They’re terrorists, not ‘security prisoners’

The media’s distortion of language in relation to Israel and the Palestinians is especially disconcerting—and par for the course—on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Palestinians in the village of Kafr Qaddoum, west of Nablus, riot on behalf of the terrorists who escaped from Israel's Gilboa Prison, Sept. 10, 2021. Photo by Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90.
Palestinians in the village of Kafr Qaddoum, west of Nablus, riot on behalf of the terrorists who escaped from Israel's Gilboa Prison, Sept. 10, 2021. Photo by Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90.
Ruthie Blum. Photo by Ariel Jerozolomski.
Ruthie Blum
Ruthie Blum, former adviser at the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is an award-winning columnist and senior contributing editor at JNS, as well as co-host, with Amb. Mark Regev, of "Israel Undiplomatic" on JNS-TV. She writes and lectures on Israeli politics and culture, and on U.S.-Israel relations. Originally from New York City, she moved to Israel in 1977 and is based in Tel Aviv.

How do news outlets love to portray the recent “great escape” from Israel’s Gilboa Prison? Let us count the ways.

The first is to refer to the six Palestinian terrorists who plotted and carried out the most egregious jailbreak in Israel’s history as “security prisoners.”

The second is to downplay the rap sheets of the four who were apprehended and the remaining two fugitives still on the loose.

The third is to take a pause from the above to blame Israel for the lax conditions that enabled the men to spend months digging the tunnel—from the floor of the shower cubicle in their cell—through which they fled from behind bars. Oh, and, of course, for failing to catch them as soon as they managed to pull off the daring stunt.

It’s a neat trick. Simultaneously sanitizing the terrorists’ blood-stained hands and magnifying Israel’s role in the debacle is precisely how the Palestinian Authority runs its propaganda campaign: at once denying the Holocaust, for instance, while accusing the Jewish state of emulating the Nazis.

The same ostensible paradox applies to Palestinians’ rioting on behalf of the escapees by hurling fire bombs at the “occupation forces” and threatening terrorist attacks if those of their brethren who were captured, or the ones on the run and those still in jail are treated poorly by the Shin Bet, Israel Police and Israel Prison Service. Meanwhile, inmates left behind are warning that if their cushy conditions are altered one iota, they’ll launch a hunger strike.

Israel’s grown so used to the scenario that all its new leaders can do is pat themselves on the back for playing catch-up and vowing to rectify the dereliction of their predecessors. You know, the Cabinet led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But even Naftali Bennett’s government, which the press has been treating with kid gloves for having ousted nemesis Netanyahu, can’t overcome the media’s knee-jerk reaction to any catastrophe involving the Palestinians. Two choice examples are in order—The New York Times and Reuters—though others abound, including in Israeli papers.

“The Israeli police said on Saturday that they had captured four of the six Palestinian fugitives who escaped a maximum-security prison this week, in a case seen as a rare humiliation of the country’s security establishment,” writes New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Patrick Kingsley in an updated report on the incident.

Clearly, he thinks that the “rare humiliation” of [Israel’s] security establishment” is more newsworthy than the identity of the “fugitives.”

Let’s not be too hasty, however, in judging the copy and priorities of others. Kingsley does proceed to name the prisoners—Mahmoud Ardah, Yaqoub Qadri, Zakaria Zubeidi and Mohammad Ardah (Mahmoud’s brother), who were captured, and the two still at large, Eham Kamamji and Munadil Nafayat.

Here’s how he describes “Mr. Zubeidi”: “a prominent militant leader during the second Palestinian intifada … in the 2000s and … former commander of the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group loosely affiliated with Fatah, the secular group that dominates Palestinian politics in the occupied West Bank.”

He goes on to state that the “other three recaptured inmates are members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an Iran-backed Islamist militant group, [who] have been serving life sentences for involvement in attacks on Israeli civilians, the police said.”

The two not yet caught (as of the time of his and this writing), he mentions, are “both members of Islamic Jihad, the authorities said.”

Kamamji, he adds, “was serving a life sentence for kidnapping and killing an Israeli teenager, Eliyahu Asheri,” and “Nafayat had been imprisoned without charge since 2019.”

Reuters presents an evocative depiction of the affair, calling the escapees “militants” and highlighting that the search for them was taking place “across northern Israel, where the Arab city of Nazareth sits, and the occupied West Bank.”

The international news service continues, “The facility the men escaped from, about 4 km (2 miles) from the boundary with the occupied West Bank, is one of the highest-security jails in Israel. The escapees include Zakaria Zubeidi, a former commander of Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the West Bank city of Jenin who once received Israeli amnesty. Zubeidi was rearrested by Israel in 2019 after his alleged involvement in new shooting attacks.”

The only thing “alleged” about the whole nasty business—a result of Israel’s trying to placate the Palestinians and international community by allowing jailed jihadists better benefits than those granted to white-collar criminals—is the “occupation.”

Judea and Samaria, at worst, is “disputed” territory. And “Mr. Zubeidi” is a terrorist, not a “militant.” Nothing “alleged” about him or his fellow evildoers whose imprisonment was justified, and whose escape endangered any Jew who would have had, or still has, the misfortune to encounter any one of them.

Nor are the cheers among Palestinians for these dastardly “heroes” to be taken lightly. Killing and abetting the planned murder of innocent Israelis is an integral part of P.A. culture. The so-called, falsely dubbed “occupation” has nothing to do with it, as Israel’s many territorial withdrawals and P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas’s behavior have illustrated.

The distortion of language in relation to Israel and the Palestinians is especially disconcerting—and par for the course—on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. As JNS editor-in-chief Jonathan Tobin points out, much of the left considers the most important aspect of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon to be “the alleged racism and religious bigotry for which [they] served as an excuse.”

The same moral inversion characterizes the left’s attitude towards the West in general and Israel in particular. Sadly, its slant only serves to embolden the bad guys who make no bones about their immediate and ultimate aims.

It’s the height of tragic irony that whenever and wherever Islamofascists get their way, Western journalists are among the first in line for literal and figurative beheading.

Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”

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