by Hugh Fitzgerald
Israeli soldiers arrest Palestinian children for the “crime” of picking flowers and vegetables located on a Jewish outpost in the West Bank. You can read about this highly implausible event here: “Fact Check: Did Israeli Soldiers Arrest Palestinian Youths for ‘Picking Flowers’?,” by Emanuel Miller, Algemeiner, March 24, 2021:
Did Israeli soldiers arrest Palestinian youths recently for the “crime” of picking flowers and vegetables located on a Jewish outpost in the West Bank?That’s exactly the story being propagated by the Associated Press (AP) in a piece based entirely on a video and statement supplied by the provocative NGO B’Tselem.
Even before the piece was published in the media, the Independent’s Middle East correspondent, Bel Trew, wrote in a Twitter thread on Wednesday that, “Israel arrested 5 Palestinian children aged 7-11… after they were picking flowers near a settlement in the occupied West Bank according to rights groups.”
The claims, too, are based entirely on anecdotal and partial evidence provided by B’Tselem.
There are three major problems with Trew’s statement:
- The correct term is “detain,” not arrest. The children were brought to a police station and later released into the custody of their families.
- There is video footage of the children trespassing on a Jewish farm. The sounds of farmyard animals are clearly recorded on the video, and the children are seen crouching alongside what a voice on the video describes as a parrot cage. That is the reason why they were detained. There is no evidence to back up the claim that they were held for picking flowers (or vegetables).
- The claim was not made by “rights groups” in the plural, but a single group, which has repeatedly made clear its anti-Israel agenda.
Unfortunately, there is a sad history of terror groups in the region using minors for attacks, which is a war crime.
Whether or not that was the case with these children, this important context informs IDF policy and goes some way to explain why the army removed the youths from the site — for the safety of all those concerned.
Here is an example of a Palestinian terror attack carried out by a teenager.
B’Tselem: Not a reliable news source
It is important to bear in mind that B’Tselem has been accused of “major omissions and distortions,” using figures that are not reliable, and failing to present definitive evidence that would justify its allegations, such as claims that Israel violated international humanitarian law during the 2014 war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
More recently, it produced a report in January that describes Israel as practicing apartheid — a claim so obviously false that even The Guardian was moved to call it “a deliberate provocation.”…
B’Tselem encourages and incites Palestinians, including children, to attack Israelis, both soldiers and civilians, in the hope that thereby an “incident” can be created where only the Israelis responding to the attacks, and not the attacks themselves, can be recorded. There are many accounts by soldiers wounded in such attacks that B’Tselem activists had encouraged, including that of Captain Mordi Arieli, whose personal story of being attacked by a teenager who dropped a large rock on him from a building can be seen here.
B’Tselem is a notorious group of far-left Israelis determined to undermine the Jewish state. It is not a “leading proponent of human rights” any more than CAIR is a “civil rights organization” (which is what it calls itself). B’Tselem never reports on Palestinian attacks on Jews; it never reports on violence by Arab men on Arab women; it does not report on Arab-on-Arab crime; it does not report on the plight of Christian Arabs who are threatened by Muslims in Bethlehem and Nazareth. B’Tselem refuses to report on anything that might make the Palestinians look bad or the Israelis look good. It does not report, for example, on Israeli doctors treating for free Arab patients from Gaza, the PA-ruled parts of the West Bank, and even Syria. Israeli doctors have treated many of the medically most difficult cases that Palestinian patients present; Israelis have performed surgeries on thousands of Arabs for free; pediatric cardiology is a challenging medical specialty in which Israel especially excels, and its “Israel-Heart-For-Peace” program has provided care for many hundreds. All this of no interest to B’Tselem. Nor has the group reported on Israel’s mass vaccination of West Bank and Gazan Palestinians who work in Israel, and its commitment to help the Palestinians obtain vaccines abroad, such as the Sputnik vaccine supplied by the U.A.E. that Israel helped deliver to Hamas-ruled Gaza. Israel has said any of its unused vaccines will be given to the Palestinians.
B’Tselem’s most famous big lie, that it continues to repeat, is the claim that Israel is an apartheid state. Those who report B’Tselem’s charge never allow a rebuttal from Israeli spokesmen or others who stand ready to point out that in Israel, Arabs sit in the Knesset, serve on the Supreme Court, go abroad as diplomats for the Jewish state. The chairman of Israel’s largest bank, Bank Leumi, is an Arab. Arabs and Jews study together in universities, work in factories, on farms, and in offices together, receive medical care in the same hospitals from both Arab and Jewish medical personnel. But you will hear not a word of this from B’Tselem, an organization whose only reason for being is not to protect civil rights but to blacken Israel’s image, with the aim of weakening its ability to defend itself in the court of world public opinion.
It was from the discredited B’Tselem that the original charge came that Israeli solders had “arrested” Palestinian children who had only been “picking flowers.” B’Tselem was the only source relied on by Bel Trew, the Middle East correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent, who wrote in a Twitter thread on Wednesday that “Israel arrested 5 Palestinian children aged 7-11… after they were picking flowers near a settlement in the occupied West Bank according to rights groups.” She didn’t bother to check with any Israelis. If she had, she would have found out that the children ranged in age from 8 to 13. She would have been able to see, captured on video, that the children were not picking flowers, but had trespassed inside an Israeli farmyard, for what reason was unclear; when detained, they were found next to a parrot’s cage. The Israelis reasonably wanted to get to the bottom of what they were about – perhaps they were completely innocent, but the Israelis have learned not to assume anything about Palestinian children. Could the children have been sent to harm or steal animals, or produce, belonging to “the Jews”? Or were they simply attracted to the farmyard out of curiosity? In such an unclear situation, it was not an over-reaction to detain them — they were not “arrested” — talk with them in a calm setting away from agitated farmers, figure out what had been their intentions, and then, once satisfied of their innocence, to return them unharmed to their parents. And that’s exactly what the Israeli police did.
The AP might have reported the story more truthfully thus: “Five Palestinian boys, aged 8 to 13, were detained for trespassing on a farmyard at X, a Jewish outpost, where they were found next to a parrot’s cage. They were taken to a police station for several hours, and then, it having been determined that their intentions were innocent, returned to their parents.” Bel Trew, and the AP, and especially B’Tselem, would have been disappointed. Much more damning to report the children as younger — “aged from 7 to 11 years” — and “arrested” rather than the much milder “detained.” And what better sign of sweet innocence than describing them as merely “picking flowers” (a detail invented by B’Tselem and dutifully tweeted by Middle East correspondent Bel Trew).
It’s a very little story, about a very small event. Yet it was worth Emanuel Miller’s while to expose this tiny travesty. These small events of malevolent misreporting add up, and help to create anti-Israel attitudes that honest reporting would have prevented. That’s why a small army of fact-checkers is needed to keep demanding that reporters, editors, newspapers, radio stations, and television channels correct those frequent errors that manage to blacken Israel’s image and present the Palestinians as oppressed innocents, as they are in this example, where it was falsely claimed that they were “arrested” for “picking flowers.”
First published in Jihad Watch.