Friday, April 11, 2014

11-Apr-14: A gunfight and its far-away victims

Al-Hija: The Telegraph could have reproduced
this martyr poster as easily as we have. But
the editors there know how this messes with
the narrative they seek to spin [Image Source]
Here in Israel where reporters tend invariably to speak Hebrew and often Arabic as well, they don't always get the facts perfectly right. They also don't always avoid putting a political spin on things. But at least they usually have the professional skill and outlook to take the trouble to provide context for the consumers of their reports, particularly when the story concerns fighting and/or terrorist actions.

Over at the Telegraph newspaper in London, we have the impression they operate according to a much lower set of expectations to judge from a report in yesterday's paper.

An article called "'It's over': Palestinian militants in Jenin believe peace process is at an end", written by Robert Tait, a reporter, paints a picture of Arab despair in the face of Israeli belligerence. It reflects a fairly clear agenda that encourages readers to sympathize with the plight of the residents of the city that Israelis have come to know as a major center of terrorism:
An ear-splitting explosion in the dead of night seemed to herald the moment when Palestinian residents of Jenin refugee camp decided that negotiations with Israel were not taking them on the path to peace. The blast was caused by a massively-armed Israeli anti-terror unit blowing off the doors of the "safe house" where Hamza Abu Alheja, a wanted Hamas militant, had been tracked down after months of hiding in the densely-populated West Bank camp. A fearful fire fight followed in which a torrent of heavy missiles wreaked destruction on the two-storey dwelling, where another 15 people, including women and children, had been asleep... The mayhem ended with the death of Mr Abu Alheja, 22, who fired back at his pursuers and then tried to escape by jumping from an upstairs window before being shot through the head by a sniper. Two other men, Mohammad Abu Zena, 19, described as a member of Islamic Jihad, and Yazan Jabarin, said to have been on his way to work in a bakery, were killed later after the Israeli force clashed with Mr Abu Alheja's supporters as they tried to carry his body to his family home.
This Alheja is key to the account. Who is he, apart from being 22 and now deceased?
Mr Abu Alheja, the son of a prominent Hamas militant serving nine life sentences in Israel after being jailed in 2002, was described by an army spokesman as "a ticking time bomb" responsible for past attacks on Israelis and in the process of planning more.
You now know everything that Tait wants his readers to know about the departed man. But there's more that he and his editors chose not to share.

In Israel, the dead man is known as Hamza Al-Hija, and as an active Hamas terrorist operating under the noses of the Palestinian Authority officials who govern Jenin.

Times of Israel report from Saturday March 22, 2014, says that early that morning a joint IDF, Shin Bet and Border Police raid in Jenin sought to apprehend him on suspicion of involvement in a plot to carry out a major terrorist attack which, as Israelis know too well, means an attack on Israeli civilians.

The house in Jenin was surrounded by armed Israeli security people. The men inside evidently decided to shoot their way out. In addition to Al-Hija, two other Arab men were killed in the ensuing fire fight: Mahmud Abu Zeina, 25, connected with Palestinian Islamic Jihad; and Yazen Jabarin, 22, a terrorist in the Fatah al-Aqsa Brigades. A not so unusual symmetry with one representative of each of the three major armed terror groups active in the PA's domain.

It's notable that Tait fails to mention the foreseeable consequence of the gunmen deciding to shoot their way out, notwithstanding the many civilians inside. Tait says "15 people, including women and children". One wonders why he somehow neglected to mention that none of them, other than the gunmen, were harmed by the IDF. Is that irrelevant? Does that say not something about the intentions and capabilities of the Israeli security people who find it necessary to enter Jenin on occasion and to apprehend armed practitioners of terror in densely populated neighbourhoods? Would referring to this somehow mess up the narrative for Tait and his editors?

IDF Spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, quoted in the Times of Israel, said al-Hija opened fire on the IDF forces before he was killed. Also, that he was “wanted for numerous shooting and bombing attacks as well as planning future acts of terrorism... a ticking time bomb” who was intent on killing Israelis.

Times of Israel goes on to quote
A Gaza-based media outlet associated with Hamas [that] tweeted shortly after Abu al-Hija’s death that sources said the dead man had been “preparing a major operation” against Israel. 
This is not unusual; the Palestinian Arab terror industry thrives on the making of what it terms 'martyrs'. Not only are they not shy of the savagery in which these men engage; they enthusiastically celebrate it.

A senior Israeli political figure, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, is also quoted by Times of Israel. He calls the Jenin raid
an important thwarting which prevented a planned terrorist attack that was meant to be carried out against Israeli targets, and thus saved lives.” 
Perhaps this might have been mentioned in passing by the Telegraph's man on the spot. But to be frank, we're guessing that Tait has a political outlook that differs from Israel's defense minister, and from the army's official spokesperson. He's probably less interested in the saving of innocent Israeli lives than we are.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. But no one - and that certainly includes newspaper reporters with pretensions to objectivity - is entitled to their own reality. There's background on the dead gunman that anyone with Google could have easily found. Tait's story delivers almost none of it.

Now on to the father mentioned in the Tate piece: Jamal Abu al-Hija. Tait's readers know only that he is:
a prominent Hamas militant serving nine life sentences in Israel after being jailed in 2002
leaving many/most of them to believe Al-Hija senior is yet one more in that endless, sad parade of political prisoners and other Arabs unfairly thrown behind bars because of Zionist political whims. A militant. An activist. A dissident, perhaps.

In reality the father
is a convicted Hamas leader who is currently incarcerated in Israeli prison. He was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to nine life sentences for involvement in at least six bombings, including the Meron Junction attack that killed nine Israelis in 2002 and the Jerusalem Sbarro pizzeria bombing that killed 15 in 2001.
Tait and the editors at the Telegraph can gloss over such blood-drenched history but the Times of Israel's editors and reporters can't and shouldn't and didn't. We - the parents of a child murdered in that Sbarro bombing in which Al-Hija Senior played a role - won't.

Tait's piece goes on to provide, in that sadly familiar way in which so many European news channels indulge, a megaphone for the voices of terror in Jenin, wrapped up in the language of threat and doom that alert readers will understand is the result of Israeli wretched excess etc.

Yet another morality fable - emphasis on fable - from the mills of the agenda-driven section of the news industry, the part that is up to its eyebrows in lethal journalism.

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