A Tale of Two Babies

For the media, some murders of children are more equal than others.

The brutal murder of Udi and Ruth Fogel and three of their children in Itamar, a village in the Samarian hills, has been met by the international media either with callous disregard or a perverse inclination to explain it away as the result of the so-called Israeli “occupation.”

The BBC gave scant coverage to the slaughter, initially professing a subtly displaced skepticism of the terrorist nature of the attack. “Israel suspects the attack was carried out by Palestinian militants,” the Bebe opines. Note the key verb “suspects” instead of “knows” and the word “militants” instead of the more accurate “terrorists.” The Los Angeles Times engaged in its own brand of whitewash, citing a “tit-for-tat mentality” and deciding that it is “completely impossible to say with any authority who began the hostilities or to distinguish actions from reaction”—an instance of either blatant ignorance or glaring bad faith. According to the paper, the killings were perpetrated “presumably by Palestinian militants.” Similarly, CNN originally put the term terrorist attack in quotation marks; after all, it’s only a presumption. Time Magazine characterizes the terrorists as “gunmen” and the settlers as “extremist,” and approvingly quotes the anti-Israeli “human rights” organization B’Tselem which speaks simply of “mutual violence.” The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, for its part, devoted all of half a minute to the atrocity, concentrating on Israeli settlement construction. This is just a sample of the kind of media accounting we have gotten used to by now. When not heaping the onus of guilt upon Israel and laundering Palestinian savagery, the press is content to let the matter die with the Fogels.

Nevertheless, the gory details of the massacre are well enough known by this time. Much of the horror of the event felt by people of integrity, people capable of empathy, naturally focuses on three-month old Hadas whose throat was slashed by the terrorists. This does not make the gruesome murder of the father, the mother and the other two children any more assimilable, but the wilful slaughtering of an infant in her bed stands out as a particularly heinous and unfathomable act of unmitigated barbarism, the expression of a culture that has often pronounced itself as loving death more than it loves life. Indeed, it can cynically sacrifice its own children to the Moloch of a religious and political imperative as readily as it kills the children of its enemy.

Somehow, far too many of us have not managed to realize what we are dealing with and plainly not what the Israelis have to face as an intrinsic part of their daily experience, whether in Sderot which has been on the receiving end of thousands of Hamas rockets or in Itamar where a young family has been pitilessly cut down. Moreover, by insisting on the “cycle of violence” meme and in trying to apportion blame evenly, we have made ourselves complicit with the bestiality we would not for a moment tolerate were it visited upon our own families.

One notes, for example, a stock difference in the reporting of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict by the media in general, especially when it comes to the suffering of children. Twelve-year-old Muhammad al-Durah, reportedly killed by the Israelis in a shootout between the IDF and Palestinian “irregulars” near the Netzarim Junction in Gaza on September 30, 2000, became an iconic figure, an international cause célèbre and a prime illustration of the media and official complot against Israel. Following a decade-long investigation by the indefatigable Philippe Karsenty, it is now clear that the episode was rehearsed, directed and staged with the collusion of French TV and Palestinian stringers and cameramen.

The grotesque fabrication surrounding the supposed “death” of the young al-Durah, for which the Israelis were duly held responsible by almost every media outlet in the world, merely substituted a dictionary of received opinions for the truth. If the boy was shot, it was certainly by the Palestinians, but it is equally conceivable that he is still alive since his body was never found. No matter. A network effect or centralized platform for “traffic exchange” was set up, in which an array of identical items—spurious “facts,” hypotheses, figures and assumptions—circulated freely and served to corroborate one another while implicating the Israelis. The news was trimmed to fit the media’s ideological priorities.

The fix is in. By implicit consensus, not only are Palestinians given substantially more “clip time” in the boilerplate coverage of events, the Palestinian casualty is almost always rued, the Israeli almost never. How many of us have heard of four-year-old Afik Zahavi killed in Sderot by a Kassam rocket? How many of us remember or even know about Shalvet Pass, aged ten months, drilled in the head by a Palestinian sniper, or Dorit Aniso, aged two and Yuval Abedeh, aged four, playing under an olive tree, killed on Sukkot

by a Gaza rocket in the Western Negev, or four-year-old Einat Haran clubbed to death by Samir Kuntar, a member of the Palestine Liberation Front, or pregnant Tali Hatuel shot point blank in her car by terrorists from Rafah, along with her four young daughters, Hila, aged eleven, Hadar, aged nine, Roni, aged seven, and Meirav, aged two?

And when such monstrous deeds are even hinted at, they are nearly always discounted as an effect of presumed Israeli malfeasance and therefore accepted as perhaps unfortunate but eminently “understandable.” It’s the “occupation,” don’t you know? Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005 and has been shelled ever since. No “occupation” there. Despite what the newspapers say and people unthinkingly believe, Judea and Samaria are not “occupied” but “disputed” territories, as UN Resolution 242 and the Rhodes Armistice Agreement of 1949 make abundantly clear—not to mention the League of Nations Mandate, the Treaty of Sèvres and the San Remo Conference which confirmed the Jewish historical connection and lawful claim to the lands in question. International law deposes in Israel’s favor. None of this impinges upon the faux consciousness of the media and the international cabal against the existence of the Jewish state, any more than the death of baby Hadas resonates in their collective sensibility.

And yet the difference between Israeli and Palestinian attitudes and practices cannot be more evident. On the day of the murders, Israeli paramedics saw firework celebrations in the neighboring Palestinian villages. The abomination inspired rejoicing, as it was commemorated in Gaza with the handing out of candies. Only a few days later, the same paramedic team saved the lives of a Palestinian woman and her newborn baby in the very settlement where relatives of the Fogel family were sitting shiva, mourning the deaths of their loved ones. But the fate of two mothers and the tale of two babies do not even register outside of Israel.

Gadi Amitun, the director of the local Magen Adom medical team, noted that “in any case of accident or injury” help is always offered to Palestinians in need without distinction, even treating a wounded terrorist “who attempted to place a bomb on the road.” True to form, none of this is so much as noticed by the decadent and indifferent international media.

One’s indignation knows no bounds.