Listening to SBS World News last night at 6.30 pm, my ears pricked up when, by way of mentioning an upcoming news item, I heard a comment to the effect that Israel's arrest of a 5-year-old Palestinian boy was "heavy-handed." I can't swear to it but assume it came from newsreader Ricardo Goncalves.
The use of such a limp term - a synonym for 'harsh' - just blew me away.
Think about it. Since when does anyone arrest a 5-year-old for anything? And of all the reactions this bizarre behaviour could have elicited - 'outrageous', 'obscene', 'unforgivable', and 'unbelievable' come to mind - the best SBS can come up with is "heavy-handed."
OK, I thought, I'll revisit the entire news bulletin later on the SBS website and transcribe the exact details. When I did, this morning as it happens, the offending comment had simply vanished. Was this simply normal editing procedure or... what?
At any rate my effort was not entirely wasted because it enabled me to check out certain aspects of the news item (from the late, great Al-Jazeera) itself that had troubled me, in particular the prominence given to Israeli spin.
(Having said that, and this is another story entirely, SBS was the only channel I'm aware of that even featured this story. Ditto for the Australian press.)
Here's the transcript, along with my interpolated comments:
Ricardo Goncalves: [The issue of] children being caught up in conflict zones has been graphically illustrated in the West Bank. The Israel Defence Forces has been criticised by human rights organisations for detaining a 5-year-old child after he threw a stone at an Israeli settler's car.
Note the complete absence here of 'occupied' and 'allegedly'.
Simon McGregor-Wood (Al-Jazeera): Wadi' has just been caught throwing a stone.
'Allegedly' is missing here too.
He is 5 years old. In this video shot by the human rights organization B'Tselem, he's being detained by Israeli soldiers. Local Palestinians try to intervene. [Cut to Jessica Montell, B'Tselem's executive director]: 'You can see from the video the panic, the terror in the eyes of the child even when he understands that he's being put into a military jeep surrounded by heavily-armed Israeli soldiers. It's an extremely traumatic experience.' Soldiers take Wadi' home in this jeep. From there his father Karam and he are taken to an Israeli checkpoint for questioning. Karam was blindfolded.
Missing here is the fact that Wadi''s father was threatened with arrest if he did not comply, and that they were taken first to a military base, where Karam was not only blindfolded but also handcuffed.
The rules of Israel's military occupation of the West Bank state that the age of criminal responsibility starts at 12 and that it applies to the children of both Palestinians and Israeli settlers. But in a place like Hebron where children from both sides are often found throwing stones at each other the Palestinians complain it's only ever their children who get arrested. The Israeli army issued a statement saying at no point was Wadi arrested or taken away from his parents.
Are often found throwing stones at each other? Oh, really? Are you sure of that?
[The IDF logo appears on screen accompanied by the following words, which McGregor-Wood reads out:] It goes on to say, 'It is critical to bear in mind that even rocks thrown by children can pose a lethal threat to people. Between January and May 2013 over 2050 separate rock-throwing incidents occurred throughout Judea and Samaria, injuring well over 150 Israelis.'
I'm left wondering here why Al-Jazeera deems it necessary to highlight, visually and orally, such blatant Israeli propaganda. Would any other terrorist outfit be accorded the same courtesy?
Wadi's ordeal ended after a senior Israeli officer intervened. He criticised his men for detaining the boy in front of cameras and ordered the removal of his father's blindfold.
So this is the first officer to appear at either the military base or the checkpoint? What sort of outfit is this IDF? (Please, that was a purely rhetorical question! We all know what sort of outfit it is, don't we?) And still no mention of those handcuffs!
Both were then handed over into the care of Palestinian security officers. Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups say there has been a rise in the number of such incidents in recent months and they are demanding a legal response from the Israeli army but that may not bring much comfort to Wadi' or his father.