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The storm that only affects Jews

The Israeli media’s storm coverage is a constant reminder of the reality in the occupied territories: two peoples sharing the same land – but only one is worth talking about.

If you’ve been paying attention to the Israeli media over the past few days, you may have noticed its superb coverage of the damage caused by the recent storm. Newspapers, nightly news broadcasts and radio stations haven’t missed a beat – from roads being shut down due to ice, to the thousands of homes currently without electricity to students who are forced to stay home from school. Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, Haifa, Gush Etzion, Yitzhar. The media has it covered. That is, unless you are a Palestinian in the occupied territories.

A couple walks during a snowstorm in Jerusalem, January 7, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A couple walks during a snowstorm in Jerusalem, January 7, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

This isn’t the first time the coverage looks like this. During last year’s harsh storm, every media outlet reported on the storm’s effect on West Bank settlements. Everyone talked about the outposts that were stuck without electricity, and how the army helped save the residents there. No one asked what was happening in the nearby villages, which were also stuck with no electricity and are under the rule of the same army. No one thought that they, too, might need help.

This storm is no different. Not a single media outlet has reported on the fate of the Ka’abna family, who lived in a tent in the Jordan Valley until New Year’s Day, when the army came destroyed their tent in its attempts to ethnically cleanse the Valley. Today they are entirely homeless, living in freezing temperatures under nylons and stitched pieces of cloth donated by friends and the Red Cross. And that’s just one example.

The focus on the storm is an excellent example that reflects how the media perpetuates Israeli society’s split consciousness vis-a-vis the occupation. As opposed to other stories in the West Bank, the storm is not seen as “security issue,” but rather one related to citizenship, blue ID cards and elections that only Jews in the West Bank can participate in. This is one storm: the same clouds, the same rain, the same snow falling on the same ground, the same electricity lines, the same floods in the same low areas. And yet the media separates the populations that share this land on the basis of ethnicity and nationality.

I cannot forget how even the left-leaning Haaretz, which dedicated a short article on page three to the effects of the storm on Palestinians (to its credit, Haaretz’s article was the only one in the entire Israeli media to do so), did so by describing it as entirely separate from the damage caused to settlers. “The storm also caused much damage to the West Bank,” it read. You know, in addition to the damage caused to the settlements. Which are where, exactly?

The media coverage is the mirror image of the reality of legal separation in the occupied territories. One territory, two different legal regimes, two kinds of people: citizens and subjects. As Local Call editor Yael Marom always says, the media copies the legal separation using the same tools that differentiate between domestic and international news: people in one territory will have their lives, work, struggles, political parties and storms covered as domestic news that will be seen as part of the Israeli story. Meanwhile there are those other people whose reality will be covered as international news, who make it into Israel’s news cycle either as enemies or minor characters. Or as one the higher-ups from Channel 2 once told me: Arabs bring down ratings, so we don’t report on what is happening there, even if “there” is just down the road from Channel 2’s studios.

Every introductory course on the history of mass media includes a lesson on the media’s role in establishing an imagined community in Israel. It was through Israel’s first newspapers that readers truly grasped the borders of their country, and subsequently the demarcation of who belongs. There is a distinction that implies that traffic caused by an accident, a mayor who is suspected of criminal activities, teachers who are on strike or a flood are relevant to us whether they occur in Kiryat Shmona, Haifa, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Eilat, Ariel or Jerusalem – is a distinction that serves to teach us who we are.

Palestinian workers pray after crossing the Eyal checkpoint, between the West Bank city of Qalqilya and Israel, January 4, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian workers pray after crossing the Eyal checkpoint, between the West Bank city of Qalqilya and Israel, January 4, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The fact that those same stories will not make headlines if they take place in Rahat or Nazareth – and let’s not even get started on East Jerusalem, Nablus, Yatta or Gaza – teaches us who they are. And let’s not even get started on the snowstorm in Damascus. Has anyone heard about it at all? Do regional stories about the weather interest us as? Do we live on a different continent?

Every time the media is accused of having a left-wing bias, or whenever the left accuses the media of perpetuating the occupation, it is worth remembering these stormy days – days when the entire media looks at the occupied territories and sees only one group of people.

This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

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    1. Even the weather is occupied.

      Reply to Comment
      • Pedro X

        You should not believe what Matar misrepresents. Ynet news:

        “Snow fell Wednesday across the Middle East as a powerful winter storm swept through the region, after over 30 hours, the winter storm began to let up on Thursday. However, in certain areas, another meter of snow piled up on the ground; in others, only 50-60 cm.

        The Palestinians launched their request Thursday, asking the Israeli Civil Adminsitration to help clear the main road to Ramallah from snow, to allow Palestinians to travel to the West Bank’s de facto capital.

        Together with Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Unit (COGAT), Israeli forces joined forces to help plow away the snow, clearing the way for civilian Palestinian movement.

        The two sides began cooperating on Wednesday, after the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip declared a state of emergency over the storm, after an 8-month-old Palestinian infant in the Tulkarem refugee camp was killed in a fire caused by a heating stove.

        In Tulkarem, COGAT officials helped Palestinains help with flooding caused by an overflowing drain pipe. The area saw a Palestinian from Nablus die in similar flooding in last year’s cold front.

        After a few hours of work, the Palestinians and Israelis helped to clear the flooding and restore the road for safe usage.”

        Reply to Comment
    2. Joel

      Haggai is full of it, the moral narcissist that he is.

      No less than Yediot Ahronot, has reported the widespread suffering in the West Bank and even in Syria brought by this winter storm.


      Reply to Comment
    3. Bruce Gould

      Even the conservative pundit David Brooks, whose son serves in the Israeli military, deplores the settlements. What drives their growth? Follow the money:


      Of all the hurdles to peace negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, perhaps the largest is the 150 or so Israeli settlements in the West Bank…While they are often thought of as the result of a religious quest by Jews to claim new territory, in fact for most settlers the reasons for moving are economic – encouraged through government-planned incentive schemes to relocate. But for some, the process of living in a settlement may have a radicalizing effect.

      Reply to Comment
    4. On Al Jazeera English news today, the announcer began to explain the difficulties brought on by the bad weather in – here, she hesitated for a fraction of a second – West – Jérusalem.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Tomer

      We are not interested how the Jordanian populstion in Yesha is affected by the snow.

      That’s what they are …. Jordanians that tactically renamed themselves several years after losing the 6 day war.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Not interested in your nonsense Jordanians, Fakestynians or other make-believe you spout Tomer.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Phil Fumble

      “…in its attempts to ethnically cleanse the Valley….”

      Get the hell out of here you pompous ass.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Tomer

      I agree with Marnie…

      The so-called fakestinyans and Jordanians ARE indeed nonsense!

      Reply to Comment
      • Jan

        Palestinians are no more fake than are Israelis. Remember, there was no Israel and no Israelis until 1948.

        Most of the people whom you so denigrate were on the land long before the first European Ashkenazi Jew set foot into Palestine.

        In the late 1880s, Asher Ginsberg, also known as Ahad Ha’am, a Zionist Jew who made many trips to Palestine, called the Arabs of Palestine the native people. He did not call the Jews of Palestine natives. Furthermore he detailed how the Jewish settlers treated the Arabs with brutality. This is what Ha’am said of his fellow Jews.

        “They deal with the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, trespass unjustly, beat them shamefully for no sufficient reason, and even boast about their actions. There is no one to stop the flood and put an end to this despicable and dangerous tendency. Our brothers indeed were right when they said that the Arab only respects he who exhibits bravery and courage. But when these people feel that the law is on their rival’s side and, even more so, if they are right to think their rival’s actions are unjust and oppressive, then, even if they are silent and endlessly reserved, they keep their anger in their hearts. And these people will be revengeful like no other.”

        Must make you proud of your fellow Jews doesn’t it Tomer? That is how your country began. With violence and terrible treatment of the native people.

        Reply to Comment
        • Jan, could you give me a link or a source for my own reading? Thanks –

          Reply to Comment
          • Jan

            Hi Marnie – Here is a link to some of the writings of Ahad Ha’am. Maybe what he wrote didn’t bother Israelis – or maybe they never read him – but I understand that there are streets in Israel named after him.


            Reply to Comment
          • Thanks Jan –

            Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          ‘Israeli’ is not an ethnicity, you retard. It is a nationality. There is no such thing as ‘ethnic Israeli’ while people of different ethnicities might hold Israeli citizenship.

          Reply to Comment
        • Joel


          Ahad Ha’am first traveled to Eretz Yisroel in 1891. Had he visited the land in 1886 he would have witnessed Arab attacks on the Jewish settlers in Petah Tikvah.


          Attacks that were orchestrated by the local effendis, the group most threatened by the Zionists.

          You’ve cherry picked a quote from Ahad Ha’am an infrequent traveler to the land.

          Reply to Comment
          • Jan

            I was unable to access the page as they said I had exceeded the number of pages I could read. Strange because I haven’t read even one page.

            Did it ever occur to you that the attacks by the Arabs may well have been based on the knowledge that the Jews were intent on taking over all the land? Did it ever occur to you that the attacks on the Arabs by Jewish settlers that were reported by Ahad Ha’am might have had something to do with the attacks on the Jews?

            When another group of people comes in bound and determined to take over the land and when those people treat the native people badly they are bound to face resentment, if not physical attack.

            You are right when you wrote that the Arabs were threatened by the Zionists. They tried to fight back against that threat that was meant in the long run to dispossess them.

            Reply to Comment
          • Joel

            If you read my link, @page 82, yu would know that the attacks on the settlers in Petah Tikvah were instigated by a grafting local sheikh who opposed Zionism on religious grounds.

            And no, neither the ignorant fellahin nor the corrupt effendis believed that the First Aliyah has a secret plan to take over Eretz Yisroel. That notion, was inconceivable in the 1880’s as the Ottomans were in charge and the ideas of visionaries like Herzl, hadn’t yet coalesced.

            A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

            Reply to Comment
          • Phil Fumble

            Jan, what you say is oviously not true. But if it were, it is interesting that you find Arabs not capable of a political solution that does not involve savage murder. Why is your opinion so low of them?

            Reply to Comment
      • It’s obvious that I don’t agree with you; seriously, that’s just lame. Your continual denial of Palestinians as a people with their home being what is now called the state of Israel does not in any way legitimize you or anything done in the name of the state of Israel, the land theft and the ethnic cleansing of its people.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          With all due respect, ‘Palestinian people’ were invented circa 1964.

          Reply to Comment
          • Josh

            Every nation is only invented, fool. One sooner, the other later. Zionism invented a “jewish nation’ after some europeans invented their nations.
            So which one is real©, the one who is invented first, and all others are just made up?
            Only a toddler would get away with such logic

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            Ben-Gurion, Barak, Netanyahu, Perez, and Ya’alon were all invented from Gruen, Brog, Mileikowsky, Perski, and Smilansky. Etc.
            If that isn’t invention I don’t know what is.

            Reply to Comment
          • Phil Fumble

            Completely nonsensical argument, but one that is used by antiSemites.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            I fail to see how facts can be antisemitic. Is it a fact that many many immigrants to the land, coming from north and east Europe, Hebraized their names in order to camouflage their alienness and lack of real connection to the land. For exactly the same reason, having ejected the original inhabitants of the land, they hebraized placenames throughout the land, and felt so uncomfortable as squatters on another people’s land that they bulldozed Arab villages and planted forests of European trees to cover up the multi-century long occupation of the land by another people.

            I also fail to see that Brian’s apposite remark is nonsensical or irrelevant to an that old myth that has just been cited here that there is no such thing as a Palestinian nation. The conflict persists because Palestinians have a deep attachment to the land and did not just disappear to Iraq as misguided Zionist pioneers convinced themselves they could be persuaded to do.

            Reply to Comment
    9. nsttnocontentcomment

      Reply to Comment
    10. Victor Arajs

      why would a self respecting Palestinian read zionist media? The Palestinians have their own meda

      Reply to Comment
      • Deborah S. Jacobs

        Much of the media, whether commercial or independent, is biased. Professional journalists who engage in reliable reporting won’t get everything they write published. The only way for a reader to find balance is to consult numerous sources, including writers with whom you don’t agree – and especially if they’re close to the power base that has political clout and controls budgets.

        Due to the realpolitik of education in Israel and the Territories, more Palestinian Arabs can read or speak Hebrew than Israeli or settler Jews can speak or read Arabic.

        Oh, and haven’t you noticed: even sharing a language, how many people read (?) the opposition’s content so they can write hate messages as “comments”?

        Reply to Comment
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