As I write this post in April 2018, the terrorist organization Hamas is leading a series of both peaceful protests and violent riots on Israel’s border with Gaza.
Dubbed a “March of Return” by Hamas, most of the Gaza protestors have maintained a distance from the border fence. But Hamas has sent large numbers of young men right up to the fence where they have hurled stones, placed explosive devices, and attempted to take down the fence. In one instance, Gazan gunmen shot live fire at Israeli troops. These violent rioters include Hamas terrorists. If they succeed in breaching the fence they are likely to fan out to Israeli communities to carry out their usual Jew-killing.
As violent and dangerous as these riots are, you would not know that by reading the New York Times, Washington Post, or other liberal news media. According to reports in the western press, the Arabs at the Israeli border are peaceful protestors. And Israeli soldiers are committing war crimes by shooting these young men. Chris Hayes, a seasoned anchor at MSNBC News, went so far as to accuse Israeli soldiers of picking off “unarmed demonstrators.” He then repeated exaggerated casualty figures issued by Hamas.
This is a case of reporter mendacity.
In light of what is happening these days on the Gaza border, it is enlightening to consider the mendacious media reporting of Arab riots last summer in response to Israel’s placement of metal detectors at the Temple Mount. In both instances — the current Gaza protests and the events of last summer — journalists falsely presented Israel as the culpable party. They did this by using inaccurate reports, misleading headlines, and omission of facts.
The Metal Detector Controversy
In July of 2017, large crowds of Arabs rioted in East Jerusalem. The international press, always eager to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, provided extensive coverage of the disturbances.
What were the Arab riots about? The Arabs were incensed by the Israeli installation of metal detectors at the entrance to Islam’s third holiest site, the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif to Muslims). The Arabs and their leaders claimed that the Israelis upset the “status quo” arrangements that were agreed to by Israel, Jordan, and the Wakf, the Palestinian religious authority in charge of the holy site.
News reporting of these events , as they often do, illustrated the anti-Israel bias of the international press services.1 A July 23, 2017 news story from Reuters, one of the large press services, illustrated this in spades.2
The story’s headline read: “Israel Says Metal Detectors at Al-Aqsa Will Stay.” The lead to the story is: “Israel will not remove metal detectors whose installation outside a major Jerusalem mosque has triggered the bloodiest confrontations with the Palestinians in years, but could eventually reduce their use, Israeli officials said on Sunday.”
From this the reader will conclude: 1) the troubles were started by Israel when it installed metal detectors; 2) the Israelis were intransigent by refusing to remove the detectors; and 3) this was a “confrontation” between two groups, with both groups engaging in a “bloody” fight.
In news stories about violence it is not always possible to describe all the events leading up to the violence. But in this case, the Reuters reporter left out half the story — the half that would help the reader to understand that the Israelis did nothing more than protect worshippers of all faiths from yet another round of Arab-initiated violence.
What Really Happened?
A week before Israel installed metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount, three Israeli-Arab terrorists killed two Israeli policemen near the entrance to the holy site. They also wounded a third Israeli police officer.3 They shot the Israeli policemen with weapons that an accomplice had previously stored in one of the sacred mosques on the site. The Israelis reluctantly installed the metal detectors in order to prevent future terrorist attacks. This move ensured that neither Jews nor Muslims, nor anyone else, would be victimized by terrorists. (In response to Arab objections, Israelis later removed the metal detectors.)
Dan Williams, author of the Reuters article, did not mention this terrorist attack until the second paragraph of the article, and only as an after-thought:
With Israeli generals warning the violence may spiral, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering alternatives to the walk-through gates placed at entrances to al Aqsa mosque compound after two policemen were shot dead there on July 14.
But who shot the Israeli policemen? Williams didn’t say. Most readers didn’t know. They might have thought the killings were a random act, rather than a deliberate terrorist attack by three gunmen motivated by Islamic religious zeal.
Williams continued, “But the rightist Netanyahu government is wary of being seen to capitulate to Palestinian pressure at the site.” Most readers likely did not notice the implication here, but I noticed it because I am familiar with the way reporters cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Reporters constantly refer to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, as “rightist” or “right-wing” and, no matter the topic, they imply that he is motivated by domestic politics. I have never read about the “rightist Donald Trump” or the “leftist Barack Obama” or “the rightist Vladimir Putin.” Despite Williams’ implication that Netanyahu is on the Israeli political fringe, in fact, he is the longest-serving Prime Minister in Israel’s history and currently enjoys a high level of support from Israeli voters.
I suggest that Mr. Williams and his fellow reporters ask Prime Minister Netanyahu the reasons for his actions, rather than rely on their assumptions about what the Israeli leader is thinking. They can’t possibly know.
Perhaps Mr. Williams should have suggested other motivations for the Israeli insistence on leaving the metal detectors in place until security could be restored on the Temple Mount. The most obvious motivation was that no nation can allow its police force to be killed by terrorists. The terrorists smuggled weapons onto this holy site, then proceeded to murder in cold blood. Rather than focus on the Prime Minister’s legitimate motive to secure the Temple Mount, Mr. Williams should have speculated on the motives of the murderous terrorists who started this episode.
More Reporter Mendacity
Later in his article, Williams reported that “Israeli security forces shot three demonstrators dead on Friday…” He failed to tell the reader that the “demonstrators” threw stones and hurled Molotov cocktails. Would a more honest reporter have written, “Arabs riot. Three rioters who attacked security forces were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers.”? I have yet to see that kind of report.
Perhaps the most fanciful statement by Williams appeared further in the article: “In a sign unrest was spreading, a Palestinian stabbed three Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank on Friday, after vowing on Facebook to take up his knife and heed ‘Al Aqsa’s call.’”
Where do I begin to “deconstruct” this sentence, as “progressives” would say? First, not only did the Arab terrorist stab three civilians—-Yosef, Chaya, and Elad Salomon—-he murdered them. He broke into a home where family members were assembled to celebrate the birthday of a grandchild. The news photos of the murder scene are about the worst I have seen. Blood was everywhere. Second, the Jews described in Williams’ article should not be called settlers. They are human beings. And as Jews, they have set up residence on land where Jews have lived continuously for over 3,500 years. Third, the term West Bank was coined by the Jordanians after their 1948 invasion and illegal annexation of the area. For centuries before that, this land was called Judea and Samaria. Fourth, it is about time that reporters say honestly that this land is disputed, not occupied.
On the positive side, I am glad that Williams highlighted the religious nature of the terrorist’s motivation. It is religion that motivates virtually all Arab terrorists. Williams would have done his readers a service if he had explained the terrorist’s statement that he acted to heed “Al Aqsa’s call.” A mosque does not issue a call. That call, to murder Jews, has been voiced by Palestinian religious and civic leaders since the 1920 Nebi Musa riots, in which Arab mobs attacked and killed Jews.4 Starting in 1920, and now for nearly 100 years, Arab leaders have incited Arab mobs to murder Jews by spreading the false charge that the Jews intend to take over the Temple Mount and its two mosques. For example,
During violent tensions in Jerusalem’s Old City in September 2015, …… Abbas [the current Palestinian Authority president] released the following statement: “Each drop of blood that was spilled in Jerusalem is pure blood as long as it’s for the sake of Allah. Every [martyr] will be in heaven and every wounded person will be rewarded, by Allah’s will……Al-Aqsa is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They have no right to desecrate them with their filthy feet. We won’t allow [Jews] to do so and we will do whatever we can to defend Jerusalem,” Abbas added.5
Added to this routine incitement to violence, the Palestinian Authority further incentivizes Jew-killing by paying generous lifetime monthly stipends to terrorists and their family members. To earn a stipend the terrorist must wound or kill Jews. The more Jews the terrorist kills, the larger the monthly check sent to him or his surviving family members. In 2017 these payments amounted to $344 million dollars. This sum represents almost half of all foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority in 2017.6 The family of the terrorist who murdered Yosef, Chaya, and Elad Salomon will receive lifetime payments of $3120 a month. (By comparison, a Palestinian engineer makes about $1300 a month.)7
Violence and Occupation
If Mr. Williams understood the nature of Arab-initiated violence he might have explained to his readers that, in its war on terrorism, any sign of Israeli weakness invites further attacks. It is odd that Mr. Williams seemed unaware of this rule of the jungle which applies not only to Israel, but to the US, France, Great Britain, Belgium, and everywhere else the civilized world is fighting terrorism.
Mr. Williams went on to cite a bit of history, telling his readers that the Temple Mount “was among East Jerusalem areas captured in a 1967 war and annexed as its capital in a move not recognized internationally.”
I have read this characterization of Israel’s defensive 1967 war repeatedly in the media. Western reporters like to say that Israel “captured” East Jerusalem in 1967. Israelis say they liberated it.
Jerusalem is an ancient Jewish city. The Jewish King David purchased the land on which the city sits and built the Jewish capital 3,700 years ago. Its Jewish population has waxed and waned, but in the 1860s a census showed that the majority of Jerusalem’s population was Jewish. Israel liberated East Jerusalem in 1967 only after Jordanian forces launched an unprovoked artillery barrage on Israel’s West Jerusalem.
When the Jordanian army invaded Israel in 1948, they expelled all 100,000 Jews living in East Jerusalem. They overran the ancient Jewish Quarter in East Jerusalem, expelled its Jewish inhabitants, ransacked Jewish property, destroyed Jewish graves at the ancient Mount of Olives, and destroyed all but one of the Jewish Quarter’s ancient synagogues. Jordan occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the so-called West Bank for 19 years. During that time, and in violation of prior agreements, the Jordanians denied Jews access to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. They threw trash along the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site. (This is in stark contrast to Israelis, who have scrupulously honored Muslim rights of access to their holy sites.)
Notably, during Jordan’s 19 year illegal occupation, no news reporter ever referred to the Temple Mount and Western Wall as “occupied.” News reporters have reserved that epithet exclusively for the Jews when they exercised their historic rights to their holy sites. As a comparison, Russia recently annexed Crimea. I have rarely seen this illegal annexation described as “not recognized internationally.” The same can be said about news reporting about other annexations and occupations: Russia in Konigsberg, China in Tibet, Morocco in the Western Sahara, Turkey in Northern Cyprus, India in Kashmir, and others. The only time reporters care about “international recognition” of territory is when it comes to Israel.
Two Events, One Set of Journalist Biases
A terrorist attack leads to the installation of metal detectors. Arabs become outraged and riot. A few months later, Arabs riot at the Gaza border to demand a “return” to Israel.
Although the events are different, the journalistic bias is strikingly similar: inaccurate reports, misleading headlines, and omission of facts.
There is a lot of history behind every aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No single news report can hope to cover it all. But reporters who cover the conflict have been dishonest. They are glued to a narrative that blames Jews and exonerates Arabs, that holds Jews to be perpetrators and Arabs to be hapless victims. The inevitable result is biased and unbalanced news reporting. This is an injustice to the truth. It is an impediment to peaceful resolution of a violent conflict.
It is time for better reporting.
A Word about Metal Detectors
Arab objections to the installation of metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount should be put in perspective.
Around the world, countless holy sites and other public venues employ metal detectors and other security measures. For example, the Saudi Arabian holy city of Mecca employs security measures far more intrusive than the Israeli metal detectors at the Temple Mount.8 Only Muslims are allowed to enter the city of Mecca. Visitors are monitored by 5,000 closed circuit cameras. When millions of Muslim pilgrims arrive in Mecca for the annual haj, authorities require that they wear an electronic bracelet during their entire stay. A British security company hired by the Saudis continuously monitors the location of each pilgrim.
Perhaps critics of Israel are not willing to recognize the hypocrisy of holding Israel to more severe standards than those followed by Muslim countries. International journalists should shed light on this hypocrisy. With the exception of Israeli journalists, they have not done so.
- Friedman, M. An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth. Tablet, August 26, 2014. Retrieved April 19, 2017 from:
- Williams, D. Israel Says Metal Detectors at Al-Aqsa Will Stay. World News (Reuters). July 23, 2017. Retrieved July 23, 2017 from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/israel-metal-detectors-clashes_us_5974aebbe4b0e79ec199db6a?ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009
- Steinbuch, Y. Two Israeli Policemen Shot Dead Near Holy Site, Gunmen Killed: Police. New York Post, July 14, 2017. Retrieved July 17, 2017 from:
- 1920 Nebi Musa Riots. Wikipedia. Retrieved July 17, 2017 from:
- Krygier, D. US State Department Slammed for Blaming Israel for Palestinian Violence and Terror. World Israel News. July 23, 2017. Retrieved July 24, 2017 from:
- Kuperwasser, Y. Palestinian Payments to Incarcerated Terrorists and Martyrs’ Families Rise in 2017. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs: Israeli Security, Regional Diplomacy, and International Law. July 24, 2017. Retrieved July 24, 2017 from:
- The Palestinian Terrorist Who Slaughtered Israeli Family To Receive $3,120 Monthly From PA. United With Israel: The Global Movement for Israel. July 25, 2017. Retrieved July 25, 2017 from:
- Yemini, B.D. Muslim Self-Racism: The ‘Low Expectations Syndrome.’ YNET News, July 24, 2017. Retrieved July 24, 2017 from: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4993554,00.html