Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


Uri Avnery: Who's Guilty? The Victim Of Course

Who's Guilty? The Victim Of Course

By Uri AvneryGush Shalom

THOSE WHO listened to the radio news last Saturday heard a stunning report: that Muhammad Abu-Ter and Uri Avnery had barricaded themselves together in a private home in a-Ram.

The very fact that these two - the No. 2 man of Hamas and the notorious Israeli leftist - were together was already shocking enough. But the fact that they had invaded the home of an innocent Palestinian family and barricaded themselves there, like criminals fleeing from the police, was even more staggering.

This false news item would, perhaps, deserve no special mention, if it were not typical of the whole media coverage, not only of this specific demonstration, but of all joint demonstrations of Israeli peace activists and Palestinians. More than that, it throws light on the close connection between the Israeli media and the occupation regime. Without this connection, it is doubtful if the occupation could have lasted for the 39 years it has so far.

Therefore it is worthwhile to analyse the events in detail.


FIRST OF all, the background. A-Ram (that's how the name is spoken, though its written form is al-Ram) was a small Palestinian village north of Jerusalem, on the highway to Ramallah. Since the "unification" of Jerusalem in 1967, the village has become much bigger. The reason: while the Palestinian population doubles every 18 years or so, it is well-nigh impossible to obtain a building permit in East Jerusalem. For lack of an alternative, many Arab East Jerusalemites build homes for their enlarged families in the surrounding villages. A-Ram has in fact become a town, but most of its 50 thousand inhabitants have Jerusalem (i.e. Israeli) identity cards, and their life revolves around Jerusalem. Their work, health services and universities are there. Officially, however, the town belongs to the occupied territories.

When it was decided to build the Separation Wall around Jerusalem, the plan was to cut a-Ram off from the city. Worse: the path of the Wall passes right down the middle of the main street - so that it does not separate between Palestinians and Israelis, but mostly between Palestinians and Palestinians.

To get an idea: it is as if a wall had been built in the middle of Broadway, from 42nd Street to Harlem. Or in the middle of the Champs-Elysees, from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe. Or in Berlin, in the middle of the Kurfuerstendamm, from the Memorial Church to the Messegelaende. The two parts of the city and its neighborhoods would be separated by a nine meter high wall.

When this was only in the planning stage, the inhabitants held a number of non-violent demonstrations. To all of them, Israeli peace activists were invited and came. But in the meantime, the monstrous Wall has become reality. It cuts off the holders of Israeli identity cards from the city where their businesses and places of employment are located. It cuts off the pupils from their schools, which are only 100 meters away on the other side of the wall. Not to mention the students who are separated from their universities; the sick, separated from their hospitals; even the dead, separated from their cemeteries.

Now the wall is nearing completion. It is still under discussion in the Supreme Court, but experience shows that that is pretty hopeless. One can still reach the town through an army checkpoint, but even this hole is about to be plugged: the Wall will close off this place, too. In the meantime, in some places there is still a high fence instead of the concrete structure, pending the conclusion of the court proceedings.

In order to protest this, a large Palestinian-Israeli event was planned. It was to be a march in the main street, along the Wall (on the Palestinian side, of course), from the town center to an improvised tribune, where speeches were to be made.

The details were worked out in three planning sessions. In order to underline the non-violent character of the event, it was decided that the schoolchildren, whose schools have been cut off, would march at the head in their school uniforms, their satchels on their backs, accompanied by their teachers. Also, an alternative route was planned for them in case there would be a danger of a clash with the army.


WHEN WE - about 300 Israeli activists of several peace movements - were approaching a-Ram, we were informed that large forces were waiting to block our passage at the checkpoint. Going around them, we reached the wall on the "Israeli" side. At this point there stands a high fence, instead of the concrete structure. We breached it and many demonstrators succeeded in crossing to the "Palestinian" side, into a-Ram, before the army, which was surprised by this move, succeeded in rushing up reinforcements.

In the meantime, the Palestinian demonstration had already started on its way, exactly as planned - at the head a group of boy-scout drummers with their flags, after them the small children of the first class, behind them the other schoolchildren, from small to big, then the main demonstration with posters and flags, led by a row of leaders of all Palestinian parties. The Israeli activists mingled with the Palestinians in order to demonstrate solidarity, and I was invited to join the front row.

That way I found myself walking between Abu-Ter, the Hamas leader who has become famous in Israel not least because of his brightly shining red beard, and the Palestinian minister for Jerusalem affairs, Abu Arafeh, also a Hamas member. Next to them there were the leaders of Fatah, the Popular Front, the Democratic Front and the People's (ex-Communist) Party. We marched arm in arm, and it seemed that the demonstration would pass off peacefully. And then, suddenly, we saw that the road ahead of us was blocked by a large contingent of soldiers and policemen who were waiting for us - rows of soldiers heavily armed from head to foot, in front of them mounted police on their horses and behind them army Humvees.

The first concern was the safety of the children. Their teachers led them into a side street, and we marched slowly on, on our way to the tribune. There could not have been a less threatening sight than the row of notables, arm in arm, walking in front.


ABOUT WHAT happened then I can testify as an eye-witness, and I am prepared to undergo any lie-detector test:

When we were about 50 meters from the concentration of soldiers and horses in the main street of a-Ram, a voice from a megaphone announced that the area had been declared a "Closed Military Zone" and that our demonstration was illegal. While we were standing, facing the soldiers, a huge salvo of tear gas canisters suddenly rained down on us. It was not preceded by any provocation.

Clouds of gas rose up between us, in front and behind. More salvos of stun grenades raised hell, and so we escaped to the nearby houses. I entered the nearest one and found myself in the company of Abu Ter, who received me with great friendliness. Our eyes were burning and tearful, and we could not talk much, but we decided to have a more meaningful conversation soon.

When the gas dispersed, we emerged to join the continuing demonstration. The activists formed again and again on the road, the policemen and soldiers attacked us again and again with tear gas and stun grenades, storming forward in waves - armed and well-protected soldiers, Humvees and police riders (wearing spurs, which are forbidden by Israeli laws for animal protection.)

Only at this stage - and that's the main thing! - did some local children and youngsters start to throw stones at the policemen - stones that could do no damage, since they fell short of the policemen, whose gas launchers have a far longer range. The demo organizers did their best to restrain them, but the anger of the youngsters against the soldiers who had invaded their town was too strong. After two hours, through a dialog with the senior police officer, contact was broken off and the Israeli activists returned home.

In the course of the event, 12 people - seven Palestinians and five Israelis - were detained. The Israelis were released a few hours later, the Palestinians remained in custody, with our lawyers dealing with their cases.


THAT WAS what happened in a-Ram. From then on, it was a story of the media.

The demonstration was widely covered, for two main reasons - the violence used and the meeting between me and Abu-Ter, which provided a piquant angle, since until now there has been no dialog between Hamas and Israelis. The news on all the three Israeli TV networks reported on the event extensively. That by itself was unusual - generally, most TV stations ignore our demonstrations, or devote a few seconds to them (except for a few reports by brave reporters.)

This time, too, no Israeli medium - TV, radio or newspaper - troubled to send reporters or photographers to the event, so there was no eyewitness Israeli media report from the scene. The TV stations showed clips taken by foreign networks. The reporters just made the most of what they heard from the police and us.

And lo and behold: all the media reported the same: the demonstrators had started the violence by throwing stones, two policemen "had been wounded and treated on the spot". (This lie repeats itself at all our demonstrations. One could begin to suspect that there are two policemen whose sole duties are to be "wounded and treated on the spot" each time we demonstrate.)

The police and army statements were outright lies. They knew in advance that our demonstration would be non-violent. I rely on them to have their agents at all our meetings, and we spoke about our preparations openly over the phone and in our e-mails. Two paid ads were published before the events in Haaretz. It is absolutely clear that the army and police had prepared in advance to suppress the demonstration by force. Otherwise they would not have brought horses and Humvees.

For many years we have witnessed the mendacity of official spokespersons, and I have no doubt that the reporters covering the occupied territories are aware of it. In some media, a sentence saying that "the demonstrators argue that it was the policemen who started the violence" appeared, but in all the media it was stressed that the violence started with us, so the police had no alternative but to react.

This is an Israeli tradition, which has unfortunately also been accepted by the international media: the Israeli security forces always "react" to the violence of the other side. But, curiously enough, the killed and wounded are mostly on the other side.

The small example of a-Ram illustrates what happens on a larger scale throughout the country: in matters concerning the army and police, the news in all the media, without exception, from Maariv to Haaretz, from Channel 1 to Channel 10, is indistinguishable from government propaganda. (with honorable exceptions in opinion columns and the op-ed pages.)

The chances of the victims getting fair coverage are close to nil. After all, the victims are always to blame.

GUSH SHALOM p.o.b. 3322 Tel Aviv 61033
Your donation helps make our voice heard
Please, send checks in your own currency – for confirmation of receipt include email address
In several countries tax-exemption can be obtained by donating through local charities For information, write to
. w w w w , g u s h - s h a l o m - o r g

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news