Steering Clear of Talking about Terror

The world has been rocked by tragedy over the past week.  

Closest to home, Israel is in mourning. First, twenty-year old Israeli, Tomer Hazan was lured into a taxi by a Palestinian co-worker, who murdered him in a field near the Palestinian town of Qalqilya in the West Bank, and threw his body down a well.

Then on Sunday, twenty-year old soldier Gabriel Kobi was fatally shot by a Palestinian sniper while on duty in Hebron. A manhunt still continues to find his killer.

The young loss of life is heartbreaking and has shaken Israel to the core.

Tragedy also befell Nairobi, Kenya when at least 62 people and over 175 injured were murdered by Somali Al-Shabab Islamic terrorists in a shopping mall.

In Iraq, hundreds were killed in back-to-back car bombings across nine cities. Even a Shite funeral procession was targeted by terrorists. This came off the back of the United Nations declaring that in July alone over 1057 people were killed, while in August the death toll reached 916 – the deadliest period in Iraq in over five years.

And also on this deadly Sunday, the Taliban took responsibility for a suicide attack on a Pakistani church that killed 75 people. The scenes of bloodshed and carnage were horrific, and many women and children were killed. It was the most brutal attack on Pakistan’s Christian minority ever. 

This loss of innocent life is sad and thought provoking; causing us to question and lament the destructive world we are living in.

But what is also concerning is the slanted way these events have played out in the local media.

The concurrent car bombings in Iraq received only a miniscule ‘box’ in The Age newspaper, while the mass killing of Christians in Pakistan took backseat to an explosive story on Israeli forces manhandling EU diplomats in the West Bank, and seizing Palestinian aid. Not only did this feature in The Age online, but the one-sided claim was reprinted in hard-copy from Sunday- Tuesday.

(For your information The IDF published this clarification on what occurred with the French diplomats in the West Bank. It highlights the media’s unrelenting bias and I suggest you take a look.)

And when it came to covering the murder of Tomer Hazan, both the Herald Sun and The Age (which only covered it 72 hours after the incident) used the word “allegedly” so many times, making the story seem far-fetched and unreliable, when in fact it is rooted in an admission by the murderer himself. The Australian apparently didn’t find the story newsworthy at all.

The obvious question to emerge is why the distortion and warped prioritizing? What makes the loss of one life more or less newsworthy than another? And whose right is it to choose?  

Is it that people aren’t interested in the deaths of Pakistanis and Iraqis? Or has the death toll in these countries gotten so great that people can no longer comprehend the tragedy?

Is the regurgitation of a one-sided story of IDF aggression indicative of a morbid obsession with Israel? Or is the media simply diverting attention away from a string of Islamic terrorist attacks out of fear of backlash? The answer is probably all of the above.  

In an opinion piece published in the Jerusalem Post, Seth Frantzman says that “the genocidal nature of this type of terror is downplayed.”

He continues “The New York Times described the Nairobi perpetrators as ‘Shabaab militant attackers.’ Really? When they killed 78-year-old Ghanian poet Kofi Awooner and Kenyan radio host Ruhila Adatia-Sood, was that part of a “military” operation? The scenes of piles of dead women sprawled on the floor of the mall; is that “militant?” 

Further, author, journalist and publisher, Melanie Phillips, came out scathing this week in her blog post ‘Mass Murder and Moral Blindness.’ She condemned British Prime Minister, David Cameron’s response to the Nairobi attack.

In the wake of the attack Prime Minister Cameron said; “these appalling terrorist attacks that take place where the perpetrators claim they do it in the name of religion- they don’t.

“They do it in the name of terror, violence and extremism and their warped view of the world. They don’t represent Islam or Muslims in Britain or anywhere else in the world.” 

Phillips responds by identifying; “Mr Cameron’s mistake is to articulate the absurd non-sequitur parroted by so many…that because many Muslims do not endorse Islamic terrorism, ergo such terrorism is not truly perpetrated in the name of Islam. This is as nonsensical as saying that because many Christians were the victims of the Spanish Inquisition, the Spanish Inquisition could not have been truly perpetrated in the name of Christianity; or that because most Jews are not ultra-Orthodox the ultra-Orthodox are not truly Jews.”

The events of the last few days were all perpetrated by Islamic extremists. Identifying this global commonality does not make one a racist or an Islamaphob. It does not lay claims to one’s approach to the Islamic tradition or to Muslims worldwide.

However, it seems that fear of such backlash has led the mass media to act as the selector and framer of fact and event. Increasingly we see our media outlets chose what stories to omit, and what to include, what to accentuate and what to downplay. This approach to covering world events, particularly terrorism, is creating apathy towards the plight of those who bear the brunt of this extremism, as well as a warped view of connected global attacks.

Phillips says it best; “this confusion is lethal. Those who cannot even bring themselves to call the force that is attacking them by its proper name will be defeated by that force…Moral blindness and mass murders are locked in a fatal embrace like a drowning couple in a whirlpool.”

And so in the meantime it’s easier to stick to what you know, and so they do. They stick to critiquing Israel…relentlessly. 

Chag Sameach everyone!  

Gabrielle Debinski
Media and Advocacy Director 

Zionist Federation of Australia