DECEMBER 8, 2023 UPDATE:
After CAMERA's communications, CNN has added a correction to the report, acknowledging that Nima Elbagir's claim that Fatima Shahin was never charged was incorrect. See below for a detailed update.
CNN’s Chief International Investigative Correspondent Nima Elbagir's latest investigation leaves much to be desired. In a report entitled “Alarming stats show reality of Palestinians detained by Israel,” Elbagir delivers half-truth after half-truth in what can only be described as a work of activism masquerading as journalism.
The report focuses on the cases of two Palestinians released as part of the hostage deal between Israel and the terrorist organization Hamas, cases which the correspondent suggests show that the Palestinian detainees are actually victims of unjust Israeli policies.
In reporting their stories, Elbagir omits the inconvenient details.
The first example she uses is that of Malak Salman, who was convicted of attempted murder after she tried to stab Israelis in a February 2016 terror attack outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. Elbagir tells the audience: “Israeli authorities say no one was injured, and yet she was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 10 years.” You don’t need a law degree to know that “attempted murder” doesn’t require that someone be harmed in the process. Yet Elbagir suggests the fact she failed to harm anyone means she shouldn’t really be punished. That she was sentenced to 10 years is not particularly egregious, either. In the United States, federal law provides for sentencing of up to 20 years for attempted murder.
Elbagir’s second example is the case of Fatima Shahin. Elbagir depicts her as a victim because she was shot in the spine and paralyzed during her crime. What does Elbagir omit? After harping on the fact Salman failed to harm anyone, Elbagir notably forgets to mention that Shahin did successfully stab an Israeli in an attack at Gush Etzion Junction on April 17. While the correspondent harps on Shahin’s paralysis, Elbagir omits the wounds she inflicted on her victim. There’s no indication Elbagir made any effort to track down and speak to the victim of Shahin’s attack.
The complete erasure of the harm caused by Shahin is particularly ironic. The day after Shahin was arrested, another Palestinian terrorist was sentenced for stabbing a Jewish youth, leaving the latter with spinal damage, too.
Another way Elbagir tries to depict these terrorists as victims is by suggesting that Israel’s ban on celebrations of the released terrorists somehow means that Palestinians are being oppressed. But Israel’s actions are not particularly unique. Many western democracies prohibit the glorification of terrorism. The European Court of Human Rights, for example, upheld a conviction for expressing support for terrorism after a person responded to the 9/11 attacks in New York with the message: “as we had dreamed, Hamas did it.”
It thus makes it all the more ironic that Elbagir’s own report includes video showing the celebration in Bethlehem of the release of Shahin in which what appears to be a Hamas flag is visible.
There’s also the issue of what sources Elbagir is relying on. One image used in Elbagir’s report comes with the note, “Courtesy Samidoun.” For context, Samidoun is an extremist organization that has been banned in both Israel and Germany. Open-source evidence shows the connections between Samidoun and the terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. When Germany banned the organization, the Interior Ministry said: "Samidoun is an international network that spreads anti-Israel and anti-Jewish propaganda under the guise of a 'solidarity organization' on behalf of prisoners in various countries." And yet, Elbagir decided to advance that propaganda.
These issues alone raise enough concerns. But Elbagir’s conclusions raise the absurdity even further:
“And if Fatima and Malak give us any kind of insight into what those other thousands of Palestinians are going through, there’s a real concern that there is no distinction between a Palestinian and a terrorist in the way that Israel chooses to apply its law to them.”
The claim that Israel’s treatment of two terrorists, who attempted to murder Jews in separate terror attacks, is proof that Israel treats all Palestinians as terrorists is baffling, to put it mildly. If anything, Fatima and Malak give us insight into the fact that those Palestinian prisoners are, in fact, terrorists – exactly as Israel has stated.
It’s also notable that one of Elbagir’s main accusations is that most of the released Palestinian prisoners were never charged. And yet, neither example she gives really makes that point. Salman was, in fact, charged and convicted, as Elbagir admits herself. Shahin, too, was apparently indicted as well, according to both Israeli and Palestinian news outlets, contradicting Elbagir’s claim that she was “only detained, not charged.” The indictment even mentions that she had stolen the 29 centimeter long knife (nearly a foot long) from the market. As to why she may not have gone to trial before her release, additional details can be found in other Palestinian news outlets, which explain that she missed at least one court date because of her wounds.
Elbagir’s report is riddled with errors and half-truths, all which work to portray Palestinian terrorists who attempted to harm Israelis as somehow the real victims. Her report is a better fit for an organization like Samidoun, rather than any serious news network.