Okay, class, I know it’s been said before, including by me. But I promise I’ll be (relatively) brief this time.
Here’s how you write about Israel and Palestine if you’re a journalist today—even, apparently, if you work for the Voice of America.
Oops, my bad. It seems the Voice of America doesn’t write its own copy anymore. Scroll down to the bottom of the article and you’ll see, “Some information for this report was provided by AFP [Agence France-Presse], AP and Reuters.”
Well, not quite enough. The problem begins with the headline, “Israeli airstrike kills three Palestinians.” There so many different ways to properly convey the idea contained in the story, but this really isn’t one of them. The advantage it has, though, is that the person who merely glances at the headline and fails to read the story—a practice that’s not at all unusual—might be left with the impression that it may have involved the killing of innocent civilians. Or even that it probably involved the killing of innocent civilians—perhaps even the wanton and knowing and purposeful killing of innocent civilians.
Those people (what percentage of the whole?) who soldier on to read the entire text discover something different. The dead in this case were actually members of a “militant” group known as “Islamic Jihad,” and include its commander (and please see this for my earlier in-depth discussion of the use of the word “militant” in this and similar contexts).
Wonder what those “militants” promote, and what philosophy might motivate them? Can’t imagine, can we, despite the title they give their group?
Since the article is short, I’ll present the entire text for those who didn’t feel like following my link:
The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad says an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza strip has killed three of its members, including a top commander.
The Israeli army confirmed the strike on a vehicle carrying the militants Thursday in Gaza City.
Earlier Thursday in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinian medical officials said Israeli forces killed a Hamas militant during a military operation.
The Israeli army said the operation was aimed at preventing terrorist threats. The area is a source for rocket fire into Israel.
In the occupied West Bank, the Israeli military said a Palestinian man tried to stab a soldier near a Jewish settlement. It said another soldier hit the attacker in the head, seriously injuring him.
Palestinian witnesses say that during a scuffle an Israeli soldier shot the man, who later died of his wounds.
The only use of the word “terrorist” is in the fourth paragraph, preceded by the words “The Israeli army said.” So these guys are just militants—unless we take the Israeli government’s word for it.
In an alternate universe, the article might have been headlined, “Palestinian terrorists killed by Israeli airstrike.” Or perhaps even, “Israeli airstrike kills Islamic Jihad commander and two confederates.” Or…
Fill in the blanks yourself. And don’t be surprised if this post draws trolls; have you ever noticed that anything about Israel nearly always does?