Beginning with the bloody July 14 Bastille Day terror attack in Nice, France, that left 84 people dead, Western Europe has seen an unrelenting wave of violence mainly perpetrated by individuals with connections to or sympathies with the Islamic State terror group.
These attacks on European soil are now occurring with a near daily frequency, with five different lone-wolf shooting and stabbing terror attacks in Germany in late July, at least three of which were claimed by Islamic State, as well as the slaying of a Catholic priest in northern France on July 26.
European media outlets, however, continue to be extremely selective in the way they report on the violence.
After the attack in Nice, the BBC tweeted an article titled “France’s President Holland returns to Paris for crisis meeting for Nice lorry ‘attack.’ ” That headline, which used quotation marks to cast doubt on whether the incident was a deliberate attack and did not use the word “terror,” was followed by headlines from the BBC and other European news organizations such as “Syrian migrant dies in German blast,” and “Bomb-carrying Syrian dies outside German music festival; 12 wounded.”
In June, JNS reported that many international media outlets initially reported misleading information about the attack at the Sarona market in Tel Aviv and in some cases not describing the shooting as terrorism.
Representatives from the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in France and Germany indicated to JNS that after the terrorist attacks in Brussels, the French media devised a comprehensive map of Islamist terrorist attacks that had taken place across the world. Twenty countries were affected between the November 13 attacks in Paris and the Brussels attack, but Israel was not included.
In addition, they said, when it comes to news coverage of terror in Israel, and at times with regard to terror attacks in Europe, there is often short-lived public outrage and sparse political consequences. Media headlines on occasion reflect a reluctance to call terror by name, instead trivializing the severity of the attacks and obscuring the motives of the perpetrators by referring to problems with depression or mental illness.
Daniel Schwammenthal, director of AJC’s Transatlantic Institute in Brussels, told JNS that when these terror attacks occur there is a tendency on the part of European news organizations to “be careful and not jump to conclusions” and “play down the obvious connection” to radical Islamic terrorism.
Although Europeans try to differentiate between individual “bad apple” perpetrators and the whole Muslim community, “opinion polls and studies suggest that a considerable segment of the Muslim community shares at least some radical ideas and values,” Schwammenthal said.
While Schwammenthal characterized the motive to “protect innocent Muslims from hostility” as “noble,” he believes it can have unforeseen consequences.
“People are obviously making a connection between radical Islam and terrorism,” he says, but they see this attempt in the media and by some political leaders “to obfuscate or play down” the connection.
“I’m afraid it may make people much more likely to turn to [extreme right or populist] radical parties,” he said.
He acknowledged that this “tendency to blame society at large rather than individual” is “of course much worse when it comes to European media coverage of the terror situation in Israel.”
Analysis by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) and from BBCWatch has shown that articles and headlines misrepresenting terror attacks in this manner are much more frequent when they’re perpetrated by Palestinians in Israel.
CAMERA analyst Marcelo Wio, who analyzed Spanish media as an example, said that “in Spanish, to refer to terror attacks we have a special term: ‘atentado terrorista.’ So atentado is a word that immediately makes a reader think terrorism. This word is almost never used in for Palestinian attacks. Only when unavoidable.”Alina Dain Sharon