During the tense four days that have passed since the start of the Israel-Hamas truce on November 24, media outlets have created a false moral equivalence between the release of Israeli hostages held by the terrorist group, and Palestinian prisoners who have been jailed in Israel. Such coverage, which implicitly equates Israel to Hamas and validates the latter’s strategy, may have far-reaching ramifications on the continuation of the war.
In order to achieve their distorted equation between innocent women and children who were abducted from their homes — and prisoners who have been charged with acts of violence or terror — media outlets have used three parallel strategies: Sanitizing the Palestinian prisoners, referring to the Israeli hostages as “prisoners,” and creating textual and visual symmetry regarding the joyful family reunions of each side.
AP and Reuters Set the Narrative
The Associated Press has managed to incorporate the first two strategies in one headline: “Palestinian families rejoice over release of minors and women in wartime prisoner swap.”
– These were terrorist offenders, not innocent “minors and women.”
– This was not a like-for-like “wartime prisoner swap.” There’s no moral equivalence between Israeli hostages and Palestinian terror offenders.https://t.co/UEGM0UxrXg pic.twitter.com/AAnLE0VV0m
— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) November 26, 2023
Some are trying to equivocate between hostages & Palestinian security prisoners being released.
Israeli hostages were abducted from their homes in a blatant war crime. The Palestinian prisoners were arrested for committing acts of violence.
It’s repugnant to equate the two. pic.twitter.com/Bbc71jm50b
— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) November 25, 2023
The rest of the AP’s story, while including some background on the released Palestinian “minors and women” (but none on the Israeli “prisoners”), carries an empathetic tone that borders on justification for Hamas’ kidnappings. For example, it quotes an official referring to “prisoner exchanges” as “the only hope” for prisoners’ families, without mentioning that she works for a group with terror links:
“These kinds of prisoner exchanges are often the only hope families have to see their sons or fathers released before many years go by,” said Amira Khader, international advocacy officer at Addameer, a group supporting Palestinian prisoners. “It’s what they live for, it’s like a miracle from God.”
The story ends with an emotional quote from a released Palestinian prisoner, who was jailed in Israel for throwing stones:
It was his first glimpse of the world after a year in prison for throwing stones in the northern town of Qalqilya. He was freed even though he had eight months of his sentence left to serve. He turned toward his father, wrapping him into a hug. “Look, I’m almost bigger than you now,” he said.
The hurling of rocks can kill, and it has killed Israelis in the past. It is most certainly not a harmless pastime activity, as some media have intimated. The story also does not detail the various charges against most of the released Palestinians, which range from attempted murder and violent assault to terror affiliations.
Hostages for Prisoners
Returning women and children. Fair deal, right?
— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) November 23, 2023
The same distorted patterns appear in Reuters’ coverage. A mind-boggling headline refers to Israel and Hamas “prisoners,” including a four-year-old whose parents were brutally murdered in front of her eyes before she was kidnapped to Gaza.
No, @Reuters, there is no equivalence between Israeli hostages held captive by Hamas and Palestinian prisoners held by Israel for terrorism offenses.
— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) November 27, 2023
An earlier version of the story included a video featuring a split-screen showing 9-year-old Emily Hand, an Israeli girl released from Hamas captivity, reunited with her father, next to the family reunion of released Palestinian bomber Israa Jaabis:
A @Reuters video employs a split screen. On the left, 9-year-old Emily Hand, reunited with her father after being kidnapped by Hamas. On the right, Israa Jaabis, convicted Palestinian bomber, greeted by her family.
Why has Reuters created a moral equivalence between the two?… pic.twitter.com/UQfMLn1iRM
— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) November 26, 2023
A textual symmetry followed the visual one: After detailing Hand’s family’s plight, the story ends with a quote from Shorouk Dwayyat. Nowhere does it mention that Dwayyat is a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine member who tried to stab Israelis to death:
In comments to Al Jazeera TV from her home, freed prisoner Shorouk Dwayyat, who had served half of her 16-year prison term, said she felt joy mixed with pain. “I feel like I am in a dream, but I hope that the war on Gaza will stop as soon as possible.”
When one of the world’s largest news agencies fails to mention such details, instead presenting terrorists on the same moral level as a 9-year-old who’s been abducted from her home, it violates journalistic and human values alike.
US, UK Media Sanitize and Equate
The New York Times also featured Israa Jaabis, sanitizing her attempted murder by passively blaming her vehicle:
She was arrested that year after her car exploded at a checkpoint near Jerusalem in the West Bank, leaving her disfigured and an Israeli police officer seriously injured.
No, @nytimes, Israa Jaabees wasn’t “accused of attempted murder.” She was convicted. Because her car didn’t passively explode, she detonated a gas canister meant to be part of a suicide bombing.
You also forgot to mention that Addameer, whom you cite as a “prisoners’ rights… pic.twitter.com/DdNhdwEE1J
— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) November 26, 2023
National Public Radio didn’t even bother checking the facts. It simply published a photo gallery presenting the release of Israeli hostages amid pictures of Palestinians celebrating their prisoners’ release.
The Washington Post, meanwhile, included the following paragraph about the Palestinian prisoners release after a description and photos of the family reunions of freed Israeli children:
Videos posted on social media showed similarly joyful scenes in the West Bank, where Palestinian women and children freed by Israel were reunited with their families. A bus carrying Red Cross staff and the prisoners as part of the second day’s releases arrived to a crowd of supporters holding flags in the occupied West Bank early Sunday.
But the “similarly joyful scenes” were not similar at all. As German magazine Bild has pointed out: “The Israelis celebrate the return of the hostages, the Palestinians the release of prisoners. The difference couldn’t be greater: Israeli parents peacefully hug their released children. Palestinian ex-prisoners are cheered at terror marches.”
Die Israelis feiern die Rückkehr der Geiseln, die Palästinenser die Freilassung von Gefangenen. Der Unterschied könnte nicht größer sein: Israelische Eltern umarmen friedlich ihre freigekommenen Kinder. Palästinensische Ex-Häftlinge werden auf Terror-Aufmärschen bejubelt. pic.twitter.com/zmVrCwgoD0
— BILD (@BILD) November 26, 2023
The Washington Post also does not say a word about why the Palestinian women and “children” (most of whom were minors) were arrested in the first place.
Israel spokesperson Mark Regev confronted a Sky News anchor about this issue, exposing the fact she was not even aware of the charges against the released Palestinians.
Some media outlets have created an abysmal narrative that whitewashes terrorists by comparing them to innocent toddlers. Some have minimized the kidnappings that took place on October 7, by equating the suffering of Israeli hostages to that of Palestinians in Israeli jails.
And by doing so, they have created a false moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas. They have also implicitly validated Hamas’ strategy of kidnapping Israelis, and undermined Israel’s justification to continue fighting against the terror organization.
In a week that may be decisive for the course of the war as the agreed-upon truce between Israel and Hamas comes to an end, media outlets have a responsibility to report the facts, not to create them.
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South Dakota Passes Bill Adopting IHRA Definition of Antisemitism
South Dakota’s state Senate passed on Thursday a bill requiring law enforcement agencies to refer to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism when investigating anti-Jewish hate crimes.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) already adopted the definition, which has been embraced by lawmakers across the political spectrum, via executive order in 2021. This latest measure, HB 1076, aims to further integrate the IHRA’s guidance into law and includes the organization’s examples of antisemitism. It now awaits a vote by the state House of Representatives.
“As antisemitism continues to rise across America, having a clear and standardized definition enables a more unified stance against this hatred,” the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), said in a statement. “We appreciate Governor Kristi Noem for making this legislation a policy goal of hers, strengthening the use of the IHRA Working Definition in South Dakota through legislation, following the December 2021 adoption via executive proclamation.”
CAM called on lawmakers in the lower house to follow the Senate’s lead and implored “other states to join the fight against antisemitism by adopting the IHRA definition, ensuring the safety and well-being of their Jewish residents.”
First adopted in 2005 by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism states that “antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews,” and includes a list of illustrative examples ranging from Holocaust denial to the rejection of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. The definition is used by hundreds of governing institutions, including the US State Department, European Union, and the United Nations.
Widely regard as the world’s leading definition of antisemitism, it was adopted by 97 governmental and nonprofit organizations in 2023, according to a report Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) Antisemitism Research Center issued in January.
Earlier this month, Georgia became the latest US state to pass legislation applying IHRA’s guidance to state law. 33 US States have as well, including Virginia, Texas, New York, and Florida.
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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Columbia University Sued for Allowing Antisemitic Violence and Discrimination
Columbia University allowed for antisemitism to explode on campus endangering the welfare of Jewish students and faculty, StandWithUs Center for Legal Justice and Students Against Antisemitism (SAA) alleges in a lawsuit announced on Wednesday.
Filed in the US District Court of Southern New York, the complaint recounts dozens of reported antisemitic incidents that occurred after Oct. 7 which the university allegedly failed to respond to adequately because of anti-Jewish, as well as anti-Zionist, bias.
“Columbia refuses to enforce its policies or protect Jewish and Israeli members of the campus community,” Yael Lerman, director of SWU Center for Legal Justice said on Wednesday in a press release. “Columbia has created a pervasively hostile campus environment in which antisemitic activists act with impunity, knowing that there will be no real repercussions for their violations of campus policies.”
“We decline to comment on pending litigation,” Columbia University spokesperson and vice president for communications told The Algemeiner on Friday.
The plaintiffs in the case accuse Columbia University of violating their contract, to which it is bound upon receiving payment for their tuition, and contravening Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. They are seeking damages as well as injunctive relief.
“F— the Jews,” “Death to Jews, “Jews will not defeat us,” and “From water to water, Palestine will be Arab,” students chanted on campus grounds after the tragedy, violating the school’s code of conduct and never facing consequences, the complaint says. Faculty engaged in similar behavior. On Oct. 8, professor Joseph Massad published in Electronic Intifada an essay cheering Hamas’ atrocities, which included slaughtering children and raping women, as “awesome” and describing men who paraglided into a music festival to kill young people as “the air force of the Palestinian resistance.”
300 faculty signed a letter proclaiming “unwavering solidarity” with Massad, and in the following days, Students for Justice in Palestine defended Hamas’ actions as “rooted in international law.” In response, Columbia University president Minouche Shafik, opting not to address their rhetoric directly, issued a statement mentioning “violence that is affecting so many people” but not, the complaint noted, explicitly condemning Hamas, terrorism, and antisemitism. Nine days later, Shafik rejected an invitation to participate in a viewing of footage of the Oct. 7 attacks captured by CCTV cameras.
The complaint goes on to allege that after bullying Jewish students and rubbing their noses in the carnage Hamas wrought on their people, pro-Hamas students were still unsatisfied and resulted to violence. They beat up five Jewish students in Columbia’s Butler Library. Another attacked a Jewish students with a stick, lacerating his head and breaking his finger, after being asked to return missing persons posters she had stolen.
More request to the university went unanswered and administrators told Jewish students they could not guarantee their safety while Students for Justice in Palestine held demonstrations. The school’s powerlessness to prevent anti-Jewish violence was cited as the reason why Students Supporting Israel (SSI), a recognized school club, was denied permission to hold an event on self-defense. Events with “buzzwords” such as “Israel” and “Palestine” were forbidden, administrators allegedly said, but SJP continued to host events whole no one explained the inconsistency.
Virulent antisemitism at Columbia University on the heels of Oct. 7 was not a one-off occurance, the complaint alleges, retracing in over 100 pages 20 years of alleged anti-Jewish hatred at the school.
“Students at Columbia are enduring unprecedented levels of antisemitic and anti-Israel hate while coping with the trauma of Hamas’ October 7th massacre,” SWU CEO Roz Rothstein said in Wednesday’s press release. “We will ensure that Columbia University is held accountable for their gross failure to protect their Jewish and Israeli students.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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University of California-Los Angeles Student Government Passes BDS Resolution
The University of California-Los Angeles student government on Tuesday passed a resolution endorsing the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, as well as false accusation that Israel is committing a genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.
“The Israeli government has carried out a genocidal bombing campaign and ground invasion against Palestinians in Gaza — intentionally targeting hospitals universities, schools, shelters, churches, mosques, homes, neighborhoods, refugee camps, ambulances, medical personnel, [United Nations] workers, journalists and more,” the resolution, passed 10-3 by the UCLA Undergraduate Student Association Council (USAC), says, not mentioning that UN personnel in Gaza assisted Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7.
It continued, “Let it be resolved that the Undergraduate Student Association of UCLA formally call upon the UC Regents to withdraw investments in securities, endowments mutual funds, and other monetary instruments….providing material assistance to the commission or maintenance of flagrant violations of international law.
The days leading up to the vote were fraught, The Daily Bruin, the university’s official student newspaper reported on Wednesday.
“Non-UCLA students” sent USAC council members emails imploring them to vote for or against the resolution and USAC Cultural Affairs Commissioner and sponsor of the resolution, Alicia Verdugo, was accused of antisemitism and deserving of impeachment. The UCLA Graduate Student Association and University of California-Davis’ student government had just endorsed BDS the previous week, prompting fervent anticipation for the outcome of Tuesday’s USAC session.
Before voting took place, members of the council ordered a secret ballot, withholding from their constituents a record of where they stood on an issue of monumental importance to the campus culture. According to The Daily Bruin, they expressed “concerns” about “privacy” and “security.” Some members intimated how they would vote, however. During a question and answer period, one student who co-sponsored the resolution, accused a Jewish student of being “classist” and using “coded” language because she argued that the council had advanced the resolution without fully appreciating the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the history of antisemitism.
“As a Guatemalan, …my country went through genocide,” he snapped at the young woman, The Daily Bruin’s reporting documented. “My family died in the Guatemalan Mayan genocide. I understand. I very well know what genocide looks like.”
Other council members voiced their support by co-sponsoring the resolution, which was co-authored by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a group that has held unauthorized demonstrations and terrorized Jewish students across the country.
Responding to USAC’s decision, Jewish students told the paper that they find the campaign for BDS and the attempts of pro-Palestinian students to defend Hamas’ atrocities myopic and offensive.
“How can anyone dare to contextualize since Oct. 7 without acknowledging that the Jewish people are victims of such a cataclysmic attack?” Mikayla Weinhouse said. “BDS intentionally aims to divide a community. Its supporters paint a complex and century-old conflict in the Middle East as a simplistic narrative that inspires hate rather than advocates for a solution.”
University of California-Los Angeles denounced the resolution for transgressing school policy and the spirit of academic freedom.
“The University of California and UCLA, which, like all nine other UC campuses, has consistently opposed calls for a boycott against and divestment from Israel,” the school said in a statement. “We stand firm in our conviction that a boycott of this sort poses a direct and serious threat to the academic freedom of our students and faculty and to the unfettered exchange of ideas and perspectives on this campus.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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