If you were to happen on U.S. mainstream news coverage of the situation in Israel this month, you’d find stories like “Israel battles wave of terrorist attacks” on NBC news; a New York Times story headlined “New Rocket Fire From Gaza Follows Rising Tensions in Jerusalem”; and video of stone-throwing Palestinian youth on NBC headlined “Palestinians Clash With Israeli Police At Jerusalem Holy Site.”
And in the process, you’d be fed a warped picture of lies and distortions that turn reality completely upside down.
The way recent events in Israel are framed in U.S. media is that they all started with a “wave of terrorist attacks” on Israelis by Palestinians. In three separate incidents at the end of March, individual Palestinian gunmen shot and killed a total of 11 men including two immigrant workers from Ukraine who had been in Israel for years, innocent bystanders, and Israeli police with whom the shooters reportedly exchanged fire. Forces that took “credit” for or upheld these attacks are reactionary Islamic fundamentalists who, despite claims to the contrary, have an outlook, agenda, and tactics that have nothing to do with and are opposed to the liberation of the Palestinian people or anyone else. (For an understanding of these reactionary forces, including the critical role of U.S. imperialism in their origin, and the need for a real revolutionary alternative, see Bob Avakian’s Bringing Forward Another Way.)
But history didn’t begin or end with these or two other incidents where Palestinians are alleged to have shot and killed Israelis this year. And a focus on these incidents covers up the real story in order to justify the real wave of terror going on against the Palestinians.
The REAL “Wave of Terrorist Attacks”
This year alone, human rights activists have documented the killing of 47 Palestinians, including eight children and two women, by Israeli forces. Many of the murdered Palestinians were gunned down in unarmed protests against Israeli repression. Twenty-nine of these people were shot to death by Israeli soldiers without being associated in any way with any kind of protest. Israel has killed five times as many Palestinians in 2022 than it killed in the same period in 2021. In the midst of what actually is a wave of terrorist attacks by Israeli authorities, Palestinians in every corner of the territory controlled by Israel fear stepping out of their homes to shop, go to work, or send their children to school.
Because of the prominence of the victim, or the capture of the killing on video, a couple of these murders by Israeli forces have broken into Israeli or European news, even as they have been ignored in the U.S. media, and everywhere buried under the kinds of headlines quoted at the beginning of this piece.
On April 10, Ghada Sabteen, a 47-year-old partially blind widow and mother of six was shot and killed as she approached Israeli soldiers with her hands up at a checkpoint near Bethlehem in the West Bank. Her murder was captured on video by a Palestinian journalist, and the video has been viewed tens of thousands of times on Twitter. As Ghada Sabteen lay dying, Israeli soldiers prevented her aunt from coming to her aid; she was eventually treated by Palestinian medics, who were unable to save her life. Ghada Sabteen had many relatives living in the U.S., and the U.S. embassy in Israel issued a statement claiming, “The United States welcomes Israel’s decision to investigate her shooting death.” But according to statements by Israeli officials, there is no such “investigation.” She was one of 15 Palestinians shot dead by Israeli troops in the West Bank region of Palestine since the beginning of the month.
On April 13, Palestinian attorney Mohammed Assaf was taking his son to kindergarten and his nephews to school in the West Bank city of Nablus when an Israeli soldier in a speeding jeep opened the door, shot Assaf multiple times, and killed him. Mohammed Assaf worked for the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority. Israeli authorities issued no explanation for gunning down Mohammed Assaf.
These are just two victims of a wave of terror by Israeli forces this year. Israeli Prime Minister Bennett announced that the Israeli army had a “free hand” and there were “no restrictions” on what it could do.
The REAL Story of Rockets and Bombs
The “rocket fire” from the Palestinian region of Gaza (controlled by reactionary Islamic fundamentalists) that made headlines in the New York Times on April 18 consisted of a single rocket, intercepted by Israel. Two days later, Israeli jets attacked Gaza and, according to Al Jazeera, bombs damaged homes in a refugee camp (most of the residents of Gaza are descendants of people driven out from other parts of Palestine).
For well over a decade, the Palestinian people locked down in Gaza have been in the crosshairs of an Israeli free-fire zone, subjected to periodic invasions and massive missile and bombing attacks that have killed thousands—overwhelmingly, women, children, people gathering in shelters, news media, and other innocent civilians.
Behind the Clashes at the Al-Aqsa Mosque
The recent clashes at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem were set off by a whole series of overt provocations by Israeli authorities and racist, genocidal Jewish mobs. By long-standing international agreement, the Al-Aqsa Mosque is reserved for Muslims during Ramadan, the holiest holiday for Muslims. This year, for part of Ramadan, Jerusalem officials closed the mosque to Muslims and allowed Jews to worship at the site (called Temple Mount by Jews). And Jewish fundamentalists attempted to march on the compound to perform animal sacrifice. These provocations set off clashes on April 16 when Palestinians prepared to defend the mosque and Israeli troops invaded the compound, firing rubber bullets and arresting hundreds of Palestinians.
On April 20, Israeli troops again invaded the mosque compound. Video from inside the mosque compound shows the Israelis firing rubber bullets and gas at anyone in sight, including reporters. The day before the April 20 clash at the mosque, over a thousand genocidal Jews, led by a member of Israel’s parliament, marched through Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem chanting “Death to the Arabs!”
A Reality of Apartheid and Genocide
What is going on now is not a wave of unprovoked violence by Palestinians as portrayed in sound bites in mainstream U.S. media. Nor is it an “overreaction” by Israel to “Palestinian terror” as “analyzed” by supposedly more critical defenders of Israel. Nor is what is going on an expression of eternal hatred between Muslims and Jews (even as there are forces on both sides who see it in their interest to and work to have the conflict framed that way).
What is going on is the intensification of Israel’s genocidal assault on the Palestinian people, driven by the reality that Israel is a colonial settler state on the land of the Palestinian people which for decades has served the interests of U.S. imperialism. The rulers of Israel and the U.S. have, for decades, attempted to portray Israel as a bastion of “enlightened democracy” in a sea of Arab intolerance. Now, in the face of challenges arising in part from the fact that Jews are becoming a minority in the area controlled by Israel, the entire Israeli ruling class (even as there are fierce conflicts within it) is increasingly embracing undisguised apartheid oppression and genocidal violence against the Palestinian people.