When Is Terror Not Terror? When the Victims Are Jews | Opinion

The last weeks have seen yet another increase in Palestinian terror on Israel's streets, and in the aftermath of one of the deadliest mass shootings in over a decade, and a car ramming which killed two young brothers aged 6 and 8, and a 20-year-old newlywed, the Israeli public are once again coming to terms with a devastating reality. While the seven victims of the synagogue shooting in Jerusalem were buried, many media outlets reported on what was surely a heinous terror attack while carefully avoiding the word itself—terror.

Among the guilty? The New York Times, one of the world's most prestigious news organizations. This is reluctance is not an aberration. I recently applied strict research methodologies to the Times' coverage of Israel, throughout all of 2022. The statistics are clear—coverage of Israel (and specifically of the century-long conflict with the Palestinians) severely lacks balance and context.

The Times isn't averse to employing the word terror. Statistics show the Times was a lot less reluctant to use the word "terror" to describe Islamic State and its actions that it was Hamas, Jihad, and Hezbollah. But all four groups have something key in common: They are all designated foreign terror organizations by the U.S. State Department.

A funeral in Jerusalem
Mourners gather during the funeral of Eli Mizrahi and his wife, Natalie, who were victims of a terror attack in East Jerusalem on Jan. 27, 2023, in Bet Shemesh, Israel. MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images

2022 was a volatile year with a surge in terror attacks against Israelis. Indeed, this terror wave elevated issues of personal security to the top of voters' minds, breaking a fragile unity coalition that included an Arab-Israeli party for the first time since the country's founding. This feeling of insecurity helped to elect a populist, ultranationalist government to replace that unlikely coalition.

Yet were you to read only the New York Times' coverage in 2022, skimming through headlines, you would only have seen eight mentions of Hamas, Jihad, and Hezbollah throughout the entire year. These three Iran-backed terrorist groups incited the terror wave, and help to maintain it. They operate from Gaza and Lebanon, where Israel holds no territory nor claim. Only one mention of Hamas was negative. The same was true of Hezbollah. Islamic Jihad was mentioned negatively twice.

By comparison, 192 headlines mentioning Israel in 2022 held a negative or critical tone towards Israel.

In total, 53 percent of The New York Times' news coverage of the Jewish State was negative in tone, compared with only 11 percent that was positive. The imbalance was even more stark in the opinion section. Sixty percent of op-eds were negative towards Israel between January and October, before the far-right government was even elected. Naturally, after the election, the negative tone became more extreme.

According to the Israeli Security Agency (ISA), there were 2,618 terror events in 2022, 204 of them significant (shootings, bombings, stabbings, or intentional car ramming). Another 472 significant attacks were thwarted. The Times chose to report only the 10 incidents that resulted in multiple deaths and injuries and has repeatedly claimed that the terror wave Israel experienced included only five attacks. It has also stressed that most of the Palestinians killed this year were not terrorists, whereas IDF data shows the exact opposite.

The Times has a long-standing reputation for professionalism. It has a responsibility to report in a balanced way. Providing full information does not necessarily mean supporting Israeli policies; it means accuracy and context. Let the reader form an opinion based on full information, not partial facts.

If The New York Times truly wants to support an equitable and peaceful resolution to the ongoing crisis in the Middle East, it must reinforce moderates on both sides, not take a side. That's especially true when one side believes violence offers an answer.

The Times is obsessed with Israel but offers the world a monochromatic picture of the situation. Such a journalistic failing does a disservice to readers and contributes to the growing hatred of the world's only Jewish state, and the global rise in antisemitism that comes with it.

Lilac Sigan is an Israeli author and journalist, who completed a year-long study of the coverage of Israel in the New York Times for Ma'ariv and Bar Ilan University.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.