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November 18, 2022 11:19 am

In Contextualizing Palestinian Terrorism, Media Miss the Big Picture

avatar by Chaim Lax


The scene in Ariel, in the West Bank, after an Israeli security guard was fatally shot in a terror attack. Photo: Reuters

On November 15, 2022, Israel suffered yet another deadly terror attack, when a Palestinian man went on a stabbing and car-ramming spree outside the West Bank city of Ariel, leaving three Israelis dead and three more wounded.

In reporting on the attack, several mainstream media outlets sought to contextualize it by mentioning Israel’s presumptive right-wing coalition government, as well as the IDF’s continued efforts to counter Palestinian terrorism.

However, by invoking these red herrings, the mainstream media failed to mention the most obvious context of Palestinian violence: Continued incitement against Israel by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Palestinian terror organizations. Numerous media outlets made mention of the fact that the incoming Israeli government is a coalition of right-wing and religious parties led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Reuters titled its report on the attack “Palestinian kills three in West Bank as Israeli politics veers rightward,” while the Washington Post wrote that “The attack coincides with a swearing-in ceremony in the Israeli Parliament. Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu clinched a decisive victory in the Nov. 1 vote, in part thanks to support from the far-right party Religious Zionism, whose members have pledged to intensify Israel’s crackdown against Palestinians.”

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Similarly, the BBC’s report featured the following excerpt: “The attack comes as Israel’s prime minister-designate is in the process of forming a new right-wing government. Elections earlier this month saw a bloc led by Benjamin Netanyahu win enough seats to take power, with the support of a far-right party, one of whose leaders has vowed to deport terrorists.”

By mentioning Israel’s emerging right-wing government coalition in an article about a Palestinian terror attack, these media organizations are seemingly insinuating that the ascension of a right-wing Israeli government might be a contributing factor to the proliferation of Palestinian terror attacks against Israeli civilians.

This claim was made explicit by Peter Beinart during an interview with Slate a couple of days prior to the Ariel terror attack, where he foretold that the future Israeli government will lead to the “possibility of just terrible violence.”

However, while history shows that Palestinian terrorism is not tied to right-wing or left-wing Israeli governments (for instance, this current terror wave began during the tenure of one of Israel’s most ideologically diverse coalition governments), this attempt at contextualizing Palestinian terrorism is dangerous because it seemingly seeks to relieve terrorists of some of the responsibility for their heinous act, and lay some of the blame at the feet of those who voted for the right-wing parties.

Another way that the mainstream media sought to contextualize the recent Ariel terror attack was by mentioning Israel’s ongoing counter-terror operations in Palestinian population centers in the West Bank.

In its report on the attack, the Associated Press wrote that “It was the latest assault in a wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence this year that has seen Palestinian attackers target Israeli civilians and near nightly Israeli arrest raids that have fueled unrest in the occupied territory,” while the Washington Post reported that “The stabbing comes amid near-daily raids on Palestinian areas by Israeli forces in retaliation for earlier attacks and as a new right-wing government promising even harsher tactics comes to power.”

Similar to the mentioning of the incoming Israeli government as a context for Palestinian terrorism, the reference to Israel’s ongoing counter-terror operations seemingly releases Palestinian terrorists of their agency, and seeks to shift some of the blame to Israel itself.

When attempting to provide the context for Palestinian terrorism, one area that many mainstream media organizations seemingly ignored entirely was the ongoing violent incitement against Israel by the PA and Palestinian terror groups.

In the weeks before the attack outside Ariel, the 18-year-old Palestinian terrorist who committed the murder would have had the opportunity to be exposed to the following instances of incitement to violence and terror:

  • A November 6 article in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, the official daily newspaper of the PA, which claimed “there is nothing more precious” than being a “Martyr for the homeland.”
  • Sirhan Yousef, a Fatah official, exclaiming on the Al-Alam network on November 6 that, “Resistance is the only (way), in all its forms: armed struggle, popular Intifada, knives, and vehicle-ramming attacks.”
  • A representative of Hamas on Al-Aqsa TV encouraging viewers to use YouTube and social media to learn how to use weapons in order to attack Israelis (November 5 2022).
  • Video from a November 14 rally in memory of Yasser Arafat at Birzeit University. The rally included the display of automatic weapons, posters of terrorists who died in battle with Israeli security forces, and people dressed up as suicide bombers.

From the above, it is clear that there is an issue with continuous incitement to violence against Israelis emanating from the official organs of the PA and the terror groups that are allowed to thrive under the PA’s rule.

When the media turns a blind eye to this growing problem and instead seeks to contextualize Palestinian terror by solely focusing on Israeli actions, this not only does a disservice to those who rely on them for accurate reporting but also serves to embolden those who thrive on violence within the region.

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.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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