Bystanders to Terror


The past two days have been among the most brutal in the Palestinian campaign of terror against Israel — five suicide bombs in a mere forty-eight hours have left 14 dead and scores wounded. The latest attack, just hours ago in Afula, was apparently perpetrated by a female terrorist who, halted by a security guard, detonated herself at the entrance to a crowded shopping mall.

While Israelis mourn the deceased and pray for the wounded, the media have begun in tandem to employ a disturbing new term to describe Israeli terror victims — “bystanders.” On Sunday, The New York Times issued a report on the Jerusalem bus attack that began with the curious statement:

“The new Middle East peace effort stalled today, after a barrage of four Palestinian attacks killed nine bystanders…”

The Associated Press issued a similar report that day, stating:

“In 93 suicide attacks since the current violence erupted in September 2000, 357 bystanders have been killed.”

[AP also used the term “bystanders” to refer to terror victims in Morocco and Saudi Arabia.]

In common usage, a “bystander” is an individual peripheral to the central action in a given event — i.e., a bystander to a terrorist attack is not the intended target. The New York Times and AP, by describing Israeli terror victims as “bystanders,” imply that civilian deaths are not the specific goal of Palestinian suicide bombers. This is patently false.

There is a larger issue operating here. The media have consistently refused to call Palestinian attacks “terror.” Mislabeling the victims as “bystanders” grants license to the media to mislabel the perpetrators as “militants” or “activists,” instead of “terrorists.”

This matter was addressed in the last HonestReporting communique, which noted The New York Times’ omission of Palestinian attacks from its special section on world terror.

[The National Review cited HonestReporting’s research: “There’s also the curious fact that many sophisticated types don’t regard terrorism directed against Israelis the way they regard terrorism directed against other victims. They may not even believe that slaughtering Israeli civilians is terrorism. For proof of that, you need go no further than the pages of the New York Times. As has noted, a Times special section on May 15 listed terrorist attacks around the world – from Saudi Arabia to Chechnya to the Philippines. Conspicuously absent from the ‘complete coverage’ were any mentions of terrorist attacks in Israel. (It’s not just under Jayson Blair’s byline where you can read distortions of reality.)”]

Joining The Times once again, Associated Press today published a list of “Recent Terrorist Attacks Around the World” since 1998. None of the attacks listed occurred in Israel.

Comments to AP:

Comments to The New York Times:

HonestReporting encourages members to monitor your local media for any attempts to imply that Israeli civilians are somehow not the target of Palestinian terror, nor victims of “world terror.”


The proper use of the term “bystander” appeared in a Sunday AP report worthy of broader international coverage in its own right:

“In the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian militiamen dragged a suspected informer [to Israel] into the main square and killed him with several shots to the head as about 200 people watched, witnesses said. One bystander said the gunmen forced their victim to kneel with his hands tied behind his back, then executed him.”

Commentator James Taranto’s response to this barbaric report: “Perhaps the time isn’t yet ripe for a Palestinian state.”



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