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Rhetoric, reality and Twitter in the West Bank

Twitter is changing the nature of breaking news from West Bank demonstrations. It is exposing Israel’s heavy handed crowd control methods which often break the army’s own internal codes of conduct. Naturally, some so called ‘supporters of Israel’ are having a hard time rationalizing Israel’s behaviour, therefore attacking Twitter users as biased, misinformed or even outright liars.

As I was standing amidst the chaos yesterday at the Qalandia checkpoint — the site of a demonstration marking the anniversary of the 1967 war — I reported on Twitter what I saw. The demonstration started off peacefully and then the army attacked the nonviolent demonstration with tear gas and stun grenades. Some Palestinians began throwing stones. As the army attacked the unarmed demonstrators with tear gas, I took photos on my Blackberry and uploaded them to Twitter. As Palestinians threw stones, I confirmed reports in the mainstream media that Palestinians were throwing stones. I reported what I could confirm with my own two eyes, with a little personal commentary during quiet periods of the demonstration.

Throughout the day, I carefully switched between the term unarmed and nonviolent to refer to the demonstrators. Qalandia is a big place. Close to the checkpoint there was a group of 30 nonviolent protesters, who did not touch a single stone during the course of the day. Roughly 500 meters behind them was a group of Palestinian youth who threw stones almost continuously at advancing units of Israeli soldiers who responded with a mixture of rubber bullets and live ammunition. I was in the middle of this demonstration, breathing tear gas and literally dodging bullets in order to get as much information as possible to upload to Twitter.

My tweets went from one corner of the world to another as engaged people reading about the protests looked to me for an on-the-ground perspective. However, some took issue with what I was reporting. Certain, so-called “supporters of Israel” began a small crusade to discredit my reporting as lies, half truths and mere pro-Palestinian propaganda. Reading through some of the comments on my +972 magazine posts will give you an idea of the racist attacks that my work often receives from these people.

Yet, not all of the attacks were so blatant. Some crafty ‘rightist’ tweeters such as @avimayer and others posed misleading questions like “how can an unarmed protester throw stones?” or “the Jerusalem Post is reporting that flaming tires are being rolled at soldiers, this is violence” in a sorry bid to create the sense that I am fabricating information.

The Jerusalem Post piece came up many times on Twitter in the course of the day. Initially, the piece stated that Palestinians “rolled burning tires at soldiers and threw Molotov cocktails.” These fabrications, which have been changed on their site, were used to discredit my Twitter reporting.

I actually saw tires on fire and I even uploaded a picture of the smoke from one but none were rolled at soldiers. They were simply placed on the ground, as they often are in demonstrations in Qalandia. The Jpost piece stills says that Palestinians threw Molotov cocktails at soldiers. I did not see the preparation or use of Moltov cocktails in the course of the demonstration. If I had, I would have tweeted the information as it is a significant increase in violence. I challenge the Jerusalem Post to substantiate their claim.

The petty semantic tricks that right wing Tweeters like Avi Mayer have employed reflect their inability to rationally understand why Israel is using such heavy handed crowd control techniques, which so often violate the army’s own rules of conduct, against unarmed Palestinians demanding their human and civil rights. My response to their ignorance has been simple; come see for yourself what these demonstrations look like.

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    1. Superb piece. It’s incredible that the world relies on 972 correspondents’ Twitter accounts for the truth, given the multi-billion dollar mainstream news-making machine and its apparent inability to properly cover the facts on the ground.

      Reply to Comment
    2. As with any unpopular subject in the social milieu, there are those who would use semantics, circular logic, and invective to discredit what you do and say. You cannot give into them. You cannot fight on their level. You must, always, hold fast to what you know to be the truth, the facts as they lie before your eyes, and those, such as myself will cheer you, as much as those who cling to dogma and rhetoric will demonize you. We are fighting a greater war than the petty conflicts between groups — we are fighting a war for the soul of humanity. The forces of truth, of justice, of freedom must never relent in countering the forces of ignorance, intolerance, and hatred. Together, we will vanquish them, but only if we stand fast to what we know is true, and repeat it over and over and over, until it drowns their rancor out.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ismail

      Info hungry people are more gonna rely on truthful reporters like u now

      Reply to Comment
    4. max

      No one is immune to some bias and partial blindness, so I hope you don’t take all criticism personally. In this context, I looked up the 2 comments to your previous post and couldn’t find racist statements.
      To the content itself: you write that 500m away, the demonstration wasn’t that peaceful. So in your view it’s the 30 non-violent protesters that represent the atmosphere? That’s what the world has to be aware of? Is this “the truth”?

      Reply to Comment
    5. Sheila Baker

      To me it is amazing that anyone with critical thinking skills would criticize those who pick up rocks or set tires on fire. Israel picks up live ammuniition supplied by them and by other nations, including the United States. Rock throwing is symbolic of the struggle yet is non lethal. The Iron Dome, nuclear weapons, Arrow Missile Defense, and tanks and missiles are the weapons of Israel, and brought to them by the generosity of the US taxpayers who stupidly continue to support Israel’s violence.
      Joseph, your reporting is appreciated. I try to follow as well as possible on this little netbook. Just want you to know that you are what a friend once called himself while serving as a US Army Ranger in Vietnam, a ‘trench rat’, and a great one.
      Thanks for doing a great job.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Ben Israel

      Rock throwing can be and has been lethal in the past.

      Reply to Comment
    7. max

      I find it amusing to see such a Vietnam war term used to describe a peace activist 🙂 I’m sure JD appreciates the compliment with no irony!

      Reply to Comment
    8. JUGGLE

      @Ben Israel

      Gunfire, tear gas, pressured water, and torture can be, and has been lethal in the past.

      Reply to Comment
    9. max

      Juggle, and your point is…?

      Reply to Comment
    10. Steven Dusk

      Joseph, I agree with you that peoples’ opinions tend to cloud how they perceive a news report, but I don’t think that you have anyone but yourself to blame if people take your reports with a grain of salt.

      Your “reports” and your tweets and the columns you write on 972 are riddled with language, commentary, and editorializing that would bar you from being a reporter at any respectable news outlet. Furthermore, any serious reporter who used the type of language you use would not be taken seriously, rather, would be seen as an emotionally bias, non-objective observer. This is why I can’t consider you a journalist, rather a blogger or an activist blogger.

      I understand that you don’t like the ad hominem attacks, but if you took a sober, honest look back at your own writing since you’ve been at 972, you’d understand why people would be hesitant to view your “reports” as a primary news source.

      Let me put it to you this way, does it really surprise you that someone who worked for the popular struggle coordination committee and was a self-professed activist in this movement would not be perceived as a neutral observer?

      Reply to Comment
      • Steven,

        Journalists are not journalists for their entire lives. Avi Mayer, cited in the piece, recently worked for the IDF spokesman unit. Does that mean he can’t be trusted for his entire life and suspected as an advocate? I do not know but it shows that people do various work in their lives. I proudly worked at the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee and now I do not. I work as a independent journalist and write for 972. I am sure that you can find many journalists that have their background in activist politics and then decided to start working as journalists or writers.
        I have no intention of working for a mainstream news outlet in Israel as a beat reporter. In fact, my reporting here has come out of the need to provide more color to my commentary. Using Twitter as I witness demonstrations is also an important component to this. One of the benefits of +972 is the writers are political engaged and we do not hid our political thoughts. My main goal is comment and analysis, which is the bulk of what I write here and is exclusively what I write in other venues.
        Your point, while cute, does not really address the material of the post that I have written here. The Jerusalem Post, a credible news agency in your eyes I would imagine, report an entire news piece based on the official statements of the Israeli army without any substantiated evidence from the ground. You will discredit what I witnessed because at one time I worked for the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee and accept the reporting of the Israeli army as unbiased? If so, by all means refer to me as a call me a blogger, sideline what I am reporting and enjoy the spin machine of Israeli military lies. This comment is another sad attempt to discredit me and ignore the material which I have presented. Your point that I worked at the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee is true. It is not a hidden fact. There are other people on this site that work in advocacy and politics. I am attacked because I worked with the Palestinians and, reading between the lines of your comment, they can’t be trusted. Do you have comments on the points that I raise in the piece or would you prefer to continue trying to discredit me?

        Reply to Comment
    11. ARTH

      There are many people in Israel and without who deny that there is actually any sort of occupation or suppression of civil liberties. Rather they think that there is complete equality between Jews and Arabs. For those sorts of people all of the issues discussed in 972 do not exist at all and are understood as lies.

      Reply to Comment
    12. David

      This author has been banned from this channel

      Reply to Comment
    13. Naftali

      Comment deleted for violence against the author of the piece

      Reply to Comment
    14. In a time when the mainstream media continues to ignore the unarmed, popular struggle of Palestinians in the West Bank, Twitter proves to be an incredibly influential weapon at the hands of Palestinian activists and reporters willing to cover the Palestinian struggle for freedom, dignity and self-determination. Bewildered by the expanding outreach, the Israeli propaganda machine is desperately trying to discredit your on-the-ground reporting. If anything, those attempts expose the blatant insecurity of the Israeli apologists. Your reporting on Twitter as well as instant tweeting of young Palestinian activists – in English, under storms of tear gas and bullets – is definitely pissing the hasbara folks off. The criticism you ar receiving – much of which is pure name-calling and unbased accusations – should rather make you proud. The chunks in the armour of Israeli propaganda are widening with every unarmed demonstration and with every tweet!

      Reply to Comment
    15. abban aziz

      funny how this whole article is nothing but rhetoric. dana has been proven time and time again his “non-violent demonstrators” are extremely violent – torching cars, assault soldiers, picking fights. illegal protests. pointless protests with no goals at all.

      all funded by the PA to distract from their own inabilities and hope the euros will give them more free money.

      enough already. palestinians get enough attention as is.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Everything you state in your comment Abban Aziz is hearsay based on no actual or substantiated fact.

      Wait! There was a torched car last week in a West Bank demonstration. The police car set on fire by extremist settlers near Shilo.

      “picking fights” “pointless protests with no goals”

      Your comments add nothing to this debate and I am now forced to consider your banishment from my channel. Consider yourself on probation in the mean time.

      Reply to Comment
    17. max

      The appeal of twitting is exactly because it isn’t journalism.
      It’s a compressed, typically emotional personal account of an instant in time.
      It’d be the equivalent of claiming that Ismail’s comment above represents the Jewish-Arab struggle of the past 100 years

      Reply to Comment
    18. Erm, Abban Aziz, it would have been kinda cool if you had done a simple fact-checking before posting on a public forum.
      Just so you know, the PA doesn’t – and has never – fund or support demonstrations in the West Bank. If anything, the Abbas/Fayyad PA has tried on countless occasions to suppress the popular resistance in the West Bank. But of course you wouldn’t know that as you seem to spend most of your time chewing on the propaganda that the Israeli media feeds Israelis.
      And it’s ridiculous to describe the West Bank protests as “illegal” when the occupation, settlement expansion and apartheid wall against which the protests are held, are in fact illegal according to international law. Not that Israel gives a damn about international law, mind you, but just sayin’.
      Oh, and guess what, our demonstrations do actually have a goal, a pretty clear and tangible one: ending the occupation. The goal of the Qalandiya demo on Sunday was to march to occupied Jerusalem. Now, whether we achieve our goal or not is a totally diferent story. Considering we are up against the fourth strongest army in the world and considering that army uses lethal ammunition to crush a largely peaceful protest, we know that it will be incredibly difficult to achieve our goals and it will take a lot of time. But, you know, the very fact that the Israeli propaganda machine is resorting to name-calling, childish, unbased accusations and crazy lis is a testament to the progress we’ve made over the years.

      Reply to Comment
    19. max

      @Budour, like many others, you have a rather free way of using the term international law.
      As for Jerusalem: are you fighting in the name of the international community owner or have you created yet another international law?

      Reply to Comment
    20. Abban Aziz


      Like many so-called “Palestinian” supporters, you fail to respond to my criticism and instead defer to off-topic issues.

      I said quite clearly Dana’s endless claims that Israeli forces are attacking non-violent protesters without provocation is simply unfounded.

      the Palestinian Authority actively promotes this “non-violent” rhetoric through the schools and media. Assuming you could read Arabic but I doubt you can.

      “Everything you state in your comment Abban Aziz is hearsay based on no actual or substantiated fact.
      Wait! There was a torched car last week in a West Bank demonstration. The police car set on fire by extremist settlers near Shilo.”

      Can you be more specific Dana? What is heresay?

      Saddam Hussein paid the families of suicide bombers thousands of dollars. Both Syrian and Iran governments have spent millions trying to derail the peace process through proxies such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

      It is no surprise that these “demonstrations” are going on when Syria is busy murdering thousands of its own citizens.

      And yes, Israeli settlers can be violent but unlike the Palestinians they are punished ruthlessly by the IDF. Very little is being done to stop Palestinian violence.

      As we saw in the second intifada, calls for non-violence slowly mutated into violence, then war, then suicide bombings, etc…

      Israel is more right than wrong and the only thing the Palestinians have is rhetoric and teams of Leftists to accept their claims without challenge, even when what they say is totally bogus.

      Take a dose of reality Dana, for the sake of the Palestinian people.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Max,
      Read the ICJ advisory ruling that held that the construction of the separation wall is illegal. Obviously, it’s an adivosory ruling, but it’s based on int’l law principles.
      The West Bank is defined as an occupied territory. Hence, building settlements on it is illegal. Same for East Jerusalem.
      And no, we don’t work on behalf of the int’l community. I’m just using a nomrative background.
      And FWIW, I’m well aware of the flaws of int’l law; I rarely use it to support my case because I know its principles are too open-ended and prone to various interpretations and are ultimately toothless. I just found ridiculous that Abban Aziz described the WB protests as illegal because they have no permission from the occupier when the occupation itself is illegal.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Steven Dusk

      Joseph, it seems you’ve completely run away from the “cute point” I was making by shifting the emphasis to Avi Mayer and the IDF.

      I also don’t trust their perspectives as primary, unbiased news sources. I wouldn’t follow this Avi Mayer guy as a primary news source about what is happening at Qalandiya and anything the IDF says (anywhere, anytime) should, in my opinion, be questioned and accompanied by contrary views from other witnesses representing the other side.

      so now what? what can you say to that? I don’t care if someone is on the far right or the far left, if they are obviously alligned to a specific side (like yourself, Avi Mayer, or the IDF) I have to take what they say with a grain of salt. Does this mean I’m a brainwashed “so-called defender of Israel” or racist towards Palestinians as you seem to try to imply in your post? No, it just means that I don’t care what side you’re on, if you’re very obviously on a specific side I can’t take your reporting without a grain of salt. Is that clear?

      “My main goal is comment and analysis, which is the bulk of what I write here and is exclusively what I write in other venues.”

      But uh, I thought this piece was about “breaking news” and the “reality” that you wrote about on the scene a Qalandiya which then went around the world. Was it just comment and analysis all the time or reporting? Make up your mind, in the meantime, I would suggest people continue to read your work if they want political commentary on protests in the West Bank, but to look elsewhere for unbiased reporting on the same subject.

      (and yes, that would include not just taking the IDF’s word either)

      Reply to Comment
    23. abban aziz

      “Read the ICJ advisory ruling that held that the construction of the separation wall is illegal. Obviously, it’s an adivosory ruling, but it’s based on int’l law principles.
      The West Bank is defined as an occupied territory. Hence, building settlements on it is illegal. Same for East Jerusalem.”

      Advisory ruling. ADVISORY. The problem with your argument is that this “wall” is 94% fence. And it was established after 100 suicide bombings.

      Since its construction, suicide bombings have dropped by 99%. Hamas has conceded that the wall, excuse me FENCE has forced them to develop other forms of terror – such as rockets, missiles, etc.

      Legality never trumps morality. Israelis have the right to live without terrorism.

      The international community can F itself as far as Israel is concerned.

      “I just found ridiculous that Abban Aziz described the WB protests as illegal because they have no permission from the occupier when the occupation itself is illegal.”

      The “occupation” is not illegal. Find me one binding resolution that says the “occupation” is illegal. If the occupation is illegal, then Jordan’s occupation was illegal. If Jordan’s occupation was illegal, then…the British occupation was illegal? Uh?

      The Oslo Accords never stated the occupation was illegal. Nor did it place limitations on settlement construction.

      What is illegal is shooting rockets at Israeli civilians, butchering Palestinians who don’t support the leadership’s aggressive policies, and promoting genocide and mass-murder.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Steven,

      Interesting points. I will say two and half things. I understood your tone to be attacking in nature as you were discussing my history and not my current work. Forgive me if my tone was equally attacking. As you can see, +972 has become a venue for extreme rightist comments which are very attacking in nature.

      When I am reporting in a demonstration, I am clearly stating my objectives. I am there as a witness. I come from the Palestinian side because I will be arrested more often than not if I am near soldiers. I report what I see with my own eyes and use photos as much as possible. I believe this is the nature of Twitter and the social media environment and I am not competing with mainstream news rather I am providing my own the ground perspective as an observer with my emotions and political beliefs.
      I am curios which media sources you do depend on for non biased coverage. As we both know, there is no such thing and so I am honestly wondering where you find such coverage.
      Thank you for your comment and I apologize in advance in my tone feels attacking. I am swapped with attacks all too often these days.


      Reply to Comment
    25. max

      @Budour, Reductio ad absurdum: as the occupation is illegal, its law is illegal, therefore nothing is illegal;
      as the Jordanian occupation of the WB was illegal (well, the UK recognized it…), it wasn’t illegal for Israel to capture it, therefore the Israeli occupation isn’t illegal
      As we seem to agree that intn’l law has a high political ingredient, here’s another observation: while President Carter supported the view of “illegal”, President Reagan reversed him, specifically saying that the settlements are legal but that further settlements should be deferred since they pose a psychological obstacle to the peace process.

      Reply to Comment
    26. Koshiro

      Riiight. Because Jordan’s occupation was illegal*, Israel’s occupation is suddenly legal. Similarly, when I take something from a thief, it automatically becomes my own, correct?
      Actual logic would say that if Jordan’s occupation was illegal, Israel’s occupation is just as illegal.

      The protests, which are a different matter, are legal because humans have rights, and Israel does not have the legal authority to take these rights from them.

      It should also be noted that Israel routinely rejects the application of international law regarding occupations to the WB – especially when settlements are concerned. Of course, this means that the IDF has no legal basis to exert any authority on the WB and is, legally speaking, nothing but a bunch of state-employed, lawless thugs. And this, of course, means that all “laws” and rules made by Israeli authorities – insofar as they are regarding the WB – are void.

      *Accepting this for the sake of argument.

      Reply to Comment
    27. abbanaziz

      This author was banned from this channel

      Reply to Comment
    28. abbanaziz

      This author was banned from this channel

      Reply to Comment
    29. max

      Koshiro, you may one day learn that not illegal doesn’t mean legal, and vice versa.
      I also know that it’s hard for you to cover the Israeli legal system, but claiming ignorance when posting lies is a poor excuse.

      Reply to Comment
    30. max

      An interesting aspect of salvaging property for the owner: “When property is lost at sea and rescued by another, the rescuer is entitled to claim a salvage award on the salved property”; “A pure or merit salvage award will seldom exceed 50 percent of the value of the property salved”

      Reply to Comment
    31. Well, Abban Aziz, I’m not a so-called Palestinian supporter. I’m Palestinian.
      I’ve met many people from popular committies in the West Bank and they explicitly reject PA funding.
      And do you want to see if the WB demos are violent or not? I’d highly recommend you come to Nabi Saleh on Friday and judge for yourself. The fuel’s on me. 😉

      Reply to Comment
    32. abbanaziz@wikibias.com

      The author has been banned from this channel

      Reply to Comment
    33. Koshiro

      “Koshiro, you may one day learn that not illegal doesn’t mean legal”
      ‘Learning’ that would mean losing one’s sanity.

      Reply to Comment
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