LA Times Conjures Up Settler Violence

Some Palestinian sources claim that a violent clash between the Israeli army and Palestinian rioters occurred on Saturday March 20 in the village of Iraq Burin, near Nablus.  They allege that the fighting, in which two Palestinian youths were killed by Israeli forces, began with an attempt by Jewish settlers to enter the village. The Israeli army denies that settlers were in the area. From these disputed accounts, the Los Angeles Times somehow concludes that Palestinian-settler clashes took place, which is more than even the Palestinians claim.

In two articles, one today (March 22) and one yesterday (March 21), the Los Angeles Times reports that a Palestinian youth was killed and another was fatally injured Saturday following clashes with settlers in the Palestinian village of Iraq Burin near Nablus.

The article yesterday (March 21) by Edmund Sanders (“Israeli forces kill Palestinian youth: Another teenager is wounded amid a feud with settlers over a West Bank water well“) begins:

Israeli forces killed a Palestinian teenager and critically injured another Saturday after a clash between Jewish settlers and Palestinians over a West Bank water well, officials said.

Similarly, today’s story (March 22), also by Sanders claims:

On Saturday, two Palestinian teens were shot by soldiers after a clash with Jewish settlers over a water well.

The Palestinian Maan News Agency’s story on the shootings of 16-year-olds Muhammad Qadus and Useid Abed An-Nasser Qadus barely mentions settlers, stating only:

According to the army, Israeli forces arrived at the scene to prevent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli civilians. Palestinians “violently hurled rocks at the force.”

Further along, the article includes additional detail which suggests it was the Palestinians who approached the settlement of Bracha, and not vice versa:

The committee [the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee] said at least 15 international activists were attending a demonstration that involved an attempt to reach privately owned Palestinian land under the Jewish-only settlement.

“After about two hours, the Army retreated toward the settlement and the demonstrators went back to the village,” the statement said.

The most direct statement in the article to hint at the involvement of settlers in the whole incident comes via Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian Authority official, who states:

“Soldiers invaded this village of 1,100 people and started shooting randomly at civilians who were trying to defend their property against Israeli settlers, most from Yitzhar,” Daghlas told Ma’an.

The PA official added that over 15 Israeli settlers from the illegal Bracha settlement, wearing white, descended upon the adjacent Burin village, but residents forced them out.

Thus, at most, Palestinian sources in the Palestinian news agency claim that settlers attempted to approach the Palestinian village, but do not allege settler clashes, contrary to the Los Angeles Times. Similarly, the rabidly anti-Israel Palestinian Center for Human Rights, whose press release about the March 20 stootings does not hold back on its vitriol against Israel, claiming for instance the boys were killed in “cold blood,” does not mention settlers at all.

Other major outlets reported that claims about settlers entering the area were disputed. Despite an erroneous headline (blogged here), a news article in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz accurately reported the disparate accounts:

A 16-year-old Palestinian was killed yesterday near Nablus when Israeli soldiers fired rubber-coated bullets on demonstrators as riots continued throughout the West Bank. Another youth was critically injured in the same incident.

The clash occurred near the village of Iraq Burin, south of Nablus. Villagers own land that borders the nearby settlement of Bracha. In recent weeks demonstrations have taken place in the area by villagers, who have also pelted soldiers with stones.

A similar altercation took place yesterday around noon. Palestinian sources say settlers from Bracha tried to attack villagers. Sources in the Israel Defense Forces, however, say no settlers were present. They say the IDF force tried to prevent Palestinians from advancing toward the settlement. (Emphasis added.)

Likewise, the New York Times reported the alleged encroachment of settlers towards Iraq Burin as a Palestinian claim, as opposed to fact:

Palestinians said the clashes broke out after Palestinian villagers confronted Jewish settlers who approached the village, Iraq Burin, from a nearby settlement, Bracha. The Israeli military said its soldiers fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse what it called “a violent and illegal riot” in which dozens of Palestinians hurled rocks at the Israeli forces.

Mohammed Daraghmeh of the Associated Press does not mention clashes involving settlers, but repeats the statement offered elsewhere by the Israeli army as well as the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee that it was the Palestinians who advanced toward the settlement, and not vice versa:

Israel’s military confirmed that it dispersed a group of masked, rock-throwing Palestinians near the town of Iraq Burin with tear gas and rubber bullets. It said the Palestinians were holding a violent, illegal riot and were approaching a nearby settlement in a threatening manner.

Another indicator of the dubiousness of  the Los Angeles Times report  is that not a single news photo turns up of settlers in the village — engaged in violent or any other activity — during a search of news photos from Reuters, AP and Newscom (which includes AFP, UPI, Getty and others). While searches of the Nablus area images that day turn up photos of Palestinians clashing with Israeli soldiers, and Palestinian mourners at the funerals of the boys, not one depicts Jewish settlers. March 22, the LA Times ran an AP photograph by Tara Todras-Whitehill with the caption: “NEAR NABLUS: Palestinians carry the body of one of two teenagers slain Saturday by Israeli soldiers after a clash with settlers. . . .” But the original AP photo caption says nothing about “a clash with settlers.” That addition is strictly of LA Times origin.

In the past, the Los Angeles Times has whitewashed blatantly violent Palestinian activities in Bilin as “non-violent.” In light of the paper’s dismissal of dangerous stone-throwing by Palestinians as “non-violent,” the apparent fabrication of an incident involving Jewish settler violence is especially striking.

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