Terror in Jerusalem, counter-terror in Jenin, and false moral equivalence

Once again, mainstream media minimizes and obscures Palestinian terrorism.

Mourners attend the funeral at the Beit Shemesh Cemetery for Eli and Natalie Mizrahi, who were murdered in the shooting attack in Jerusalem's Neve Ya'akov neighborhood on Friday, Jan. 28, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Mourners attend the funeral at the Beit Shemesh Cemetery for Eli and Natalie Mizrahi, who were murdered in the shooting attack in Jerusalem's Neve Ya'akov neighborhood on Friday, Jan. 28, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Tamar Sternthal
Tamar Sternthal
Tamar Sternthal is director of the Israel office of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

Attempting to explain away the horrific Palestinian terror attack on Israeli Jews outside a Jerusalem synagogue on Friday evening, MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin tweeted: “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 attack, in which a 14-year-old boy and a couple who ran outside to assist the wounded were among the seven civilians shot dead.

In reporting on the attack—the most deadly since 2008—multiple media outlets indeed hurried to note the nine Palestinians killed in Jenin on Thursday. As did Mohyeldin, they egregiously omitted the key fact that at least seven of those Palestinians were affiliated with designated terror organizations were killed in a gun battle with Israeli troops.

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, or good Samaritans who selflessly rushed into danger to help their neighbors bleeding on the street.

While reporting that nine Palestinians were killed in an Israeli counter-terror raid is perfectly legitimate for a recap of major recent events preceding the terror attack, failing to note that almost all of them were terrorists who died in a firefight with Israeli forces 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 with regard to its description of the incident 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.”

Nowhere does the story mention that those nine Palestinian casualties 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 imminent attack on Israel. Many of those killed have been linked to terrorist organizations.

While some of AFP’s coverage reported the Palestinian Islamic Jihad affiliations of some of the Jenin fatalities, 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 concealed 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.

The 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 a Palestinian terrorist gunning down Jews outside a synagogue on International Holocaust Remembrance Day neglects to identify the assailant. 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.

In contrast, concerning the Jenin raid, in which mostly Palestinian combatants affiliated with illegal terror organization were killed, the Times has no problem identifying 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).

The journalistic misdeeds of drawing false moral equivalency and applying a double standard both have the same reprehensible result: minimizing and obscuring Palestinian terrorism.

Tamar Sternthal is director of CAMERA’s Israel Office.

This article was originally published by CAMERA, with research by David Litman.


The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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