Distorted media coverage of the recent terrorist assault on the Israeli community of Itamar compounded the pain of an unspeakably brutal crime.
On Friday night shortly after 10 PM, just hours after the commencement of the Jewish Sabbath, two knife-wielding intruders broke into the modest one story home of the Fogel family, murdering the mother and father in their bed along with their three month old baby girl. They then stormed one of the children’s rooms, slashing to death two boys, ages three and eleven. Two other sleeping children – aged two and eight – managed to survive when the terrorists fled the scene before they entered the other bedroom. The oldest child, a twelve year old daughter, also escaped death because of her participation in a Sabbath program of her religious youth group. When she returned to her home, she discovered the mutilated and bloody bodies of her parents, her two brothers and her infant sister. Tracks from the scene of the crime led directly to the nearby Palestinian village of Awarta. Later, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed credit for the killings (though ultimately retracting that claim) and crowds in Gaza took to the streets in celebration, receiving sweets from the Hamas authorities to honor the vile deed.
In its initial report on the incident, CNN ran the headline, “Israeli Family of 5 Killed in ‘terror attack,’ military says” By placing quotation marks around the phrase “terror attack” the cable network cast doubt on that obvious characterization of the incident. As one Israeli press liaison aptly demanded, “If this is not a terror attack, what is?” By citing the “military” in the headline, CNN also seemed to suggest a martial dimension to the incident—though the only connection with soldiers involved the post-murder search for the terrorist perpetrators.
At the New York Times, initial coverage appeared under the headline, “Suspecting Palestinians, Israeli Military Hunts for Killers of 5 West Bank Settlers.” Again, the invocation of the “military” plays into the morally blind “cycle of violence” narrative favored by mainstream media in the United States—suggesting that the latest incident is part of an ancient blood feud between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian “militants.” Moreover, the term “5 West Bank Settlers” hardly captures the hideous reality of the mangled, desecrated bodies of a three-month-old infant, and her three and eleven-year-old brothers. Do these slaughtered children count as “Settlers” because they grew up on territory claimed by Palestinians? Some Palestinian factions claim every square inch of Israel as their own, qualifying every Israeli as a “settler.”