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May 10, 2022 9:31 am
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AFP Headline Suggests Israel’s Response to Terror Wave Is to Blame for Palestinian Violence

avatar by Gidon Ben-Zvi

Opinion

Israeli Security and rescue personnel work at the scene following an incident in Elad, in central Israel, May 5, 2022. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

The facts are abundantly clear: on May 8, Israeli security forces caught the two terrorists suspected of carrying out a deadly attack on Israeli civilians in Elad.

Yet a headline by global wire service Agence France-Presse (AFP) effectively casts doubt on a sovereign nation’s right to defend itself against those who seek to murder its civilians, implying that Israel’s actions are to blame for the violence that  occurred after the arrests:

For casual readers, this distorted headline, which confuses the cause of the terror wave roiling Israel with the country’s response to it, is all they will take away from the latest developments in this unfolding story.

The piece, titled “More violence after Israel arrests Palestinian suspected axe murderers,” cites the actual catalyst for the recent spasm of terror:

Last week Hamas threatened Israel with rockets, knives and axes if its security forces carry out further raids on the Al-Aqsa mosque compound.

However, this crucial context is only included in the 27th paragraph of a 30-paragraph article.

A lede is the most newsworthy part of a story. Journalists know to keep it front and center. A publication “buries the lede” when the most important part of a news item fails to appear at the beginning of a report. 

Based on its choice of headline, AFP has thus seemingly deemed it inconsequential that a wave of Palestinian terror, fueled by incessant incitement, has washed over Israel over the past two months, prompting heightened security measures. By choosing to use the phrase “more violence,” the AFP is giving the mistaken impression that violence begets violence. This framing then carries over from the headline to the actual story:

The unrest came hours after the arrest of two Palestinians suspected of axing three Israelis to death, and as a series of anti-Israeli attacks and bloody violence has left dozens dead since late March, among them Palestinian and Arab-Israeli perpetrators.

Depicting the deadly wave of terrorist attacks through the cycle of violence lens is problematic, because it inevitably leaves out certain salient facts. Critically, spikes in Palestinian violence have long been connected to incitement by Palestinian leaders.

Moreover, scholars who tracked violence during the Second Intifada found “little evidence to suggest there is a cycle of violence.” Rather, the data reveal that “Israel responds predictably and systematically to Palestinian violence,” and that “Palestinian violence is not predictable by past Israeli violence.”

The image of a cycle that AFP’s headline portrays is thus debunked by a discernible pattern: that of Palestinian attacks on civilians and defensive Israeli responses to such attacks.

And while “More violence after Israel arrests Palestinian suspected axe murderers” alludes to the April 30 speech by Hamas’ Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar, in which he urged Palestinians to strike Israelis, the article stops short of describing the extent of the terror group’s incitement campaign.

Also in April, the leaders of several Gaza Strip-based Palestinian terror groups issued a unified call for an escalation of violence against Israel, a development that caused significant concern ahead of Ramadan prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque located atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Hamas, which rules Gaza and is deemed a terror group in its entirety by the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Canada, Israel and Japan, convened the meeting that was led by Sinwar.

Nor does the AFP piece note that Hamas, following the Elad terror attack, threatened to return to suicide bombings and to “burn” Israeli cities if Jerusalem resumes its policy of targeted killings of senior terror figures.

By downplaying the actual source of terror, people who scan AFP’s headline might well conclude that Israel is at least indirectly at fault for the Palestinian campaign of violence, which has grown to include attacks on May 8 in Tekoa and Jerusalem Old City’s Damascus Gate, and has resulted in 19 Israelis being killed and dozens more wounded since the end of March.

The AFP is the world’s oldest news agency, with news bureaus in 151 countries. As such, it should know better than to imply that there is a spiral of attacks and counter-attacks taking place in Israel.

This impression blurs the line between terrorists and their victims.

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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