NY Times blurs, buries distinction between civilians and gunmen

A story by New York Times correspondent Raja Abdulrahim, published today in print and yesterday online, seems designed to leave readers in the dark about recent bloodshed in Israel and the West Bank.

In full light, the basic details are straightforward:

  • In response to a wave of deadly Palestinian terror attacks beginning in Spring of 2022, Israeli security forces increasingly operated in the northern West Bank, from where many of the Palestinian attackers were from, to arrest Palestinian suspects.
  • Palestinian gunmen often confronted the Israeli forces, engaging them in gun battles during which Palestinians — mostly militants, but occasionally civilians — were often killed.
  • During one recent arrest raid, in Jenin on January 26, members of Palestinian terrorist groups engaged Israeli soldiers in a fierce gunbattle. Seven Palestinian militants and two civilians were killed during the exchange of fire. (Another was killed that day during “a confrontation” in al-Ram.)
  • On January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a Palestinian gunman opened fire on Jews outside of their synagogue, killing seven Israeli civilians.
  • On January 28, an armed Palestinian attempting to infiltrate the settlement of Kedumim was killed by a guard.

And how does the headline and subhead to Abdulrahim’s Times piece—a report on the Kedumim incident—frame the attempted infiltration, the clashes during Israel’s arrest raids, and the massacre of Jewish civilians?

“Palestinian Man Fatally Shot as Violence Continues in Israel,” the headline announces. “Tensions and violence have gripped the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Jerusalem for days after an Israeli military raid on Thursday killed 10 people,” the subhead states.

That the “Palestinian man” was a gunman, shot during his attempted attack, is omitted from the headline.

That the “10 people” killed during the Thursday military raid were struck during a gunbattle, with almost all the fatalities militants, is concealed from the subhead.

And that the Jews killed the very next day were, by contrast, civilians targeted by a Palestinian terrorist? Well, the subhead entirely ignores that attack.  

The story does get around to sharing some relevant information about the man killed outside Kedumim. He was, “the Israeli military said,” armed. But Abdulrahim fails to note that he was brandishing that pistol while crouching behind bushes as he circled the village’s perimeter. Instead, she quickly casts doubt on the Israeli statement, pointing to a Palestinian media claim that “the circumstances of [the man’s] killing were unclear”—as if Palestinian reporters were in any position to ascertain what happened:

The Israeli military said that the man who was shot on Sunday, Karam Salman, 18, was armed with a handgun and was killed by a settlement security team in Kedumim. The Palestinian official news agency, Wafa, reported that the circumstances of Mr. Salman’s killing were unclear.

But at least the newspaper allowed for the possibility that he was an attacker. Abdulrahim gives no such information about the casualties during the Jenin raid, which she describes only as “a military raid in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in which 10 people were killed.” And with that omission, readers are left to believe they were all innocent civilians.

Nor does she bother to share the background behind that raid: The spate of Palestinian attacks that prompted the increase in Israel’s counter-terror activity. 

It is a classic case of blurring the distinction between militant and civilian when discussing casualties in the conflict.

The reporter has two more clear opportunities to point out that the Israeli victims were civilians and that most of the Palestinian fatalities were gunmen, but in each case she refrains from offering readers such clarity:

  • “Sunday’s violence was the latest to grip the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Jerusalem since Thursday, in a series of raids and attacks that have left more than 20 people dead.”
  • “The violence has marked a bloody and deadly beginning to 2023, with the killings of at least 30 Palestinians, including five people under 18, and seven Israelis.”

It’s not that that Abdulrahim is otherwise shy with details. For example, she takes the time to insinuate that the murdered Israelis (as opposed to the Palestinians who, unbeknownst to readers, engaged Israeli troops in a gunbattle) might have been legitimate targets:

The recent Palestinian attacks, including Friday night’s shooting outside a synagogue and Saturday’s shooting, have targeted Israeli settlements and settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The settlements are considered illegal under international law and by much of the international community.

This is hardly the first time the newspaper concealed information to draw a false moral equivalence between murdered Israeli civilians and Palestinian casualties of a gunfight.

Nor is it the first time that Abdulrahim specifically cast a Palestinian attacker as an innocent civilian. Last April, shortly after the wave of terror attacks that led to the uptick in Israeli counter-terror activity, Abdulrahim and her newspaper egregiously misinformed readers about Mohammad Zakarneh.

“He was leaving work at a produce shop and was heading home to break his Ramadan fast,” when he was shot dead by Israeli troops, Abdulrahim had reported. “The Israeli military would not comment on his death.”

Not only had the Israeli military indeed commented on the incident, noting that Zakarneh was shot after opening fire on Israeli soldiers, but the Palestinian terror group Islamic Jihad also confirmed he was one of theirs, and that he was killed while confronting Israelis.


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