Israel and the News Coverage in German Media
November 23, 2021
Belltower News (originally in German)
German media coverage of incidents and events in and around Israel frequently gives cause for debate and irritation. On Sunday, reports on an assassination attempt in Jerusalem once again triggered sharp criticism.
On Sunday morning, an assassin in Jerusalem armed with a gun and knife murdered 26-year-old Eliyahu David Kay and injured several others, some seriously. Israeli security forces intervened and shot and killed the attacker. The perpetrator, a 42-year-old Palestinian teacher of religion from Shuafat in East Jerusalem, was a member of the Islamist terrorist organization Hamas, according to Israeli Minister of Public Security Omer Bar Lev. Hamas called the act a "heroic operation" and confirmed the man’s membership. On Sunday evening, hundreds of people bearing Hamas flags marched to his home, glorifying the assassination. In Gaza, candy was distributed to celebrate the attack.
Reports on the incident soon appeared in Germany. However, some of the reporting was absolutely appalling and did not even clearly convey the course of events. For example, the ZDF program "heute XPRESS" reported under the headline: "Israel: One Palestinian Shot Dead" (ZDF heute XPRESS, November 21, 2021). The Rheinische Post read, "Israeli Policemen Shoot Palestinian at Temple Mount" (RP Online, November 21, 2021, as of 10:36 a.m.).
A dangerous perpetrator-victim reversal in its purest form: In this account of the incident, the assassin is suddenly fashioned as a target of Israeli aggression. His Islamist ideology and his membership in Hamas are not mentioned. The details of the occurrence only appear later in the reports. ZDF finally states, "Police said that the man had killed one Israeli and injured at least three others."
A look into the past reveals that this form of distortion in the context of reporting on Israel is by no means an isolated case. During the "Knife Intifada" in 2015, there were numerous terrorist knife attacks on Israelis by Palestinians, and Spiegel Online’s headline read, "Palestinians Die in Knife Attacks on Israelis." And in 2006, when Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofas declared that in light of Iran’s threats of annihilation, Israel would not accept Iran’s nuclear armament, Focus Online declared: "Israel Threatens with Self-Defense".
This reasoning depicts Israel as the true aggressor. By this logic, a news story only has a hook when Israel acts or reacts. The attribution of responsibility is apparently given from the outset: Israel is the trigger and thus the root cause. The fact that such reports not only convey an incomplete depiction of events, but also suggest false connections, is not only scandalous, but also dangerous, and it ultimately supports the formation of negative opinions about Israel. Due to the quick pace of media reception - especially in social networks – the headline and preview of an article are frequently all that readers take in. A false perception of events is thus practically pre-programmed, as Sunday's case also showed.
Reporting should adhere to journalistic standards such as accuracy, objectivity and independence, and it should thereby demonstrate correct temporal and causal relationships. Journalists should be cognizant of the power and meaning of their words and of their responsibility. Journalistic diligence begins with the headline - not in the subsequent portions of the article, which may be behind a paywall. The murder of civilians must not be relativized. Terror must be clearly called by its name.