USA Today Downplays Anti-Jewish Violence as ‘Clashes’

Journalists frequently demand transparency from the individuals and institutions they cover. That makes the lack of transparency in USA Today’s “West Bank bloodshed seeps through my life” (March 3, 2016) by Asma’ Jawabreh, particularly disappointing. The page 2-A feature lacked journalistic specificity, whitewashed Palestinian Arab anti-Jewish violence and failed to fully inform readers.

Jawabreh, a Palestinian Arab journalism student and reporter with Associated Reporters Abroad, offered an account of challenges she said she faced living in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). However, Jawabreh’s column, more of a personal reflection than news article, fell back on ambiguity that obscured anti-Jewish violence while portraying West Bank Arabs as victims.

The journalism student repeatedly used the vague term “clashes” to refer to Palestinian violence against Israelis, civilians and soldiers alike. This lack of specificity not only contravened standard journalistic practice, it obscured the truth about Palestinian responsibility for initiating and perpetuating terrorist attacks. She also used the similarly vague phrase “madness on the streets.” These euphemisms misled by falsely implying an equivalency that was central to her narrative.
A martyr memorialized

Jawabreh says that her cousin, Khaled, was killed “during clashes in November.” She omitted mention that her cousin, Khaled Mahmoud Jawabreh, was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)—a U.S.-designated terrorist group.

According to Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), a non-profit organization that translates Arab media in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem, Khaled Mahmoud Jawabreh was praised on official Palestinian Authority (PA) TV during his funeral. PMW notes that an unidentified speaker spoke of Jawabreh, romanticizing him as a marytr:

“Glory to you, and to you we are loyal. Rest in peace, honorable Martyr. Rest in peace, our honorable Khaled [Jawabreh]. ‘The revolution may last a hundred years or more, and the impatient should step aside [quoting PFLP founder George Habash].’ Therefore, comrades, Beware of natural death, do not die, but amidst the hail of bullets…Victory grows where the field is nurtured with blood.”

PMW reports that the line “victory grows where the field is nurtured with blood” is taken from a poem by Sayyid Qutb, an influential anti-Western Islamic radical and leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Qutb’s mid-twentieth century writings on Salafist Islamic ideology has influenced Islamist extremists and terrorists, such as al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, among others.

USA Today usefully could have told readers that “martyr,” as applied by the PA to terrorists like Khaled Mahmoud Jawabreh, often refers to someone killed while attacking Israelis.
A voice seldom heard

The newspaper’s report is also undermined by reporter Jawabreh’s questionable assertion that “Palestinian voices” are rarely featured in news media coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In fact, as CAMERA has documented, media frequently exclude or minimizes Israeli voices in their coverage—often providing platforms for anti-Israeli views and allegations while failing to provide countervailing viewpoints (see, for one example of many, “NPR’s Ashbrook Excludes Pro-Israel Voice, Again,” July 11, 2014).

Palestinian Arab voices are heard all the time. Less than a week before her March 3 USA Today special, the newspaper published an article by Jawabreh and Jacob Wirtschafter, which as CAMERA noted, failed to quote a single Israeli but uncritically quoted anti-Israel activists (“USA Today Imprisons Facts, Conceals Truths,” CAMERA, March 7).

Towards the end of her latest article, Jawabreh touched upon something too seldom reported by Western media: intimidation of journalists by Palestinian officials. She noted concerns of friends, family and classmates not to “write anything related to Palestinian officials,” saying they “worry I will be hauled in and interrogated by the government over what I write.” Jawabreh reports that PA officials refused to answer her questions. Repression by Hamas, the U.S.-designated terror group that rules the Gaza Strip, is arguably worse. Yet, she only refers to this obliquely, saying, “Sometimes I fear it [interrogation and detention], too, especially when I call Hamas officials in Gaza for comment.”

More detail on journalistic suppression by Palestinian officials would have been welcome, particularly in lieu of a false narrative of “clashes” that failed to specify who was responsible for anti-Jewish violence. No doubt such facts may be hard to report when living under the rule of the Palestinian officials who incite and glorify them. But without such a big part of the story, another journalism standard, comprehensiveness, goes missing along with transparency and full disclosure.

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