It is a perverse human quality, but we are drawn to news stories about human tragedies. Some characteristics of such stories intensify the level of our fascination: descriptions or pictures of gore or disfigurement; pictures of grieving loved ones; and some form of personal connection – no matter how indirect – to those at the center.
The journalistic adage, "If it bleeds, it leads," condenses this notion to a pithy directive.
Yet the American media has failed to cover a story containing every item on the sure-to-interest news readers' checklist. I invite you to ponder why.
An Arab Palestinian suicide bomber detonated himself at a falafel stand in Israel on April 17, during Passover. The murderer killed nine innocent people and wounded dozens.
A broad range of news sources, including USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer and CBS, ABC, CNN included background information about the bomber. We learned that he was an Al Quds University drop-out and, incredibly, that he had been a social worker. In his farewell video, the murderer claimed that he sought martyrdom on behalf of imprisoned Arabs.
Satisfying its compulsion to draw parallels between Israeli and Arab Palestinian suffering, on Page 1 of its April 18 edition, the Inquirer placed a photograph of an unnamed Israeli grieving over the body of an Israeli victim. Placed directly below that is a photo of the murderer's mother wistfully holding two pictures – in one, he's holding a rifle – of her now-dead son.
Juxtaposing these photos suggests there are victims on both sides of the Middle East conflict: Arab mothers grieving for their dead sons, and young Israeli men grieving for dead Israelis.
I find this moral equivalence repulsive. But let's take it one more step.
It Bled, but It Didn't Lead
If bleeders are leaders – and some kind of personal connection with the bleeders increase consumers' interest in a news story – then there is a follow-up story from the April 17 bombing that should have been all over the American media.
Daniel Wultz was a 16-year-old Florida teen who accompanied his father to Israel to visit relatives during Passover. The boy was fatally wounded by the April 17 explosion and did not succumb to his injuries until May 14. He lay in a coma. First, his spleen and one of his kidneys had to be removed. Then, this basketball-loving teenager had to have one leg amputated at the knee before his death.
In a split-second, a healthy youngster is transformed into a shattered vessel. More and more parts of his body – instead of providing him with mobility and life support – turned against him, and were pared away in a vain effort to save his life.
Islamic Jihad claimed credit for the bombing. One of the terror group's leaders expressed sorrow that Daniel had not been killed, according to WorldNetDaily, one of the few media outlets to cover the story at the time.
Another Arab terrorist group seeking to share credit for the bombing extolled the double treat of having almost murdered an American and a Zionist. Islamic Jihad threatened Americans and Jews everywhere, saying they are all legitimate targets.
What American could hear this story, and not become riveted – eager for updates, eager to cheer this young man's progress, or despair any further impediments? But other than the local Florida newspapers, such as the Sun Sentinel and The Miami Herald, and an Associate Press story picked up by The Los Angeles Times (but by none of A.P.'s other major subscribers), the rest of the mainstream American media ignored the profoundly moving story of Daniel Wultz.
How can it be that an American Jewish teenager's struggle for life after a terrorist bombing was something most American media sources considered inconsequential? Why was his story not newsworthy? Because Daniel Wultz was a kid, an American or because he was a Zionist? The media owes us an explanation.
This column was written for the Israel Advocacy Task Force of the Israel Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.