Terror in Jerusalem, Counter-Terror in Jenin, and False Moral Equivalency

One pathetic trick for covering up the morally indefensible nature of a fatal terror attack is to draw a false equivalence to deadly counter-terror activity.

Attempting to explain away the horrific Palestinian terror attack on Israeli Jews outside a Jerusalem synagogue Shabbat evening, MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin excels at this morally bankrupt maneuver, tweeting: “Just a reminder, as the Western media now begins to urgently and extensively cover the attacks in Jerusalem, in which at least 8 Israelis were killed, that 30 Palestinians (9 on Thursday alone) who have been killed in 2023.”

While Mohyeldin’s public disservice announcement is particularly explicit, it’s in no way original. In fact, it perfectly encapsulates the gist of coverage in several leading media outlets reporting on Friday night’s Palestinian attack in which a 14-year-old boy and a couple who ran outside to assist the shooting victims were among the seven civilians brutally shot dead. 

Thus, in reporting on the high fatality figure in Friday night’s Palestinian terror attack, the most deadly since 2008, multiple media outlets — per Mohyeldin’s instructions — hurried to note the nine Palestinians killed in Jenin Thursday. Simultaneously, like Mohyeldin, they egregiously omitted the key fact that at least seven of them were affiliated with designated terror organizations and violently clashed with Israeli troops engaged in a counter-terror operation.

As members of terror organizations fighting Israeli troops, these fatalities are not remotely in the same category as innocent bystanders struck down on their way to prayer or Torah class, good Samaritans who selflessly rush into danger to help their neighbors shot on the street, or unfortunate souls merely passing by on motorcycle.

Victims of the Neve Yaakov terror attack in Jerusalem on Jan. 27, 2023, clockwise from top right: Asher Natan, 14, Eli, 48, and Natali Mizrahi, 45, Ilya Sosansky, 26, Rafael Ben Eliyahu, 56, Irina Korolova, 59, and Shaul Hai, 68. (Courtesy, via Times of Israel)

Thus, while reporting that nine Palestinians were killed in an Israeli counter-terror raid is perfectly legitimate while recapping major recent events preceding the Palestinian terror attack, failing to note that almost all of them were terrorists engaged in violent clashes is grossly deceptive.

And yet, that’s exactly what major media outlets like CNN, Agence France Presse and The New York Times have done in the last couple of days.

CNN’s Jan. 27 article, “At least seven dead in Jerusalem synagogue attack, Israeli police say,” omits material context in regard to its description of an incident yesterday in Jenin. The article currently reads:

The incident comes amid high tensions, one day after the deadliest day for Palestinians in the West Bank in over a year, according to CNN records. On Thursday, Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians and wounded several others in the West Bank city of Jenin, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. A tenth Palestinian was killed that day in what Israel Police called a “violent disturbance” near Jerusalem.

Taking a page from the coverage playbook of an earlier deadly Israeli raid, nowhere does the CNN story mention that those nine Palestinian fatalities in Jenin were killed in a fierce battle that erupted during an operation to capture a terrorist cell belonging to the U.S.-designated Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization, allegedly plotting an attack on Israel. Many of those killed have been linked to terrorist organizations.

While some of Agence France Presse’s coverage reported the Islamic Jihad affiliations of some of the Jenin fatalities — albeit attributing the information to Israel, as if it couldn’t be independently verified — the news agency elsewhere lapsed into more elliptical reporting, stating (“Germany’s Scholz ‘shocked’ by ‘terrible’ Jerusalem attacks“): 

The shootings came after nine Palestinians were killed in an Israeli army operation in the Jenin refugee camp, in the occupied West Bank. …

On Thursday, Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians during a raid on the crowded Jenin refugee camp.

A panel of independent United Nations human rights experts said the death toll from Thursday’s raid marked “the highest number of people killed in a single operation in the West Bank since 2005”.

In its story on the Palestinian terror attack, The New York Times likewise conceals the terror affiliations of at least seven of the nine Palestinians, introducing the false impression that the Palestinian dead are, like the Israelis murdered in Jerusalem, innocent victims.

About the nine killed in Jenin, The New York Times’ Jan. 27 article, “At Least 7 Killed in Attack in Jewish Area of East Jerusalem,” selectively reports: “The attack on Friday came a day after the killing of nine Palestinians during an Israeli Army raid in Jenin, in the occupied West Bank — the deadliest such raid in years.” (The print edition headline for this story is “Shots Outside Synagogue Leave At Least 7 People Dead in East Jerusalem.” While the digital article provides a hyperlink to an earlier story on the Israeli raid, which notes, “The Israeli military said it had killed three people, including two ‘armed suspects,” even this incomplete information is not made available to readers of the print edition.)

Along with moral equivalence, an additional means of softening coverage of Palestinian terrorism is slapping on a headline using the euphemistic passive voice, thereby obscuring the perpetrator. Thus, The Times’ headlines about the Palestinian terrorist’s gunning down of Shabbath worshippers neglects to identify the assailant: “At Least 7 Killed in Attack in Jewish Area of East Jerusalem,” and “”Shots Outside Synagogue Leave 7 People Dead in East Jerusalem.” For good measure, the headlines also fail to identify the victims (Israeli Jews), referring to them only as “people.”

Thus, the headline, which is supposed to provide the most basic information about an event, including who did what to whom, leaves out both the who and whom.

In contrast, concerning the Jenin raid, in which mostly Palestinian combatants affiliated with illegal terror organization, were killed, The New York Times has no problem identifying the subject and object. In the active voice, the headlines here read: “Israeli Troops Kill Several Palestinians in West Bank Raid” (in print) and “Israeli Raid on West Bank Kills Nine Palestinians, Officials Say” (online).

While coming from different starting points, the two journalistic misdeeds — drawing a false moral equivalency and applying a double standard — end up with the same reprehensible result: minimizing and obscuring Palestinian terrorism. 

With research by David Litman.


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