Western media twist Jerusalem terrorist attack narrative

CNN's initial report on the Nov. 18 terrorist attack on a Jerusalem synagogue, which mislabeled the location of the attack as a "mosque," falsely implying that Jews had perpetrated violence against Muslims. Credit: Screenshot from the Jerusalem Post.

In the wake of a terrorist attack on the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood on Tuesday morning—which killed five people, including three American citizens, and wounded at least seven other Jewish worshippers—Western media organizations rushed to downplay the culpability of the Palestinian terrorists in the attack.

The U.K.-based newspaper The Guardian published a Reuters story about the attack that was originally headlined “Palestinians kill four in Jerusalem synagogue attack,” but changed the headline to "Four worshippers killed in attack on Jerusalem synagogue.” (Both headlines came before the death toll in the attack rose to five when a Druze policeman died of his wounds.) The Guardian also removed all references to Palestinians from the text of the article, writing only that “two men” had perpetuated the attack.  

A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation article on the attack was headlined "Jerusalem police fatally shoot 2 after apparent synagogue attack,” implying that most of the culpability lies with Israeli police for responding to the attack.

In what might have been an accidental—though still highly irresponsible—gaffe, CNN mislabeled its initial TV coverage of the terror attack with the headline, "Deadly attack on Jerusalem mosque."

"I would say [the CNN 'mosque' error was] predisposed—an honest mistake that was probably not consciously made, but revelatory of subconscious prejudice. ...  Such mistakes, perhaps honest in individual cases, suggest by their numbers and repeated occurrences a pattern indicating underlying predisposition or bias. Israelis and Jews are filtered through the false history of 'the Palestinian narrative,'" Eric Rozeman, Washington director for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), told JNS.org.

Such factual errors—as well as alterations to the context surrounding terrorist attacks and other violence by Palestinians against Israelis—are frequently documented by CAMERA. The media watchdog group's analysis on coverage of the Nov. 18 synagogue attack (and other recent incidents) can be found here.

As CAMERA noted, when a Palestinian driver ran over pedestrians in Jerusalem last month—after which point police officers responded by shooting the assailant, as they likely would do if such an incident occurred anywhere else—the initial Associated Press headline was “Israeli Police shoot man in east Jerusalem.” This headline, though later revised, was online for some time and omitted the entire terror attack that provided the context for the police shooting.

CAMERA also pointed out what it called "passive language" in the initial New York Times headline on the synagogue attack. The headline had stated, "Four Killed in Jerusalem Synagogue Complex," without any mention of terrorism.

"The New York Times, too, is displaying its usual skittishness about headlines clearly stating Palestinians carried out violence," CAMERA said.

The Nov. 19 Boston Globe front page

The Boston Globe print edition's front page, meanwhile, on Nov. 19 ran the headline "5 dead in Jerusalem Attack" along with the subhead "2 Palestinian assailants also killed in violence at synagogue," seemingly giving moral equivalence to the deaths of Jewish worshippers and the terrorists who murdered them.

Matti Friedman, a former Associated Press correspondent, wrote a detailed argument in Tablet magazine in August explaining why, in his view, Western media systematically exhibit anti-Israel bias in their reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Read his analysis here.

Citing Friedman's piece, CAMERA's Rozenman explained that while the media is relegating Israelis and Jews "to their 'proper,' not really newsworthy, status as 'normal' victims," Palestinian Arabs since 1967 have managed "a double victory—portraying themselves as 'abnormal victims.'" 

"This long ago became a default position of those opposed to Israel ideologically, and that has percolated through the media," Rozenman told JNS.org.

—With reporting by Jacob Kamaras

Posted on November 18, 2014 .