Last week, the IDF murdered a wanted Palestinian militant. Israeli authorities claim the suspect, Basel Al-Arej, was responsible for attacks against Israelis. Of course, he was never charged for any of these alleged crimes. That doesn’t matter to his killers or Israeli media. He was an Arab killer. A terrorist. Human scum. According to those responsible for killing him, he sought to go out in a blaze of glory and started the ensuing gun battle. I’ve covered enough of these stories to know it’s far more likely he was executed in cold blood; after which the military or police press representative tidied up events to make them presentable to a gullible Israeli audience.
Keep in mind that the dead man had been charged with no crime, let alone convicted. Yet Israeli media portrayed him as a very “bad hombre,” in Trump parlance. A “terrorist” in Israeli parlance. In Israel, you don’t have to be convicted of a crime to be a terrorist. In fact, the majority of the Israeli far right sees every Palestinian as a terrorist. A substantial minority of all Israeli Jews see all Palestinian MKs as terrorists.
If you’re used to the concept of due process, rule of law or “innocent till proven guilty,” these only hold for Israeli Jews, not Palestinians. Years ago I once believed in the romantic liberal notion of a hybrid “Jewish, democratic state.” But the Israeli far right has disabused many of us of the notion. It has taken the concept of a Jewish state to its logical, racist extreme and destroyed the possibility it might ever exist.
— Palestine Info Centr (@palinfoen) March 6, 2017
Into this swirling stew of racism walked Israel public broadcasting newscaster, Samah Wated. She retweeted a Palestine Information Center post which memorialized Al-Arej and offered a quotation about the power of resistance. Keep in mind that thousands of journalists note explicitly in their Twitter timelines “RTs do not imply endorsement.” Wattad confirmed this in a subsequent posting. She also added that she does not endorse armed resistance.
Do we really think that if there had been social media in 1948 that Israeli Jews wouldn’t have been retweeting such messages lionizing leaders of the Jewish resistance to British Mandatory rule? And that British authorities might not have sought to fire Jewish journalists for their temerity in supporting “terrorists?”
Bibi Netanyahu let loose a barrage off incendiary rhetoric claiming that the new public broadcasting authority was a nest of leftist vipers; and that she had “praised a terrorist.” The real insanity here is this is the same broadcasting authority Bibi proposed when he wanted to “reform” (i.e. neutralize) the leftist propaganda supposedly spewed by the Israel Broadcasting Authority. He later thought better of the notion, then tried to kill it. But his own nationalist allies said “not so fast.” So now Bibi assaults the very Golem he himself created to flatter himself.
Returning to Wattad, in apartheid Israel a Palestinian walks through a perpetual minefield without a map. She stepped on an explosive device. When far-right reporter Kalman Liebskind discovered her tweet, he went to town. He reported it and the pressure to sack her began. After receiving support from the Israeli journalist association, she was suspended rather than fired. Later, she was demoted: she will no longer anchor the news. She will only do investigative reporting.
This is another nail in the coffin of press freedom. Another nail in the coffin of free speech. This is death not by firing squad, but by Retweet. Another attempt to rid the airwaves of what Southerners used to call “uppity Ni==÷/s.”