Why the Western media lied about Israel’s Jenin siege

The brutal assault was an ‘operation’ in their accounts, dripping with insincerity that George Orwell warned about.

Residents of the Jenin refugee camp fled their homes as the Israeli military pressed ahead with an operation in the area, in Jenin, West Bank, Tuesday, July 4, 2023. Palestinian health officials put the Palestinian death toll from the two-day raid at 10. The Israeli military said Israel launched the operation because some 50 attacks over the past year had emanated from Jenin. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Residents of the Jenin refugee camp fled their homes as the Israeli military pressed ahead with a siege on the area, in Jenin, West Bank, Tuesday, July 4, 2023 [Majdi Mohammed/AP Photo]

Many Western journalists are prepared and willing to lie to defend Israel, no matter what it does.

They will never admit it, but they do – again and again.

They lied often while the militant leaders of an apartheid state ordered a brigade of troops to attack the 14,000 Palestinian children, women and men who live and are routinely killed in the Jenin refugee camp.

The preceding paragraph includes three words that most Western editors are loath to use in a headline to describe Israel’s ruinous modus operandi: “militant”, “apartheid” and “attack”.

So, they prefer, instead, to lie. I will get to “militant” and “apartheid” later. Let me begin with “attack”.

Earlier this week, as many as 2,000 Israeli soldiers used armoured vehicles, drones, rockets and helicopter gunships to terrorise and traumatise Palestinians in the occupied West Bank for two horrendous days. 

Not so, according to headline writers at The New York Times and CNN. Israel didn’t “attack” Jenin; it “launched” an “operation”. 

“Operation” is such a benign, almost harmless word, isn’t it? 

It suggests several things. First, an “operation” implies that the people being “operated” on have consented to the “operation”. Second, the salutary intent of any “operation” is to repair what is broken. Finally, once an “operation” is complete, another “operation” is usually unnecessary. 

None of that happened in Jenin. At least 12 Palestinians, including children, were killed. Scores more were hurt and damaged in mind and spirit. Homes were ransacked, businesses destroyed. Refugees had to find refuge somewhere else in the refugee camp. And Israel promised to resume its attacks whenever it wants to

Still, headline writers at the Times and CNN chose “operation” over the truth.


As George Orwell wrote in 1946, “the great enemy of clear language is insincerity”.

Most Western journalists will, by personal and institutional default, opt for insincerity anytime they are obliged to write about Israel since it is the safe and expected thing to do. This isn’t a subconscious bias. It’s a deliberate, overt choice.

Hence, the “good guys” never “attack” Palestinians. They “operate” on them. How sweet.

Orwell explained that euphemisms are employed “when certain topics are raised” to make sure “the concrete melts into the abstract”. 

The concrete facts and graphic images that convey the horror that Palestinians in Jenin have endured and will continue to endure are obscured into meaningless abstraction whenever Western journalists camouflage the lethal and disfiguring human consequences of Israel’s aggression behind their reliable stock of euphemisms.

A predictable corollary to this habitual phenomenon was the emphasis that many Western editors placed on the historic nature and scope of Israel’s “operation” in Jenin, rather than on the names, ages and histories of the Palestinians killed and maimed by the attack or the stories of their worried and grieving families.

On cue, Western news organisations produced a steady diet of approving headlines like this: “Israel’s biggest military operation in West Bank in years enters second day”.

Congratulations, Israel.

Indeed, for a headline writer at the popular website The Daily Beast, Israeli soldiers didn’t “kill” Palestinians during what amounted to a quickie “raid”. Palestinians died and were wounded – “allegedly”.

Here’s the website’s carefully calibrated headline: “Israeli Raid on Refugee Camp Leaves Nine Dead, Palestinians Say”.

Like “operation”, “leaves” is a palatable, neutral word devoid of any sinister goal. The implication is that Israel’s heavily armed soldiers meant no harm. Really, they didn’t. 

A “raid” minimises Israel’s attack on mostly unarmed Palestinians who were forced to “flee” from a besieged camp that can’t be escaped.

The use of “say” also bears a hint of scepticism. Can the Palestinians be trusted to provide an accurate accounting? Is the figure inflated? This doubt was echoed in the body of the story.

“The troops also allegedly left others wounded,” The Daily Beast’s cautious correspondent wrote.

The widespread hesitancy to call an attack an “attack” evaporated instantly after a Palestinian reportedly rammed a pick-up truck into a Tel Aviv bus stop shelter, injuring nine Israelis.

In the Times’s editorial calculus, an invasion into an imprisoned refugee camp by 2,000 Israeli soldiers with a legion of armoured vehicles and helicopters in tow, killing a dozen Palestinians, does not constitute an “attack”, but a lone Palestinian driving a truck into pedestrians in Tel Aviv does.

Got it.

The near-universal consensus among Western editors was that the “aim” of Israel’s “operation” was not to terrorise and traumatise Palestinians into submission but to erase any resistance by “purging Palestinian armed groups in the West Bank city”.

Absent, of course, was any consideration, let alone acknowledgment, that the attack on Jenin was further evidence of the policy of apartheid pursued by a succession of Israeli governments designed, as documented by several human rights organisations, to impose ethnic supremacy in occupied Palestine and to crush Palestinians into ghettos with grinding, inhuman efficiency.

“It is part of a progressive tactic at play [by Israel] to isolate and confine Jenin from the rest of Palestine, ghettoise it further the way they did with Gaza over the past decades,” Ines Abdel Razek, Executive Director of the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, told Al Jazeera.

In many Western newsrooms, “apartheid” is a verboten word that can never be invoked to help explain Israel’s long, systemic persecution of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem.

When Israel was done teaching Palestinians another blunt lesson, editors at Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, provided it with agreeable cover. “Israel withdraws troops from West Bank militant stronghold and warns two-day raid is not a one-off,” the newspaper wrote in a recent headline.

In other words, if Palestinians don’t behave, Israel will be back, unleashing drones and helicopter gunships to kill and wound human beings who don’t inhabit homes, but a “militant stronghold”. 

One could argue that Israel is a well-established “militant stronghold”, filled, as it is, with racist cabinet ministers who deny the existence of Palestinians and applaud when hundreds of marauding Israeli settlers torch Palestinian homes and attack Palestinian olive farmers.

Even as determined Palestinians in Jenin try to rebuild amid the loss and devastation wrought by Israel, CNN couldn’t resist one final libel. “Angry Palestinians mourn 12 killed in Israeli military operation in Jenin,” a June 6 headline read.

Ah, the perpetually “angry” Palestinian trope. Sadness, grief and resolve are, in the myopic minds of Western editors, the preserve of Israelis, not Palestinians.

That is a lie, too.

The ignorance, callousness, and arrogance of much of the Western media were on familiar display this week, proving, once more, that the salvation and liberation of Palestine will be won by Palestinians alone. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.