is quickly brewing over purportedly skewed media coverage of the fatal stabbing
of 19-year-old Israeli soldier Eden Atias on a bus en route to Tel Aviv. The
suspect is a Palestinian teenager, residing in Israel illegally. The main
catalyst of the debate is a New York
Times article published
online on Nov. 13 depicting the attacker’s mother as the central graphic of
the story (the other photo is a tiny frame of the bus-turned-crime-scene and a
Several smaller news outlets have picked up on the conspicuous blunder — an article about a murder victim begins with a giant image of the killer’s mother. No, this is not The Onion. The New York Times is completely serious.
The same article features an introduction that is scant in its coverage of the gruesome killing (the terrorist reportedly stabbed Atias repeatedly in the neck), yet replete with a nearly-irrelevant discussion of Palestinian discomfort over Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Indeed, the second sentence of this piece jumps right into what is either an inadvertent copy-paste from a completely different article on Israeli domestic policy, or a justification of the murder: “infuriated by news of long-term planning for more settlement housing, the Palestinian leadership is expected to meet on Thursday to discuss the future of the American-backed negotiations.”
It is barely conceivable that “infuriated” Palestinian leadership has anything to do with this incident — the 16-year-old boy self-reported his motive as retaliation for the incarceration of his relatives (for charges including both attempted murder and murder) and his inability to find employment in Israel. The LA Times reports that the teen told interrogators that he had “set out […] to look for work and planned to ‘stab a Jew’ if he could not find employment.” A solid plan, but it seems that finding work was secondary to massacring a sleeping Jewish soldier.
The New York Times article briefly returns to Eden Atias only after pontificating over the housing debate for nine paragraphs. The obituary lasts for three whole sentences, after which the author halfheartedly mentions a few other recent Palestinian attacks on Israelis.
While The New York Times is certainly receiving its fair share of condemnation for the exemplar of poor journalism, it is worth pointing out that other major news outlets did not fare any better. For example, the analogous LA Times article improves on The New York Times piece in that it fails to get sucked into extraneous political deliberations, yet there is even less detail about Atias himself. The comparable article from The San Francisco Chronicle does not return to Eden Atias beyond noting that he was killed in the first and second sentences.
The articles in the three major American news outlets have much of the same in common: no photo of Atias and no information about him or his family. What could have been a dignified obituary to honor the fallen soldier focuses egregiously on the alleged assassin and on the plight of the Palestinian people.
Unsurprisingly, Israeli news sources perform much more admirably, rightly concentrating their journalistic energies on the victim. Ha’Aretz reports that Atias is “survived by his parents Amir and Ela, and two brothers, Eviatar, 16, and Maor, 21.” We find out that the boy was born and raised in Upper Nazareth, and that he loved to learn about technology and electronics in high school. We learn that Atias had “a terrific sense of humor […] and always tried to help people reconcile and get along.” Atias’ future plans included traveling the world and becoming a DJ (he composed electronic music in his spare time).
The American media’s obsession with perpetrators and frequent inattention to victims is notorious, but the error in this case is amplified by the perception of Palestinian complaints against Israel as relevant in the matter. If proven guilty, the Palestinian teenager is not worth the paper on which his name is printed — at least in the immediate aftermath, most of the articles should be dedicated to celebrating Atias’ tragically short life.
Of course, it is important to discuss the causes and background behind such events. However, American media outlets have issued a decidedly one-sided picture in neglecting to display photographs of Atias or his grieving family, especially in light of the decision to publish an image of the perpetrator’s mother. Furthermore, the visual misrepresentation is not isolated to a single source and therefore cannot be written off as a fluke of unsuccessful broadcasting.
The articles did not dare to discuss the horrific brainwashing spewed by the Palestinian Authority that incited a young man to slay a fellow teenager in his sleep for the sole reason of being a Jewish soldier. The articles also fail to mention that family members of the Palestinian teenager apparently took to Facebook just hours after the incident to praise him for the deed. (His father did not, as he still maintains his son’s innocence, despite countless witnesses to his actions.)
At this point, it is prudent to avoid accusing the American media of wholesale media bias against Israel, but it is highly alarming that major newspapers prefer to depict the family of a suspected Palestinian murderer and discuss the effects of Israeli domestic policy in an article about the vicious murder of an Israeli teenager.
These articles cannot be unwritten. Nevertheless, by
maintaining our focus on remembering and celebrating Eden Atias, we can prevent
him from ever falling through the journalistic cracks, however wide they may