interviewed on a television channel affiliated with Hamas, and said the solution for the evacuees is to return to Europe, the place where they came from. The reports noted that the mayor, Abd al-Rahman Abu Salah, was one of the people who filed the High Court of Justice petition that opposed moving the outpost to plots of land nearby on the same ridge.

The mayor’s comments show some amount of familiarity with the ethnic backgrounds of the thieves of Amona and its dancing shield; for good reason he did not say they should go back to Morocco or Iraq. But let us return to the report itself: It was certainly not inappropriate to be broadcast. Even in day-to-day conversations with Palestinians, similar views are occasionally voiced, and not just about the residents of one specific outpost. This is not just a viewpoint: I have heard Palestinians who are convinced that the Jews are leaving Israel in huge numbers. Whether because of the threatening military strength of Hamas, with Allah on its side, or in the search for an easier life, or because the Jews understand that they do not belong here. There are also those who quote the appropriate verse from the Koran that specifically prophesizes the Jews’ departure.

Yet there are those who speak differently too: For example A., in his 60s, from Gaza, a devout Muslim, who is appalled by Hamas. “As a believing Muslim,” he once said, “I cannot imagine this land without Jews.” L. said exactly the same thing. She is an atheist from a Christian home in the Galilee. “After all, you are part of this place,” she said. And there are refugees who always quote their parents and grandparents who said: We lived as good neighbors with the Jews.

Every comment is made in a certain context, and they do not have a single absolute truth. Except for the following truth: The Palestinians are subjected to the Israeli regime of organized sadism.

If 20 years ago they thought it would soon reach its end, then today it is clear that Israel only intends on continuing and upgrading it, making it more efficient and permanent. The popular Intifada failed. The peace negotiations were exposed as a fraud. Diplomacy was defeated. The armed struggle is a two-edged sword. For every legal battle against land theft that succeeds, there are dozens in which ultimately the land remains in the hands of the settlers. The Jews have proven to anyone who did not know or did not agree that the entity they established is colonialist. In other words, it aspires to replace one people with another, to displace one people on behalf of God’s chosen.

Israel is acting, and the Palestinians in response are saying things on the verge of despair, or things that will inspire hope that a change for the better is possible. The line that divides between delirium and hope, between hope and despair, is very thin and is drawn by Israeli policies.

The news item on Israel Radio was broadcast in a solemn voice, with an overtone of “those who know the score will understand.” And we understood, that the entire problem is that those farmers are just anti-Semites. Not only did they not serve bread and salt to the robbers of their land, they even wore them down in a court case and stole their valuable time, which otherwise would have been dedicated to devout prayers to the Lord of Hosts.

The report on Israel Radio pretended that the mayor of Silwad’s statement was one of essence alone (negating the rights of the Jews) and lacked any context. Or that the context of systematic, brutal, cynical theft is unimportant. And by the way, the settlement of Ofra is also built on the lands of Silwad.

Every journalistic item has context. The same goes for every journalistic item that no one bothers to publish: It too has a context. On Israel Radio we can hear information from Palestinian security forces on the catching of knife-wielding attackers, as well as the voices of Palestinian politicians. But we cannot find day-to-day reports on the routine demolitions of Palestinian structures in the West Bank, the displacement of agricultural communities and shepherds in favor of IDF training areas, systematic bans on construction by Palestinians, limits on movement and raids on houses.

Reshet Bet does not exactly bend over backwards, either, to investigate the circumstances of IDF killings of Palestinian women and youths who did not endanger the lives of soldiers. And, by the way, there is no need to undertake independent investigations. It is possible to quote B’Tselem’s field work, to broadcast the response of the IDF spokesman, and in the name of the holy balance to interview someone from Regavim or Kahana Chai. Listeners of Reshet Bet have been saved from all this, out of choice.

The context for the stories that are published, and that are not published, is the same: Mobilization on behalf of the settlement enterprise, while blocking information that would arouse doubts about Israel’s intentions and the logic of its policies. Natural skepticism, engagement, curiosity and commitment to describing a range of phenomena – all these are lost to public broadcasting when it deals with the lives of Palestinians under Israeli rule. Here we are first of all Israelis and settlers, or potential settlers. Never journalists.

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