The Associated Press (AP) has coined a new term for attacks by Palestinian terrorists: “revenge bombings.” Israeli counter-terror strikes are said to “lead to” or “trigger” “revenge bombings” or “revenge attacks.”
Characterizing as “revenge” the deliberate terrorist targeting of Israeli civilians – on buses or in their homes and public spaces – mangles the facts:
1) It suggests Israel initiates violence while Palestinians merely respond, exacting a just “revenge” on Israeli civilians. In actuality, it is Palestinian-initiated attacks on Israeli men, women and children that prompt Israeli military measures aimed at thwarting future attacks. AP's formulation implies a moral rationale for terrorism.
2) It suggests that if Israel refrained from counter-terror strikes, terror would stop. The evidence, however, suggests otherwise. When Israel has refrained from military action after terrorist attacks, for example in the aftermath of the Dolphinarium bombing that killed 22, the terror continued unabated. Similarly, there were numerous terror attacks and attempted infiltrations by bomb-strapped would-be attackers during the recent so-called cease-fire, and most occurred before Israel resumed targeted killings of terrorists.
3) It ignores the Palestinian movement's longstanding strategic use of terrorism as a tool for political goals — not as a tactical or emotional response to Israeli actions.
4) It conveys opinion about motives – not simply facts about events – and suggests grievance and morality are on the Palestinian side. This is neither accurate nor the proper function of a “news” article.
It is certainly appropriate for AP to quote or paraphrase threats made by terrorist groups and their leaders, such as that of an Islamic Jihad leader who “promised revenge”(AP, Aug 14, 2003). But it is unprofessional for AP to use the phrase as its own, as in:
The killing of two Hamas members under similar circumstances last week led to a revenge attack on Tuesday in which a teenage Hamas suicide bomber killed a Jewish settler. [emphasis added] (“Israeli troops kill Islamic militant in West Bank raid,” AP, Said Shiyoukhi, Aug. 14, 2003)
As Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz notes:
It is not a ‘cycle of violence’ [of strike, counter-strike and revenge].It is a Hamas policy of terrorism against innocent civilians to which Israel responds by targeting guilty murderers that it is unable to arrest. These actions are in no way morally (or legally) equivalent. (Toronto Globe and Mail, Sept. 16, 2003)
AP's inappropriate phrase appeared as early as June:
Generally the militant group Hamas carries out revenge attacks — as it did this week, when a suicide bomber killed 17 people in a Jerusalem bus blast. [emphasis added] ("Helicopter attacks spotlight Israel's policy of targeted killings," AP, Ravi Nessman, June 13, 2003)
And more recently, it has been used in most reports on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In an article published two days after the horrific Jerusalem bombing of a bus carrying families with children from the Western Wall, Ibrahim Barzak concluded the bombing was revenge:
Hamas carried out two revenge bombings, including Tuesday's attack on a Jerusalem bus that killed 20 people. [emphasis added] (“Slain Hamas leader had pushed for cease-fire, but Israel says he still plotted attacks,” AP, Ibrahim Barzak, Aug. 21, 2003)
And Mark Lavie reported on September 16, 2003:
In the West Bank town of Dura, Israeli troops killed an Islamic militant fugitive in an arrest raid, witnesses and military officials said. Such raids have triggered revenge bombings by Islamic militants in the past...Israeli troops carried out two deadly arrest raids during the unilateral truce, prompting revenge attacks by militants. [emphasis added] (“Palestinian premier-designate hands Arafat power to appoint most of new Cabinet,” AP, Mark Lavie, Sept. 16, 2003)
Dan Perry repeated this deceptive language the next day:
“Such raids have triggered revenge bombings by militants.” (“Israelis rebuff Palestinian offer of comprehensive cease-fire,” AP, Dan Perry, Sept. 17, 2003).
Has “revenge bombing” become AP's new byword for “terrorism?”