Jul
10
2014

When Does the 'Cycle of Violence' Start?

aymanCoverage of the violence between Israel and Palestine often reduces the conflict to a "cycle of violence" that periodically flares up (FAIR Action Alert, 6/30/06; FAIR Blog, 12/19/08). The same is true now, with corporate media embracing the narrative that Israel’s attacks against Palestine are "retaliations," implying that it is solely the fault of Palestinians for provoking and initiating the deadly attacks on Gaza (FAIR Blog, 7/2/14).

But determining when such a "cycle" begins is a political act. The current conflict is usually traced back to the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers on the West Bank (CNN, 7/7/14). When their bodies were found on June 30, Israel "retaliated" by attacking Gaza. The July 2 killing of Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir, allegedly a revenge murder by Israeli extremists, was reported as further escalating the conflict.

But is it really that easy to pin down when these cycles of violence begin? You won't see corporate media making serious attempts to answer this question very often. A notable exception occurred on MSNBC’s All In (7/8/14), where correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin brought up the recent deaths of Palestinian teenagers at the hands of Israeli security forces in May:

But even before the kidnapping of three Israeli-Jewish teenagers and killing of the Palestinian teenager last week, two Palestinians were killed back in May and didn't trigger the kind of international outcry and international outrage that the killing of the three Israeli teens have. And that is always the difficult point when you're looking at the starting of a cycle of violence in this part of the Middle East. It's about which is the act, or which act is the one that triggered or exacerbated the latest round of tensions?

The deaths occurred at a Nakba Day protest, when the two unarmed Palestinian teenagers were shot in the West Bank by the Israeli military. Video footage and further investigation showed that neither of the teenagers posed a significant threat to the Israeli military (Guardian, 5/20/14).

While these killings were covered by many media outlets, they have not been connected with any "cycle of violence"–perhaps because that framing is usually invoked in order to justify a narrative of Israeli retaliation against Palestinians.

Or maybe because these kinds of killings are sadly all too common. According to human rights group B'Tselem, 568 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces from January 2009 till the end of May 2014; 84 of those fatalities were children. Over the same time period, 38 Israelis were killed by Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Territories.

Aldo Guerrero is a FAIR intern.