Context and collective punishment: The aftermath of recent killings in the Palestine-Israel region
The IPSC deplores the brutal murder of the three young Israeli citizens whose remains were found on Monday near Hebron and the apparent ‘revenge’ murder of a Palestinian teenager reportedly carried out by Israeli extremists early Wednesday. Equally the IPSC deplores the deaths of all civilians killed in this conflict of unequals, including the six civilians killed by Israeli occupation forces since the Israeli teenagers were kidnapped.
The IPSC is concerned that the unjustifiable killings of the three Israelis will be used to justify further killings, destruction and illegal settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT) by the Israeli government and military. We also understand that these killings must be seen in the wider context of the ongoing brutality of Israel’s military occupation which has left 6 children and 26 adults dead in 2014 alone. It is worth noting that the two children whose unprovoked shootings by the Israeli military on May 15 were caught on CCTV received scant media coverage in this country.
Indeed, we believe there is a huge double standard in how mainstream media outlets cover the situation in Palestine-Israel. The deaths of the three Israeli teenagers present a case in point. The front page of the Irish Times (01/07/14) carried this story, along with images of the three. Yet the deaths of the two Palestinians on May 15 saw the Irish Times print only four short paragraphs tucked away in the sidebar on page two of the World News section. There was no front page story for them, no full colour picture. Nor for the other 4 children killed by Israel this year, or the 26 adults. We have to ask – why are Israeli lives deemed to be worth more than Palestinian lives? The problem is certainly not unique to the Irish Times – indeed other outlets are equally bad or worse culprits than the ‘paper of record’ – but it serves as a timely example of this recurring phenomenon.
We believe, therefore, that the challenge for conscientious journalists in the aftermath of these horrific events should be to report events from the region in a balanced and informed manner; a manner which is closed to both political manipulation and raw emotion. Hoping therefore to inform and bring balance to reporting, the IPSC has sent a version of the following briefing note to Irish journalists, and informed news outlets that we always available to arrange interviews with our contacts in human rights organisations on the ground.
Background Briefing Notes on the Recent Violence in the Palestine-Israel region
The three Israeli teenagers Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel disappeared from outside an Israeli settlement on June 12, and their remains were found nearby nineteen days later. In the ostensible search for these youths, Israeli occupation forces have rampaged throughout the West Bank and Gaza in a massive display of illegal collective punishment where they have:
– Killed at least 6 Palestinian civilians, including one 14-year-old child and mentally ill man on his way to morning prayers. Three members of armed Palestinian groups in Gaza were also extra-judicially assassinated in violation of international law;
– Contributed to the death of two elderly Palestinian who suffered fatal heart attacks during night raids. A 12th Palestinian, a 17-year-old shepherd boy also died after stepping on a landmine in the Jordan Valley. It is not yet known who laid the mine;
– In addition, a 16-year-old Palestinian child was abducted from East Jerusalem and reportedly killed by Israeli extremists. (See table below for the names and details of these fatalities);
– Conducted over 160 military incursions into Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps, where hundreds of civilian homes have been invaded and raided;
– Arrested between 440 and 560 Palestinians, including at least 10 children, bringing the total number of Palestinians in Israeli prisons to between 5710 and 5830, while the number of children in detention has surpassed 250. There are also 20 members of the Palestinian parliament now imprisoned, including the Speaker;
– Conducted in the region of 100 airstrikes, shellings or other attacks in the Gaza strip which have caused injuries to civilians. Some of the targets of these strikes have been greenhouses, an UNRWA health clinic, blacksmith workshop and turnery, a concrete factory and agricultural lands;
– Restarted its illegal policy of punitive home demolitions, destroying the family homes of two men it accuses of being behind the killing of the Israeli teenagers, and planning to destroy the home of a man it accuses of killing a police officer.
– Illegal Israeli settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have carried out at least 14 attacks on Palestinian people and property, including firing live ammunition at Palestinian quarry workers, firing upon a funeral, firing upon a car, attacking Palestinian homes, vandalising vehicles and chopping down olive trees and setting fire to a farm.
– On 19th June the Israeli government approved a further 172 illegal settlement dwellings in East Jerusalem. On 29th June lands were levelled near Salfit for the construction of a new illegal settlement and the Israeli government announced a $90 million plan for greater security control over occupied and illegally annexed Palestinian East Jerusalem. On 1st July the cornerstone was laid for the new Kochav Jacob illegal settlement near Ramallah by the Knesset Chairperson Yuli Edelstein. Israeli PM Netanyahu has called for “a wave of settlement construction and the establishment of a new settlement in memory” of the teenagers. All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and are considered war crimes under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
– The Gaza strip continues to exist under an illegal Israeli-imposed siege, a “flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention” according to Amnesty International. At present the most immediate crises being provoked by this inhumane blockade are a severe shortage in vital medicines, and a continuing electricity shortage.
– According to the Palestinian Businessmen Forum, the blockade of Hebron by the Israeli military has led to economic losses estimated at around $10 million per day in trade, and €2 million per day for employees unable leave to work.
– Amnesty International states that Israel has imposed “measures that clearly constitute collective punishment on Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”, that “collective punishment cannot be justified for any reason whatsoever, including violations by another party” and that “collective punishment of civilians is prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention as well as customary international humanitarian law”. It further notes that “authorities are also considering transferring Hamas officials or prisoners who are residents of the West Bank to the Gaza Strip. The Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly prohibits an occupying power from forcibly transferring or deporting people from an occupied territory”
This is only a very limited survey of the events of a two-and-half week period in Israeli-occupied Palestine, however, it regrettable that little if any of this has been reported in Irish media outlets.
Context is always crucial
It must be noted these acts of violence are occurring within the context of an enduring, unjustifiable and colonial military occupation, that Gaza remains under an illegal and cruel siege and that Israel has chosen to expand its illegal settlement activities at the expense of a negotiated peace.
Since the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000, over 6,800 Palestinian have been killed by Israeli occupation forces or illegal settlers. Of those, the vast majority were civilians. According to Defence for Children International, over 1,400 of the fatalities were children, giving an appalling average of one Palestinian child killed by Israeli forces every 3.5 days, or once every 84 hours, over the past 14 years. DCI figures also show that at any given time, Israel holds between 200 and 300 Palestinian children in prison. Various reports, including by UNICEF, Save the Children and a British government-funded legal fact-finding mission, have attested to the cruel and inhumane treatment faced by child prisoners from arrest to incarceration to the effects on them following their release.
The IPSC therefore appeals to journalists and media outlets to recognise and report on this vital context and to reflect the political, military and humanitarian reality on the ground, and to thereby ensure that the lives and rights of all people in Israel and Palestine are afforded the dignity and importance that they are entitled to. That the outrage expressed at one group of murders is not balanced by indifference to the more prevalent, consistent and officially condoned murders that Palestinians daily experience.
Note on sources: The statistics given above are drawn from various sources, including the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Amnesty International – Ireland, Defence For Children International – Palestine, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association and various news agencies.