First published on CAMERA
Palestinian officials and the public have long pressed for the release of Palestinian prisoners, who are revered as heroes in government-controlled Palestinian media. Over the last several decades, Israel has released thousands of such prisoners, often times as goodwill gestures. This spring, President Mahmoud Abbas has reportedly insisted in talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the release of all Palestinian prisoners, including those convicted of brutal crimes, as a pre-condition for resuming negotiations with Israel.
All too often, mainstream media outlets have whitewashed the terrorist acts and violent crimes of Palestinian prisoners by failing to mention the crimes at all or by falsely minimizing the degree of violence. In some cases, media outlets euphemistically refer to prisoners incarcerated since before 1994 as “political prisoners,” covering up the atrocities they carried out. CAMERA is the first to publish a detailed list (below), obtained from Israel’s Ministry of Justice, of 118 pre-Oslo Palestinian prisoners, including their names and violent crimes.
The following is a sampling of some of the most egregious examples of the media’s whitewashing of violence on the part of Palestinian prisoners. A portion of them were subsequently corrected following communication from CAMERA or its affiliated sites, BBC Watch and CiF Watch.
Failure to Report the Crime
In several cases, media outlets reported about a prisoner’s detention, or efforts to gain his release, without noting why he is there in the first place. Thus, a Feb. 18, 2013 page-2 photo caption in Ha’aretz, accompanying a large, five-column image stated:
Palestinians in Ramallah yesterday holding placards depicting Samer Issawi, who is jailed in an Israeli prison and has been on hunger strike for 209 days. Palestinians have been protesting on Issawi’s behalf for several days.
As CAMERA reported at the time, Samer Issawi was sentenced to 26 years for attempted murder, belonging to an unrecognized (terror) organization, military training, and possession of weapons, arms and explosive materials. IDF spokesman Eytan Buchman elaborated that Issawi:
… was convicted of severe crimes, which including five attempts of intentional death. This included four shootings, between July 2001 and February 2002, in which Isawi and his partners fired on police cars and buses travelling between Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem. In one attack, a policeman was injured and required surgery. On October 30, 2001, Isawi, together with an accomplice, fired at two students walking from the Hebrew University campus to their car in a nearby parking lot. In another case, Isawi provided guns and explosive devices to a squad, who fired on a bus. Finally, in December 2001, Isawi ordered an attack on security personnel at Hebrew University, providing a squad with a pistol and a pipebomb. Two of the squad members tracked security personnel but opted not to execute the attack.
The BBC also consistently failed to report on the full extent of Issawi’s crimes, as well as those of others on hunger strike at the same time. For example, a BBC report from Feb. 18 2013 made no mention whatsoever of the terrorist activities of Samer Issawi, Ayman Sharawna, Tariq Qaadan and Jafar Ezzedine. As BBC Watch reported:
Ayman Sharawna, from Dura near Hebron, was also released under the Shalit deal in October 2011, by which time he had served ten years of a 38 year sentence for attempted murder and bomb-making. Sharawna is a member of the Hebron branch of Hamas and was rearrested on January 31st 2012 due to violating of the terms of his release by returning to Hamas activities. Shawarna was originally apprehended on May 10th 2002 when he and another terrorist planted an explosive device near a branch of Bank HaPoalim on HaAtzmaout Street in Be’er Sheva. The device malfunctioned, but despite that eighteen people were injured in the attack. Sharawna and his accomplice were caught fleeing the scene by members of the public and he was also found to have taken part in prior shooting attacks during the second Intifada.
Tariq Qaadan and Jafar Ezzedine are both senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives. In a March 2013 report which was broadcast on several BBC platforms, Jon Donnison showcased a particular prisoner, with the description of the reasons for his imprisonment given in one laconic sentence: “Ammar Ziben is serving 32 life sentences in an Israeli prison for his involvement in bomb attacks in Jerusalem in 1997.”
According to Ziben’s organization – Hamas – there was rather more to Ziben’s “involvement”: