Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Daoud Kuttab Tells Half the Story

Among the Huffington Post blogger stable, I like Daoud Kuttab a lot. He really has his act together, usually has a moderate political persuasion (though he is definitely pro-Palestinian) and isn't afraid to criticize anyone on any side who deserves it. His criticisms of Israel, though, are often not fair or measured, as in this case, when he only told part of a story for the purposes of demonizing Israel (again).

I guess I'll just jump right in. The story is about a "nonviolent protest" (Kuttab's words) which leads to Israel "preventing Christian pilgrims from reaching Bethlehem," which also made up part of the headline. Mr. Kuttab never cites a news article in the entire post, we are instead expected to believe everything he tell us as the truth. In the first paragraph, though, he begins to tell a very selective story:
"In a response to a totally nonviolent protest by Palestinian Christians and Muslims demanding their freedom of movement the Israeli army has effectively banned entry of Christian pilgrims and tourists from visiting the birth place of Christ."
 Okay, first of all, Israel has not banned entry to Bethlehem. It has closed the main checkpoint from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. It is true that as of today the main checkpoint remains closed, but all checkpoints are on limited entry due to Passover. There is no mentioned of "effectively banned entry" to Bethlehem or anywhere else. But more on that later, I want to talk about the protest. Click on the link below to continue.
Mr. Kuttab describes the protest as "totally nonviolent." This is true, but again it doesn't paint a totally accurate picture of what happened. This news report provides more information:
"The march was supposed to have stopped at the checkpoint, but once the group reached the checkpoint gate for vehicles, approximately 100 protesters made their way through the gate. Apparently the security guards were unprepared:  they were far too few to be able to stop the demonstrators who managed to walk through the second gate and on to the road to downtown Jerusalem, still being led by the donkey and the horse. "
So although there was no violence, they effectively stormed the barricade even though they were not permitted to do so. I know that many people will read this and call Israel's response an overreaction. On a certain level, I agree. Mr. Kuttab's description, however, has some problems:
"The private security company hired to man the checkpoint escaped leaving the protesters the ability to pass through the checkpoint without restrictions. No soldiers appeared to stop them, no one declared the area a military zone and so the protesters which included a senior member of the Fatah movement continued their march."
I'm not sure where he got the information about the private security company "escaping" from, it doesn't appear in any of the other news articles that I have read on the subject. If you check out the picture from the above quoted article you'll see there's definitely at least one security guard there, and he doesn't look like he wanted to let the demonstrators through. Check out this other picture from Ma'an News:

That's a protester being grabbed by a security guard while they are making a break through the doors of the checkpoint. Mr. Kuttab's description implies that there was nothing there at all, that the protesters perhaps were unaware that they were going where they weren't permitted. This doesn't seem to stack up with this photograph evidence: They found the checkpoint undermanned and vulnerable so they decided to push their luck and storm it.

Ynetnews provides even more information, that they were storming the checkpoint as an act of protest.
"[Havida] Araf [one of the activists] said the activists refused to stop at the checkpoint as an act of protest. "We did not present our identity cards because it is a discriminatory procedure," she said....One protestor told Ynet that the march was aimed at "showing that in 2010 Israel is still banning people from entering the holy city (Jerusalem) due to the color of their identity cards.""
They were then confronted by Israeli police and military further down the road and dispersed. Some were arrested on the way back to Bethlehem. Let's see how Mr. Kuttab described it:
"By this time the Israeli army seems to have regrouped and began attacking the returning protesters (as well as the donkey and its rider). Eleven protesters...were arrested."
They "began attacking" the protesters. Really? That wasn't mentioned in the other news articles. The description of events in the EAPPI article above included no mention of any "attacking." Now let's take a look at YnetNews.
"The demonstrators stressed, however, that police did not use any violence against them."
 So where exactly did Mr. Kuttab get his information from which to use the word "attacking" to describe Israel's actions against the protesters? He provides no corroborating information to back up his words, he simply made the above quoted statement and moved on to something else. Mr. Kuttab does not say whether or not he was actually present at these events, though somehow I doubt that he was.

But I'm going to play the devil's advocate for a minute and take a look at some of the pictures provided by Ma'an News. You can look for yourself at the link above, and it shows that some of the 11 arrests were not quite as smooth as it sounds. For instance:
It looks like a bit of a chaotic scene, and it seems a bit confrontational. Now, I now that pictures are really quite contextless. They don't prove the events one way or another, I'm sure to some eyes they are just more proof of the Zionist Entity's oppression of peaceful protesters. But army and police officers don't go wrestling for no reason, and why would the protesters lie and claim that the police didn't use violence when they really did? The whole point of the protest was for a publicity stunt, as I mentioned above.

Finally, I'll conclude with tackling the question of: Why were the eleven arrested? Mr. Kuttab tells us that they were arrested because they were simply peacefully protesting and isn't that so awful. Again, the fact that they were peacefully protesting is only half the story. Here's what happened from the other side:

A group of 150 people, including Palestinians (a nation with which Israel is still technically at war) including a senior member of Fatah (a group dedicated to Israel's destruction) stormed a checkpoint and illegally entered Israel. They could have been anyone, they could have been carrying anything, they could have been there for any number of reasons. Even though it was fairly obvious that they were a peaceful protest, Israel has long been accustomed to playing on the safe side. And the protesters knew this, which is probably why they decided to try for a publicity stunt. On the Huffington Post, at least, they succeeded admirably.

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