The New York Times reported on July 3, 2015 that “Tunisia’s most wanted jihadist” was killed in an American airstrike. The New York Times coverage stood in sharp contrast to the coverage that the paper used in covering Israel’s killing of a top jihadist in 2004.
Headline: The headline from the story in 2015 was “Jihadist From Tunisia Died in Strike in Libya, U.S. Official Says” which clearly labeled the target as a “jihadist”. The way he died was framed in the passive “died” and was attributed to a “U.S. Official” speaking about the incident. This was in sharp contrast to the NYT article “Leader of Hamas killed in Airstrike by Israeli Missile” which did not suggest that the target was a militant but a “leader.” The man was “killed” in an active way, rather than simply stating that he “died”, and the method of the assassination was clearly attributed to Israeli action, rather than news reported by “US Officials.”
Opening paragraphs: A comparison of the opening paragraphs of each article shows the pattern of the Times coaxing its readers to celebrate the assassination of bad jihadists, but questioning the tactics of Israelis.
“TUNIS — Tunisia’s most wanted jihadist, who masterminded a campaign of assassinations and terrorist attacks, including one against the United States Embassy in Tunis, was killed in an American airstrike in Libya in mid-June that had targeted another Al Qaeda leader, a senior United States official said on Thursday.
The jihadist, Seifallah Ben Hassine, also known as Abu Ayadh, was one of Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenants and the leader of the outlawed group Ansar al-Shariah in Tunisia. He had been based in Libya since 2013, according to reports, and ran training camps and a network of militant cells across the region.”
The article clearly spelled out that Ben Hassine was a very bad man from the very start of the article. He was the “most wanted jihadists” who led “assassination and terrorist attacks” including against American interests. If the US took out a man who launched many attacks including against Americans, it would make sense that such person got what he deserved. Heck, the article threw in two references to “Al Qaeda” and “Osama bin Laden” to convince the reader that this was a really, really bad guy.
Let’s compare the article about the targeted killing of the founder of Hamas by Israel in 2004:
“JERUSALEM, Monday, March 22— Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader and founder of the militant Palestinian group Hamas, was killed early Monday by an Israeli missile that struck him as he left a mosque in Gaza City, his family and Hamas officials said. They said at least two bodyguards had been killed with him.
Sheik Yassin, a symbol to Palestinians of resistance to Israel and to Israelis of Palestinian terrorism, was by far the most significant Palestinian militant killed by Israel in more than three years of conflict.“
The article led with the Sheik’s name. He was referred to as the “spiritual leader” who was killed while he “left a mosque.” His demise was reported by “his family.” Overall, he was regarded as much more of a religious human being than the “most wanted terrorist” in the article the attacker against the U.S.
The Times continued that the Sheik was “a symbol to Palestinians of resistance.” This phrase did many things: 1) using the term “symbol” made him appear as an uninvolved player; 2) “resistance” gave credence to a Palestinian narrative. No such equivalence was given to Tunisia’s most wanted terrorist.
While the Times stated that Yassin was the “founder of the militant Palestinian group Hamas”, it did not go on to state that the organization was considered a terrorist group by the US, EU, Israel and many other countries. Yet it did state that the Tunisian terrorist was “the leader of the outlawed group Ansar al-Shariah.”
Don’t worry. The contrasts get worse.
The NY Times then went on to praise the murder of the Tunisian terrorist:
“His death, if confirmed, would be an important victory for Tunisia in its struggle to contain a persistent insurgency in its western border region and a growing threat to its urban centers. Just last Friday, 38 people, most of them British, were massacred at a beach resort in the town of Sousse. In March, 21 people were killed when militants attacked the national museum.
The government has attributed many of the attacks to sleeper cells established by Mr. Ben Hassine when he founded Ansar al-Shariah after Tunisia’s revolution in 2011.”
The Times gave its readers the conclusion of the operation: it was “an important victory”. The people of Tunisia were struggling against a “persistent… and growing threat.” What about Israel?
“Black smoke curled over Gaza City as Palestinians began burning tires in the streets and demonstrators chanted for revenge. Mosque loudspeakers blared a message across Gaza of mourning for Sheik Yassin in the name of Hamas and another militant group, Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades.”
The Times reported that the assassination was not a step forward but a step backward. The killing of the founder of a terrorist movement in Tunisia was a step towards stability while the killing of founder of the Palestinian terrorist group was just a move to escalate a cycle of violence.
The Times emphasized the point by reporting on the recent attacks in Tunisia on tourists at a beach resort and a national museum (anyone in the world could have been one of those tourists, which elicits global sympathy). The Times failed to report on the multi-year Second Intifada which started in September 2000 in which Palestinians killed thousands of Israeli civilians. Just before the Israeli strike, Hamas took credit for two bombings at the Port of Ashdod which killed 10 people. No mention of the incident until much later in the article.
I leave the rest of the two articles for you to read. You will note that one article describes a military attack against a man with a long history of terrorist activities. The other article describes a Palestinian community in grief over the death of a “quadriplegic” without any mention of the hundreds of attacks and thousands of civilians murdered by Hamas.
It is not a coincidence that the article about Tunisia on July 3rd was next to another with a headline “Egypt fights back in Northern Sinai after Deadly Assault by Militants.” The Times has taken to reporting that much of the world responds to militants while Israel attacks civilians and “spiritual leaders”. The world’s responses will lead to victory and peace, while Israeli actions escalate violence.
Pretty amazing conclusions
- from a country that has been waging wars for fourteen years, killing hundreds of thousands of people,
- about a country that sits in the middle of region that is embroiled in civil wars and terrorist attacks that have also killed hundreds of thousands of people,
- that is fighting against a group that has declared loudly and proudly its intentions of destroying its state
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