If you read one source, you get one view. The way an article is titled skews a story, and the sources a press office uses and the way those sources are used changes the content of the story. Moreover, the way a story is framed changes the way you emotionally respond to it. And yet, the facts are the same – the same thing happened in the world.
Take the IDF and settler’s actions against the town of Awarta, Palestine in response/retribution for the heinous killing of 5 settlers in the illegal Itamar settlement, 70km from Jerusalem. In reality, no one knows who committed this crime, although the lack of any video footage of the criminals suggests that it was someone with a high level of knowledge of the settlement, which is highly fortified and heavily employs video surveillance.
Starting with Jpost, we have the headline “IDF hunts door-to-door for Fogel Family’s killers“. This story puts military interests first, emphasizing the purpose of the operation is to find the killers, and proudly proclaims that “Military sources said they were confident the army would capture the killers in the coming days.” Ehud Barak, defense minister and former prime minister is cited as calling the attack “painful reminder of the unbearable bloody price that we must pay in the struggle for sovereignty”. The article also mentions the “palestinian” claims that there were “hundreds of armed settlers were demonstrating in the Nablus area, blocking access to roads and throwing rocks at Arab vehicles.”
Unquestioningly citing the reasons given by a state representative for an action is a way to emphasize that the action is justified. Similarly, the “palestinians” claim that there was settler violence, in the context of a right-wing Israeli newspaper, de-emphasizes the reliability of the claim. On an almost separate note – the fact that Barak sees this killing of settlers as part of the “struggle for Israeli sovereignty” gives you a clear look at his idea of “Israeli sovereignty”, which is also left unquestioned in the article.
If we turn to Haaretz, we see a less extreme but still Zionist interpretation of the situation. The more balanced title “IDF continues to make mass arrest in wake of Itamar massacre” lets the reader know that the actions in Awarta are related to the crime in Itamar, but does not explicitly justify one by the other. The article, however, is quite thin on content concerning what these “mass arrests” look like, simply saying they are “wholesale”, and also mentioning that settler groups have “tried” to damage several Palestinian homes; implying they have not actually damaged anything seriously. The article makes no mention of the curfew, or the rocks thrown by settlers, or whether or not the settlers were armed or masked.
If we look at an international source, like the Inter Press service, we see an altogether different picture of the events at Awarta: “Palestinian Village under Siege following settler killings“. IPS bothered to get actual testimony from Palestinians in the town by telephone:
Please, please come quickly. Dozens of masked Israeli settlers have entered our village and they are attacking people and our homes. We don’t have enough food to eat. Now the soldiers are returning and are breaking into our home again. I can’t talk anymore,” Mahmoud (whose surname will remain anonymous for his own protection) told IPS in a hasty telephone conversation.
But more importantly, IPS attempts to put the killing and the imposed curfew and questioning of over 300 (not “dozens”) people of Awarte, into the context of ongoing violence between settlers and Palestinians in the area. Just last year “two young, unarmed men were gunned down by Israeli soldiers at close range in a hail of bullets in late March as they collected metal aggregates which they hoped to sell at the local market to help pay for their education”, and although the IDF took responsibility for the killings, there are reasons to suspect they may actually have been carried out by members of the Itamar settlement. But perhaps the most important piece of analysis is this:
Every time an illegal settler outpost is razed by the IDF the settlers carry out revenge attacks on Palestinians and their property. These attacks have included arson attacks on mosques, cutting down and burning agricultural fields, killing livestock, attacking homes, people and property.
You could argue this is the kind of analysis which goes beyond what journalists should engage in – but I think any journalist or press office that engages with a specific area over a sustained length of time has the right to come to conclusions such as this. Whether it is true or not is not something I can know, but hopefully during my time in the West Bank this summer, I’ll be able to get a sense of it.
It is also relevant to look at self declared Arabic or Islamic news sources, such as the Ma’an news agency or Islam Online who have also released stories on the current events in Awarta. Islam Online’s coverage begins with the relevant human rights consideration: Awarta is denied food and medicine for the fourth day, and Ma’an news’ story tells of the IDF working with residents to push back the settlers advance. It also reported that those same settlers just earlier in the day vowed they would not seek revenge, a topic which received an entire article in Haaretz. Perhaps the best thing we can say of that article is that it was “premature”.