When it comes to news coverage about the cause for a lethal military operation, weaponized usage of a single key word can propagate an insidious blood libel.
Consider, for instance, Reuters’ article last week which had originally reported about the start of fighting earlier this month between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a designated terror organization (“As guns go silent, Gazan children still have nightmares,” May 24, 2023):
The latest bout of cross-border fire, which lasted five days, began with Israeli airstrikes against alleged Islamic Jihad commanders in Gaza. Israeli officials alleged more than 1,000 than 1,000 rockets were fired at Israel. In all, 33 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, including children as well as six alleged armed group commanders, while an Israeli and a Palestinian worker were killed in Israel. (Emphases added.)
The term “alleged” signifies that the information is not verified, and thus, quite possibly, the men in question are not at all Islamic Jihad commanders. Perhaps they are actually innocent civilians, Reuters intimated, suggesting that Israel’s stated cause for the lethal operation was unfounded, and therefore Israel is guilty of carrying out an illegal massacre, deliberately killing only civilians, including children. In that case, it is also needlessly responsible for causing mental anguish weeks later “among many children living in the enclave, who were experiencing lack of sleep, anxiety, bedwetting, as well as a tendency to stay glued to their parents and avoid going outdoors,” as the article reported.
But, in reality, there’s nothing “alleged” about the targets’ leadership roles in Islamic Jihad, as Islamic Jihad has openly claimed these men as its leaders and Reuters itself has clearly reported that fact earlier month. (In addition, the Arabic version of this story does not contain the problematic qualification.)
Reuters’ previous English-language coverage clearly indicating that these men were in fact Islamic Jihad commanders included the May 9 article (“Israel kills three Islamic Jihad leaders, 10 civilians in Gaza”), which stated:
Islamic Jihad confirmed the death of the commanders, Jihad Ghannam and Tareq Izzeldeen – who an Israeli military spokesman said orchestrated operations in the West Bank and sought to bring rockets to the city of Jenin – as well as Khalil Al-Bahtini who coordinated rockets fired at Israel a week earlier.
Similarly, on May 11, Reuters reported (“Israel kills senior commanders as rockets cause first death in Israel”):
Israel killed the head of Islamic Jihad’s rocket force and his deputy . . . .”
The deaths of Ali Ghali and Ahmed Abu Daqqa brought to five the number of senior figures from Iranian-sponsored Islamic Jihad killed since Israel began striking Gaza early on Tuesday.
About the sixth Islamic Jihad leader, Reuters reported May 12 (“Top Islamic Jihad leader killed leader killed in latest Israeli strike in Gaza – official“) :
A senior leader of the Islamic Jihad militant group was killed in the latest Israeli air strike on an apartment in the Gaza Strip on Friday, according to an official from the group.
The official identified the leader as Eyad Al-Hasani, a member of the Islamic Jihad’s top military council. He was the sixth council member to be killed by Israel this week. Hasani’s aide was also killed in the strike.
Islamic Jihad announcements claiming each of these men as its own are available in this report by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, In addition, an Islamic Jihad graphic (at left) featuring 11 of its operatives killed during the fighting appears in this second Meir Amit report with details about the casualties.
On May 24, Reuters editors commendably agreed with CAMERA that the fatalities in question were actual Islamic Jihad commanders and not merely “alleged” commanders of the terror organization. Reuters quickly issued a stealth correction, deleting the word’s appearance in those two instances, but without appending a correction alerting readers to the change. The improved copy now states:
The latest bout of cross-border fire, which lasted five days, began with Israeli air strikes against Islamic Jihad commanders in Gaza. Israeli officials said more than 1,000 rockets were fired at Israel. In all, 33 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, including children as well as six armed group commanders, while an Israeli and a Palestinian worker were killed in Israel.