If “demonize” means “to try to make someone or a group of people seem as if they are evil,” as the Cambridge Free says, can a murderer be demonized?
To help readers understand the term, the dictionary provides the following as an example of its usage: “The Nazis used racist propaganda in an attempt to demonize the Jews.”
But can the Nazi killer himself be demonized? What about the cold-blooded murderer of an elderly Holocaust survivor?
More specifically, can Muqdad Salah, the Palestinian who murdered the sleeping 72-year-old Holocaust survivor Israel Tenenbaum, and other convicted Palestinian killers of innocent Israeli civilians, young and old, be “[d]emonized as terrorists by Israelis?”
This is the question that arises following a New York Times article this week about the trials and tribulations of released Palestinian murderers reentering life in the West Bank (“Remaking a Life, After Years in an Israeli Prison”). About Salah, Tenenbaum’s murderer Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren writes: “Demonized as terrorists by Israelis and lionized as freedom fighters by Palestinians, prisoners like Mr. Salah have become a flash point in the troubled peace talks . . .”
If “demonizing” means trying to make someone or a group seem as if they are evil, then, the implication is that person or group is not evil, and they are being represented in an unfair light.
Indeed, the fact that “demonizing” usually entails a false or unfair depiction is clear from another foreign news story earlier this year in The New York Times (“False Claims in Afghan Accusations on U.S. Raid Add to Doubts on Karzai“).
The Gray Lady reported three months ago:
It was the kind of dossier that the Taliban often publish, purporting to show the carnage inflicted during a raid by American forces: photographs of shattered houses and bloodied, broken bodies, and video images of anguish at a village funeral, all with gut-churning impact and no proof of authenticity.
But this time, it was the government of President Hamid Karzai that was handing out the inflammatory dossier, the product of a commission’s investigation into airstrikes on Jan. 15 on a remote village and the supposed American cover-up that followed.
In an apparent effort to demonize their American backers, a coterie of Afghan officials appears to have crossed a line that deeply troubles Western officials here: They falsely represented at least some of the evidence in the dossier, and distributed other material whose provenance, at best, could not be determined. (Emphases added)
Thus, according to The Times, Afghani officials used falsified and dubious material to “demonize” the Americans by unfairly charging them of killing villagers.
Similarly, a New York Times article in February about the surrender of a Venezuelan opposition leader uses the term “demonize” in the context of unproven charges at best, and false charges at worst. “The government quickly accused Mr. Lopez of being responsible for the unrest and the deaths, claiming he had trained activists to unleash a campaign of violence that was part of a coup attempt” against President Nicolas Maduro, The Times reported. “They have provided no evidence for the charges but have demonized Mr. Lopez in speeches and in programs on government-controlled television and radio.” (Emphasis added.)
In contrast, with respect to the murder of Israel Tenenbaum, Mudqaq Salah was tried and convicted in a court of law based on clear evidence from the scene of the crime. As Rudoren wrote, Salah himself admits to the crime. The murderer now disputes, though, the fact that his victim was sleeping when he was bludgeoned to death with a metal rod. But as Rudoren reported: “He had no explanation for why the guard was found in a bloodstained bed.” Salah also now maintains that he had a run-in with Tenenbaum earlier in the day.
But there is no doubt that Salah murdered the elderly Tenenbaum for nationalistic reasons. The murder of unarmed civilians for nationalist motives is the very definition of terrorism, at least in the eyes of the Western world.
Given that it is undisputed that Salah murdered Tenenbaum, how, exactly, are Israelis demonizing Salah by considering him a terrorist? Either The Times reporter is unwilling to accept that the slaughter of Tenenbaum is an act of terrorism, or, worse, she believes it’s at least arguable that such acts are not in fact reprehensible.
News reporters should not inject their own personal opinions into news articles. But Rudoren has done just that by maintaining that Israelis “demonize” Salah by regarding Tenenbaum’s murderer a terrorist.
By implying that Israelis are somehow unreasonable or unjustified in viewing the self-confessed Palestinian murderer of a Holocaust survivor as a terrorist, Rudoren herself demonizes the Israeli people.