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Middle East Issues





Rocks Attack Cars, 'Violence Spikes' but Palestinian Arabs not Responsible


From Oct. 1 to Oct. 4, 2015, multiple terror attacks committed by Palestinian Arabs against Israeli Jews took place in Jerusalem and the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). News coverage of these murders and attempted murders by several major media featured omissions and distorted framing that may have left readers poorly informed.

On October 1, an Israeli couple, Rabbi Eitam and Na'ama Henkin, were gunned down by a Palestinian Arab terrorist while driving with their four children. The murder of the couple went unmentioned in The Baltimore Sun or The Washington Times that day and the next. In other major outlets distorted coverage appeared.

The Washington Post covered the murder of the couple in a brief, devoting 403 words to it in an international news roundup (“Two Israelis fatally shot in front of their children in the West Bank,” October 2). By contrast, The Post published an entire article on June 19 about arson at a church in northern Israel, in which no fatalities occurred but Hebrew graffiti was found (“Church fire in Israel may be a hate crime”).

In reporting the Henkin murders, the newspaper quoted uncritically Palestinian Authority claims that Israel's “ongoing expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank was undermining peace efforts,” failing to mention Palestinian rejection of U.S. and/or Israeli attempts to achieve peace and a two-state solution in 2000, 2001, 2008 and 2014.

The Post asserted without qualification that “Abbas [President Mahmoud Abbas] and his Palestinian Authority have vowed to support a nonviolent path toward a state.” Yet, while Abbas and the PA has at times publicly eschewed violence when communicating with Western audiences—most prominently in the 1993 Oslo accords (which Abbas formally opted out of in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly on September 23)—his recent statements can only have inflamed anti-Jewish emotions among West Bank and Gaza Strip Arabs. The PA president has echoed fallacious Arab claims that long predate the existence of settlements, or the Jewish state itself, such as alleging a Jewish conspiracy to destroy the al-Aqsa mosque. He has refused to condemn recent attacks against Jews.

On Sept. 16, 2015 Abbas proclaimed, “We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem…blood spilled for Allah…Every Martyr will reach Paradise, and everyone wounded will be rewarded by Allah.” Palestinian Media Watch, a non-profit organization that analyzes Palestinian media, reported that Abbas exhorted followers with claims that “the Al-Aqsa [mosque] is ours…. and they [Jews] have no right to defile it with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem.”

The PA president's use of the “al-Aqsa is in danger” libel, which historically has encouraged violence against Jews, replicates earlier propaganda by Palestinian Arab leaders, as CAMERA has noted (“Incitement over Temple Mount Leads to Palestinian Violence, Again,” Sept. 16, 2015). In fact, CAMERA's analysis documenting this long history of incitement over al-Aqsa mosque and Temple Mount was sent to The Post on September 16, prior to the murder of the Henkins. 

Meanwhile, The New York Times implied Palestinian terrorists were attacking vehicles, not necessarily Jews, reporting the murder of the couple under the headline “Attack on Car in West Bank Kills Israeli Parents of Four” (Oct. 2, 2015). That title appears via a Lexis-Nexis search; online the story appeared on October 5 as “Tensions High in West Bank after Killing of Israeli Settler Couple.” Such language can imply falsely that tensions were not high until after an Israeli couple was murdered.

By introducing the word “settler,” the headline also suggests that the couple's status as “settlers” was somehow related to and perhaps at least partially justified their deaths, perhaps since many countries assert, contrary to the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and U.N. Charter, that Jewish settlements in the West Bank (or anywhere west of the Jordan River) are “illegal.” But The Times provided no evidence to support such an implication.
 
Showing an affinity for misleading headlines, The New York Times covered the killing of Alexander Levlovich two weeks earlier under the headline “Jewish Man Dies as Rocks Pelt His Car in West Bank.” This journalistic snafu was noted by CAMERA (“New Year, Same Old New York Times Bias,” September 16) and even lampooned by National Review (“Returning to Copy Desk, Briefly,” September 16). Both NYT headlines implicitly shift responsibility from Palestinian Arabs who are reported as attacking infrastructure and vehicles, and not Jews.
 
Both NYT articles featured reporting from Diaa Hadid, a former reporter for the Associated Press and contributor to the Electronic Intifada. The latter is a Web site that regularly features anti-Israel distortions, lies and antisemitic canards (“Electronic Intifada Continues to Struggle With Quotations,” CAMERA, Aug. 15, 2013).

Unfortunately for news consumers, too much coverage of subsequent terror attacks and murders in Jerusalem did not improve greatly over the above examples.

On Oct. 3, 2015 a Palestinian attacker, Muhanad Shafeq Halabi, murdered Rabbi Nehemia Lavi and Aharon Benet in Jerusalem's Old City, while injuring Benet's wife and a two-year old child. Benet and his family were walking to the Western Wall to pray on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot when they were attacked. Lavi, head of a Jewish educational institution in the Old City and the father of seven, heard the Benets' screams and was murdered trying to save them. The Washington Post noted the murders in print in a 131-word Associated Press brief headlined “Palestinian is killed after fatal attack” (October 4).

If reluctant to devote space—or headlines—to the murders of Jews, The Post evidenced no such compunction about listing Palestinian Arabs killed fighting Israeli police. Appearing online under the headline “Two Palestinian youths killed as violence in West Bank spikes” (October 5) and in print the following day (“West Bank tensions hit boiling point; Israeli forces kill two Palestinian youths as violence spikes”), the paper again failed to elaborate on who incited Palestinian Arabs to attack Jews. Again, calls for “resistance” based on false claims of Jewish designs on the al-Aqsa mosque go unmentioned.  Instead of The Post's depersonalized trends, in reality, “tensions hit boiling point” after Palestinian leaders increased their anti-Jewish agitation and “violence spiked” as Arabs then escalated attacks against Israelis.

The Baltimore Sun—via a Tribune Newspapers wire report—noted expanding Palestinian violence with the online headline “2 Palestinian teens killed by Israeli fire in clashes in West Bank” (October 5).
 
Problems of omission of key details and headlines that highlight only the deaths of Palestinian Arabs were not confined just to major U.S. media. CAMERA-affiliate BBC Watch noted that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) headlined the October 3 murders as “Palestinian shot dead after Jerusalem attack kills two.” The title fails to convey that the Palestinian terrorist was shot dead after committing the attack that killed two. While the BBC later changed the headline, it failed to issue an apology despite outcries from the public and Israeli government.

Similarly, Qatari government-owned Al-Jazeera English titled its coverage of the October 3 terror attack via its social media Twitter account as “Palestinian shot dead after fatal stabbing in Jerusalem; 2 Israeli victims also killed.” Unlike the BBC, Al Jazeera not only changed the wording, but offered a half-hearted apology, saying it “regret[ted] the wording of a tweet written under the pressure of breaking news.” 

“Jews Attacked and Murdered in Jerusalem by Palestinian Arabs after Their Leaders Increase Incitement”: That would be an example of an accurate, tragic headline. Why was it so hard to write?

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