Wednesday, September 27th | 12 Tishri 5784

July 10, 2023 10:23 am

Reporter Tries to Turn Palestinian Terrorist Into a Civilian

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avatar by Adam Levick


Illustrative: Palestinians in Jenin at the funeral of gunman Youssef Salah who was killed in an exchange of fire with Israeli forces. Photo: Reuters/Mohamad Torokman

For years, we’ve been documenting the egregious anti-Israel bias of The Times Middle East correspondent Catherine Philp. However, a report she published recently was so biased and so clearly colored by her own pro-Palestinian views, that it can hardly be called “journalism.”

The putatively straight news article published on July 9 was titled “Palestinian boy killed by Israeli sniper in Jenin was unarmed, CCTV suggests”, but, as her tweet of the article shows, it seems to have been motivated by her frustration with the fact that there hasn’t been one confirmed civilian death during Israel’s two-day anti-terror operation in Jenin last week.

While the article begins by suggesting that a Palestinian in Jenin named Abdulrahman Hasan Ahmad Hardan was armed when he was shot, it then proceeds to claim that he was an uninvolved civilian, and not a terrorist as was reported.

Here are the relevant paragraphs:

Militant groups such as the relatively new Jenin Brigades, Islamic Jihad and the armed wing of Fatah have little compunction about claiming non-combatants, even unarmed women and children, as their martyrs. Militants brought banners to the house celebrating him as such; his family expressed their unhappiness at that — at not inconsiderable risk to themselves — but they were adamant: Abdulrahman was not a militant and did not belong to any armed group.

[His mother] wept as she described rushing to Jenin after learning that her son had been shot in the head. He died five hours later in surgery. “He was an ordinary boy, he was not a terrorist like they are saying,” his mother said.

When Islamic Jihad posted photographs of its claimed martyrs, Abdulrahman was the only one not pictured with a firearm.

asked if Abdulrahman had been armed, Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Hecht, the Israel Defence Force’s international spokesman, replied “yes”. When asked with what, he answered: “An automatic rifle.”


Hecht then pointed The Times to social media posts by Islamic Jihad claiming him as a fighter. It is commonplace for Palestinian militant groups to claim any male casualty as a martyr, to bolster perceptions of their strength. [emphasis added]

First, as Hecht said, Abdulrahman was claimed by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) as one of their eight fighters killed in Jenin. (The social media posts we linked to were translated by CAMERA Arabic.) Second, there is a photo showing several of the eight the terror group claim as their fighters, pictured without weapons, which is a big deal, since Philps’ (false) claim was used to argue that Abdulrahman was not a terrorist. (Editor’s note: The author later contacted Times editors, and they agreed to remove that false claim.)

Now, we’ll turn to Philp’s argument that claims by proscribed terror groups that a Palestinian killed was one of their members is not proof that the person was indeed affiliated with the group.

We conferred with our colleagues at CAMERA Arabic, who explained that while organizations do tend to mourn all Palestinians killed by Israeli fire, their Arabic public announcements differ between “the martyred hero” when the deceased was not a member and “its” martyred hero” when he was, e.g. Hamas here (not members) vs here and here (members).

Specifically, concerning “martyrs” that targeted Israeli civilians both in Israel and the West Bank, CAMERA Arabic compiled a list of nine cases in the past year in which no organization claimed the attacker:

  • 20/9/22: “Martyr” Musa Sarsour from Qalqiliya, murdered 84-yo Shulamit Rachel Ovadia in Holon and  committed suicide afterwards.
  • 22/9/22: “Martyr” Muhammad Abu Jum’a, attacked by-passers in the Shilat junction with a knife.
  • 5/11/22: “Martyr” Mus’ab Nafal, threw stones at Israeli civilians near Ramallah.
  • 15/11/22 (Isabel Kershner’s report): “Martyr” Muhammad Suf, murdered three Israeli civilians near the Ari’el industrial zone.
  • 11/1/23: “Martyr” Sanad Samamra, carried out a stabbing attack in the Havat Yehuda outpost near Hebron.
  • 10/3/23: “Martyr” Abdel Kareem Sheikh carried out an attack with a knife and IEDs near Havat Dorot, south of Ari’el
  • 24/3/23: “Martyr” Karm Salman tried to enter Kdumim with a loaded gun and attack civilians.
  • 24/4/23: “Martyr” Hatem Abu Nijmeh carried out a ramming attack at the Mahane Yehuda market — note that in this webpage Fatah did not claim him, the funeral picture belongs to a previous martyr they misleadingly used in their website since.
  • 26/5/23: “Martyr” Alaa’ Qaysiya, carried out a stabbing attack in the Tene Omarim settlement south of Hebron.

In contrast, the Telegram announcement by Palestinian Islamic Jihad — proscribed in the UK as a terrorist group — calls Abdulrahman “one of the PIJ movement’s Jihad warriors” (as translated by CAMERA Arabic).

The Times article ends by noting that “Campaigners say Abdulrahman was one of 35 Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces in 2023″ [emphasis added] — ignoring that the overwhelming majority of Palestinian fatalities of people under 18 were affiliated with terror groups or otherwise involved in violent clashes at the time of their death.

Philp’s decision, in her coverage of Abdulrahman’s death, to dismiss the evidence the media normally accepts attesting to terror-affiliations of Palestinian fatalities during conflicts is the journalistic equivalent of Calvinball – changing the rules on the fly so that the imputation of Israeli malevolence can be maintained.

The journalist’s attempt to sow doubt in the proof presented appearing to show that all of the Palestinian fatalities during the Jenin operation were combatants is further evidence that, in her eyes, and in the eyes of much of the media, Israel will always be guilty when engaged in conflicts with Palestinian terrorists, even when proven innocent.

Adam Levick serves as co-editor of CAMERA UK – an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA), where a version of this article first appeared.

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