Supporting terrorism and wanton violence is not a legitimate political perspective. The media should not relate to it as such. It is good to give coverage to diverse views but any opinion loses its legitimacy once its proponents resort to or encourage illegal violence.
According to Brian Jenkins, “Terrorism is theater.” Terrorists don’t engage in meaningless violence and wanton destruction. Each suicide bombing, qassam rocket attack, kidnapping incident, stone-throwing incident, riot, and eradication of a world heritage or religious site is carefully designed so that the terrorists can receive maximum publicity from the international media. As one of the terrorists involved in the 1972 Munich Olympic Massacre stated, “We knew that the people of England and America would switch their television sets from any program about the plight of the Palestinians if there was a sporting event on another channel. So we decided to use their Olympics, the most sacred ceremony of this religion, to make the world pay attention to us. We offered up sacrifices to your gods of sports and television.”
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once stated, “Unreported terrorist acts would be like the proverbial tree falling in the silent forest.” In other words, the international media supplies terrorists the publicity that they need in order to obtain their political objectives. By raising awareness about their cause via their malevolent acts of death and destruction, their message reaches their target audiences, helping to increase their power over the international community.
In all too many news reports, journalists fall into the traps carefully set up by terrorist organizations by providing them coverage in the name of objective media coverage. The news media often will cite the justifications given by various terrorist organizations for waging murderous attacks against innocent civilians and committing other crimes against humanity. For example, when the BBC reported that the UN confirmed that ISIS destroyed the Palmyra Temple, they also gave coverage to ISIS’s justification for the destruction of this magnificent world heritage site: “IS believes the ancient temples are idols and false gods.”
In other instances, Palestinian rioters who throw stones at IDF soldiers and civilians are presented as poor oppressed little kids. An IDF soldier was beaten by a Palestinian mob after trying to arrest a rock throwing teenager but according to CNN, “the footage shows an Israeli soldier aggressively handling the boy” who had a “broken arm” while protesting against “settlement construction in Nabi Saleh.”
CNN completely adopted the narrative of the teenager’s father Bassem Tamimi, even though he himself was given a three year sentence for assaulting a police officer, his wife Nariman films for B’tselem’s video project and Algemeiner reported that all of these activists are paid to violently confront IDF soldiers.
But CNN is not alone in this. Even many Israeli media outlets provided justifications for the stone-throwing by extensively interviewing the relatives of this teenager and giving coverage to their perspective despite the fact that stone-throwing can and many times does kill. It is a form of terrorism, especially if the stones are thrown at moving vehicles. In fact, if one reads the Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, the Times of Israel and many other publications, one will often find Fatah and Hamas statements being reprinted without critical commentary, thus offering terror organizations direct access to the Israeli public.
I published a book titled “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media.” One of the main findings of the book is that the media systematically refers to Palestinian female suicide bombers as militants rather than as terrorists. They are ten times more likely to provide them with positive media coverage than male suicide bombers by interviewing the terrorist’s family, focusing on their physical appearance rather than the violent actions they committed, mentioning their political justifications for their actions, and portraying them as feminist heroes that stood up against the so-called Israeli occupation rather than as murderers.
In one atrocious incident during this period of time, many news outlets compared Israeli terror victim Rachel Levy to Palestinian suicide bomber Ayat Al Akhras, as if there was no difference between the terror victim and the terrorists. Newsweek even presented Levy as an upper class spoiled teenager while Akhras was merely a poor refugee influenced by what happened surrounding her. According to Newsweek, Levy was “petite with flowing hair and a girlish grip between her teeth.” She was raised “in the shadow of a sleek shopping filled with cinemas, cafes, and boutiques.” Al Akhras, to the contrary, was “striking attractive with intense hazel eyes” and “grew up in a densely packed slum whose 12,000 residents lived in poverty and frustration.”
Newsweek did not even take into consideration the fact that Al Akhras grew up in a three-story home that was very luxurious compared to most of the residents of the Dehaishe Refugee Camp thanks to the good job Israel provided her father with. Just because the terrorist was Palestinian and the victim was Israeli, automatically, Newsweek provided the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade with a justification for their heinous crime out of the belief that they are the underdog fighting against a superior force. They neglected to take into consideration that they targeted innocent civilians shopping in a grocery store right before Shabbat and not a military force in a formal battlefield while following the rules of war according to international law.
Some might ask, why is it so bothersome to give coverage to the perspective of terror organizations, suicide bombers, rioters, and stone-throwers? Why get so frustrated over calling Hamas a militant group rather than a terrorist organization, even though most newspapers abroad do refer to Al Qaeda as a terror organization and Hamas is merely the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, the ideological forefathers of Al Qaeda? Eric Rozenman, the Washington, DC Director of CAMERA, had the following to say to such people: “George Orwell wrote a famous essay on Politics and the English Language written in 1946 toward the end of which he spoke about how sloppy language leads to sloppy thinking.
Orwell said political choice of words in the end is used to make murder acceptable and that is why this is so important. It is so important because at the deep level, it implies that the murder of Israelis is somehow excusable because Palestinians have real frustrations and grievances; therefore, it’s just killing and not murder, while the murder of Americans is not excusable; it is terrorism.”
Some might ponder what can be done to stop this trend. After all, every free society needs to report the news in a balanced and objective manner. One cannot avoid reporting about terror attacks. However, while this may be true, it is possible to minimize the damage that terrorists cause by reporting on the terror attacks without giving the perpetrators of such horrendous violence any kind of a voice. There is no need to quote Islamic Jihad, Hamas, ISIS, and other terror group’s justification for their actions. We don’t need to interview the families of stone-throwers, rioters and terrorists. Doing so only encourages the phenomenon. We don’t need to refer to terrorists as militants. We can remain true to our commitment to report the news truthfully and objectively without giving terrorists any kind of voice.
After all, terrorism is not a legitimate political perspective as every viewpoint loses its legitimacy once it resorts to illegal violence. There is no need to relate to terrorists as having a legitimate opinion. While it is good to show all perspectives on an issue whether right wing Israeli, left wing Israeli, the views of foreign governments and their political opposition, human rights activists, Muslim dissidents, etc., terrorists and individuals that engage in violence should not be treated as individuals with just another perspective and in my view, it is an injustice to the Israeli left to accuse anyone who seeks to have the appeasement of terrorism erased from the journalism profession as having a right wing agenda. This is not a right-wing or left-wing issue. It is about the encouragement of violence verses legitimate political activism! Relating to terrorists as legitimate political activists encourages more terrorism and violence! It is a smack in the face to all Muslim dissidents and left-wingers who engage on a daily basis in legitimate political activism to achieve their objectives without resorting to violence. It is possible to support a free press while not giving terrorists a platform to encourage more violence. No one has to give promoters of violence and terrorism a platform to spew their horrific agenda! All journalists should adopt such a methodology of supporting a free press without appeasing terrorism and violence!