Eli Nirenberg

Media Must Reject Wording Promoting Anti-Jewish Hate

Palestinian Islamic Jihad supporters celebrate what they said was a victory over Israel in Gaza City, August 29, 2014 (Emad Nassar/Flash90)

In early July, after a number of unacceptable attacks originating from Jenin, including rocket fire, the Israel Defense Forces conducted a military operation in the West Bank city to combat terrorism. The operation was a resounding success, with bombs confiscated, production lines disrupted, and most importantly, zero civilian deaths. Colonel Richard Hecht explained, “There were 12 people killed; every one that was killed was involved directly with terrorism.” In urban warfare, killing only combatants is often a difficult feat. For any other country, Israel’s operation would be hailed as an example of how to counter terrorist activity while showing the utmost respect for human life.

However, for the Jewish state, this is not so. Looking back at coverage of the Jenin operation, one would have no idea that Israel targeted terrorists. This is because increasingly, Western media has decided to use the language of Jew haters in seemingly objective reporting. Already before Jenin, CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour described the vicious murder of two Jewish girls, Maia and Rina Dee, and their mother, Lucy Dee, as a “shootout,” implying that the Dee family was on the same moral footing as the terrorist who murdered them (Amanpour apologized weeks later after the threat of a lawsuit).

With the Jenin operation, language meant to demonize Israel and clear terrorists became all the more common. The Economist affectionately referred to “Gen Z fighters” who have a “powerful brand.” For Al Jazeera, a 29-year-old cradling a “large automatic weapon” is a “resistance fighter.” For BBC host Anjana Gadgil, it was simply a fact that, “Israeli forces are happy to kill children,” despite the fact that these sixteen and seventeen-year-old “children” brandishing weapons of war were hailed as fighters by terrorist organizations. When former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett asked her what she would call a seventeen-year-old trying to kill her family, Gadgil demurred. Perhaps from the comfort of her London studio, she could not contemplate what every Israeli mother must fear. For the media, those who want to murder Israelis are called by many names: Gen Z fighters, resistance fighters, children, youths, and rebels. Only the use of the word “terrorist” seems to be on the decline.

I cannot help but feel there is an antisemitic nature to this portrayal. Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other organizations openly call for the murder of all Jews. These terrorists may be “resisting” the Israeli military, but they are also “resisting” the existence of the Jewish people in the same way that the Pittsburgh or Poway synagogue shooters were: For them, killing Jews is in itself a good thing. As the Hamas Charter says, “The Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,” with the hunt against the Jews thus hastening judgement day. When the media normalizes these individuals as resistance fighters, the media plays into dangerous rhetoric and implies that “youths” are “punching up” in murdering the powerful Jews. They are implying that the 52 Jews murdered so far this year are legitimate casualties of war even though the vast majority were civilians: mothers, fathers, and children going about their daily lives.

I write this on the eve of the Ninth of Av, when Jerusalem was twice destroyed, and I recall the days in which the Babylonians and the Romans besieged the Jewish people. I think about the threats to us throughout history and I urge the media to remember their past. For centuries, media sources have fed into, normalized, and given platforms to antisemites, including Adolf Hitler. What is one thing they can do about that today? Take a simple step: Stop normalizing those who proudly hate Jews. Stop using wording that promotes anti-Jewish hatred. Stop whitewashing Palestinian terrorists.

About the Author
Eli Nirenberg recently graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, double majoring in Economics and Political Science and minoring in Spanish. He has interned with AIPAC, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and the Tikvah Fund and is a veteran pro-Israel campus activist. Eli most recently returned from five months in Israel, where he learned at David Shapell College of Jewish Studies and volunteered in the Israeli war effort.
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