By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
Recently the Israeli army entered the Palestinian city of Jenin and destroyed a monument to a terrorist. The facts of the case are well known. In 1974 three members o the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), entered Israel from Lebanon. They stopped a van full of Arab workers on a road and machine-gunned them, killing a women and wounding seven others. They came to the town of Maalot and entered a home of a family, murdering the father and the seven-month pregnant wife and their four year old son. Leaving the house the ran into a worker and shot him. Then they came to an elementary school and took 85 high school students and several teachers hostage. During the operation to free the hostages, one of the perpetrators shot the students with a machine gun and threw grenades at the hostages, killing 22 of them and wounding fifty.
Khaled Nazzal, who was born near Jenin in 1948, was a senior member of the DFLP and was considered a mastermind of the attack, although he was not present. He was killed in Athens in 1986 in a murder blamed on Israeli agents and in 2017 the city of Jenin erected a “martyr” monument in a public square named for him. The Israeli army entered Jenin and destroyed the monument after complaints from the mayor of Maalot and political discussions.
Reading newspaper and online reports about the removal of the commemoration for Nazzal, it is interesting to see how the different reports describe him in different ways. You’d think that if a mafia boss ordered his men to kill civilians and take hostages and they murdered 22 kids, that it would be quite a simple story. If a government ordered a plane to bomb civilians and it killed 22 kids, it would be a quite a simple story. Killing kids is bad, machine-gunning workers is bad. Killing a pregnant woman and her child is bad.
But in Israel and the Middle East such things are not bad or good, they are up for interpretation. From the point of view of some, the killing of children is considered “heroic” and a “martyrdom” operation. It’s a “military target.” Shooting down a poor worker who works in “sanitation” which means garbage, means someone is a doing “resistance.” Resisting the worker from picking up the trash?
Let’s read snippets from five reports:
Example 1: Ynet
“IDF demolishes memorial to Palestinian terrorist”
“IDF soldiers have destroyed a memorial in Jenin to Khalid Nazzal, a leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) terrorist group who was responsible for a deadly terror attack in the northern town of Ma’alot in 1974… Nazzal was in killed in 1986; Palestinians believe he was murdered to avenge the Ma’alot attack but Israel has never commented on the killing… After two days, soldiers from the IDF Golani Brigade stormed the building; 25 hostages, including 22 children, were killed, and 68 more were injured in the incident” – Ynet news
This is quite a clear explanation of what happened. The facts are presented basically as they are.
Example 2: Times of Israel
Israel forces enter Jenin to remove monument to terrorist
The Jenin municipality last month named a square after “martyr” Khaled Nazzal, who planned the Ma’alot massacre in which Palestinian terrorists murdered 22 school children and four adults. It also erected a monument in Nazzal’s honor. –Times of Israel
The description and report, which also used AFP, didn’t give many details about Nazzal and missed some of the victims of the attack. The overall victim count was 26, including an Arab woman from Fassuta and 3 members of the Cohen family were also killed.
Example 3: Haaretz
Israel monumental battle in Jenin’s city square
Israel Defense Forces unit raided the outskirts of Jenin and confiscated the stone monument erected two weeks earlier in memory of Khaled Nazzal, a member of the central committee of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and a commander in its military arm…He was assassinated by unknown assailants in June 1986…As a military commander, Nazzal participated in the defense of Palestinian outposts when Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982. In the 1970s and 1980s he was responsible for several attacks inside Israel, including one of the most deadly – in the northern Israeli town of Maalot. The armed squad that he dispatched killed 26 Israelis, including 22 children. – Haaretz
This article goes to great length to turn a man who ordered an attack that only killed civilians into a “military” commander and a “defender.” It doesn’t use the word “terror” but only “attacks,” as if the killing of a child is somehow the same as shooting at soldiers. The attack is “deadly” but it acts as if the children are incidental to it, as if killing civilians was not the sole and only target.
Exhibit 4: Maan News
Palestinian fires at Israeli soldiers during Jenin raid to remove memorial
The soldiers were targeted as they were undertaking an operation to remove a memorial stone commemorating Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader Khalid Nazzal. Nazzal, who was assassinated by Israeli intelligence in 1986, was a leader in a deadly hostage operation in the northern Israeli town of Tarshiha-Maalot in 1974 during which some 29 people were killed. – Maan news
In this report the bare facts of the case are presented, noting Nazzal was a leader of the “operation” and that 29 people were killed. The 29 number seems to include the three perpetrators alongside the 26 victims. It’s convenient for Maan not to mention that one of the victims is Arab. Maan is a Palestinian news organization and admitting that the murderers machine-gunned Arab workers might change the reader’s view of this “operation.” The term “operation” is used as a sterile term to make it seem like it was a military operation, when the reality was the targets were solely civilian.
Exhibit 5: i24 News
Israeli army raids Palestinian city to remove memorial to attacker
Israeli bulldozers entered a major West Bank city to remove a memorial to a Palestinian assailant Friday, sparking clashes in which six Palestinians were wounded, the army and a local mayor said. The memorial to Khaled Nazzal, a high profile Palestinian fighter who was the architect of a 1974 attack that killed 26 Israelis – the majority school children – was recently erected by the municipality. – I24news
This report also relies on AFP for some of its information. Here Nazzal becomes an “assailant” and described as a “fighter.”
The five examples show the degree to which different journalists and news sources go to present the same case in a different way. The same leader becomes either a “fighter” and leader of an “operation” in some accounts, a “military commander” in others and a “terrorist” in some. The number of victims of the attack he planned also changes for unclear reasons. The simple explanation is simply bad sources and relying either on a quick Google search or a wire service. Even news reports and Wikipedia are not always reliable when describing the initial attack on the van. We know that Hasiba Shahala was one of the victims in the van. The Cohen family victims were Yoseph, Fortuna and five year old Moshe Eli.
The sanitation worker Yakov Kadosh is described as an “elderly man…whose job was to place the garbage pails near the sidewalk for collection.” The perpetrators saw him, asked if he was a Jew, and when he said yes, they shot him.
In the attempt to always sanitize the reality of murder and terror some news organizations go very far to present people killing kids as “militant” and “military” and “fighter.” It feeds the narrative that it is always acceptable to welcome as a hero men who kill kids. The Jordanian who murdered Israeli school children on an “island of peace” was welcomed home as a hero. But does the media have the same view of presenting KKK lynchings as an “operation” and a “military raid.” When black children were bombed at a church in the US South does the media describe the KKK leader as a “resistance” and “fighter”? Why the different standard when it comes to Jewish victims or Israeli victims? Why are they not seen as civilians? Machine-gunning a bus of workers, or a garbageman becomes “resistance” and “military leadership”?
The reader loses out because they are subjected to propaganda and Orwellian terminology passed off as “fact” by reporters and editors who purposely try to mislead the public. This is because the journalists themselves have no sympathy for the murdered children, they actively dehumanize them. They cannot look them in the face, they cannot meet with the families. Because journalists are also involved in the conflict, as closely involved as some of the perpetrators, because the perpetrators murder but the journalists murder memory. They take away the right to life, the human rights of kids. They turn kids into “military” targets. They refuse to give the names of victims to allow them to be individuals. They claim that the perpetrator was “assassinated” but why not the same term for the victims? Wasn’t the woman in the van also assassinated by the perpetrators? Wasn’t the pregnant woman victim assassinated? So why is that loaded term only used for the leader? Because the writers and editors don’t think that the victims were victims. They don’t see them as people. Told that 22 kids were killed they disappear their memory. Media is active in white-washing the nature of murder through word choice. This is active participation by writers and editors who sometimes do not believe a child has the same right to life as the person who orders the child’s murder. It’s odd, because you’d think that the children Anders Breivik killed deserved life or the kids the KKK murdered. But for some people they do not.