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January 10, 2022 11:36 am
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Associated Press Injects ‘Occupation’ Into Story About Palestinian Workers Killed in Car Crash

avatar by Gidon Ben-Zvi

Opinion

Palestinian police officers stand guard during a protest over the death of Nizar Banat, a critic of the Palestinian Authority, in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, June 26, 2021. Picture taken June 26, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

The Associated Press (AP) has managed to turn the death of eight Palestinians in a West Bank car crash into a broad indictment of Israel. In fact, most of the January 6 piece, titled “Road crash in West Bank kills 8 Palestinians, injures 2,” isn’t even dedicated to the events and details of the accident.

Instead, the article veers towards biased territory:

Tens of thousands of Palestinians work in Israel and Israeli settlements, where wages are much higher than in the parts of the West Bank administered by [Mahmoud] Abbas’ Palestinian Authority. The economic disparity largely stems from Israel’s 54-year occupation of the territory and the restrictions it imposes on the more than 2.5 million Palestinians living there.

In a story ostensibly about tragedy, the AP, a global news service with 1,300 clients such as The Washington Post, ABC News, and Fox News, depicts Palestinians who have the opportunity to earn a living outside of Palestinian Authority (PA)-administered territories as being subjected to alleged repressive Israeli policies.

The AP notes that “Palestinian [Authority] President Mahmoud Abbas declared a day of mourning for the victims, who he described as ‘martyrs of trying to make a living.’” Indeed, the Associated Press included Abbas’ quote prominently, in the second paragraph of the piece.

But two obvious questions, which for the reader remain unanswered, are: 1) Why are Palestinians in the first place compelled to find work in places under Israeli civilian and military control? 2) Why are connections between West Bank Palestinians and territories under Israeli authority depicted as a bad thing, given the decades-long effort by the international community to forge peaceful co-existence?

The state of affairs in the Palestinian territories can be partially understood within the context of the US’ announcement in December that it would funnel $99 million to the UN body aiding Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), amid a series of moves aimed at pulling Palestinians out of an economic morass. Last year, the Biden administration pledged to provide $235 million in assistance to Palestinians.

Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz recently revealed that Jerusalem would implement a series of measures to prop up the PA, including a $32.2 million loan on tax revenues Jerusalem collects on Ramallah’s behalf. Following an earlier meeting between Gantz and Abbas, Israel offered the PA a similar $160 million advance.

The Israeli government will also legalize the status of 9,500 undocumented Palestinians and foreigners living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In addition, the “confidence-building measures” include adding 600 BMC (businessman card) approvals for senior Palestinian businesspeople, as well as permits for 500 of them to enter Israel with their vehicles.

Such steps “would likely add hundreds of millions of shekels to the Palestinian Authority on an annual basis,” according to Gantz.

Another crucial fact that the Associated Press doesn’t mention is that widespread corruption in the Palestinian Authority has long undermined the effectiveness of such initiatives. Rather, the AP uniquely assigns blame for the economic disparity between Israel and the Palestinians to “restrictions it [Jerusalem] imposes on the more than 2.5 million Palestinians.”

This, even though there have been numerous allegations that PA officials have embezzled development aid from the European Union. Reports also suggest that the PA has spent staggering sums on fake companies and projects, including a non-existent airline. There are many documented examples of corruption in Ramallah, as well.

In addition, the Palestinian Budget Book states that monthly payments must be made from the “Martyrs Fund” to imprisoned Palestinian terrorists, and to the families of those killed while perpetrating attacks against Israelis, because the recipients constitute a “fighting sector.” The amount paid increases in proportion to the severity of the crime.

In other words, the more Israeli blood spilled, the higher the Palestinian “salary.”

PA President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly and publicly hailed Ramallah’s “Pay-for-Slay” policy: “Since 1965, we have been paying them [terrorists] and their families. … If we had only 20 to 30 million shekels [$6.4-$9.7 million], which is the monthly sum paid for the families of the martyrs, we would still pay it to them,” Abbas proudly asserted.

All the while, the Palestinian leadership has grown rich off the “occupation” afflicting its people. In 2019, the BBC reported on leaked documents showing that Palestinian ministers’ monthly salaries were increased in 2017 from $3,000 to $5,000 (a 67 percent pay hike).

And what of Mahmoud Abbas? By some estimates, his net worth exceeds $100 million.

A recent public opinion poll found that 63 percent of Palestinians believe that corruption in Palestinian Authority institutions increased in 2021. Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed predicted that corruption would increase further.

Yet like many of its stories related to Israel, the AP’s “Road crash in West Bank kills 8 Palestinians, injures 2″ closes with this boilerplate paragraph:

The Palestinians and most of the international community view the settlements, home to nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers, as illegal and an obstacle to resolving the decades-old conflict.

Such reporting reduces the highly nuanced, complicated Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a grossly oversimplified, blame Israel narrative.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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