The seeds of a Media Intifada

In sacrificing their sons by sending them out to confront the IDF without guns and bombs, the Palestinian leadership has the international media in the palm of its hand

How valuable is an image such as this?
Simon Plosker
On 17 January 2013 17:34

Two headlines: “Did Israeli troops deliberately provoke boy, only to shoot him in the back?” and “Israeli army 'provoked Palestinian teenager and then shot him'” in the UK’s Independent and Daily Telegraph respectively.

According to the reports, IDF soldiers goaded Palestinian schoolchildren near the Security Barrier, crossed the fence and then shot 16-year-old Samir Ahmed in the legs, back, and back of the head as he tried to escape. The IDF maintains that there was an attempt to damage the fence and infiltrate Israel and that the necessary warnings had been given before the soldiers opened fire.

The circumstances behind this latest incident in the West Bank may be cloudy (although not for the parents of the Palestinian boy who cannot be expected to give an objective account of what happened or the all too familiar Palestinian “eyewitnesses”). What is clear, however, is this brand of agenda-driven journalism turns every incident into an indictment of the IDF and through it, Israel’s control over disputed territories.

And this may be exactly what the Palestinian Authority had in mind when it started to encourage what it described as “non-violent resistance.” One only has to look back at the model of the First Intifada in the late 1980s. The images of Palestinian youths throwing stones at Israeli tanks not only caused considerable public relations damage to Israel but also prompted a dramatic shift in the Israeli mindset towards the territories.

It was these scenes that convinced Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin that continuing Israeli control over the everyday lives of the Palestinian population was untenable. (This did not, however, translate into open support for a Palestinian state.)

The so-called Second Intifada of the early 2000s, however, caused a tremendous amount of damage to the Palestinian cause as armed terrorists and suicide bombers turned Israelis away from hopes for a peaceful settlement and Palestinian rights towards prioritizing their own personal security.

The Palestinian leadership, post-Arafat, also recognized that the indiscriminate murder of Israeli women and children not only achieved no tangible results (other than to satisfy the blood lust of the terrorists and their supporters) but also damaged Palestinian relations with those western states, particularly the US and European nations, that would be needed to support Palestinian aspirations.

Now we see increasing incidents involving provocation of Israeli troops by Palestinians, including even children as well as international “peace activists.” By and large, IDF soldiers have turned the other cheek, putting into practice training that teaches them to keep their cool in the face of small Palestinian children screaming in their faces while pummeling their tiny fists into their body armor.

Occasionally, however, the international press or Palestinians armed with video cameras are there when someone snaps. In April 2012, Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner found himself under intense media scrutiny as a result of footage released of him beating a Danish activist with his M16 butt. That he had been the victim of intense provocation in the lead up to the incident became irrelevant both from the IDF’s legal standpoint and also in the eyes of the media.

In the case of a Palestinian teenager allegedly shot in the back by the IDF, any plausible explanations on the part of the Israeli army will be subsumed by the negative coverage that is inevitable when an unarmed teen dies in a confrontation.
Even if it is later found that IDF forces acted properly in the face of a legitimate security situation, the damage will already have been done. And the Palestinians know it and know how to exploit it.

As the international pressure grows on the Israeli government and the Palestinians make diplomatic headway in the United Nations and other international bodies, a Third Intifada based on armed conflict and terrorism probably won’t benefit the Palestinian leadership.

But sacrificing their sons by sending them out to confront the IDF without guns and bombs will inevitably lead to even more pressure on Israel with the accompanying charges of “disproportionate force,” “human rights abuses”, and “war crimes.”
And when the next incident occurs and the next and the next, the international media will be there looking for the story of Palestinian suffering.

Simon Plosker is the Managing Editor of HonestReporting

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