Last Friday night a Palestinian man in his twenties entered an illegal Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem, opening fire on Israeli settlers after they exited a synagogue and were walking on a nearby road, managing to kill at least 7 and injuring another 10. After ignoring the murder of 11 Palestinians the day before, Western media went into a frenzy to cover what they called a “synagogue shooting”, a disingenuous framing of what truly transpired, in addition to missing all key context while building a completely fabricated narrative around the event.
In order to understand any story of this nature, we first must receive context, learn where the story took place, what actually happened, and ultimately who was involved. This is an extremely basic breakdown of some key components that go into reporting on any story and although some details may not be available as a story breaks, a journalist has to do their due diligence. So what happened in Jerusalem?
To begin with, we’ll start with ‘the where’. According to the BBC’s account, the incident took place “in a synagogue in the city’s [Jerusalem’s] Neve Yaakov neighbourhood and [Israeli’s] were leaving when the gunmen opened fire”, which, unless the BBC used a journalist who lacked the critical ability to read a wikipedia page summary of the area where the attack happened, is an outright lie. Neve Yaakov is an illegal settlement, located in East Jerusalem. East Jerusalem is an occupied territory; according to International Law and the opinion of nearly every single country on earth, other than Israel itself. The construction of that illegal settlement was a war crime according to the fourth Geneva convention, as was the act of the Israeli government transferring Israeli citizens to live in the settlement, which is built on Palestinian land and is where Palestinians are now prohibited from living.
The headlines in Western media all state that the attack was a “synagogue shooting”, which is also a distortion of the facts. The reason the coverage is specifically attempting to frame this as a “synagogue shooting” is to make this seem as if a Palestinian had attacked a place of worship and connect the incident to horrific “white-supremacist mass shootings” in the United States and elsewhere that have no relevance as a comparison in this instance. This was a calculated propaganda move to garner public support for Israel and to demonize Palestinians, hence why rocket fire the night prior is mentioned in almost all reports on the issue, whilst the massacre of 10 Palestinians, followed by the murder of an unarmed Palestinian protester, who were all shot the day before by Israeli forces, is never brought up. Even if the gruesome massacre of Palestinians in Jenin is brought up (including an old woman who was shot twice in the throat and once in the chest) the Western media frame it as simply part of the ongoing “escalation”, when the massacre in Jenin was “the escalation”. In a CNN live report, the event in Jenin is glossed over as a “raid” that was carried out to target armed militants and not factored into the event, which the reporter claimed took place in “North Jerusalem“.
The Associated Press (AP), ostensibly one of the most trusted news sources in the world, never once described Neve Yaakov as an ‘illegal settlement’ and in its article on the attack used the rocket fire from Gaza — which triggered a disproportionate Israeli response in the form of large airstrikes that damaged homes in the Al-Maghazi refugee camp, otherwise known as the war crime of collective punishment — as appropriate framing for the attack in the illegal settlement. Later in the article the AP does note the murder of 9 Palestinians [now 10 as another died of their wounds], yet do not connect this at all to the rocket fire from Gaza — which caused no damage or injuries — that was a response to the massacre in Jenin. 33 Palestinians have now been killed this year, amongst them 8 children [5 from West Bank, 2 from East Jerusalem and 1 from Gaza], yet the much higher Palestinian death toll is never mentioned. It is very clear that the 21-year-old Palestinian who carried out the attack was acting alone and it was interpreted widely as a response to the horrific massacre of Palestinians in Jenin and the killing of a Palestinian teen in Shuafat refugee camp earlier in the week.
Many Western media outlets noted that Palestinians in Jenin, and elsewhere, celebrated the attack in Jerusalem. In fact, the AP article mentioned above does just that and mentions the celebrations much earlier in the article, before later adding a small segment which talks about the much higher Palestinian death toll. This is again very calculated and is written in such a way as to paint Israel as a victim and the Palestinians as rabid beasts. US President Joe Biden commented on the attack, condemning it and casually using the racist terminology of calling it “an attack against the civilized world”, which is actually quoted in the AP article right before mention is given to Palestinians rejoicing at the news of the attack. Why did Palestinians actually celebrate? Is it because they are bloodthirsty un-civilised terrorists? Or is it because illegal settlers living on stolen land were killed as revenge for the Jenin massacre and because they are subjected to Apartheid conditions and have not seen such a revenge attack against Israelis since the early 2000’s? Since the second Intifada around 10,000 Palestinians have been killed and Israel has not payed a significant price for any of its various massacres against Palestinians. So, when this happened, Palestinians felt as if they finally got some revenge. You may not agree with this way of thinking, but this is the real framing of the issue. On the other hand, Western media refuse to show frequent examples of Israelis celebrating the deaths of Palestinians, including in some cases the celebration of the murder of children.
The only outlet that got the issue correct in a short news piece that was released, was Reuters, to their credit, who described the Neve Yaakov by stating that it is “considered by Israelis as a neighbourhood within Jerusalem, while Palestinians and most of the international community consider it occupied land illegally annexed after a 1967 Middle East war.” Despite this, the Reuters article does not seem to challenge the claim that the shooting happened “in a synagogue”, which they do rightfully say was claimed by the Israeli police. The shooting did not take place in or on the grounds of the synagogue, it happened on a nearby road. The connection to the synagogue is that the settlers were walking on the street after exiting a synagogue. Many corporate Western broadcast media outlets reported at the time that it happened in the synagogue, without checking to see whether this was accurate.
Next we have the question of who was involved. On the one hand we have illegal Israeli settlers, living in an illegal settlement, participating in a war crime. These individual settlers had nothing directly to do with the Israeli military’s massacre in Jenin or killings during the days before, but were targeted as revenge. Then we have the shooter, Khairi Alkam, a 21-year-old Palestinian from the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem. Khairi was named after his grandfather, who was stabbed to death in 1998 by an illegal Israeli settler. The extremist Israeli settler was named Haim Pearlman, who killed 2 Palestinians and attempted to kill three others, Pearlman was released after being arrested in 2010 and now walks free. At the time of the attack he belonged to the terrorist Kach movement, which Israel’s security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir was also once a part of.
According to Khairi Alkam’s uncle, Sharhabil, the 21-year-old was motivated to avenge the death of 16-year-old Mohammed Ali, who was killed earlier that week by Israeli forces inside Shuafat refugee camp. The teenage Palestinian was shot in the back whilst running away from Israeli occupation forces that had stormed the refugee camp. Israeli forces stated that they had shot him because he had appeared to have been holding a gun, it was later found out to be a toy gun. Despite this, Israel’s national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, handed a medal of appreciation to the soldier that killed the Palestinian teen, calling the soldier a “hero” for killing a “terrorist”. Others have stated that Khairi was motivated by the killings in Jenin and that this drove him to want to respond, however, we have no official statement which shares any of this in his own words. None of what you are reading here appeared anywhere in Western corporate news when the topic was covered, instead they decided to talk about Holocaust remembrance day and manage to note this in most articles on the issue, despite this having no relevance other than added emotional impact for Israelis.
Then we have a second attack, carried out a day later against illegal settlers in the Silwan area of East Jerusalem, which resulted in the death of the Palestinian teen responsible and seriously injured two settlers. Again, this was described as a “terrorist attack” in Western media, despite the fact that the 13-year-old Palestinian who carried out the attack was shooting at a group of settlers who were armed with automatic weapons, one of the settlers he injured was a high ranking officer in the Israeli military’s para-troopers division. This was in no way described in the biased Western media coverage. This was an act of resistance against armed illegal settlers, some still serving in the Israeli military, who are participating in stealing the homes and lands of Palestinians in the area, where hundreds face being forced out of their homes.
Then we have the Israeli reaction to this all. Something that is also missed by Western media. Israel concluded a cabinet meeting on Saturday, during which they discussed the steps that had to be taken to “respond” to the attacks. Keep in mind that both of the lone shooters were killed and there is no indication that anyone else was involved. Firstly we had the immediate reaction, which was a large-scale arrest campaign, targeted at collectively punishing Palestinians for the actions of the attackers. Then we have the coming demolition of the family homes of the attackers (these homes have already been welded shut) meaning that the families have already been made homeless. These acts are clearly violations of international law. Furthermore, given the fact that Israel clearly targets and punishes Palestinians collectively for the actions of individuals, who did not carry out action against Israeli settlers or soldiers, is it not understandable why Palestinians who routinely suffer in this way might also see Israeli settlers and soldiers as fair game for retaliation? Israel has used collective punishment in the occupied territories since 1967, which is why many Palestinians might feel justified to respond in kind. This is key context that is almost always omitted by corporate media.
Now, we have the Israeli push to use bills currently being adopted in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) to strip the citizenship from Palestinian citizens of Israel, as well as Jerusalem ID holders, if they harm any Israeli soldier or settler, regardless of context. On Monday, the Israeli Knesset voted through a bill that would strip the residency and then deport any Palestinian involved in a “violent” act against an Israeli. The bill would include deporting Palestinians to the West Bank and Gaza, on which Likud party MK, Ofir Katz, commented the following:
“Damn terrorists will not be here, their place is in Gaza.”
Denial of residency and deportation must be approved by the Israeli ministry of interior within two weeks, or alternatively the ministry of justice within seven days. This is a bill that will perform the act of ethnic cleansing, it is clear racial discrimination. Where is the so-called “civilized world” when dealing with this? Imagine during the civil rights struggle in the US, that only black people — and not the other way round — who acted in violence against any white person, civilian or not, regardless of context, were stripped of their citizenships and deported, would the world have any problem identifying what that is? Absolutely not. So why then do we see complete silence from the international media and Western governments on the introduction of supremacist laws like these?
Another potential bill that may be introduced and passed by the Israeli Knesset would fulfill the agenda of the Religious Zionism party, which vowed to pursue laws whereby Palestinians would be given a death sentence for attacking Israelis. Then we have the possible military escalation that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated may be in the works and the massive death and destruction such an action could bring. These are just some of the responses of the Israeli government to the attacks, not including punitive measures carried out in response on the ground. On top of this, Israeli settlers have been carrying out attacks against Palestinians and their properties in the West Bank; which has included burning down countless vehicles, destroying farm land and olive trees, the slaughter of animals, arson attacks against family homes, and shooting attacks which have injured a number of civilians. No Israelis have been charged or arrested by the Israeli occupation forces for such acts and provocative “death to Arabs” marches were launched all over the West Bank, guarded by Israeli occupation forces. The other “solution” proposed by the Israeli government has been the relaxation of already lax gun laws so that every settler can be armed. The Israeli regime has urged all its settlers to carry a gun. Keep in mind that a large percentage of these settlers are either actively part of the Israeli military or used to be, meaning that if there is a future attack on armed settlers, according to international law, they are armed combatants. However, Western media won’t describe them as such.
All of this context to the attacks, in addition to the racist responses of the Israeli regime and their illegal settlers, has been actively ignored. A mythological narrative has been constructed to distort the reality on the ground, in order to make Israel look like a victim and to justify its war crimes. This is why it is so important to address the propaganda surrounding the two attacks, because those who are reporting it in a way that leaves out all the key facts are actively participating in covering up for crimes against humanity. They are not journalists, they are paid propagandists and this is yet again another example of gutter journalism at play.
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