Monday, March 27th | 6 Nisan 5783

January 30, 2023 11:25 am

Media Misleads Over Jerusalem Terror Attacks

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avatar by Chaim Lax


Four victims of the Jerusalem massacre, left to right: Asher Natan, Ben Eliyahu and Natali and Eli Mizrahi. Photo: Courtesy

Over the weekend, the peaceful Sabbath quiet of Jerusalem was violently broken as the Israeli capital was rocked by two terror attacks within the span of 14 hours.

The first attack occurred Friday evening, when a Palestinian terrorist opened fire outside a synagogue in the northeastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Neve Yaakov, murdering seven people and wounding three more.

Then, hours later, a 13-year-old Palestinian opened fire on a group of Jews returning from prayer in the Silwan neighborhood outside the Old City, wounding a father and son.

International media organizations made a number of misleading claims and assertions that negatively impacted their reports.

These claims concerned the details of the attacks, the status of the neighborhood of Neve Yaakov, the false equivalence between these attacks and Israeli counter-terror operations, as well as misleading use of terminology.

Following the attack in Neve Yaakov, the terrorist drove to the nearby neighborhood of Beit Hanina, where he opened fire on nearby Israeli security forces while attempting to flee and was ultimately killed during the ensuing exchange of fire.

However, in its initial reports, The Times of London reported that the terrorist “dropped his weapon and fled but was shot by police as he tried to escape in a car.”

By distorting the facts, the Times implied an extrajudicial killing of a by-then unarmed assailant by Israeli security forces when, in fact, his death was a justifiable outcome of a gunfight initiated by the terrorist.

Several news outlets referred to Neve Yaakov as a “settlement” either outside Jerusalem or within “East Jerusalem” (including The Times of London, ABC News and The Guardian), with Reuters even going so far as to claim that it “lies on occupied land.”

On the contrary, Neve Yaakov is not a “settlement” outside Jerusalem but is rather one of the neighborhoods that make up the Jerusalem municipality. While it is true that Israel gained control over that area following the Six-Day War, Neve Yaakov does not have the legal status of a “settlement” and is a fully integrated municipal neighborhood.

It should also be noted that Neve Yaakov sits on land that was purchased by the Jewish community in the early 20th century and served as a Jewish agricultural center until it was depopulated during the Israeli War of Independence.

Referring to Neve Yaakov as a “settlement” also provides fodder to those seeking to justify the terrorist attack.

As can be seen from numerous posts on social media, particularly from Palestinian sources, the branding of the neighborhood as a settlement is used to justify what they deem legitimate “resistance.”

Many media outlets sought to draw a direct connection between the two attacks on Israelis, to an Israeli counter-terrorism operation in Jenin that took place one day prior to the Neve Yaakov atrocity.

In doing so, they created an improper and amoral equivalence between terrorism and counter-terrorism, with both terror victims and dead terrorists given equal victim status.

In the Jenin operation, Israeli security forces entered the area in order to arrest an Islamic Jihad cell that, according to intelligence, was planning an imminent mass terror attack against Israeli civilians.

During this operation, a firefight ensued between Israeli security forces and Palestinian gunmen. Over the three-hour-long gun battle, nine Palestinians were killed, the vast majority of whom were members of Jenin-based terror organizations.

Numerous media outlets, however, omitted that the majority of those killed in Jenin were armed combatants, creating the false impression that those killed in Neve Yaakov and those killed in Jenin were both equal victims of an “ongoing cycle of violence.”

In MSNBC’s report on the terror attacks, the news anchor noted that “violence has escalated in the region after an Israeli raid on a West Bank refugee camp killed nine Palestinians” while The New York Times commented that, “The attack on Friday came a day after the killing of nine Palestinians during an Israeli Army raid in Jenin, in the occupied West Bank — the deadliest such raid in years.”

More blatantly, Voice of America captioned a video: “Fears of widening Israeli-Palestinian violence have been realized, with attacks in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank,” while The Guardian published a piece headlined: “Jenin, Jerusalem…now Israelis grieve as the cycle of violence intensifies.”

By cynically equating the IDF counter-terror operation in Jenin and the terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, the media are helping to contribute to the atmosphere of incitement and violent rhetoric that culminated in the Jerusalem attacks over the weekend.

Several media outlets employed terminology and rhetorical devices that ultimately misled regarding the nature of the reported events.

This included:

  • A CBS News headline that read “At least 7 killed in shooting near synagogue in Jerusalem; gunman slain.”
  • A news anchor for France 24 who referred to the attack as a form of “counter-protest.”
  • The Independent’s use of scare quotes in its headline, “Seven people killed in Jerusalem synagogue shooting ‘terror attack.’”
  • The reference to the 13-year-old terrorist in Silwan as a “teen” or “boy,” effectively sanitizing his activities and diminishing his role as a cold-blooded terrorist.

Some media outlets, such as Reuters and NPR, came up with headlines that effectively removed agency from the terrorists responsible for the attacks:

HonestReporting publicly called out numerous incidents of bias in the immediate aftermath of these appalling terrorist attacks on innocent Israeli civilians, and we will continue to do so wherever we find skewed and faulty journalism.

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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