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How the Associated Press Covered Israeli President Herzog’s Candle-Lighting in Hebron

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The AP covered, in its peculiar way, the latest contretemps between Arab and Jew in Hebron, the second holiest city in Judaism. It involved President Herzog’s lighting of the first candle for Hanukkah at a menorah in the Cave of the Patriarchs. When he first announced his intention to do so, Hamas reacted furiously, warning that if he went through with his candle-lighting, Israelis in Hebron, and perhaps elsewhere in the West Bank, would be attacked. He went ahead anyway, and so far those threatened attacks have not taken place, because the IDF has reinforced its presence in Kiryat Arba, that part of Hebron where 7,236 Jews bravely live, in the face of the 200,000 Palestinian Arabs who are living in the rest of Hebron. .

A report on the AP’s coverage of the candle-lighting in Hebron is here: “AP Demotes Second Holiest Place in Judaism to ‘West Bank Site’, Ignores Recent Hamas Threat Against Hebron’s Jews,” by Gidon Ben-Zvi, HonestReporting, November 29, 2021:

Imagine if one of the world’s leading news publications in a headline referred to Washington DC merely as a ‘City on the Potomac River.’ Yet this is exactly what The Associated Press, a wire service with more than 1,300 clients, did in a piece titled “Israeli president celebrates Hanukkah at West Bank site.” Beyond diminishing the Jewish people’s historic connection to Hebron, AP also chose to ignore Hamas’ threat of violence against the city’s Jewish residents that was made following the announcement that President Isaac Herzog would be lighting the first candle of Hanukkah at the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

The Associated Press rather belatedly mentions, in the eighth paragraph of the November 28 piece written by Moshe Edri, that “the cave is believed to be the burial site of the Jewish and Muslim patriarch Abraham. It also is revered as the burial site of other Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs and is considered the second holiest site in Judaism.”

To call Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs merely a “West Bank site” is to grossly mislead readers. What the AP should have titled its piece is this: “President Herzog Lights First Hanukkah Candle At Second Holiest Site in Judaism.” It did manage, in the eighth paragraph of its report, to note that the Cave of the Patriarch is “the second holiest site in Judaism.” As is well known, eight out of ten newspaper readers never get beyond the headline. How many will have read the AP article all the way to the eighth paragraph? The damage was done with its headline about President Herzog celebrating Hanukkah at “a West Bank site.”

Instead of facts, AP’s report is structured as a series of unchallenged Palestinian victimhood talking points.

In AP’s estimation, the Jewish people’s ancient connection to Hebron is but an afterthought.

But research has shown that while eight out of 10 people will scan a headline, only two out of those eight will read the remainder of the text. Accordingly, the vast majority of AP readers are likely to have come away believing that Israel’s presence is little more than a provocation that has turned Hebron into one of the “most contentious spots in the occupied West Bank.”

A reader unfamiliar with Hebron’s long, bloody history may also conclude that the sum total of violence perpetrated by Arabs against Jews was a single instance back in 1929.

There is frequent violence between the sides and the Cave of the Patriarchs, revered by Muslims and Jews, was the site of a massacre by a Jewish settler who killed 29 Muslim worshippers in 1994…Herzog made no mention of the 1994 massacre but paid homage to the more than 60 Jews killed by Palestinians in Hebron during riots in 1929, noting that a relative had survived the fighting.”

Why should President Herzog have mentioned the 1994 massacre? He is a Jewish president celebrating a Jewish holiday at the second holiest site in Judaism. Mention of that 1994 massacre committed by one demented emergency room doctor, driven mad by having seen so many wounded and dead Jews, the victims of Arab attacks, would have been both unnecessary – given how often that attack has been deplored without reservation by Israeli leaders – and unfitting for the solemn occasion. Note how the AP chooses to describe the 1929 massacre: President Herzog noted “that a relative had survived the fighting.” No, he didn’t. There was no “fighting” in Hebron in 1929 between Arabs and Jews. There was only the massacre of helpless Jewish men, women, and children by Arabs running amok.

The AP fails to mention that the 1994 massacre by a ‘Jewish settler’ was universally condemned by Israeli leaders at the time. In stark contrast, the many acts of terrorism against Jews living in Hebron, unreported in this piece, have been incessantly glorified by Palestinian leaders. Indeed, it was waves of Palestinian terrorism that led the Israeli government – in an attempt to salvage the Oslo Accords – to sign the Hebron Protocol, and redeploy the Israeli military forces from the ancient city.

How did the massacre of Jews by Arabs in Hebron in 1929 differ from the massacre of Arabs by one Jew, Baruch Goldstein, in 1994? The Arabs in Hebron who went from Jewish house to house, killing every Jewish man, woman, and child they could find numbered in the hundreds. When the Hebron massacre of 1929 was over, there were no Jews left in the second holiest city in Judaism. In 1994, not hundreds, or dozens, but only a single Jew, Baruch Goldstein, a doctor who apparently suffered a mental collapse after treating so many Jewish victims of Arab terror attacks, entered a mosque and fired on worshippers. While the Arab killers in 1929 were praised by Arab leaders for murdering Jews, Israeli leaders universally condemned the killings by Goldstein. There have been many attacks on Jews by Arabs in Hebron since 1929, always eliciting praise from Palestinian leaders, but there has not been a single attack by Jews on Arabs in Hebron since Goldstein’s attack.

Despite such good faith efforts, Palestinian incitement continues. As recently as November 28, the US-designated terror group Hamas condemned the planned celebration at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, which it described as “a flagrant violation” and a “provocation.” Senior Hamas member Ismail Radwan said: “The Israeli occupation must bear full responsibility for the consequences of this attack,” adding: “We call on the masses of our people in the West Bank and our people in the city of Hebron to confront this provocative step and to confront the attack on the Ibrahimi Mosque.”

Yet, the article headlined “Israeli president celebrates Hanukkah at the West Bank site” doesn’t even mention Hamas – not once….

The AP apparently didn’t think that the threat by Hamas to respond to the lighting of the first Hanukkah candle by President Herzog by calling on the “masses of our people” all over the West Bank to “confront this provocative step” was worth mentioning. No reader of the AP story would find out anything about this incitement to violence. In the AP’s telling, it is the Israelis – in the person of President Herzog – who are needlessly provoking the Palestinians.

Having downplayed the precarious state of Jews living in Hebron, AP proceeds to engage in full-scale character assassination. The term ‘Palestinian’ is mentioned eight times in The Associated Press piece, without any modifiers. In comparison, ‘Jewish’ appears 10 times, in conjunction with such inflammatory adjectives as ‘ultranationalist, ‘hard line’ and ‘radical elements of Israeli society.’

By its fixed epithets, the AP shows clearly that it has chosen a side. “Palestinians” do not bear the burden of any modifiers, but the Jews of Hebron have adjectives affixed to them, such as “hard line” and “ultranationalist,” that naturally affect how unwary readers will perceive them. Readers unaware of Hebron’s status as one of the Four Holy Cities of Judaism, the city which contains the second holiest site in Judaism (the Cave of the Patriarchs), the city where Jews have lived continually or thousands of years (except between 1929 and 1931 and, again, from 1948 to 1967), could come away from the AP story thinking Hebron is merely, as the AP headline says, a “West Bank site.”

When the Jews returned to Hebron after its illegal occupation by Jordan from 1948 to 1967, they chose to build, on the outskirts of Hebron, a new city that would be called – using the toponym that the ancient Hebrews had used to designate the area prior to naming it “Hebron” — Kiryat Arba. Kiryat Arba now has a population of 7,326. Hebron was divided in accordance with an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) whereby Israeli citizens, including Arab Israelis, can access only 20% of the city

By comparison, Palestinians in Hebron are able to enter approximately 97% of the city. The remaining 3% is off-limits due to the risk of terrorist attacks, which have included shootings and sniper attacks, one of which saw a three-month-old baby targeted, as well as suicide bombings, rock-throwings, Molotov cocktail attacks and knife assaults on Israeli soldiers stationed there to protect Hebron’s small Jewish community and Judaism’s second-holiest site, the Cave of the Patriarchs.

The AP may pride itself on providing news to 1,300 outlets around our giddy globe, but no one should be impressed. In its coverage of Israel and the Palestinians, as in this article where Hamas threats against the lighting of a single Hanukkah candle at the second holiest site in Judaism are not mentioned, where Hebron is described in the headline merely as a “West Bank site,” and where Baruch Goldstein’s lone-wolf attack on Arabs in 1994 is given more attention than the 1929 massacre of Jews by hundreds of Arabs in Hebron, the mighty Associated Press has been weighed, and found wanting.

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