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Who is really fanning the flames in Jerusalem?

By publishing false news stories that perfectly align with the government’s agenda, the Israeli media is guilty of sowing violence in a city already on the edge.

By Yael Arava

“Trying to fan the flames? The Palestinian prime minister went to visit the grave of the terrorist from the [Jerusalem light rail] attack, and then entered a mosque in order to strengthen the ties between the Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the Arabs of Ramallah.”

These words were published by NRG, a website owned by the right-wing, religious Makor Rishon newspaper, which was recently bought out by Sheldon Adelson, earlier this week. The question in NRG’s headline remains unanswered. Who exactly is trying to fan the flames? Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah never even visited the grave of the terrorist behind the attack.

Israeli policemen arrest a Palestinian protester during a protest outside Jerusalem's old city against the Israeli authorities' policy in resent weeks to limit access for Muslim worshippers to the al-Aqsa mosque compound, October 15, 2014. At least four protesters were arrested after Israeli police dispersed the protest. Muslim men and women over 50 are allowed to enter the compound in recent weeks, as Jewish right-wing activists enter al-Aqsa mosque compound with police escort. (Activestills.org)

Israeli policemen arrest a Palestinian protester during a protest outside Jerusalem’s old city against the Israeli authorities’ policy in resent weeks to limit access for Muslim worshippers to the al-Aqsa mosque compound, October 15, 2014. At least four protesters were arrested after Israeli police dispersed the protest. Muslim men and women over 50 are allowed to enter the compound in recent weeks, as Jewish right-wing activists enter al-Aqsa mosque compound with police escort. (Activestills.org)

But fanning the flames becomes very easy when public opinion is influenced by disinformation. On Thursday Mahmoud Abbas said that Israel is doing just that through incitement, while the Israelis continue to blame the Palestinians for fanning the flames. So who is really responsible?

The balance between the government and the press is what lies at the heart of democracy. When there is a breach in that balance, the reader can be influenced by certain political agendas. In these cases, one does not receive information which allows him or her to draw conclusions based on the reality on the ground. When disinformation blatantly becomes the headline of a respectable newspaper, the average reader will see it as the truth, when in fact it creates a false consciousness (it must be stated that many readers still think NRG belongs to the Ma’ariv daily newspaper – this is not true). In the wake of recent reports from the ground, and especially since Operation Protective Edge, there is no doubt that the Israeli media must check itself.

Listening to the Palestinian media

If in the past Palestinians listened and watched Israeli media outlets to know what’s happening there, Israelis ought to listen to the Palestinian media to know what’s happening here. Most Israelis do not do that. In reality, using reports from Palestinian news outlets on the events of the war, during the war, is seen by many readers as an act of treason. This despite the fact that there is a big advantage in knowing the ways of the “enemy,” as it is expressed in its own media outlets. This is especially true during war time.

In an era of cooperation between the security establishment, the political establishment and the press, this turns the media into a powerful tool for shaping public opinion. And despite the fact that the digital era has made it possible for people to have access to any subject, the majority of the public still relies on major media outlets.

Palestinian Muslim worshipers perform traditional Friday prayers in a street in Wadi Joz neighbourhood outside Jerusalem's Old City, as policemen block their way to Al Aqsa mosque, October 17, 2014. The Israeli government has restricted access to the al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam's third holiest shrine to men under 50. (Activestills.org)

Palestinian Muslim worshipers perform traditional Friday prayers in a street in Wadi Joz neighbourhood outside Jerusalem’s Old City, as policemen block their way to Al Aqsa mosque, October 17, 2014. The Israeli government has restricted access to the al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest shrine to men under 50. (Activestills.org)

Protective Edge was a new waypoint in the how things were handled between the intelligence agencies, the state, the media and the public – both in Israel and the world. Often times simple facts, pieces of a puzzle that make up the truth, disappeared or were distorted in order to present a picture that served the government’s agenda. For instance, during the war (which was called an “operation” for economic reasons – but especially for reasons of shaping public discourse – in order to insist that we are undertaking an operation to eliminate a “problem”), Israel did not allow journalists to enter Gaza, except for a short period during a ceasefire, in which they were accompanied by the IDF for pre-planned photo ops.

The media’s role in incitement

Today we are witnessing intense confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli forces in East Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank. This, after the media and the police attempted to prevent the publication of reports on the waves of violence taking place over the last several months. Israeli newspapers refrained from reporting on these waves until Israelis were killed in the attack that took the life three-month-old baby and a woman, and wounded seven more at a Jerusalem light rail stop. Only then did reporters begin counting the number of molotov cocktails or the rock throwers. Some of them even decided to declare the “beginning” of the third intifada. And all this while Palestinian media outlets have been tracking and publishing reports on the violence against Palestinians, both by security forces or settlers, which takes place on a regular basis. These waves of violence are given different titles, all of which include the word “intifada”: The Prisoner’s Intifada, the Ramadan Intifada or the Al-Aqsa Intifada. And now we have the Jerusalem Intifada.

Palestinian youth burn tires during clashes in the neighbourhood of Issawia, East Jerusalem, October 24, 2014. Clashes have continued two days after a Palestinian man drove a car in to a crowd, killing a baby and injuring seven people in Jerusalem. (Activestills.org)

Palestinian youth burn tires during clashes in the neighbourhood of Issawia, East Jerusalem, October 24, 2014. Clashes have continued two days after a Palestinian man drove a car in to a crowd, killing a baby and injuring seven people in Jerusalem. (Activestills.org)

Looking at the Palestinian media, one learns about a continuing intifada that is changing in its intensity and frequency. In Israel, however, these events are not “counted” as a real, third intifada. Let us remember that intifada means uprising. Since the protests in Al-Aqsa two weeks ago, the Israeli media has been reporting on the events in Jerusalem. However, these reports are often biased, lacking and full of disinformation that incites the public.

Assaf Gabor’s piece in NRG, which falsely states that the Palestinian prime minister visited the grave of Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi, who was behind the attack at the Jerusalem light rail, is a prime example of a report that can cause escalation among the Israeli public.

It must be stated that all Palestinians, including Palestinian VIPs, are forced to go through checkpoints when crossing from PA-controlled areas to Israel. Therefore it is obvious that the Palestinian prime minister’s visit in Jerusalem was coordinated with the Israelis. But when the average Israeli, who is not informed on the ins and outs of checkpoints, hears about the visit to the attacker’s grave – which never actually took place – it gives the impression that the Palestinians are free to manage their own affairs, without prior coordination with the Israelis.

Publishing such falsehoods leads to incitement against the Palestinian prime minister, who is turned into someone who supports terrorism and harming innocent lives. This, in turn, leads all Palestinians to be seen as supporters of terror.

Yael Arava is a journalist and documentary filmmaker, and was previously a writer for NRG-Ma’ariv in London. This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

Related:
There are no good guys in Jerusalem
PHOTOS: Protests in Jerusalem over Aqsa Mosque closures

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    COMMENTS

    1. Tomer

      Fakestinyan rights, fakestinyan leaders, fakestinyan president… blah blah blah

      The so-called fakestinyans are just the Jordanians of the 6 day war who strategically renamed themselves after they lost that war.

      There are 400,000 Israelis living in yesha now. When their numbers reach 500,000 the whole nonsense identity-people thing will dismantle themselves and bow out of history.

      Reply to Comment
      • Haifawi

        Ehh perhaps. National identity has always been fluid. maybe then we can all be ‘southwestern levantines.’

        Reply to Comment
      • Brian

        How childish. As grown up as shouting “same to the Isfakeis!, neah neah neah neah neah!” I think you need to go find an appropriate playground. It’s not here.

        Reply to Comment
      • Brian

        And also a prime example of the maxim that the primary technique of hasbara trollery is distraction.

        Reply to Comment
      • David T.

        Thank you Tomer for making it so obviously clear that neither you nor your ascendants have ever been citizens of Palestine (“Palestinians”) before 1948 and your knowledge about Palestinian citizenship is quite pathetic.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Mg

      Yael, citing this one example of malpractice (apparently from a newspaper you worked with) is not a good example of press freedoms in Israel which are to be considered some of the freest on earth. But to suggest that Palestinian media is better at reporting is completely misguided. Palestinian press is some of the least free and most censored press on earth. Censored by their own authoritarian organs of supression and intimidation. Learn about the current Press and Publication laws under the PLO and you will see the myriad of human rights abuses committed against Palestinians by the Palestinians (and the redlines which draw information boundaries) ultimately render their press useless. You want to see manipulated facts and one-sided reporting then by all means, read Palestinian papers from West Bank. The lack of access to information, criminal punishment for journalists and restrictive red lines drawn by the Government are very serious concerns if international human rights organizations. The Palestinian view point is front and center in Israel’s center and left leaning press so citing a Adelson owned paper doesn’t support your argument that all Israeli press is this way. Quite the contrary.

      Reply to Comment
    3. bar

      So, just to understand, this article is claiming the flames are being fanned by Israel’s media?

      Seriously?

      Reply to Comment
      • Pedro X

        What else would you expect of 972mag? Responsible and erudite journalism?

        If the writer wants to be taken seriously he should have quoted Abbas’ October 17th speech when he urged activists from his Fatah movement to defend the shrine “by any means” against “cattle herds of settlers” who he said “have no right to enter and desecrate it.” PA TV then broadcast Abbas’s call to violence 19 times in 3 days.

        Or maybe the writer should have quoted Abbas’s speech at the UN in September when he accused Israel of committing genocide and war crimes. It was a speech of incitement, slander and hostility.

        He might have mentioned the day of rage called by Fatah to fan the flames.

        Or maybe the writer might of quoted Jbril Rajoub who keeps talking of a third intifada. He is only the most powerful war lord in the West Bank and former head of the preventive security forces of the Palestinians.

        The writer might have also quoted Hamas and Fatah media which praised the shooting of Rabbi Glick and the attack on the train platform.

        Reply to Comment
        • bar

          To be honest, I expect propaganda directed at foreign (non-Israeli) audiences from 972. It’s sad.

          Reply to Comment
    4. Kolumn8

      So Mahmoud Abbas did not call on the use of “all means” to stop the “settlers” from visiting the Temple Mount? And his office did not declare that a war has been declared because Israel closed the Temple Mount to prevent clashes between Jews and Arabs? And his party – Fatah – did not declare the guy that killed an Israeli three month old a national hero? And the same party – Abbas’s party – did not declare the guy that showed Yehuda Glick a national hero “defending Palestinian rights”? And you mean Hamas is not calling for an intifada in Jerusalem and the West Bank consistently for the past several years? And Palestinian ministers do not continue to insist that Jews have no connection to the Temple Mount? And Palestinian media does not continue to call visits by Jews to the Temple Mount “invasions” while calling for Palestinians to oppose them? Apparently the “religious freedom” of the Palestinians and their “rights” are such that their expression is in demanding with violence that Jews be prevented from praying in the holiest place to Judaism.

      Yes, it is Israeli media that is “fanning the flames”, not the Palestinians. It isn’t the attacks on Israelis by Palestinians or the support expressed for the same attacks by the party of Mahmoud Abbas. Good job sparky.

      Reply to Comment
    5. “The Jerusalem District Court has approved the sale of newspaper Maariv to Jerusalem Post owner Eli Azur for 4 million shekels ($1.15 million), the latest attempt to revive a daily whose circulation — and value — have plummeted.” Azur is buying the Maariv newspaper from its current owner, Shlomo Ben-Tzvi, not the website. Last week, the Jerusalem District Court approved U.S. casino mogul Sheldon Adelson’s purchase of Maariv’s NRG website and Makor Rishon newspaper for 17 million shekels.” Haa’retz

      With Sheldon Adelson’s vast wealth, the folks fanning the flames will be afford to use actual flame throwers to keep the lies going. Thank you 972 for working to provide balance and truthfulness regarding the state of Israel to help educate the israeli public who’ve been fed lies and inconvenient truths for 70 years. With all the lying going on in america, you’d think Adelson bought the entire MSM.

      Reply to Comment
      • Brian

        Spot on!

        Reply to Comment
    6. “Or maybe the writer should have quoted Abbas’s speech at the UN in September when he accused Israel of committing genocide and war crimes. It was a speech of incitement, slander and hostility.”

      It was an accurate assessment of the actions of the israeli government and israel defense forces from July-August 2014, the details of which have been well-documented from eyewitnesses.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Kevin

      The ugly, racist comments here only proves the writer’s point!

      Reply to Comment
      • Margot Dunne

        Spot on! I blame indoctrination from a young age of both Israelis & supportive Jews of the Diaspora. Sad & very unhelpful.

        Reply to Comment