Associated Press Apparently Nixes Using Word ‘Activist’ to Describe Gaza Rioters & Terrorists

Reprinted from Honest Reporting.


The Associated Press last month faced criticism after HonestReporting highlighted how the wire service appeared to minimize the severity of arson balloon attacks on Israel by Gaza Strip-based rioters, some of whom have ties to or are members of US-designated terrorist groups.

In an August 23 article, AP described those who launched the incendiary devices as “activists” even though the attacks had sparked “at least three fires.” In the same piece, the Gazan who murdered border police officer Barel Shmueli was described as a “Palestinian activist.”

HonestReporting posted a screenshot of the offending article and drew attention to the Orwellian-like use of such language. Numerous users thereafter expressed shock that the AP would choose a word that so clearly misrepresents the reality of acts of violence against Israelis. 

Hoping to get some clarity on why AP chose to frame its story in the way that it did, we reached out to Josef Federman, the outlet’s news director for Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan. He explained that the issue we raised was one that his team was still grappling with and made clear that the use of the word “activists” in such a context is not editorial policy. 

Furthermore, Federman argued that while incendiary balloons represent dangerous attacks, they are less potentially lethal than rockets or gunfire and the people that are launching them are, to AP’s knowledge, not trained terrorists.

This, despite the fact AP itself later acknowledged that this is indeed the case. While an AP article on August 25 only identified a Gazan killed during clashes as “a Palestinian man,” the text was later updated to read that “Hamas identified him as a member of its armed wing.”

He said that he felt the stories AP had published “accurately conveyed the actions and intentions of the balloon launchers” but affirmed that it was “not a closed matter” and the wire service would continue to “weigh whether they should be called fighters, militants, operatives, arsonists or activists.”

Nevertheless, it does appear that the AP has reevaluated how it refers to those who commit acts of terror against the Jewish state. In its latest piece covering balloon attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians launching these potentially deadly devices are described as “Hamas operatives.”

The article headlined, Hamas operatives launch incendiary balloons into Israel, states:

Photos and videos posted online showed masked Hamas-affiliated operatives holding pictures of Gazans killed in recent clashes with Israeli forces while they launched balloons in the direction of Israel.

There were no immediate reports of any fires in southern Israel. Israel’s new government has compared the balloons, which have sparked a series of wildfires in recent weeks, to rocket fire. It often responds to the launches with nighttime airstrikes on Hamas targets.

Hamas has also staged a series of violent demonstrations along the Israeli border in recent weeks calling for an end to the blockade, which is also conducted by Gaza’s western neighbor, Egypt.”

While the word “terrorist” is not used in the piece, the article makes it clear that Hamas is an “Islamic militant group sworn to Israel’s destruction” – something the August 23 article neglected to mention. This fact gives the frequent balloon attacks on Israel some much-needed context for readers.

It is not yet clear if this adoption of more appropriate language to describe these attacks represents a permanent shift in editorial policy. For example, an AP article published on August 29 that details the riots on the Gaza border also described “Hamas-backed activists” as clashing with Israeli forces.

Importantly, though, the latest story is a sign AP is addressing what could be perceived as reporting that fails to grasp the gravity of the frequent assaults on the Jewish state or, inadvertently or otherwise, disguises the link between those perpetrating such attacks and the Hamas terrorist group.

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