Isabel Kershner’s story in the Times today is a welcome change from the usual portrayal of Palestinians. This time the beleaguered indigenous residents of an occupied land appear not as violence-prone fanatics or backward conservatives but as cool-headed and responsible members of society. It’s a major shift from the usual fare.
The headline and subhead give the story in a nutshell: “Palestinians Corner Jewish Settlers During Clash in West Bank: Hand Group Over To Israeli Forces.” It seems that settlers had set out to destroy olive trees near the village of Jalud when local men fought back, surrounded the settlers and confined them in a construction site before calling officials, who handed them over to Israeli security forces.
Kershner, who often relies heavily on Israeli army sources in her stories, this time gives due space to Palestinian spokespersons. Her story, in fact, is more favorable to the Palestinian side than some other accounts, (see here and here) and the army’s official comments come off as grudging and self-serving.
The article mentions “more than 1,100 attacks on Palestinian property and more than 983 episodes of violence by settlers in 2013.” UN statistics also note the extent of settler violence, which is so prevalent that the organization keeps a separate tally of such attacks weekly. According to the UN, “nearly 11,000 Palestinian owned trees were damaged by Israeli settlers in 2013.”
The Israeli army and other official entities also contribute to Palestinian casualties. During 2013, the UN report states, Israeli forces killed 37 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and injured 3,719. Israel demolished 663 structures (homes, cisterns, animal shelters, community buildings) and displaced 1,100 people. Some of the displaced were left homeless just before a severe winter storm hit the area.
Moreover, Israeli settlements, illegal under international law, are built on Palestinian land and rob villagers of their fields and water, destroying their traditional economy. With this in mind, the restraint shown by the villagers is all the more remarkable.
But the Times nearly always fails to report the day to day attacks on Palestinians and their property, and readers are unlikely to appreciate the full import of the story that appears today. For once, however, the curtain lifted for a brief moment, and we had a glimpse of Palestinian life under occupation.