By now you’ve probably heard about the deaths in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank following protests at al Aqsa mosque. That’s because violence makes for great headlines. What received almost no attention from English language media was a historic legal procedure. A complaint was filed on Wednesday 19th July at the International Criminal Court by a collection of Palestinian civil organisations and individuals last Wednesday, accompanied by press conferences in the Hague and in Gaza. Unfortunately this sort of peaceful, legal process doesn’t make for a very sensationalist news story. But, perhaps more importantly, it makes Israel look bad.
Death and ‘violent clashes’ between two sides of the ‘Israel-Palestine conflict’ is, ironically, much more palatable, because it avoids the broader context of the occupation, and paints a picture of two equal sides who just can’t seem to agree on a peace process. One News made it sound like a schoolyard squabble between two equally belligerent troublemakers – this is not a challenging story for our fact-shy media.
As for the recent violence in Jerusalem, it’s hard to get hold of substantial facts, with most news outlets simply parrotting each other without bothering to speak to someone on the ground, and using the word ‘allegedly’ quite liberally. Reports contradict each other, especially about the facts surrounding what started it all off.
What we do know is this:
On the morning of Friday 14th July three Palestinians shot two Israeli police officers who were outside the Als Aqsa mosque compound (Haram al-Sharif/the Temple Mount), a site considered very holy by muslims, christians and jews alike. The three Palestinian shooters were shot and killed immediately afterwards, and the policemen died of their injuries in hospital that afternoon. Conflicting witness accounts put the Palestinian shooters variously on a motorbike, or inside the compound shooting through the fence. At any rate they were taken down inside the compound. Medics were refused entry to attend them and all three died.
This led to the closure of the mosque for Friday prayers, for the first time in 17 years, no 30 years, no wait, 50 years – according to different sources. In any case, it was reopened on Sunday 16th, but with heightened security in place, in the form of cctv cameras and metal detectors – but only for muslims. At the same time jewish visitors to the holy site were admitted freely through gates of the compound, under the protection of an Israeli security escort.
Protests began on Sunday in response to the invasive security measures, with thousands protesting in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Muslim worshippers protested by refusing to go through the metal detectors, instead performing their prayers on the ground outside the compound gates. Thousands have been protesting in the streets across the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and also in several other countries around the world in condemnation of Israeli security response, which amounts to selective collective punishment.
On Friday 21st three Palestinian men were killed during the violent crackdown on the protests by the Israeli military, which involved live ammunition, rubber bullets, stun grenades and beatings. One of the men was claimed to have been shot by an Israeli settler in occupied East Jerusalem, and the other two by Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem and a nearby village in the West Bank. In retaliation a young Palestinian man stabbed three jewish settlers in the West Bank later that night.
There has been at least one other Palestinian citizen killed over the weekend and hundreds injured since the crackdown began.
This is such a boon for our sycophantic press – the woozy facts can be massaged without any accountability. And yet a peaceful legal process, long overdue, suffers from media blackout because it’s not entertainment and because the facts are embarrassing to Israel. Also unpublishable is the fact that the ‘clashes’ in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza are part of a bigger picture of military occupation and apartheid, which deny Palestinian citizens many of their fundamental rights on an ongoing, daily basis.