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A Tale of Two Killings and the Media’s Moral Equivalence

Yesterday, two incidents occurred in relation to Israel and the Palestinians which warranted media attention. But what is interesting is the way in which the two stories played out in the international media. 

Let us begin with the facts. 

At around 8am yesterday morning, a Palestinian man approached the Tapuach Junction in the West Bank, pulled out a knife and repeatedly stabbed an Israeli man. He then grabbed the man’s gun and began to open fire on the Border Guard post. Soldiers returned fire and the situation was stabilised. The victim, identified as 31 year-old father of five Eviatar Borovsky, died at the scene. His attacker, believed to be a Fatah operative from a village near Tulkarem, was treated at the scene by and taken to an Israeli hospital in Petach Tikvah. He is believed to have been released from prison less than six months ago, having been convicted three years ago for stone throwing. 

A few hours later, at 10am, an Israeli Air Force air strike on northern Gaza killed a terrorist from the “Global Jihad”, the Salafist organisation responsible for a rocket attack on Eilat a few weeks ago. Nine rockets have been fired on Israel in the past ten days by global jihad organisations, who were the same thugs responsible for a rocket attack on Sderotduring President Obama’s visit back in March.

The two incidents are in absolutely no way linked, and yet they prompted a story in the LA Times entitled “2 killings shatter relative calm between Israelis, Palestinians”. The content of that article provides an interesting case study into the way in which the international media attempts to create a moral equivalence between the death of a terrorist and the death of an innocent civilian. 

The opening sentence to the article says it all: “Tensions rose Tuesday between Israelis and Palestinians after two separate killings – one by each side – shattered what had been a period of relative calm in recent months”.

I’m not sure if the firing of rockets from Gaza into civilian areas constitutes as relative calm, but I suppose we are still living by that old adage, “it all began when Israel fired back”. 

Meanwhile, the article reports that the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is the military wing of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah, took responsibility for the brutal murder in the West Bank, calling it a “gift” to Palestinian prisoners and promising more of the same in the future. 

The article then makes a somewhat interesting commentary on the number of Israeli deaths within the West Bank in recent history declaring “the killing was the first of its kind since September 2011. Last year was the first year in recent memory during an Israeli was not killed in the West Bank, a fact that was praised as a sign of progress by President Obama during his March visit to Israel and the West Bank”. 

In light of the earlier statement of Fatah declaring they will continue gifting Palestinian prisoners with these sorts of attacks, it is interesting that the journalist felt given nobody had actually been killed in the past year and a half, progress had been made. In fact, a similar stabbing took place at the same junction back in January on a 17-year-old boy, who sustained moderate wounds. Other attacks have taken place with no fatalities but the incident that stands out in my mind is the story of 3-year-old Avigail Biton, who was in the car with her mother and her sister back in March, when Palestinians began hurling rocks at cars travelling on Route 5. Avigail’s mother Adva swerved the car, as did a truck driver, which resulted in a collision between the two vehicles. Avigail suffered a serious head injury and remains in a very critical condition in hospital. 

Given that Avigail is still alive, albeit attached to a number of tubes in an Intensive Care Unit, she does not contribute to a statistic of deaths, and therefore keeps this idea of “progress” in tack.

As Avigail’s mother said in an open letter to Ha’aretz journalist Amira Hass, “has she [Avigail] had a chance to cause anyone harm in the three years she has been alive?” The answer, to any moral person, should be no, but in the media’s game of tit-for-tat, of a “cycle of violence”, stories such as Avigail’s and of Eviatar Borovsky are just another link in the chain. 

But at least the LA Times reported on both incidents from yesterday. Locally, our Fairfax publications published a story online entitled ‘Israel kills militant blamed for Eilat attack’, where not surprisingly the murder of Eviatar Borovsky did not even rate a mention. 

In Other News:

The Australian newspaper has produced some excellent articles and editorials in relation to the BDS Movement, which has been given some prominence in the past few weeks due to issues involving our universities. 

The first was a motion passed by the SRC at the University of Sydney to call on the University to cut ties with the Technion University. You can read a response to that issue by ZFA President Philip Chester, which appeared in the Australian a few weeks back, here. Please click here to read a response from the Technion Student Association. 

The most recent issue is a protest, which took place yesterday, at the University of New South Wales in opposition to the forthcoming opening of a Max Brenner chocolate shop on campus. A Facebook event set up for the protest attracted a number of anti-Semitic comments which prompted our Prime Minister Julia Gillard to condemn the BDS Movement. In a strong message to those that support the BDS Campaign, including academics such as Stuart Rees and Jake Lynch, the Prime Minister declared, “This campaign does not serve the cause of peace and diplomacy for agreement on a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine… I welcome the strong ties our universities have with the Israeli researchers and academic institutions, and I hope these ties will deepen in the years ahead”. Her statements made the front page of yesterday’s Australian

Today, the broadsheet’s editorial sent an even stronger message with a piece entitled ‘Unis tolerating intolerance’ where supporters of such divisive campaigns on university campuses were really put in their place. Please take the time to read this thoughtful and rational piece. 

Interestingly, the protest outside Max Brenner was a flop. The estimated attendees numbered thirty and they were outnumbered by police and journalists. The Australian reported on the protest yesterday and the words of one speaker in particular stood out to me. Cat Rose, the National Union of Students’ national queer officer declared that “the administration of this university puts profits and commercial interests ahead of human rights”. 

I would imagine this officer of the National Union of Students would know without being told that according to Sharia law in the Gaza Strip, homosexuality is illegal, with the official punishment for homosexuality in Gaza being a 10-year prison sentence. One senior leader of Hamas described homosexuals as being “a minority of perverts and the mentally and morally sick”, and most senior Hamas preachers believe they deserve the death penalty. But instead of fighting for the human rights of a minority group, Cat Rose is supporting a ridiculous boycott against a chocolate shop and praising the SRC at the Sydney University for passing motions which go against the very notion of academic freedom and of tolerance. Go figure? 

Emily Gian
Media and Advocacy Director
Zionist Federation of Australia