When media becomes lynch mob
Israeli media condemns Palestinian children despite lack of evidence
No more than several hours passed after a settler car accident on Road 5 on 14 March 2013, and the mainstream Israeli media had already found whom to blame. There were no reported eye-witnesses, nor any evidence, but to the Israeli media this is not even a minor inconvenience: in a unified choir that dangerously resembles a Jim Crow-era lynch mob, they condemned Palestinian children from the villages of Hares and Kifl Hares for a “terrorist attack”. Five of the children (aged 16-17) are now facing 20 charges of attempted murder, charges that could put them in prison for 25 years – or for life.
The reports that appeared in Israeli media following the car accident stated that the settler car driver and her three children were injured when “Palestinians hurled rocks onto their vehicle”, which then allegedly made the car to swerve off the road and collide with a truck. In other reports, stones became “concrete blocks”: “Palestinian terrorists hurled not pebbles, or small rocks, but what looks like large concrete blocks at the Bitons’ [the settler] car.” In subsequent reports, it is claimed that rocks were thrown inside the car, not at it, or that they hit the truck, not the car. The numerous inconsistencies in the media, coupled with most news sources’ complete adherence to military accounts of the incident, raises questions of whether there are political motives behind this kind of inflammatory reporting.
There is not a single eye-witness in any of these reports who would confirm the stone-throwing allegations; nobody had seen any children throwing stones at passing cars that day. Even the truck driver, into whose vehicle the settler car smashed, at first said it was a flat tyre that had caused him to suddenly break; later he changed his mind and claimed seeing “stones by the road”.
The use of the word “terrorist” in relation to the car accident is extensive. It is used to justify the criminal way in which the accused are treated (the arrests; solitary confinement; attempted murder charges against the boys, among others); using the “terrorism against Israelis” and “Israel’s security” cards are popular tools to justify the state’s criminal actions against Palestinians.
The demonization of Palestinian children also takes other forms in the mainstream Israeli narrative: they are described as “Arab men”. Such use of language is intended to hide the fact in the public lynch mob arena that the accused are high school children (they are treated as adults in the Israeli military court); taking advantage of the widespread racism and xenophobia, it portrays Palestinians in an unfavourable light; it also aims to delete the word “Palestinian” – the rightful inhabitant of the occupied land – from the public discourse.
It is very important to note that the presumption of innocence – innocent until proven guilty – is non-existent in any of the analysed news reports following the car accident: all claim that the accident was caused by Palestinians throwing stones, despite a total lack of evidence. This is a viciously perverted understanding of justice: it’s not that the accusers have to provide evidence for their allegations; it’s the accused who must now prove they are innocent in a justice system that makes a mockery of itself.
You can find more links to Israeli media articles here: Israeli Media Coverage.
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