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April 28, 2022 10:25 am
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Terrorists No More: How AFP Gave Palestinian Islamic Jihad An Extreme Makeover

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avatar by Rachel O'Donoghue

Opinion

A militant attends the funeral of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad gunman, who was killed by Israeli forces, in Jenin in the West Bank March 1, 2022. Photo: REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta

The article accompanying the video reads like a trailer for a Hollywood movie:

In a “tunnel city” under the sandy soils of southern Gaza, Palestinian militants are preparing for the next conflict with Israel, as tensions in Jerusalem threaten to escalate.

The underground passageways leave no trace on the surface.

But this is no big-budget blockbuster — it’s a description of the terror tunnels used by the Al-Quds Brigade, the armed wing of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

And the description is by the global wire service, Agence France-Presse (AFP).

People reading AFP’s vivid account of masked militants roaming sophisticated subterranean passages — described as kitted out with “electric lights, a ventilation system and telecoms cables”– would never guess they were in fact reading about a group that is responsible for some of the worst terrorist atrocities in Israel’s history.

Indeed, the group, which is proscribed as a terror organization by the entire Western world, has carried out numerous horrific attacks on innocent Israeli citizens, including the Maxim restaurant suicide bombing that killed 22; the June 2002 Meggido junction suicide attack that killed 17; and the 2006 Tel Aviv shawarma restaurant bombing that left 11 dead.

Despite this, the words “terror” or “terrorist” do not appear once in the entire AFP article.

The piece reads as though the journalist was being taken on an exciting underground jaunt. The writer even describes the scene as a “media tour”:

An Islamic Jihad official told AFP during a media tour that the movement has both defensive and offensive tunnel systems.

The latter “is used for taking Israeli soldiers captive, repelling Israeli ground offensives and carrying out various field operations,” said the commander. [Emphasis added]

One can only speculate as to whether the journalist would refer to being shown around ISIS’ former Syrian stronghold of Raqqa in such a bizarre way.

The article’s accompanying video, which was posted as a separate story, presents an equally glamorous depiction of PIJ’s activities.

There is, however, some critical language in the written piece. Unfortunately, it is reserved for Israel.

The article suggests that the Jewish state has somehow invited the actions of PIJ by maintaining a blockade on the Gaza Strip in a bid to prevent terror attacks:

Residents of Gaza, a cramped, besieged coastal territory home to 2.3 million people, have long experience of using tunnels since 2007, when Israel imposed a crippling blockade in response to Hamas seizing power in the Strip.

Back to the PIJ extreme makeover. The writer at one point attempts to humanize the militants using the tunnels, with a reference to how the network is also used to smuggle in a treat of “Kentucky Fried Chicken.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s well-founded worry about the vast expanse of tunnels is subtly dismissed as mere “fears” about how they could be used:

Israeli commanders fear militants could use such tunnels to seize Israeli personnel or civilians for use as bargaining chips in prisoner exchanges.

Indeed, the AFP neglects to mention the fact that tunnels like these have been used to kidnap Israelis, including the 2006 abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit by Hamas.

With regards to the recent unrest roiling Israel’s capital city, the AFP quotes numerous terrorists at length, which allows the global wire service to promulgate the demonstrably false accusation that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is under threat by Israel.

The article builds on this mischaracterization to then present the possibility of another conflict with Israel as a foregone conclusion that is somehow justified due to the aforementioned alleged danger faced by the Muslim shrine:

A short distance from one of the tunnel entrances, a group of fighters sit chatting under the trees.

‘We’ve received instructions to mobilise and be on high alert to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem,’ said one.

“The rockets are on high alert and we’re waiting for the leadership to decide.”

The AFP also downplays the terror attacks that have so far claimed the lives of 14 Israelis over the past month, making reference to just “two deadly attacks in the coastal Israeli city of Tel Aviv.” In fact, there have also been attacks in the cities of Beersheva, Hadera, and Hebron, as HonestReporting has detailed.

This is not the only thing minimized.

The mob violence at the mosque, which saw Palestinians armed with rocks, Molotov cocktails, and other weapons incite riots, is simply labeled a series of “angry demonstrations” that prompted a “police crackdown.”

The AFP’s piece falls short of what one would expect of a leading global news agency. Its starry-eyed review of PIJ diminishes the group’s stated goal: the obliteration of the Jewish state.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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