Example number 156,783 of the U.S. corporate media doing a terrible job explaining the realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the Washington Post’s Joel Greenberg on the deadly events yesterday in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. Like most establishment media accounts of any event in Israel/Palestine, what Israelis say is taken as the truth, while Palestinian narratives of what happened are ignored or distorted.
In the wee hours of the morning yesterday, a private Israeli security guard who protects the illegal Jewish settlement that has been inserted into the heart of Silwan shot and killed two Palestinians. The exact circumstances are, of course, disputed, but Greenberg only reports on the Israeli version of the killings:
A police spokesman said the guard told investigators he fired into the air after his vehicle was blocked with large garbage bins and stoned from surrounding rooftops…
The trouble began before dawn in the neighborhood of Silwan – under the walls of the Old City – where about 400 Jewish settlers live among 30,000 Palestinians.
Residents and police said a confrontation developed between local youths and the security guard, who was patrolling in a jeep. Such incidents are common in the neighborhood, where tensions have risen in recent months since the announcement of plans by city hall to demolish dozens of Palestinian homes to make way for a park.
Hanan Odeh, who lives nearby, said that before the incident there was stone-throwing and a loud argument between Israelis and local youths. Later, she said, she heard a burst of automatic gunfire and saw a fleeing man, limping on one leg, who collapsed on the stairs under her house. He was identified as Samer Sarhan, 32, a father of five…
Ariel Rosenberg, a spokesman for the Housing Ministry, said the guards operate under police guidelines and have no policing functions other than protecting the settlers. He said they often display restraint in the face of rock-throwing provocations by local youths. The guard who opened fire, he said, faced “a lynching, was under a clear mortal threat and fired in self-defense.”
So, according to the Post‘s account of the shooting, the private security guard–who, by the way, is protecting an illegal settlement, though the Post never mentions that–was under imminent threat and only fired in self-defense.
Let’s take a look at other accounts of what happened.
Joseph Dana, a writer who lives in Jerusalem, reports in the Electronic Intifada:
“At 3:30 or 4am I heard some noise outside of my window,” Silwan resident Abdallah Rajmi told me as we stood on a narrow street in the middle of a battle between young Palestinian stone throwers and Israeli occupation forces from the Border Police. “I thought it was a simple drunken fight but then I heard a lot of noise coming from the people involved and my neighbors began waking up…”
Rajmi recalled the events as tear gas and rocks were being thrown from both sides onto the alley where we were standing. “At this point I went to my roof to see what was happening and I saw three settler guards with ‘small weapons’ approach a group of young Palestinian men,” referring sarcastically to the guards’ large Uzi assault riles. “The guards began shooting the men and everyone in Silwan woke up…”
“I could not believe my eyes. I saw a man lying in his own blood and dying. The settler guards had just shot him in cold blood and watched him dying. He was there, on the ground, for one hour until an Israeli ambulance arrived on the scene, of course they would not allow any of us to get near him. The Israelis did, however, bring over forty settler guards and Border Police to the scene before the he was moved.”
The dead man was named as Samir Sarhan, aged about 30 according to news reports, and the father of five children.
Phil Weiss, in his blog Mondoweiss, relays what the director of the Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan told him:
I walked down the hill past the City of David settlement, a messianic Jewish colony on occupied land, with a big gold sign in English. I found my way to the Wadi Hilwah Information Center. A man with a limp– shot by a settler guard in both legs, I was later told–walked me back to Jawad Siyan, the director of the office. A thin, intense man of about 35, he vented his despair over Palestinian powerlessness as he fielded telephone calls and a teenager brought me coffee.
The 55,000 people of the village were “sad and shocked” tonight, Siyan said grimly. Villagers had continually complained to Israeli police that the settlers had taken the law into their own hands; but the complaints were ignored. Armed guards in the settlement– which has been spearheaded by a religious group called Elad– roamed the town freely, with the support of the Israeli border police. They threatened Palestinians with impunity.
The incident today began–Siyan said witnesses had told him– when Palestinians and settlers shouted abuse at one another, as they often do, and the guards had fired guns in the air. The Palestinians had run away. The guards had chased them, and shot at them. Two men were seriously injured. Israeli security forces had arrived within minutes, but Samar Sarchan, 35 years old, lay on the ground for an hour before an ambulance arrived. He later died of his injuries.
Those accounts by Dana and Weiss throw the Post‘s reporting into serious question.