In a short news piece (available so far only in Hebrew), Haaretz reported this morning of the damage caused by the recent storm to both settlers and Palestinian in the West Bank. The wording of the article gives us the opportunity to examine the difference in news coverage for Jews and Arabs living under the same regime in the same stretch of land. Reports of settler suffering take up five paragraphs, while Palestinians get one. More importantly, however, is the way in which the spaces the two peoples inhabit are described. The text (as well as the headline, at least in the printed version) entirely separates the area into two: the first part of the reports deals with “settlements in Judea and Samaria” whereas the latter begins with the words “The storm also caused extensive damage in the West Bank.”
This, to me, is a remarkable example of the mental maps that many Israelis imagine when thinking about the occupation. While many know that settlements are indeed located in the West Bank, they may also imagine a deep separation, two spaces existing in a single physical location. The first is “Israeli,” inhabited by “our own” and run by our government. The other is located “somewhere behind The Wall” (the route of which I believe only very few would be able to point out on a map), inhabited by Palestinians and run by the Palestinian Authority, with checkpoints that separate the two.
Of course, such imagined spatial separation is not without basis. First of all, there is the PA controlled Area A, which is separate from the IDF-controlled Area B and Area C. There is also deeply-entrenched legal segregation which allows Jews to live under Israeli civilian law and deems Palestinians to a life under military rule. Yet settlements and Palestinian villages, towns and cities are not quite as separate. They are interlinked, from the most extreme example of “sharing” the city of Hebron to the routine expansion of settlements on lands belonging to Palestinian villages. Of course, snow storms affect both peoples, as Mairav pointed out yesterday. But the Haaretz editor who worked on this report must be imagining one snow-covered area as two detached locations, inhabited by different people who deserve different coverage and different sets of rights. The story does not ask, for example, if IDF forces helped Palestinians in South Hebron Hills reach safety or a hospital as they did with settlers in the very same region.
This is yet another way in which racial segregation takes place in the minds of Israelis: from the mental map of the editor, to that of the reader, and back.