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In Israel, even Palestinian journalists are guilty until proven innocent

The suspension of a Palestinian journalist by the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation is a reminder that even the most liberal media outlets still view Arabs with suspicion.

Palestinian journalist Samah Wattad. (Screenshot)

Palestinian journalist Samah Wattad. (Screenshot)

Samah Wattad, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and journalist who works for the newly-formed Israeli Broadcast Corporation (IBC), was suspended Thursday after she retweeted an article that expressed support for Basel al-Araj, a Palestinian activist who was killed by Israeli soldiers last week.

The decision to suspend Wattad came after Prime Minister Netanyahu used the occasion to write a Facebook status that accused the IBC of supporting terrorists. Wattad was forced to backtrack and apologize, claiming that she was misunderstood.

Let’s put aside the fact that Netanyahu and Abbas’ security coordination made it possible for Israeli soldiers to enter Ramallah kill al-Araj in the first place. Basel al-Araj was not a “terrorist,” as he was described by the Israeli media. In fact, among many Palestinians he was seen as a leader and an intellectual who supported armed resistance against occupying Israeli soldiers.

Instead, let’s look at a few important lessons we can glean from Wattad’s story, which should be a warning sign for every Palestinian and Jew in this country who believes in freedom of speech and equal opportunities.

The first conclusion we can draw is that Zionist media outlets in Israel can claim that they are liberal and against silencing Palestinians. But at the end of the day, a Palestinian journalist will always be guilty until proven innocent.

Creating the obedient Palestinian

Palestinians in Israel, especially those who work with Jews, have grown accustomed to apologizing. After every armed action against Israeli soldiers or civilians, there will always be a Zionist who demands an apology from the next Palestinian he sees. The Zionist need to abuse Arabs and emphasize the master’s rule over the slave is nothing new.

But what happens when a Palestinian, and in our case a Palestinian woman, dares to retweet something on her personal account, which “proves her guilt,” guilt that clearly stems from the fact that she is an Arab in Israel? She will immediately be burned at the stake, just as “witches” once were. Because what’s better than some racism mixed with old-school misogyny?

Basel al-Araj, a Palestinian who was killed during a gunfight with Israeli soldiers on March 6, 2017, is seen in November 2011 during a Freedom Ride on a settler-only bus in the West Bank. (Activestills.org)

Basel al-Araj, a Palestinian who was killed during a gunfight with Israeli soldiers on March 6, 2017, is seen in November 2011 during a Freedom Ride on a settler-only bus in the West Bank. (Activestills.org)

Wattad’s retweet presents al-Araj as a romantic revolutionary. But so what? After all, this is what a large part of Palestinians believe. Think about an Israeli journalist who praises an Israeli soldier. Would he also be persecuted in the same way?

Wattad later said that her retweet was for the purpose of spreading news. This is perfectly reasonable, yet it seems as if even this is too much in a state where a Palestinian cannot act without prior approval from his or her Israeli overlord. Arabs, especially those in key positions in various fields, have already been burned at the cross for doing far less. Wattad returned to her position not because the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation is free of racism.

After all, the moment that an Arab is burned once, he will think a million times before daring to publicly criticize — or even simply speak his mind about — the propaganda on Israeli television channels.

The Israeli Broadcasting Corporation, which tried to create the impression of a progressive outlet (shortly after it formed, the company released a video calling on Arab journalists to apply to work there), has proven that it views Arabs, first and foremost, as guilty.

Arabs are expected to adopt a different personality in the media — the kind that Jews like. Even our personal social media accounts are being monitored by Big Brother — by both the Shin Bet and our employers. Who knows, maybe we are Zionist enough and use our screen time to incite against Haneen Zoabi or other Arabs, pro-Israel groups will send us to travel the world, or maybe we’ll be allowed to light a torch on the day we mark the independence of the most racist country in the Middle East.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. R5

      She’s not a Palestinian, she’s a Syrian, like all Israeli Arabs. Mandate Palestine was Ottoman Syria for centuries before the British imposed the use “Palestine”, which was meant to reflect a COLONIAL, WESTERN, CHRISTIAN understanding of the region. Or do you support colonialism? Can’t really tell.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gearoid

        This empty racism does not deserve to exist on this site.

        I hope moderators will please do something. There’s no reason to leave comments on this site that are blatantly and unapologetically racist.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Bernie X

      “Basel al-Araj was not a “terrorist,””

      Well. Why was he in possession of an automatic weapon, and why did he turn that weapon on the Israeli soldiers who were there to arrest him?

      Reply to Comment
    3. JeffB

      This article is incoherent.

      — Basel al-Araj was not a “terrorist,” as he was described by the Israeli media. In fact, among many Palestinians he was seen as a leader and an intellectual who supported armed resistance against occupying Israeli soldiers.

      The media being talked about here is the Israeli media. When al-Araj supported armed attacks against the Israeli army then he was either a military enemy, a terrorist or a criminal.

      — Arabs are expected to adopt a different personality in the media — the kind that Jews like

      Yep. Its a Jewish state. The media serves as part of the Jewish society to serve the interests of that society. Israeli Arab if they claim to be Israeli, and not a hostile 5th column, need to support the interests of that society. In particular journalists would be mostly expected to be coming from a viewpoint which is pro-assimilation not pro-ethnic civil war.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        ​Well, that was clarifying.

        Now we see what, behind all the claptrap about “democracy,” and illustrative of the failure of anyone to adequately explain what “Jewish and democratic” really means, the real agenda is.

        The real agenda in “a Jewish state” is this:

        “Arabs are expected to adopt a different personality in the media — the kind that Jews like. Yep, it’s a Jewish state. The media serves as part of the Jewish society to serve the interests of that society. Israeli Arab if they claim to be Israeli, and not a hostile 5th column, need to support the interests of that society. In particular journalists would be mostly expected to be coming from a viewpoint which is pro-assimilation.”

        And “pro-assimilation” means passive acquiescence to belligerent occupation and land theft. Got it. Now “Jewish state” becomes clear. Thank you.

        No surprise then that Noam Sheizaf considered all this from an inside Israeli Jewish perspective and said no thanks, no dice:
        http://972mag.com/why-i-oppose-recognizing-israel-as-a-jewish-state/78751/
        “…Because a “Jewish” state – as opposed to a state whose culture is Jewish or is “a national homeland” for Jews – will always be a racist, discriminatory state….”

        Reply to Comment
        • JeffB

          @Ben

          — And “pro-assimilation” means passive acquiescence to belligerent occupation and land theft. Got it.

          When did I say anything remotely like that? If you want to know what pro-assimilation meant, ask. Don’t put words in my mouth that I didn’t remotely say. That’s starkly dishonest.

          As for Noam’s article Noam is wrong on history. Judaism has been quite inclusive and conversion oriented in various times in its history. Arguably right now in the USA being one of them.

          Reply to Comment
    4. ASF

      When the “Palestinian press” proves itself capable of doing more than just spewing Anti-Zionist propaganda that is long on inflammatory distortion and devoid of actual facts, they can finally start to call themselves legitimate “journalists.” Until then, they (and you) are just part of the “Pallywood” propaganda machine. Say “hey” to the Tamimi’s for us. Something tells me you know who they are.

      Reply to Comment
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