The week of June 4 was a good week for the United States and Iraqis attempting to bring a halt to the carnage wracking that nation. On June 8, two laser guided American 550 pound bombs found their target, bringing to an end Musab al Zarqawi's life.
As The New York Times observed, "It is good news for Washington, and even better news for Iraq, that the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi was finally killed on Wednesday by an American airstrike."
The editors at The Philadelphia Inquirer could likewise barely contain themselves in celebrating Zarqawi's death. "May Zarqawi find no peace in death for the atrocities he committed in life," the Inquirer editors volunteered in an editorial titled "Now that the beast is slain," concluding, "The U.S. troops who tracked Zarqawi and conducted the air strike deserve praise for conducting their mission successfully."
What a contrast with the media's and much of the world's response to Israel's targeted killing of Palestinian terrorists and their leaders.
In 2004, Israel eliminated in a period of months Sheik Ahmed Yassin, head of Hamas and Abdel Aziz Rantisi, their Gaza leader at the time of his death. After Rantisi's death, Times readers were treated to an editorial page obituary by editor David Margolick, with the beguiling title, "The nicest terrorist I ever met." Rantisi was a man of "gentle affability," Margolick recalled.
Fortunately, we have been spared such paeans to Zarqawi this week. A comment by Rantisi was particularly prescient. To Rantisi, "all of Israel was occupied territory," Margolick wrote. "Dr. Rantisi talked of truces, but they were meaningless. His peace plan was simple: five million Jews should leave. Then there would be peace. Until then, there would be jihad."
On the day that the Inquirer and Times were applauding Zarqawi's death, seven Palestinians died in an explosion on a Gaza beach. An errant Israeli artillery shell was immediately blamed, ostensibly directed at nearby terrorists firing rockets from Gaza into Israel, a mere 400 yards from the picnicking Palestinians.
That is less than a quarter of a mile, roughly the distance between the Union League and City Hall. Like Rantisi, who still had his grandchildren staying with him, despite being a criminal targeted by Israeli security forces, Palestinian terrorists have never hesitated at placing their neighbors in danger.
The nest day, the Times ran a four-column photograph above the fold on page one of a young Palestinian woman crying on the beach next to what appeared to be a dead body. At worst, the death of the Palestinians on the beach was an inadvertent accident caused by response to rocket attacks being launched against Israel from a few yards away. An investigation later proved that Israeli forces were not to blame.
With terrorists killing and maiming innocents around the world by the hundreds and thousands, the Palestinians' deaths, whatever the cause, were tragic but, unfortunately, not extraordinary. Israel has repeatedly promised to end attacks on Palestinian ruled Gaza if militants stop attacks on Israel. No nation can tolerate rocket attacks on their territory – and survive – without responding.
The accompanying New York Times story was headlined "Hamas declared it will resume attacking Israel." It was mirrored on the Inquirer's front page, although without the inflammatory photograph, by a report by Michael Matza titled "Hamas faction to end cease-fire." Both stories blamed the alleged attack for the anticipated increase in Hamas violence, although at least the Inquirer coverage noted that a militant Hamas brigade had already been responsible for 60 attacks on Israel in the past five years.
It would seem that, as with Hamas threats of violence, when it comes to coverage of Israel, not much changes.
This column was written for the Israel Advocacy Task Force of the Israel Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.