|October 14, 2015|
Wave of Palestinian Violence Accompanied by Spate of Bad Writing
Last updated Sept. 19, 2016.
Some correspondents and headline writers are doing a fine job reporting on the outbreak of terror in Israel, but all too many others are failing at this task. Journalists in the latter category have relied on the passive voice, euphemism, and imprecision reportorial smoke and mirrors to obscure Palestinian terror attacks and even recast terrorists as victims of arbitrary Israeli violence. Below are a few examples. (This piece will be continuously updated.)
The Forward Mangles Perfectly Clear Reuters Headline
Not for the first time
, The Forward swapped
a perfectly clear Reuters headline about Palestinian attacks in favor of a misleading headline which depicted the assailants as victims.
Voice of America: 'Israel Kills Palestinian'
"Israel Kills Palestinian in the West Bank" was the original Voice of America headline
about a Palestinian who as he stabbed an Israeli soldier, an attack caught on video
Euronews: Israeli Troops Kill Driver of 'Rammed Car'
A Palestinian assailant rams his vehicle into a group of soldiers, injuring three, one of them gravely, and is shot dead by his victims' colleagues. Euronews's headline
transforms the Palestinian attacker who rammed his car into soldiers into the "driver of rammed car," as if he had been rammed and not the reverse:
Voice of America Lumps Attacker With Victims
Reporting on the same attack, Voice of America
lumps the Palestinian attacker together with his victims:
In Reuters Headline, Palestinian Bomber Recast as Palestinian Casualty of Bombing
Here, from Reuters
, is another headline that goes out of its way to avoid informing readers that a Palestinian attacker targeted Israelis:
Note: It just isn't that hard to write a clear headline. A Washington Post
headline explained, "Hamas claims one of its own was responsible for Jerusalem bus bomb." And per an AFP headline, "Hamas says member behind Jerusalem bus bombing." So what's going on at Reuters
Stabber Becomes "Protester" in Los Angeles Times
"Hell no, we won't go not before we stab our foe!" I'd hate to be at that protest.
In an egregious mischaracterization, the Los Angeles Times
a would-be killer as nothing more than a "protester."
Only buried deeper in the story does the report admit that, in fact, the man is an assailant who "stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier."
The Forward: 3 Palestinians Killed in Attacks
Nobody should have to explain this to headline writers and editors, but here it goes: If you state that three people were killed in a gun attack, readers will understand that the three people were targets of an armed attack, not the perpetrators of one. That's just how our language works.
So if "three Palestinians carried out back-to-back gun and car-ramming attacks on Israelis
and were shot dead by the army," as the first sentence of your article
notes, then the following headline is inappropriate and highly misleading:
It turns out that the article in question comes from Reuters. But the Reuters headline is as follows: "Three Palestinians attack Israelis in West Bank, shot dead: army." Isn't that much more straightforward and clear? Why, then, did The Forward opt for a different, misleading headline?
Voice of America: Three Palestinians Killed in Attack
When a Voice of America headline
stated, "Afghan IS Leader Killed in Drone Strike
," it of course didn't mean the ISIS leader was busy piloting a drone when he was killed. It meant he was on the receiving end
of a drone strike.
Likewise, the VOA headline
"180-200 Kenyan Soldiers Killed in January Attack
" was not a story about an attack by
the Kenyan troops. It was an attack against
the soldiers, who were at their base when al-Shabab militants targeted them in an offensive.
So when the VOA announces
in a headline that "Three Palestinians Killed in West Bank Attacks
," it informs people wrongly that Palestinians were attacked, when in fact they were the perpetrators of the attacks against Israelis.
USA Today: "American murdered dies in Palestinian Israel stabbing attack"
How best to whitewash the fact that a Palestinian terrorist indiscriminately targeted every civilian he could attack and actively murdered an innocent American tourist, a young US army vet, who was taking a peaceful stroll in the city of Jaffa? First, erase the identity of the perpetrator, and definitely do not identify him as Palestinian. Second, use the passive voice when mentioning the tourist's death, as if it were accidental, without association to any specific perpetrator. And voila, you can distort the news to whitewash the disturbing truth about Palestinian terrorism.
The article, as well, conceals the identity of the Palestinian perpetrator until near the end (the 10th of 14 paragraphs) and then presents it as an Israeli claim.
Army Times.com: "Army vet stabbed to death in Palestinian Israel attack"
The Army Times.com takes similar pains to conceal the identity of the perpetrator, referring only to an "Israel" attack in the headline and saving mention of the perpetrator's Palestinian identity until well into the 5th paragraph of the article.
International Business Times: "Three Palestinians Shot Dead" as They Attack Israelis "as Joe Biden Arrives"
The International Business Times headline writers
apparently don't want you to know that each of the three Palestinians were shot as they were attacking, wounding and killing Israelis. So instead they made it sound like some sort of twisted welcome message to the US vice president:
Update: The Editor-in-Chief agrees. Responding to a query by a CAMERA researcher on Twitter, IBT's top editor Peter Goodman wrote,
The corrected headline now reads, "Israel: US tourist killed and others wounded in series of attacks as Joe Biden arrives."
New Zealand Headline Ignores Attacks on Israelis, Casts Attackers as the Victims
Hopping on the bandwagon of dishonest journalism is NZTV, New Zealand's government-owned television station. Its news division, One News, posted the following headline on March 8 after a spate of attacks against Israeli Jews:
itself described four attacks against Israeli Jews by Palestinians or Arab citizens of Israelis.
After CAMERA contacted the channel, an editor replied that the headline was changed to "Three Palestinians shot dead after separate attacks on Israelis."
AP Headline: Israeli Soldiers Killing Lots of Palestinians
Associated Press apparently failed to draw the appropriate lessons from its earlier headline fiasco
in which Palestinian perpetrators were depicted as the victims. Falling into that pit again, the original headline about multiple Palestinian attacks on Israelis Sunday, Feb. 14: "Israeli Soldiers Kill 3 Palestinians in Separate Incidents."
Following objections, editors changed the headline to "Israel: 3 Palestinians Dead After Attacking Israelis."
Philadelphia Inquirer: Israeli Police Pick "Fight" With Faultless Palestinians
Like CBS (see immediately below), the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an Associated Press story about a Israeli police officer shot dead while presumably stopping a planned Palestinian terror attack. And like CBS, Philly's newspaper wasn't content with the fair and straightforward headline suggested by AP.
Nixing AP's headline, "Palestinians kill Israeli officer before being shot dead," the Inquirer
's headline writer instead described
the foiled terror attack as a "fight" between Israeli police and seemingly innocent Palestinians:
CBS Headline: 3 Palestinians Killed "as Daily Violence Grinds On" AKA As They Shot Female Police Officers
Two female police officers were injured, one critically, when heavily armed Palestinian assailants shot them at close range. The critically injured 19-year-old officer later died of her wounds.
Here is CBS's headline, which not only communicates that the attackers were innocent victims, and ignores the Israeli victims of their deadly violence:
Although CBS's was running an Associated Press story, the network's editors saw it fit to replace AP's informative headline with their own distorted one. The initial AP headline was "Gunman wounds 2 Israeli officers, 3 gunmen killed by police." It was later shortened to "Palestinians attack 2 Israeli officers before being killed."
After the headline was widely criticized
, CBS changed its headline to "Israel police kill three alleged attackers," and finally
to AP's "Palestinians attack 2 Israeli officers before being killed."
Times Headline Omits Anti-Israel Attack, Text Omits Israeli View
Not to be outdone by its American counterparts, The Times
(of London) runs a headline
about the killing of an attacker but without noting that he was an attacker.
The newspaper went even further to ensure the AP story
it was summarizing had an anti-Israel bias. The original AP story explained in a paragraph that "Israel says the bloodshed is fueled by a Palestinian campaign of incitement" and that "Palestinians say it stems from despair over nearly 50 years of occupation." But The Times
removed the first half of the paragraph.
Why doesn't the newspaper want readers to understand Israel's view of the situation?
New York Times Headline: Teen Girl Shot Without Cause
Yet another "Israel Kills Just Because"-type headline, this one from the New York Times:
The girl, as the article made clear, was shot by a security guard "after she ran at him with a knife." The attack was caught on video.
Although the newspaper later changed its online headline to "Palestinian Girl With Knife Killed by Israeli Guard, Police Say," the print copy of the newspaper used the misleading headline.
LA Times Readers in Headline Confused
The Los Angeles Times
, following the lead of too many headline writers who've tangled the English language to portray Palestinian attackers as victims, came up with a headline only Yoda could love: "3 Palestinians in assaults slain
Despite the headline's insinuation that "slayers" of innocent Palestinians were engaged in assaults, the opposite is true. In the words this same LA Times news brief, "Palestinians brandishing knives attacked Israeli soldiers in two incidents in the West Bank before forces opened fire, killing three assailants
The LA Times news brief was adopted from a longer AP story, which ran under the straightforward headline, "Israel army: 3 Palestinians killed after attacking soldiers." Informative, that headline is.
AP Headline: Palestinian Attackers Are the Only Victims
Two Israelis died Dec. 23 after a stabbing attack by Palestinians outside Jerusalem's Old City. The attackers were shot and killed by Israeli police, as was one of the Israeli victims, who was mistakenly hit as police tried to neutralize the attackers. The other Israeli died of multiple stab wounds, and a third was badly injured.
An Associated Press headline
about the Palestinian terror attack failed to mention the Israeli victims, neglected to specify Palestinians were the attackers, and instead conveyed to readers that it was Palestinians
who were killed in a stabbing attack.
"2 Palestinians killed following stabbing attack in Jerusalem," the headline stated. Following CAMERA communication with AP, editors ran a somewhat improved although still deeply flawed headline: "2 Palestinian attackers killed, 2 Israelis die in Jerusalem." Further correspondence from CAMERA led to a more accurate, straightforward headline
: "Palestinian stabbers kill Israeli, assailants shot dead."
Haaretz: Car Deliberately Rams Soldiers, Then Flees
What happens when Pixar's "Cars" meet a Haaretz news story about a Palestinian attack? Anthropomorphic vehicles ram soldiers and flee the scene:
's Dec. 11 page-one article
begins: "Four soldiers were wounded when a car deliberately drove into them at the Beit Arye junction in the West Bank yesterday afternoon." It's very doubtful that the car made a deliberate decision to drive into the soldiers. In fact, it's probably safe to say that the vehicle did not make any decision of any kind. Nevertheless, further assigning agency to the personified attacking vehicle, the article continues: "The ramming car fled the scene. . . ."
New York Times: Palestinians Killed After Hit-and-Run Attacks
After two Palestinians who rammed vehicles into Israeli soldiers were killed by troops on the scene, New York Times
readers would have reasonably concluded that the Palestinians were the victims
of the hit and-run attacks, which wounded 8 Israelis, as opposed to the perpetrators. The headline
was: "West Bank: Palestinians Killed After Hit-and-Run Attacks." Following communication from CAMERA, editors improved the headline
EuroNews: John Kerry Calls Everything Terrorism
After John Kerry condemned the wave of Palestinian attacks against Israelis and backed Israel's "right" and "obligation" to defend itself, the popular EuroNews station headlined
an article, "John Kerry Denounces Israeli-Palestinian Violence as 'Acts of Terrorism.'"
But Kerry was not referring to "Israeli-Palestinian violence." He was referring specifically to the attacks by Palestinians which have claimed innocent Israeli lives, and not Israel's use of force against the attackers. After facing criticism for its misleading headline, EuroNews commendably corrected its headline and similar language that appeared in the article itself.
SFGate Headline: "Palestinians Shot in Assaults" Because Palestinians Shot While Perpetrating Assaults
"Palestinians shot in assaults" clearly conveys that Palestinians were assaulted, then shot. In fact, they were shot while attacking Israelis (or so they thought one of them mistakenly stabbed an elderly Palestinian man before being shot).
If the San Francisco Chronicle website were to be consistent, it might have headlined the brief that followed, about attacks by five female Boko Haram suicide bombers, "Girls Killed in Bombing." But they weren't consistent. It seems headline writers seem to suddenly lose their touch when reporting on Palestinian violence.
Reuters: Palestinians "Died at scene of attack on Israelis"
Haaretz Headline: "Palestinian woman shot dead"
"Palestinian woman shot dead" is the Haaretz print edition headline
for a story about a Palestinian woman who attempted to carry out a stabbing attack. The accompanying article reported: "A Palestinian woman was shot to death yesterday at a checkpoint in the West Bank after she drew a knife and advanced toward soldiers. . . She ignored several demands from Israeli security forces to stop, and when warning shots were fired into the air she drew a knife from her bag."
CNN Headline: "Israel's New Terror"
The many visitors to CNN's Web site who only glance at the headline and don't read the article would reasonably understand that Israel
is the perpetrator of terror. In fact, Oren Leibermann's accompanying article
terror: the series of recent Palestinian attacks, "unplanned, uncoordinated and largely unpredictable, using knives or other sharp objects, making them difficult to prevent." He also describes the Palestinian terror that preceded this new wave: the suicide bombings, rocket attacks and tunnel attacks.
New York Times: Assailant's butterfly knife is a "Boy Scout" knife
Where to begin? First
: the reporter, Jodi Rudoren, quotes a witness claiming a knife was planted, but doesn't point out that MSNBC showed video footage of the man holding a knife as he raced toward Israelis. Second: although some reports say the "teenager" was 19, Palestinian media and monitoring sources state that he was 20. And finally
, the photo shared by the Israeli police is of a butterfly knife which is definitely not
the a pocketknife of the type "Boy Scouts use":
Reuters Captions: Palestinians "confront" Israelis
Reuters photo captions refer to Palestinian stabbing, shooting and ramming attacks against Israelis as "Palestinians confronting Israelis." The above caption, for instance, states: "A Palestinian woman supporting the Islamic Jihad movement holds a copy of the Koran as another holds a knife during a rally in Gaza City to show solidarity with Palestinians confronting Israelis in the West Bank and Jerusalem." If the recent spate of stabbings, shootings and rammings are Palestinians "confronting" Israelis, how exactly would Palestinians attack Israelis?
Reuters Graphic: Palestinians, Israelis die in "street violence"
Following earlier photo captions which whitewashed Palestinian attacks against Israelis as "Palestinians confronting Israelis
," Reuters' graphics department has come up with new terminology for Palestinian stabbings, shootings and ramming attacks against Israeli civilians and security forces: "street violence
." Were Israeli and Palestinian gangs of errant teenagers duking it out in "street violence" in Raanana, Petah Tikvah, Tel Aviv, Beit Shemesh, Beersheba, and more?
CNN: "Palestinians shot boarding kids' bus." But not really.
CNN, with its latest creative phrasing
, may be entrenching itself at the top of this ignominious list. A Palestinian was shot while boarding a kids' bus, the network's ticker informed viewers watching news of Hillary Clinton's congressional testimony.
Not quite. What actually
happened? Two Palestinians attempted to board a school bus carrying a group of children
. The driver didn't allow them to board. So instead they, and the knives they were armed with, went down the street, found a Haredi Jew, and stabbed him several times. Police arrived on the scene and shot the pair.
CNN: Joseph's Tomb site spontaneously combusts.
"Fire broke out overnight at the compound housing Joseph's Tomb, a religious site venerated by Jews, the Israel Defense Forces said Friday," CNN's story begins. And it's true. The holy site did catch fire. Right around the time Palestinian arsonists set it on fire.
is one of the worst examples yet of obscuring violence and concealing the identity of the perpetrators. And as one observer on Twitter noted
, such opaque writing seems reserved for Palestinian attacks. When the roles were reversed early last year, a CNN headline clearly noted, "West Bank mosque attack blamed on Israeli settlers."
(Update: After CAMERA pressed editors, CNN amended its headline to "Joseph's Tomb site set ablaze amid wave of Palestinian-Israeli violence." It's a step in the right direction, but still fails to note the identity of the arsonists.)
BBC Headline: "Palestinian shot dead after Jerusalem attack kills two."
Could you tell from that headline that the Palestinian who was shot dead is the very same Palestinian who killed two? (Killed two Jews, we should add, since the headline only noted the ethnicity of the Palestinian victim, also known as the attacker.)
It took much outcry and three BBC revisions before the headline finally relayed the news in a straightforward way: "Jerusalem: Palestinian kills two Israelis in Old City. (See details here
Wall Street Journal Facebook post: Palestinian teens shot. Separately, a "knife-wielding assailant" is on the loose.
Also relevant, but inexplicably unmentioned in the post: The Palestinian teenagers shot by the police are actually the very same knife-wielding attackers described in the vague Facebook blurb. One of those attackers had just stabbed a 13-year-old Jewish boy on a bike. The newspaper eventually revised its headline
to "Israeli Police Fatally Shoot Two Palestinian Teen Attackers, Injure Two Others." See? That wasn't too hard.
MSNBC: He was in a rush.
"Man shot after rushing past police in Jerusalem," is the way MSNBC headlined its report about a Palestinian who was shot. While wearing army fatigues. While brandishing
a butterfly knife and, yes, "rushing" toward Israeli security guards with that knife.
Although MSNBC headlines
continue to cast this as the shooting of a rushed man, the heading on subsequent television broadcasts improved: "Israeli police kill man after attempted stabbing."
Reuters: "Israelis kill Jerusalem knife man."
Who is this Knife Man
, and why did Israeli kill him? Is he a knife salesman? A juggler? A superhero? You need to look for the fine print to learn that he's actually "a Palestinian man who tried to stab a trooper who tried to search him in Jerusalem."
Los Angeles Times: "Israeli violence" strikes down Palestinians.
Yes, there's a pattern here. Headline writers seem to have an aversion to mentioning "Palestinian violence," even though that is the main story coming out of Israel this week. CAMERA contacted
the newspaper, and to its credit, it revised the headline to explain that violence (not "Israeli violence") left six dead, "including stabbing suspects
." (Two were killed after stabbing attempts; two were involved in violent rioting; and two were civilians that tragically died when their house, next to a Hamas training facility, collapsed after an Israeli air strike on that facility.)
New York Times: The asphalt is under attack.
"Pelted the road
"? The newspaper couldn't bring itself to admit
, either in the headline or the lede, that Palestinian attackers stoned Israeli cars, not Israeli "roads." The identity of the "attackers," moreover, was not specified anywhere in the article.
Al Jazeera: Knife-wielding injured woman is an unarmed dead woman.
This report claims a Palestinian woman was killed and casts doubt on "claims" she was holding a knife. Unfortunately for Al Jazeera, there is video of the incident and numerous other media reports got the story right, including, one from
Independent: So many words, so little information.
is based out of England, which is the birthplace of English but you might not know it judging by the clunky wording of the headline above. How about this: "Anti-Israel terrorism continues: Palestinian attacker killed after stabbing two Jews." A subsequent change
to the headline reduced the number of words, but not the opacity. Even with the new headline, "Israeli security forces kill boy, 16, after stabbing in Jerusalem as violence continues," it remained unclear that the 16-year-old boy
teen was the stabber. (When Israeli 16-year-olds were murdered
by Palestinians, the Independent
described them as teens, not as "boys.")
New York Times: Israel going around accusing people of things.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas announced on television that Israel had "executed in cold blood" a Palestinian. In fact the teen, Ahmad Manasra, who had just gone on a stabbing spree, is very much alive, convalescing in an Israeli hospital from where he has reportedly confessed
to his attacks.
In other words, Abbas simply did not tell the truth in the broadcast, which appeared meant to incite hate against Israel. Yet the headline
found a way to make Israel appear to be the unpleasant actor. There are countless possibilities of better headlines. Here's one: "In inflammatory speech, Abbas accuses Israel of 'executing' Palestinian attacker who is in fact alive."
USA Today Headline: Israel Knocks Off 4 Palestinians, Just Because
Following four Palestinian stabbing attacks against Israelis Saturday, Oct. 17, a USA Today headline falsely depicts
the Palestinian attackers as victims. The article's first paragraph is equally derelict as it fails to clearly report that the four Palestinians were killed had carried out, or attempted to carry out, stabbing attacks yesterday three in Hebron, one in Jerusalem. It obscures: "Four Palestinians were shot and killed by Israelis Saturday in separate stabbing incidents in Jerusalem and the West Bank in the latest in a month-long upsurge in violent confrontations."