Media coverage of the May 19 suicide bombing by Hiba Daraghmeh was fairly typical. The bombing (not Israel’s provocations leading up to it) was blamed for jeopardising the “peace process.” In fact, Israel’s provocations (one could call them a response to the publication of the “roadmap” on April 30) were not even reported.
According to the Palestine Red Crescent Society, in the month of May up to the day before Hiba’s suicide, 43 Palestinians were killed and 157 were wounded. On May 16, UN human rights chief Sergio Vieira de Mello denounced Israel’s killings, saying they could derail the peace process.
According to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, in the same period 11 Israelis were killed and 22 wounded, all in the occupied territories. That is a ratio of almost four Palestinians killed for every Israeli, and over seven Palestinians injured for every Israeli.
On May 15, Israeli Interior Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said Jews would soon be allowed to pray at the Al Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third-holiest site, while a day later barring Muslims from praying there.
On May 12, the UN said restrictions on its Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) during the closure of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli army violated international law.
Since May 9, foreigners (including journalists and humanitarian workers) operating in the Gaza Strip (scene of the worst recent incidents of violence), have been barred from flashpoint areas and have to sign a document absolving the Israeli army from blame if they are killed or wounded as a result of military activity, while peace activists are effectively banned.
On May 7, the cornerstone of a new Jewish settlement project in the West Bank was laid at the Beit El settlement near Ramallah. Israel’s settlements are illegal under international law because they are built on occupied Arab land.
There was also no coverage of the full extent of the Daraghmeh family’s suffering during the current Palestinian uprising against Israel’s 36-year military occupation. This included the deaths of at least 10 Daraghmehs.
Four (Bahira aged six, Osama aged 12, Yazid aged 17 and Rafat aged 28) were killed by Israeli helicopter missile fire in their home village of Tubas on August 31, 2002.
Less than two weeks earlier, on August 18, 19-year-old Nidal Daraghmeh was killed when Israeli troops used him as a human shield, sparking indignation from human rights organisations worldwide and major news agencies in Israel.
He “lost his life because he has the misfortune to live next door to a wanted man’s hide-out and because the Israel Defense Forces used a ruthless, unnecessary method called ‘neighbor practice,’ which is nothing more than turning the youth into a ‘human shield’ for soldiers,” wrote defence analyst Zeev Schiff in the influential daily Haaretz. “Neighbor practice is a method that is a disgrace to the army.” It is also a grave violation of humanitarian and international law.
Palestinian sources said Muannad Daraghmeh, 22, was killed by Israeli troops near Jenin on July 10, 2002.
Moussa Daraghmeh was killed by Israeli soldiers on May 22 last year, on the road between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Palestinian labourers told reporters that Moussa was with a group of about 20 people who were trying to get around a checkpoint on their way to work.
Amjad Daraghmeh, 22, was killed on September 30, 2000.
Taxi driver Mahmoud Daraghmeh, 40, was seriously injured by four gunshots in the chest on June 13 last year, when Israeli troops, tanks and helicopters besieged and attacked Tubas.
Nearly three years ago, when the intifada began, Hiba’s brother Bakir was badly wounded by Israeli troops near his high school. He spent nine days in an intensive care unit and another three months in a regular hospital ward recovering from his injuries. Last July, Israeli police arrested Bakir, and he has remained in prison ever since.
Four teachers – Rafe’, Yasser, Suleiman and Ibrahim, all Daraghmehs – were detained at an Israeli military checkpoint in Al Bqei’a on January 20, 2001, while on their way to school in Marj Na’ja. According to LAW (The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment), after they were arrested their car keys and ID cards were confiscated, they were taken to a muddy area, ordered to remove their jackets and forced to run long distances and perform acrobatics at gunpoint under the rain.
Mohammed Daraghmeh, an Associated Press (AP) correspondent, was also detained by Israeli forces in April last year.
All this information was gleaned easily by an internet search for the word “Daraghmeh”, as well as a quick browse through newswires and the websites of Israel’s Foreign Ministry and the Palestine Red Crescent Society.
Whatever one’s opinion regarding suicide bombings, given the incredible suffering and injustice faced by this family, Israel’s provocations after the publication of the “roadmap,” and the ease with which journalists could have obtained this information, it is shocking and unacceptable that it all went unreported. Indeed, it is the duty of journalists to provide such context and background.
Is it really far-fetched to believe that Hiba was so enraged by the murder, injury and humiliation of so many relatives and compatriots under occupation that she took the tragic step of committing suicide and taking Israelis with her? It is easy for us to say yes, but in the comfort of our homes we are in no position to judge – the freedom we take for granted is far removed from their daily oppression. For all the condemnation of her actions, Israel invested much time and effort ensuring the deaths of its own civilians at the hands of someone so bereft of hope, peace and justice that her life and those she killed lost all value.
The fact that the May 19 suicide bombing was carried out by a female was big news. Why? Palestinian women suffer no less and feel no less resultant anger and denigration than Palestinian men.
And though Hiba is dead, now that Israel has demolished her family’s home, making them destitute and violating humanitarian and international law in the process, it is ensuring that the anger she felt lives on.
Sadly, her story is certainly not unique to Palestinian society. Despite claims by the pro-Israel lobby of brainwashing by Muslim extremist groups, behind many suicide bombers lie real stories of despair, such as that of Wafa Idris, a secular Palestinian with no links to resistance groups.
Living in the Amari refugee camp – her family was expelled from their home in Ramle by Jewish forces in 1948 and forbidden to return – she witnessed daily scenes of horror as a paramedic with the Red Crescent, during which she was beaten and shot by Israeli troops several times. Her sister-in-law told the BBC how Wafa had been particularly angered by seeing children shot and killed.
“She used to come (home) every day frustrated,” Wafa’s brother Khalil told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He added that she would tell him about treating people whose brains were on the ground, whose intestines were hanging out, whose limbs were chopped off, and who would die at checkpoints because Israeli troops would forbid their travel to hospitals.
Her story only made the news because she happened to be the first female Palestinian suicide bomber.
Another tragic story unfolded last month, one that was evidently not deemed newsworthy by the mainstream media. On May 26, the same day Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced his acceptance of the “roadmap” (with numerous reservations of course), Tamer Arar, 11, was killed in the West Bank village of Qarwet Bany Zead. Residents said an Israeli sniper shot him in the head.
Just two days earlier, Tamer’s uncle Ossama Arar, father of a two-year-old child and husband to a pregnant wife, was killed by Israeli troops, as was Faker Arar, a 17-year-old student.
On May 22, Tamer’s aunt Rasmeeyeh Arar, 35, a mother of seven children (the oldest of them 15) , was killed by Israeli soldiers in the village when she attempted to rescue another relative, Nizar Arar, a sixteen-year-old schoolboy who was shot while throwing stones at invading military jeeps.
Tamer, who was enrolled in the sixth grade and was described by colleagues and teachers as a very bright student, left three sisters and one brother. He was also known as a polite child. “I expected him to be one of the best village men,” his father said, “but now I lost him for ever.”
With the multiple, unjustified murders inflicted on this family, will the world and the media once again react with shock and surprise if news breaks of a relative wreaking indiscriminate revenge? The sad truth is, those Israeli soldiers who killed members of that family would be as responsible for the death and carnage as the suicide bomber.
Sharif Hikmat Nashashibi is the chairman of Arab Media Watch, an organization dedicated to objective British coverage of Arab issues.