Why Do Media Value Israeli Children’s Lives More Than Those of Palestinian Kids?

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Electronic Intifada

Why Do Media Value Israeli Children’s Lives More Than Those of Palestinian Kids?

Relatives mourn over the body of Inas Khalil during her funeral in the West Bank village of Sinjil on 20 October. (Photo: Shadi Hatem / APA images)

A young Palestinian man named Abd al-Rahman al-Shaludi rammed his car into pedestrians exiting the Ammunition Hill light rail station in northern Jerusalem on Wednesday, killing three-month-old Haya Zissel Brown and injuring at least seven others. 

Israeli officials instantly labeled the crash a terrorist attack, which US media outlets have parroted without question even though the intent of the driver remains unclear. Given that Israeli police shot and killed al-Shaludi immediately after he exited the vehicle, whether the crash was deliberate may never be certain.  

His family insists it was an accident, telling reporters that al-Shaludi, 21 years old, suffered from mental illness as a result of being tortured in Israeli prison.  

“We believe that he was shot and killed in cold blood and there was no attempt to question him, and hear his side of the story,” his cousin, Abed al-Shaludi, told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz

Al-Shaludi had been jailed by Israel three times since September 2012 for allegedly hurling stones and molotov cocktails at Israeli settlers and their property in Silwan, his neighborhood in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. The Israeli press is using this to cast al-Shaludi as a career criminal with a history of “anti-Jewish” violence.

According to his mother, al-Shaludi’s metal health began to deteriorate after a three-week-long interrogation at the hands of the Shin Bet (Israel’s secret police) in the Jerusalem Russian Compound jail, a notorious site of abuse and torture of Palestinians.

This context has of course been missing or buried in most US media accounts, of which there are many. Israel and Palestine-related news is currently saturated with headlines about a Palestinian man killing an Israeli baby. 

Meanwhile, these same outlets have either whitewashed or completely ignored the ongoing abuse and killings of Palestinian children by the Israeli military and settlers. 

Gaza children still dying

The same day that al-Shaludi killed an Israeli infant with his car, an unexploded Israeli bomb took the life of four-year-old Muhammad Sami Abu Jrad in Beit Hanoun, a city in northern Gaza that was decimated by Israel’s merciless summertime bombing campaign, which killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including more than 500 children. 

According to the Ma’an News Agency, Jrad is the tenth person killed by unexploded Israeli munitions, most of which have yet to be cleared because the Israeli-imposed, Egypt-enforced blockade hampers access to the robotic and protective equipment needed to neutralize the leftover ordnance. 

Unlike the tragic death of three-month-old Haya Zissel Brown, Muhammad Jrad’s killing elicited only silence from the American press corps, as did that of another Palestinian child run over by an Israeli settler earlier this week.

Children run down

On Sunday, a man reportedly from the Jewish-only settlement of Yitzhar ran over Palestinian schoolchildren as they made their way towards their mothers after exiting a school bus in the West Bank town of Sinjil

Five-year-old Inas Khalil died of her wounds shortly thereafter and another girl, also hit, was left in critical condition.

Instead of stopping to check on the children or calling for help, the man kept driving until he reached a nearby Jewish settlement, at which point he says he called the police. 

Residents accused the settler of ramming the children deliberately, but Israeli police ruled the hit-and-run an accident, siding with the settler, who claims he fled out of fear of being hurt by the Palestinian crowd which gathered around the girls he maimed. 

Raed al-Jabari, a 35-year-old Palestinian father and husband, was not so lucky when he hit Israeli settlers with his car in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc in late July. Al-Jabari insisted it was an accident and turned himself in to the police, reported Ma’an News Agency. But unlike the settler who killed Inas Khalil, al-Jabari was jailed for two months and ultimately died under suspicious circumstances.

Israeli authorities claim al-Jabari hanged himself in the bathroom at Israel’s Eshel prison, but the autopsy suggests the man was tortured to death, according to Palestinian officials. Either way, the disparity in treatment of the settler who killed Khalil versus that of al-Jabari is the essence of Israel’s apartheid regime that affords different, unequal rights to those under its rule. 

Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour responded to the latest settler hit-and-run by filing a complaint with the UN Security Council, accusing “extremist terrorist settlers” of launching intentional hit-and-run attacks against Palestinians in recent months. 

Indeed, settlers slamming their vehicles into Palestinians in the occupied West Bank is a common occurrence that is routinely overlooked by the Israeli authorities as well as western media outlets.

In September, a six-year-old Palestinian girl was run over by a settler driver south of the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. In August, an eight-year-old Palestinian girl was hit by a settler vehicle in the southern West Bank, an act witnesses described as a deliberate attack. A week later, a 23-year-old Palestinian man was run over and killed by a settler vehicle in the central West Bank.

As far as this writer can tell, none of the perpetrators have been labeled “terrorists” nor have any been held accountable. But such is the nature of apartheid. 

Meanwhile, Khalil’s killing received a mention of two sentences in The New York Times, buried near the end of an article about Wednesday’s Jerusalem incident. 

The Associated Press, one of the only US media outlets to cover Khalil’s death, devoted just five sentences to the hit-and-run, framing it as nothing more than an unproven accusation by Palestinians against an unnamed Israeli settler. 

“The Palestinians are accusing an Israeli settler of running over two schoolgirls, killing one of them, and speeding away,” reads the article’s opening line. 

In stark contrast, here is the opening sentence to the Associated Press article on the Jerusalem car crash: “A Palestinian motorist with a history of anti-Israel violence slammed his car into a crowded train station in Jerusalem on Wednesday, killing a three-month-old baby girl and wounding eight people in what police called a terror attack.” 

Boy shot dead

On Thursday, 16 October, Israeli soldiers shot Bahaa Samir Badir, 13, in the chest at close range in Beit Laqiya, a village northwest of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter at the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah.  

Like Khalil’s death, Badir’s killing elicited a mere five sentences from the Associated Press

The Israeli army excused the killing, saying its soldiers were simply responding to firebombs directed at their jeeps as they were leaving the village. Live fire, an Israeli army spokesperson said, was an appropriate response to stones and Molotov cocktails, a troubling narrative that went largely unchallenged in the US media outlets which bothered to report on Badir’s death. 

The US press showed even less interest in the video that surfaced this week that shows Israeli soldiers blindfolding, handcuffing and abusing an eleven-year-old developmentally disabled Palestinian boy in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron as a crowd of settlers and their children laughed, cheered and shouted racist slurs. 

The abuse and wanton killing of Palestinian children by the Israeli war machine is not an exception, but rather a norm that US media outlets are complicit in enabling through omission or obfuscation, and, like Israel, they are guilty of valuing some children’s lives more than others.

Rania Khalek

Rania Khalek is an independent journalist reporting on the underclass and marginalized. Her work has appeared at Common Dreams, Salon, The Nation, In These Times, Citizen Radio and more. To see more of Rania’s work visit her blog Dispatches from the Underclass and follow her on twitter @RaniaKhalek.

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