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A Tale of Two Narratives: English-Language & Arabic-Language Reports Differ on Palestinian-American Teen’s Death

Illustrative: Palestinians run during clashes with Israeli forces amid an Israeli military operation in Jenin, in the West Bank, July 3, 2023. REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta

On Friday January 19, 2024, a Palestinian-American teenager, Tawfic Abdel Jabbar, was killed in the West Bank, allegedly following an altercation with armed Israelis.

The Israeli inquiry into this matter is still ongoing.

However, an investigation by the Jewish News Syndicate (JNS) has found that the narrative surrounding the circumstances of Abdel Jabbar’s death in the English-speaking media is very different from that being put forward in several Arabic-language reports.

.@NBCNews: “Abdel Jabbar dismissed the suggestion his son might have been ‘hurling rocks’ as a ‘lie.’”

Meanwhile, in Arab media:

“He used to go with boys between the ages of 15 to 17. .. to throw stones.”

“He always talked about martyrdom, but I thought he was joking.”…

— Akiva van Koningsveld (@koningsveld) January 24, 2024

In various English-language reports by such media outlets as The Washington Post, The New York Times, the BBC, Reuters, the Associated Press, and others, Tawfic Abdel Jabbar is portrayed as a quintessential American teen who moved to the West Bank in order to improve his Arabic and to gain a deeper connection to the area where his Palestinian family is from.

By all accounts, from the media reports, Abdel Jabbar was fun-loving and outdoorsy, loved basketball and cars, and was planning on going to college to study engineering (or business administration, depending on the report).

The fatal shooting of a 17-year-old Palestinian-American in the West Bank on Friday remains under investigation, as mourners gathered Saturday for the teen’s funeral.

— ABC News (@ABC) January 20, 2024

While the circumstances surrounding his death are unclear, most reports have Tawfic Abdel Jabbar being shot to death by an Israeli settler and IDF soldier while out with friends (depending on the report, he was either having a picnic, attending a barbecue or simply driving around).

Although some reports do carry the Israeli claim that the shooting occurred within the context of a reported rock-throwing incident by Palestinians against Israeli vehicles traveling on the main highway that bisects the West Bank, most of these reports only include this information as tangential or include Abdel Jabbar’s father’s rebuff that his son was not throwing rocks and even if he was, “So what? If they were throwing rocks 150 meters to the street, what is it going to do to a tank? Or to a jeep? Or to a car full of soldiers? You’re gonna shoot the car 10 times because a guy threw a rock?”

It should be noted that there have been Israeli civilians (including children) killed in incidents where Palestinians threw rocks at passing vehicles.

Most of these reports about Tawfic Abdel Jabbar’s death also sought to contextualize his death with descriptions of rising tensions in the West Bank, an alleged surge in settler violence against Palestinians, and supposed Israeli heavy-handedness following the October 7 Hamas attack.

In sum, the narrative produced by the English-language media about Tawfic Abdel Jabbar’s death is that he was a typical American teenager who became another victim of continuing Israeli aggression against the West Bank’s local Palestinian population.

However, this may not be the whole story.

According to an investigation by JNS, Arabic-language media reports present quite a different picture.

In the London-based Al-Araby Al Jadeed, it’s reported that on the fateful night of Tawfic Abdel Jabbar’s death, he “was participating with boys and young men in throwing stones at the occupation vehicles…”

In that same article, Abdel Jabbar’s father is quoted as saying that “I was keen throughout their lives to consolidate the danger of the occupation in my son’s mind, and the necessity of resisting it.”

Similarly, his mother is quoted, “Since our return, Tawfic had been telling me that he loved the town and did not want to return to the United States, and he was always talking about martyrdom, but I thought he was joking with me.”

From his mother’s description further on, it appears that Tawfic regularly joined local youths in throwing rocks at passing Israeli vehicles.

The Palestinian news outlet Ultra Palestine also reported that Tawfic Abdel Jabbar was engaged in rock-throwing when he was shot and killed.

As the Israeli police continue to investigate this matter and as more details emerge, it is clear that the narrative being produced by the mainstream English-language media about this incident is incomplete and not wholly accurate.

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.

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IDF Announces Major Eyal Shuminov Killed by Anti-Tank Missile in Gaza

Eyal Shuminov. Photo: IDF Spokesperson


i24 NewsDuring a raid on Gaza’s Zeytun neighborhood, Major Eyal Shuminov of the Givati Brigade was tragically killed by an anti-tank missile.

The incident occurred when IDF forces identified a Hamas terrorist on the roof of a building and subsequently eliminated him.

Major Shuminov, a company commander in the Shaked Battalion (424) of the Givati Brigade, hailed from Karmiel and was just 24 years old at the time of his death. The IDF announced that he fell in battle on the 24th of Adar HaSphad (February 24, 2024).

His death marks the loss of 238 IDF soldiers since the start of the ground invasion in Gaza.

Following his death, Major Shuminov was posthumously promoted from the rank of captain to the rank of major. The IDF has extended its condolences to Major Shuminov’s family and pledged to continue supporting them during this difficult time.

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Netanyahu: Cabinet Will Vote on Rafah Operation Next Week

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 28, 2023. Photo: ABIR SULTAN POOL/Pool via REUTERS

i24 NewsPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has revealed plans for a cabinet meeting next week to finalize the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) strategy for an operation in Rafah, including the evacuation of civilians from the area.

The decision comes amid ongoing negotiations with Hamas regarding the release of hostages held by the militant group.

In a statement posted on social media platform X on Saturday, Netanyahu emphasized the importance of reaching a new framework for the release of hostages and the completion of the elimination of Hamas battalions in Rafah. He underscored the necessity of a combination of military pressure and diplomatic negotiations to achieve these objectives.

“We are working to obtain another outline for the release of our hostages, as well as the completion of the elimination of the Hamas battalions in Rafah. That is why I sent a delegation to Paris, and tonight, we will discuss the next steps in the negotiations,” Netanyahu stated in his post.

אנו פועלים להשיג מתווה נוסף לשחרור חטופינו, וכן את השלמת חיסול גדודי החמאס ברפיח.

לכן שלחתי משלחת לפריז ונדון הערב בצעדים הבאים במו״מ,

ולכן בתחילת השבוע אכנס את הקבינט לאישור התוכניות המבצעיות לפעולה ברפיח, כולל פינוי האוכלוסייה האזרחית משם.

רק שילוב של לחץ צבאי ומשא ומתן תקיף…

— Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) February 24, 2024

The prime minister’s announcement signals a significant escalation in Israel’s approach to the ongoing conflict, with plans for a potential military operation in Rafah gaining momentum.

Netanyahu concluded his statement by reaffirming the government’s determination to achieve its goals in the war, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive strategy that combines military action with diplomatic efforts.

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IDF Chief of Staff: Fighting is Key for Negotiating Hostages’ Release

IDF Chief of Staff. Photo: IDF Spokesperson

i24 NewsIn a recent assessment of the situation in the northern Gaza Strip, the Chief of Staff, alongside other military commanders, emphasized the crucial role of the ongoing fighting effort in negotiations for the release of abducted individuals.

During the assessment, which took place on Saturday, the Chief of Staff, accompanied by Major General Yaron Finkelman, commander of the Southern Command, and Lieutenant Colonel Itzik Cohen, commander of Division 162, discussed the progress and strategy in the conflict zone.

The Chief of Staff’s remarks shed light on the multifaceted approach being taken to deepen military achievements in the region. He highlighted the importance of returning to areas with improved intelligence to make more significant advancements, both tactically and strategically.

These efforts, he noted, not only target enemy combatants but also aim to dismantle infrastructure and clear territories to enhance operational effectiveness.

Addressing the ongoing negotiations for the release of abductees, the Chief of Staff emphasized the interconnectedness between military achievements and diplomatic endeavors. He underscored the pivotal role of the fighting effort in exerting pressure on Hamas, thereby potentially facilitating the release of kidnapped individuals.

“The fighting effort is the most effective action that helps those who carry and give in all kinds of places for the release of the kidnapped,” stated the Chief of Staff. “This is the lever we are taking down on Hamas, and you are taking it down very well.”

The Chief of Staff’s remarks underscore the complex interplay between military operations and diplomatic negotiations in conflict zones. While the focus remains on achieving military objectives, there is also a recognition of the broader strategic goals, including the safe return of abducted individuals.

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