Palestinian TV news has shot up in the ratings, I am told, over the past few months — and Al-Jazeera has dropped.
Previously, Palestinians were getting their local news from Al-Jazeera. Could Al-Jazeera really give enough local coverage to satisfy the Palestinians here, I used to ask? It is all there is, I was told, in my own random samplings of the viewing audience in East Jerusalem and around the West Bank.
Now, Palestinian TV has been making an effort to improve its news coverage, and these efforts have been recognized and appreciated.
Still, despite this vote of confidence, tonight’s Palestinian TV news had no mention of a shocking and serious incident at Qalandia checkpoint late this afternoon or early this evening: an Israeli (Arab) truck driver taking a full fuel tank across the checkpoint to make a delivery to a point just after the checkpoint (perhaps to an area which is still part of the Greater Jerusalem municipality, despite being behind The Wall) was somehow panicked or distracted or injured, apparently by rock-throwing, and lost control of his vehicle. He reportedly ran into other vehicles at the checkpoint — which is frequently a clogged and intensely stressful traffic nightmare — and where there is NO traffic control.
The immediate Israeli assumption is always, but always, that things like this are “terror” attacks.
Israeli soldiers or Border Police thought that the truck driver was making an intentional attack on the checkpoint, and they shot. The driver was badly injured, and evacuated to Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital all the way across Jerusalem, west of Bethlehem. There were reportedly other injuries as well — either by the shooting, or by the vehicle crashing, or both.
There were at least a couple of hours for Palestinian TV to try to get any footage that might be available, or to send a reporter and a camera crew to the scene to do a live report — or even to see if they could get anything from the hospital, or from Israeli TV or other Arab TV networks working in Jerusalem, or from other journalistic sources.
Palestinian TV news tonight made not one mention of this serious incident, which illustrates just how normal civilian life is at real risk under the military protocols that operate in the West Bank — particularly at the checkpoints and the zones around them.
Palestinian TV should at least ask: Why is there no traffic control at this massive checkpoint, where tens of thousands of people pass every day? Human lives are at risk.
Why are children (controlled by adults) allowed to hassle and harass cars waiting in line to be inspected so they can pass through the checkpoint into Jerusalem? This harassment is so bad that there are many people who categorically refuse to ever go back to Jerusalem via this checkpoint — even diplomats, who can pass through without inspection. But these are people with Jerusalem IDs, or internationals, who have the option of going another way. Palestinians with permits — even VIPs — are obliged to go through Qalandia.
Asked about this, Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint say that this is not their area responsibility. No? A situation has been created by the checkpoint itself, and Israeli authorities have no responsibility to order their personnel to deal with it?
On the other side of the checkpoint, coming from Jerusalem to Ramallah, is within Israeli control. There are often very bad traffic jams here, usually created by rapacious and aggressive drivers who think they don’t have to stay in line, who pass and overtake the normal people taking their turn, creating traffic jams — why is there no Israeli traffic control here, in an area delineated by Israel as Israeli? Why are there no Israeli traffic police here? Again, human life is at stake. It is just pure luck that there has not been a catastrophe so far.
Ma’an News Agency updated its earlier news flashes with a report just after 8 pm (an hour before the Palestinian TV news), saying that “The truck, a fuel tanker, ran over several cars during the incident. He was fleeing Palestinians who threw stones at the vehicle, according to our correspondent, who was reporting from the scene. A spokesman for Israel’s Border Guard paramilitary police unit told Ma’an that the injured man was driving a tanker to a refugee camp near Qalandiya when Palestinians threw stones at the vehicle.
‘He was trying to escape, and drove close to the checkpoint. He ran over three to four cars, but nobody else was injured’, the spokesman said. ‘Security told him to stop. He didn’t stop, so they shot him’.” This Ma’an report is posted here.
The Jerusalem Post’s well-connected Defense Correspondent Yaakov Katz filed a report published 6:19 pm, saying that “Guards at the Kalandiya security checkpoint north of Jerusalem opened fire on an Israeli truck driver after they mistakenly thought he was going to ram the checkpoint on Sunday afternoon. The truck driver had been stoned minutes earlier and was fleeing back to Israel and accidentally hit several cars at the checkpoint, raising the guards’ suspicions”. This report can be viewed here.
But at 9 pm, Palestinian TV had nothing…