To most Israelis (not withstanding certain Israeli-Arab MKs) and Jews, Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach are our own children. It matters not where they studied, their level of religiosity, their political views or where they lived.
But for some in the media, the defining element is the three teens’ connection to “settlements” that appears to be more important than the human element of the story.
For a media obsessed with the perceived centrality of settlements to the entire conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, portraying Fraenkel, Shaar and Yifrach as “settlers” comfortably fits their framework. If the three teens are settlers then, ergo, they shouldn’t have been anywhere near the area from which they were taken.
So an act of terror carried out against teenagers becomes “understandable.” While readers may not agree with the kidnapping, the emphasis on Palestinian responsibility nonetheless shifts towards the victims themselves.
And what about the term “settler?”
A case in point is The Economist, which opened its report by referring to the “abduction of three young Jewish settlers.”
In correspondence between HonestReporting and The Economist, it was pointed out that of the three kidnapped teens, only one of them, Gil-ad, actually lives over the Green Line, in the community of Talmon. Naftali and Eyal live in Nof Ayalon and Elad respectively, which are both located within the pre-1967 lines and could not therefore be described as settlements.
The Economist fired back with the statement that since the boys were studying in residential West Bank yeshivas, they were within their rights to call them “settlers.”
This is certainly questionable. The addresses on their Israeli ID cards are those of their parents and it was those homes that the boys were returning to on the night that they were abducted. It can also be assumed that Naftali Fraenkel, 16 years old, would be counted as a minor in most developed countries and therefore still under the guardianship of his parents in Nof Ayalon.
Ultimately, however, the argument over semantics, as important as it is when it comes to reporting from this region, plays second fiddle to The Economist’s real agenda. And that is the dehumanization of Israelis living in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
Instead of three innocent boys who probably have the same interests as teenagers the world over, The Economist employs the term “settler” within the first sentence of its article in order to frame the story.
The term has become pejorative in the Western media and The Economist has immediately directed its readers towards the negative stereotype spread by the media of radical religious, gun-toting extremists who represent the biggest obstacle to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
As far as The Economist is concerned, three of those obstacles were removed on the night of June 12.