Criticize harmful media bias in Israel reporting
Over the past two weeks, there has been a colossal wave of terrorist attacks in Israel. In Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and virtually all parts of Israel, there have been over 150 terror attacks, including stabbings, shootings, stones thrown, vehicular rammings and suicide bombings, according to an Oct. 8 Jewish Telegraphic Agency article. No, you read that right. Why haven’t you heard about it, you ask? That’s because news outlets across the world have reported on a minuscule amount of them.
Yet, unfortunately, the dearth of reports on the killings is not even the most tragic mistake made by the media during this heinous terror wave. When they have reported on the attacks, news organizations have gone so far as to twist the facts and manipulate reality in order to portray the Israeli victims as the aggressors and remove the humanity of those who were attacked. At the same time, these reports highlight the human characteristics of their Palestinian attackers.
Take, for instance, an attack that occurred on Oct. 3. Muhannad Halabi, 19, stabbed and killed two Israelis, Nehemia Lavi, 41—a rabbi and father of seven—and Aharon Benita-Bennett, 22, in Jerusalem, and injured two others, before being shot and killed by police.
At first glance, the situation seems quite clear: two innocent people were murdered in cold blood for the simple crime of existing in their nation’s capital, where they live, because they were Jewish.
Interestingly enough, the media thought differently. The BBC, one of the first to report on the attack, published a headline that read, “Palestinian shot dead after Jerusalem attack kills two.”
The headline makes it seem as if the tragedy is that the Palestinian was shot dead. That there was a clash between two equal parties that left people on both sides dead. That somehow these deaths are morally equal. It highlights the death of the Palestinian terrorist shot by police after fatally stabbing two Israelis, rather than the attack itself. It refers to the true Israeli victims of the incident using the passive voice, and it leaves out that the Palestinian man who was killed was a terrorist rather than merely a tragic victim of an unjustified attack.
Al-Jazeera came under fire for publishing a similarly misleading headline on social media to its story of the stabbing. The news agency tweeted a headline that stated, “Palestinian shot dead after fatal stabbing in Jerusalem; 2 Israeli victims also killed.”
According to Al-Jazeera, the item of importance in the stabbing is that the Palestinian attacker was killed; the Israeli victims are simply afterthoughts who were “also” killed. Not only that, but the tweet’s wording makes it seem as if the Israeli and Palestinian victims were all killed by the same perpetrator.
Poor headlining, either purposeful or not, constitutes an even greater problem in the age of social media. Millenials frequently only read snippets of information or only focus their attention on a brief title before moving on to the next story. With so much information available at such a fast pace, the body of an article has become far less important than the headline, even though that should not be the case. Thus, misleading headlining hurts the Israeli public and the Israeli cause to a greater extent than other forms of anti-Israel bias. Headlines such as the ones mentioned above prevent readers from knowing the full story of the events that transpired and leave them with a view about Israel and the conflict that is one sided and inaccurate.
To their credit, Al-Jazeera apologized for the incident, though one can wonder about the sincerity and whether they would have apologized without the backlash. The BBC did not.
Next on the list is the New York Times. The first attack of the current terror wave took place Oct. 1, when Eitam and Na’ama Henkin were brutally killed while driving back home, with their now-orphaned four children still in the backseat. The New York Times was noticeably quiet after the attack. No mention of the murder was on the front page. Instead, there was a small headline 16th down the list of world news, right after the news of the passing of a historian through natural causes. Yes, I checked.
This in and of itself isn’t necessarily egregious reporting. Yet it is a far cry from how the New York Times reported on the murder of a Palestinian family by Israeli extremists on July 31. Then, the attack was front page news for a week, the Times featured pieces on the rise and prevalence of Jewish extremism and coverage of the attack continued for a month. Why the discrepancy?
Further, instead of discussing the attacks, the New York Times instead felt that a story about Israelis trying to “seize” the Golan Heights (never mind that Israel already annexed it after the Six Day War) was more noteworthy and they featured it on their Twitter page. It also published a headline declaring that Israel restricted Palestinian access to the Old City, without mentioning the crucial reason why.
On Oct. 6, the New York Times published an article, “Israel says 5 from Hamas Confess to Israeli Couple’s Killing.” According to the article, “four Israelis and four Palestinians have been killed in the last five days.” Devoid from the paragraph is the understanding of the difference between Israel defending its citizens and Palestinian terrorists who are murdering innocent Israeli civilians. The authors fail to qualify whether those killed are civilians or combatants, and the deaths of the victims and their killers are not morally equitable.
The New York Times is not new to controversial headlines regarding Israel. On Sept. 14, a Palestinian rock-throwing attack led to the death of Alexander Levlovitz, 64, as he lost control of his car and drove into a ditch. The attack took place in the East Talpiot neighborhood of southeast Jerusalem, within the city’s municipal boundaries. The New York Times’ headline? “Jewish Man Dies as Rocks Pelt His Car.”
As was reported by the media watchdog group HonestReporting, “the headline removes all Palestinian liability for the attack by virtue of its passive language. The Jewish man did not simply “die” and rocks did not “pelt his car” of their own accord. Palestinian attackers were responsible for hurling those rocks at the car.”
Things were not any better in the body of the article, which stated that “the man, Alexander Levlovitz, 64, died of his injuries after the accident on the first day of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, on Sept. 13.” Let’s be clear, there was nothing accidental about this incident.
Last, but most definitely not least, comes the Independent. A headline published on Oct. 10 read, “Israeli Security Forces Kill Boy, 16, After Stabbings in Jerusalem as Violence Continues.”
The headline portrays the boy as the victim and only vaguely references some connection to stabbings in Jerusalem. In fact, the 16-year- old had just stabbed two elderly religious Jews on their way home from Shabbat prayers at the Western Wall.
For those who follow the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, media bias against Israel is not a foreign concept. During the past few weeks, however, it has been taken to a new, horrifying level. At this point, there isn’t much expectation for the disturbing trend to abate. I hope news organizations worldwide take a look at their handiwork and feel ashamed. They should.