How Were the Temple Mount Killings Reported in America’s Media?
Israel has been getting some bad press recently in the United States, much of it self-inflicted by the decision to halt the expansion of the pluralistic prayer area near Robinson’s Arch on the Western Wall.
Fair enough, but much of the reporting on Israel and its neighbors by mainstream media sources is factually inaccurate, misleadingly out of context or editorialized to promote a view.
The reporting on the Temple Mount violence is a good case in point.
NPR News Now morning report on July 24th told its listeners three Palestinians and three Israelis were killed in the aftermath of new Israeli security measures relating to the Al Aqsa Mosque. The killings of the Israeli police that precipitated the security measures, or the massacre of Israeli civilians during a Shabbat dinner in the aftermath of the highly charged incitement didn’t merit a word for context.
It really is quite a feat to put both moral equivalence and overt bias all into one short report.
Not to be outdone, PBS Newshour anchor Judy Woodruff said the (Jordanian) “dispute added to tension over new security measures at the al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, they sparked protests on Friday and several Palestinians were killed.”
Again, there was no mention of the root cause of the violence that began with the killing of two Israeli Druze police officers by Israeli Arab citizens who smuggled weapons onto the Temple Mount, breaking the fragile peace in this religiously charged site.
CBC Radio perversely reported that “three Israeli settlers also died in a separate incident in the west bank“ insinuating it’s always open season to kill settlers, i.e., trespassing occupiers.
The NY Times headline “Deadly violence erupts,” as if de novo Palestinians and Jews kill each other with no one to blame. The Palestinians killed were described as “protesters.” There were five photos accompanying the article that were good examples of editorialized photojournalism, a fraud perpetrated on the public, who understandably expect news reporting, including its choice of pictures, to be fair and unbiased in context.
The Times web page shows Palestinians cowering and screaming as they run away from Israeli tear gas. Muslims are seen in respectful peaceful prayer. There are two photos of Israeli police in riot gear dragging away a single pitiful Palestinian protester, and one photo of heroic-appearing rock-throwing Palestinians in the image of David vs. Goliath. Mind you, this was in a news article, not an editorial.
The Times continues its long history of finding the good side of Palestinian terrorists, in this case that the terrorist signed off on his Facebook page with emoji hearts before massacring a family enjoying a Sabbath dinner.
The Wall Street Journal news section, not to be confused with its consistently more pro-Israel editorial page, joined the moral equivalence crowd writing, “A weekend of violence left three Israelis and at least three Palestinians dead.” Again there was no differentiation made between violent protesters and innocent Israeli civilians.
Nowhere in the mainstream American media was there any sensible investigative reporting regarding the placement of metal detectors at other Muslim sensitive sites, the question being whether the Israeli decision was egregious or overly provocative.
As any freshman journalism student could have easily found all over the internet, metal detectors and all kinds of security devices are used at Muslim holy sites all around the Arab world, since Muslim-against-Muslim violence is ubiquitous at Muslim holy sites throughout the Middle East, even at Islam’s most holy site in Mecca, where scores of people have been killed, one segment of Islam warring against another,
As Jonathan Tobin wrote in JNS, “To an objective observer, the crisis…makes no sense…. How could putting metal detectors to protect a holy site be considered a casus belli …the answer is that this isn’t about metal detectors. It’s about something much bigger: the right of Jews to be in Jerusalem.”
The media have ignored the larger issue that President Abbas may be imitating his mentor Arafat, who used the Temple Mount as a starting point for Intifada.
Abbas has decided to “ride the recent wave of unrest…and lead the struggle against Israel over the Al Aqsa Mosque” reports the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Instead of defusing the situation after the metal detectors were removed, Abbas continued his incitement saying, “Jerusalem is ours and it is our capital. What you are doing is correct and…(I) support all that you did and are doing.” There were no calls for only exclusively peaceful protests.
Abbas is mobilizing the anger on the Palestinian street to deflect attention away from his Fatah rival Mohammed Dahlen and from Hamas, who is still seen as a less corrupt alternative to the Palestinian Authority.
Abbas is also using the unrest to turn the attention away from Congress’ demand (the Taylor Force Legislation) that the PA stop funding Palestinian terrorists, i.e. martyrs, who are incentivized with more money, the more heinous the terror they commit.
The decision to install metal detectors after a terrorist incident seems obvious to any Western observer who is forced to go through them all the time. I go through a metal detector to enter my Conservative synagogue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan every time.
However, in this part of the world sensibilities are distorted, and respect for differing narratives is in short supply, especially after generations of incitement and brainwashing in the Arab population.
It is ironic that the main impetus for the use of metal detectors has been Palestinians themselves, who hijacked scores of airliners in the 1960’s through the 1970’s, with death and mayhem accompanying their “freedom fight.”
As Beni Avi wrote in the NY Post, “Are they really going to start World War III over metal detectors? Mecca, which is a holy site, has metal detectors. And the Vatican. And many buildings in Manhattan and around the U.S. Yet on Monday the UN Security Council convened an “emergency” session on this new “threat to international peace and security.”
American democracy is an ongoing experiment, and an unbiased media is essential for its continued vitality. Picking and choosing which facts to report based on a viewpoint is fine for editorials, but not in a news article.
In the 1990’s I interviewed a Pulitzer Prize winner journalist who told me that injecting your own opinion into news stories is now considered good journalism. I was appalled. When I asked one of the leading writers of Haaretz if he was against editorialized news in his paper, he told me that if I didn’t like it I should read another paper!
Americans and Israelis deserve and require factually accurate and in-context news reporting on all topics, especially on the hotly charged topic of Israel, where bias against Israel is a given throughout most of the world.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.