This essay was originally published at CiF Watch
On Mar 26, 2001, an Israeli named Shalhevet Pass, age 10 months, was killed by Palestinian sniper fire at the entrance to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood in Hebron. Shalhevet was shot in the brain, while in her stroller – with her parents by her side.
The Jewish baby was one of dozens of Israelis who have been murdered as the result of Palestinian sniper fire emanating from Gaza or the West Bank since the early 90s.
Pass’s murder came to mind when I first read a 2012 report by the Guardian’s Chris McGreal suggesting that IDF soldiers deliberately took aim at Palestinian kids – a narrative of Israeli cruelty which actually paled in comparison to a 2005 story he wrote which was even more explicit in evoking the image of such sadistic villainy.
In ‘Rachel Corrie verdict exposes Israeli military mindset‘, Aug. 28, McGreal, in an effort to contextualize the death of Rachel Corrie, and dismissal of the Corrie family lawsuit, as symptomatic of something much darker, argued that “the state of the collective Israeli military mind…cast the definition of enemies so widely that children walking down the street were legitimate targets if they crossed a red line that was invisible to everyone but the soldiers looking at it.”
Here are some passages from McGreal’s tale.
“It was the shooting of Asma Mughayar that swept away any lingering doubts I had about how it is the Israeli army kills so many Palestinian children and civilians.
Asma, 16, and her younger brother, Ahmad, were collecting laundry from the roof of their home in the south of the Gaza Strip in May last year when they were felled by an Israeli army sniper. Neither child was armed or threatening the soldier, who fired unseen through a hole punched in the wall of a neighbouring block of flats.
the army changed its account and claimed the pair were killed by a Palestinian, though there was persuasive evidence pointing to the Israeli sniper’s nest.
In southern Gaza, the killings take place in a climate that amounts to a form of terror against the population. Random fire into Rafah and Khan Yunis has claimed hundreds of lives, including five children shot as they sat at their school desks.Many others have died when the snipers must have known who was in their sights – children playing football, sitting outside home, walking back from school.”
McGreal provided no source for the fantastical story – which was, perhaps, inspired by dispatches in 2001 from Gaza by the discredited American reporter Chris Hedges – and certainly nothing resembling actual evidence that Israeli snipers fired on Palestinian children.
Of course, the most iconic image, preceding the reports by McGreal and Hedges, purporting to characterize unimaginable Israeli malevolence – that Israelis deliberately kill innocent and defenseless children – was the reported death, in Sept of 2000, of Mohammed al-Durrah.
The incident – illustrated by a video purportedly showing a father standing by impotently as the Israelis shot down, in cold blood, his terrified son – was quickly framed in the West as a justifiable source of outrage for “a beleaguered Palestinian people fighting for their independence“.
Despite the fact that the evidence of the case overwhelmingly demonstrates that al-Durrah was almost certainly not shot by Israelis, and, in fact, in all likelihood, was not shot at all, what Shelby Steele describes as poetic truths triumphed over the empirical evidence, and a lethal narrative about Zionist brutality, which continues to incite Jihadists to this day, emerged victorious.
This one incident became an icon of hatred towards Israel.
Countries had postage stamps honoring al-Durrah. Daniel Pearl was killed to avenge his “death”. Osama Bin Laden used the incident to incite before 9/11, and town squares & academies have been named after him. Al-Durrah was even referred to in the Arab media as “a tiny sleeping Jesus“.
In short, he became a poster child for the Intifada, and as proof of Zionist malice.
More recently, a French Jihadist named Muhammad Merah murdered Jewish school-girls in cold blood outside their school in Toulouse to avenge the murder of Palestinian children at the hands of Israeli soldiers.
Yet, how many people in the West even know the name ‘Shalhevet Pass’?
Indeed, no matter how absurd the charges that the IDF targets innocent Palestinian kids, such morally reckless narratives evoking the specter of unimaginable Jewish malevolence has become so ingrained in the Islamist and extreme-left imagination that the facts regarding such libels have become largely irrelevant.
Richard Landes explained the significance of the media’s unfathomable credulity in the face of such crude propaganda, thus:
“One of the key functions of the mainstream news media is to serve as a dialysis machine, filtering out the poisons that can weaken the civil polities in which they operate. At least in the Arab-Israeli conflict, they have, alas, played the role of injecting the poisons of lethal narratives into the information stream of the West.”
When Chris McGreal conjures the grotesque image of bloodthirsty IDF soldiers ruthlessly taking aim at innocent Palestinian children, the already powerful Judeophobic antipathy – nurtured continually in the Middle East – becomes that much more impenetrable, and violence directed at Israeli and non-Israeli Jews that much more probable.