by Hugh Fitzgerald
Words matter. Those who describe Israel as a “colonial-settler state,” an “apartheid regime,” are attempting, by dint of repetition of such phrases, to blacken the image of the Jewish state. They have met, alas, with some success. Similarlly, those who describe every act of islamocriticism as “islamophobia” have been able to intimidate many islamocritics who, not wanting to be considered “islamophobes,” too often refrain from public criticism both of the ideology of Islam and of its adherents.
In covering the acts of terrorism by Hamas, the wire-service Associated Press (AP) — one of the world’s most important distributors of news — goes out of its way to inaccurately describe Hamas terrorists and their deeds. A report on recent AP coverage of Hamas shows how the wire service misinforms readers about the nature of the terror group, here: “Associated Press Sanitizes Hamas-Initiated Violence Against Israel,” by Charles Bybelezer, Algemeiner, September 6, 2021:
About 1,500 newspapers, as well as many broadcast stations around the world, rely on AP for their news. It has 248 bureaus worldwide, and is the most widely used wire service in the world. When the AP misrepresents Hamas, its misrepresentation is republished all over the globe.
…a recent AP article referred to Gazans launching incendiary balloons into Israel and hurling explosive devices at IDF troops protecting the shared border as “activists.”
A tweet by HonestReporting drawing attention to the matter quickly spread online, garnering over 500,000 impressions and prompting a public conversation.
Despite the pushback, the AP in a subsequent piece doubled down by describing people committing acts of violence as “activists.”…
The Hamas members were engaged in violent attacks on Israeli forces, and not mere “activism”; they were throwing Molotov cocktails and other explosives designed to kill Israelis on the other side of the fence. One of their number shot and killed an Israeli border policeman. This is terrorism — attempted murder, and murder — not “activism.”
The word “activist” evokes images of African-Americans staging sit-ins at lunch counters, of John Lewis and Martin Luther King leading marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. It summons up images of Susan B. Anthony leading a parade of suffragettes holding up women’s right to vote signs. These are the “activists” who make a cause their own, hold up signs, go door-to-door to collect signatures, march on state houses and Federal office buildings to urge changes in policies, show up at Davos to appeal directly to the Great and Good. The word “activist” puts us in mind of all of these people – John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Susan B. Anthony — but the term does not apply, and should never be applied, to people, such as the members of Hamas, who terrorize and murder those they consider their enemies.
Osama bin Laden, head of Al Qaeda, was not an “activist.” Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS, could not be called an “activist.” Major Nidal Hasan, who murdered 13 of his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, was not an “activist.” Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, was not an“activist,” but a terrorist murderer, like all the others mentioned in this paragraph. Dalal Mughrabi, who headed the group of Palestinians who hijacked an Israeli bus and killed 38 of its passengers, was never an “activist.” Nor is Ahlam al-Tamimi, who planned the mass-murder at the Sbarro Pizzeria in Jerusalem, where 39 were killed, 13 of them children, and 130 wounded, identified properly as an “activist.” The Hamas-backed Palestinians – many of them are not just supported by Hamas, but are members of the terror group – who rioted at Israel’s security fence, trying to breach it by throwing explosives at Israeli soldiers just as determined to prevent that breach, are not “activists.” They are not making an argument. They are trying to kill. They are “terrorists.”
Shortly thereafter, the AP on August 30 published, “Israeli policeman dies of gunshot wound from Gaza protest,” which appropriately described the killer of Barel Shmueli as a “gunman” rather than an “activist.”
Calling the man who shot at Barel Shmueli – who later died – point blank in the head, an “activist” was apparently too much even for the AP.
Nevertheless, linguistic distortions persist. Generally speaking, people do not get shot in the head at point-blank range during “protests” or “demonstrations” — especially one “staged by Hamas” described thus:
On Monday night, hundreds of Palestinians staged a demonstration along the border, burning tires and hurling rocks and explosives at Israeli troops.
One could not be faulted for believing that using “riots” or “terrorism” would more aptly denote the chaos.
A “demonstration” ordinarily summons up images of people gathering together in a public space, holding up signs, sometimes chanting slogans. There was a “huge demonstration” in Paris after the killings at Charlie Hebdo, with thousands holding signs that read “Je suis Charlie” as a sign of solidarity with the murdered cartoonists. There have been “demonstrations” against the killer of Sarah Halimi managing to avoid trial. Signs were carried, but there was no violence. Iranian exiles in Europe have staged “demonstrations” in peaceful protest against the regime in Tehran. There is a difference between all these nonviolent gatherings, and what has been going on at Israel’s security fence, with those volleys of Molotov cocktails.
In “Israel approves steps to ease Gaza Strip blockade,” the wire service noted that “tensions have run high in recent weeks as Hamas activists have launched incendiary balloons into Israel.”
Once again, those terrorist-sponsored violent “activists” are rearing their ugly heads.
Perhaps worse, the piece continues:
An Israeli soldier who was shot by a protester on Aug. 21 died of his wounds on Monday.
Indeed, the Palestinian — who in a prior AP article was referred to as a “gunman” — is magically transformed into a “protester.” This, despite reports that the Israeli officer, Shmueli, was reportedly murdered by a Hamas lieutenant….
The man who killed the Israeli soldier Barel Shmueli had been correctly identified in a previous AP article as a “gunman.” What was it then, that caused AP in this later piece to describe the Hamas killer merely as a “protester”? Some individual was responsible for this deliberate change in wording – the AP should find out who, and how he, or she, justifies that change. Or was there pressure on AP from some Muslim media-monitoring group that wanted the word “protester” to be reinstated, to replace the truthful “gunman,” and also to make sure that the gunman was not identified as a “Hamas lieutenant”?
The AP has tremendous power in molding minds about world events. It has chosen to tell its readers that the Palestinians rioting at the security fence are “activists” and “protesters” – both words suggest non-violence and righteous indignation rather than deliberate attempts to “to strike terror in the hearts of the Infidels” and to do them grievous bodily harm, even to kill them.
The AP has in other ways shown a palpable want of sympathy for Israelis and Israel. During the last Hamas-Israel conflict this May, AP employees in Gaza claimed to be unaware that they shared the Al-Jalila office building for years with a Hamas command-and-control center. They insisted that they had “no idea” that Hamas occupied several floors of the building. The president of AP was quick to denounce the IDF for its supposedly unjustifiable attack on that building, calling it “shocking and horrifying.” He, and the AP, seemed to think that the AP office in Gaza had been deliberately targeted because Israel wanted to keep information about Israel’s actions in Gaza from being reported to the outside world. This was, of course, malevolent nonsense. the IDF did not target the AP office, which was simply unavoidable collateral damage; it was targeting those Hamas offices. No AP personnel – indeed no one in the entire building – were hurt. The IDF had warned the building’s inhabitants, by telephone, to get out of the building some two hours before the actual attack. It took a while for AP to calm down, to listen to the IDF’s perfectly sensible explanation, and cease its over-the-top invective against Israel.
What led AP in this later piece to describe the Hamas killer, the one it had in earlier stories called a “gunman,” as a “protester”? The change in wording didn’t happen by itself. The AP should find out who was responsible and dress down, or ideally even discharge, that employee. And it should send out to its 248 bureaus worldwide a kind of Style Sheet that would make clear that people throwing explosives, firing pistols, and trying to breach a security fence are not “activists” nor “protesters.” They are not engaged in “demonstrations.” They are violent “rioters,” they are in some cases “gunmen,” they are always intent on physically harming and “striking terror” in the hearts of, the Jews of Israel.
Will the AP have learned anything from being taken to task? Will it cease to be so deplorably one-sided in its treatment of the Israel-Palestinian conflict? Possibly, though both are doubtful. One can only hope. But others who are presented with the evidence of the AP’s deplorable parti pris in its choice of words may begin to realize how much damage the AP has done to Israel, and how much, per contra, it has helped the Palestinians, and cease to accord the wire service the respect it no longer deserves.
First published in Jihad Watch.