On May 16th, the Sun Sentinel published an article about a South Florida protest “in solidarity with Palestine.” Unfortunately, the author Austen Erblat provides no context for the recent clashes in Jerusalem and greatly distorts the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Firstly, Erblat leaves out significant context of what led up to escalations earlier this summer. On May 7th, Israeli police officers were stationed outside of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in response to reports of civil unrest. The Israeli Foreign Ministry identified the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas as responsible for inciting violence to coincide with Eid, a holiday that signifies the end of Ramadan. These governments used their official television channels and a litany of social media accounts to incite violence in the Palestinian communities of East Jerusalem. Palestinians paraded through the streets, throwing stones at civilians, and waved flags supporting Hamas, an internationally recognized terror group that calls for the destruction of the state of Israel and for the murder of Jews as a part of its platform.
Erblat fails to mentions this or condemns the policies imposed by the Palestinian leadership to incite violence against Israel and Jews. The Palestinian Authority, for instance, pays perpetrators of terrorism a salary proportional to Israeli prison sentences or to their families in the case of their death. This grotesque policy is colloquially dubbed “pay for slay.” A report published by the Washington Post demonstrated that out of the 693 million dollars in foreign aid funneled to the PA in 2017, half or 343 million went to the families of terrorists. Additionally, Hamas runs camps for children, training them to use knives, guns and other weapons to “become combatants against Israel”. Children are put through a course of simulated acts of terror including mass shootings, knifings and kidnapping.
For Erblat to present the “intense violence” between Israel and Palestinians without this significant context is disingenuous, to say the least. There is no moral equivalence between the Palestinian leadership that deliberately calls for violence and put their civilians in harm’s way and Israel, who does everything it can to protect civilian lives on both sides.
Erblat prefers to present civilian death counts with no context, or explanation. “The Palestinian Ministry of Health said Sunday that a total of 202 Palestinians have been killed and over 5,000 injured since the latest increase in violence began last Monday.” He continues, “ A total of 181 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli airstrikes, including 52 children and 31 women, while 21 Palestinian protesters were shot dead in the West Bank.”
Notably, the author attributes these deaths to Israel without proper context. Hamas actively places civilians in danger, co-locating weapon stockpiles and terror cells in schools, hospitals and homes. In 2006, Hamas forced civilians to go to the rooftop of a Hamas compound, the Israel Defense Forces were unable to neutralize the site, which was routinely used to send rocket fire into Israel. The terrorist group is also known to use markets and busy urban areas as hubs for violence against IDF troops. Ultimately it is a win-win scenario for Hamas. If the number of civilian casualties surges, Hamas places the blame squarely on Israel. If Israel does not respond, the rocket fire, and terrorism continues, threatening the lives of innocent Israeli citizens.
During the recent clashes in May, Hamas fired over four thousand rockets from schools, hospitals and homes into major cities in Israel, even killing Palestinians in the process. Hamas does not care about who is killed in its campaign of hatred for Jews and the State of Israel.
As if the article could not be any more hateful, Erblat dedicates several paragraphs to parrot the rhetoric of Ahmad Abuznaid, a documented anti-semite who goes by “Zaddy the Zionist Zlayer”.
“…..U.S. support for Israel, especially over the last few decades, has made the occupation an apartheid state, similar to South Africa, Abuznaid said.”
This is a ludicrous assertion. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are governed by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, respectively. If Abuznaid truly cared for the welfare of the Palestinian people in the West Bank then why does he not direct his concerns to the appropriate governments? Its lack of focus to build infrastructure can be seen on repeated occasions; as mentioned before almost half of their funding in 2017 was used to fund terrorism, a trend that President Mahmoud Abbas continues to this very day.
The PA began payments to the families of recent perpetrators as early as last month. Hamas, on the other hand, continues to rob Palestinians of access to clean water, proper sewage, and electrical infrastructure by using such materials to build tunnels and fire rockets into Israel. Erblatt presents this incomplete picture that ignores the grave human rights violations of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to his readers, leading the platform of the Sun Sentinel to Abuznaid’s unfounded, bigoted and hateful claims.
Mr. Erblat also echoes Ahmad Abuznaid’s appeal for people to support BDS, also known as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions in the name of “tough love”. BDs calls for people, organizations, academic institutions and governments to sever ties with Israel. This jargon is a veneer for bigotry and antisemitism. While BDS purports to be a “Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality.” It’s true objective is clear from the words of one of its founders, Omar Barghouti: “Definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, would ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.” Their objective is the furthest thing from peace between Israel and Palestinians, it is to eradicate the only Jewish state and replace it with a Palestinian one.
It is the responsibility of a journalist to fact-check, and deliver fair and accurate reporting to readers. Unfortunately, Erblat misses the mark here by presenting one-sided coverage of the events leading up to the recent escalations and by giving a platform to a hateful, and heavily biased figure, Ahmad Abuznaid.
Julian Michanie is a 2020-2021 CAMERA Fellow at Florida International University.