This year, April 25 commemorated Yom Hazikaron– Israel’s Memorial Day, in remembrance of heroes who gave their lives protecting our country, as well as citizens murdered in terror attacks. This always falls on the eve of Yom Ha’atzmaut– Israel’s Independence Day.
This year’s memorial fell at a particularly tumultuous time, following months of terror attacks and murders. On the eve of Yom Hazikaron itself, there was a car ramming in a popular square in Jerusalem, injuring at least 7, including a six year old boy. Two weeks before, during the Passover holiday, two sisters and their mother were gunned down in their car in a drive-by shooting attack. The sisters, Maia and Rina Dee, only sixteen and twenty years old, were pronounced dead at the scene. Their mother, Lucy, succumbed to her wounds on the day of her daughters’ funerals. The Dee family recently moved from England to Israel. The immediate BBC report was a short article, describing the terrorists as “suspected Palestinian gunmen”. Only at the bottom of the page did they report Hamas’s praise of the murders, hailing this civilian attack as their cause’s “natural response” to Israel’s actions.
Only a month before, Elan Ganeles, an American visiting Israel for a friend’s wedding, was shot in his car, while driving to the wedding. He never made it there. An American citizen and resident was murdered by Palestinian terrorism and the Washington Post did not even report on it. CNN had one shot article.
There are many ways to incorrectly report the news, and the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, and other sites, have successfully done them all. First, the language a publication chooses to use speaks volumes. Using the word “killed”, instead of using the term “murder”, creates an entirely different connotation. Murder is more accurate- the deliberate and calculated manner in which lives were destroyed. The same goes for “militant group” instead of “terrorist organization”, a label which these publications refuse to use for Hamas. This is despite Hamas being officially designated as one by the US, EU, and Canada, to name a few. The sites always attempt to equate the sovereign state of Israel with a terrorist organization in attempts to create the false impression of equal footing, actions, and “retaliations”. There is also the misuse of titles to falsify information. An example from the most recent tensions can be seen in a CNN article, titled “Palestinian Woman Shot Dead in Huwara”. One must click on the article and read it to finally learn that the woman was a terrorist, who was stabbing a 20 year old soldier and was shot in self defense.
There are likewise many ways to criticize Israel’s policies and actions without demonization. Using disproportionate critique and a biased approach is not that way. Nor is the unfair expectation that Israel endure violent attacks and not defend itself and its civilians, just as any other country would. The reporting of these news outlets dehumanizes the country and completely misrepresents the context, and even facts, of each situation. Ultimately this harms peace efforts: by empowering Palestinians to continue deadly violence against Jews and to refuse to enter peace negotiations without repercussion; and by promulgating illegitimate and untrue portrayals of Israeli self-defense.
Israel has, as my professor calls it: the “Beach Cafe Problem”. Reporters here can comment on anything Israel is doing “wrong”, take notes on the ground of the “occupation”, and an hour later sit in a cozy cafe overlooking the pristine beaches of Tel Aviv. Why would anyone want to go to war-torn Syria to report on illegal chemical warfare; to Afghanistan to document the growing repression of women; or to Yemen to record the desperate conditions of millions of refugees? Ironically, it is Israel’s stable, free, and thriving democracy that provides the opportunity for so much negative press.
Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the progenitor of Jewish Modern Orthodoxy, in “Kol Dodi Dofek”, states that the establishment of the state of Israel proved to the world that “Jewish Blood is Not Cheap” (translated from the Hebrew: Dam Yehudi Lo Hefker). Now that we have our own country, we can and will stand up for ourselves. No Jewish lives shall be taken without repercussion. You cannot murder us wantonly. We will defend ourselves, in word and deed.
The day after the Passover Seder, the murder of the Dees was reported. At the Seder we remember, and we repeat every year: “For not only one enemy has risen up against the Jewish nation to destroy us, but in every generation they rise up to destroy us.”
But we will rise as well. We will show that Jewish blood is not cheap, it is not free for the taking. We will defend ourselves against any who wish to wipe us off the earth, and stand up to those who slander, undermine, and delegitimize us in the press. And most importantly, we will keep hoping and praying for the day when our existence won’t be challenged, when there will be no need to defend ourselves, when we will all live in peace, acceptance, understanding, and truth.