The use of such strong language when describing Israeli settler attacks on innocent Palestinians, especially in a situation in which the violence is asymmetrical, is inflammatory and a violation of basic journalistic standards. I insist that you immediately remove the words “revenge” or “avenge” in both articles and their headlines.
June 21, 2023
Isabel Debre, Journalist, Associated Press
Josef Federman, News Director, Associated Press
Donovan Vincent, Public Editor, Toronto Star
Dear Ms. Debre, Mr. Federman, and Mr. Vincent,
I’m writing on behalf of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME, https://www.cjpme.org) to express serious concern regarding the June 21 AP article written by Isabel Debre published on the Toronto Star website entitled “Palestinian killed as Israeli settlers torch West Bank homes and cars to avenge deadly shooting.”
I am alarmed by the AP’s headline of this article and a previous one that use the words “revenge” and “avenge” to describe the recent settler attacks on Palestine towns in the Occupied West Bank. This language serves to rationalize or justify the violence carried out against Palestinians. Both “revenge” and “avenge” share the same Latin root vindicare meaning “to lay claim to, avenge, punish.”
While the problem should be clear to any ordinary reader, it is worth emphasizing how clear-cut the meaning of these words is, and as such, how harmful they are. The Columbia Guide to Standard American English describes the words “revenge” or “avenge” as follows:
To avenge is "to get revenge" or "to take vengeance"; it suggests the administration of just punishment for a criminal or immoral act. Revenge seems to stress the idea of retaliation a bit more strongly and implies real hatred as its motivation.
The use of such strong language when describing Israeli settler attacks on innocent Palestinians, especially in a situation in which the violence is asymmetrical, is inflammatory and a violation of basic journalistic standards.
I insist that you immediately remove the words “revenge” or “avenge” in both articles and their headlines.
In fact, when the Palestinian attack on Israeli settlers took place in which 4 settlers were killed, Ms. Debre’s article only framed the attack specifically as a “response” to the earlier Israeli attack on Jenin (which killed 7 Palestinians including 2 children) 13 paragraphs down. Further, to use the word “response” for Palestinians and “revenge” for Israelis reveals a troubling trend in the AP’s reporting when it comes to its descriptions of Israeli and Palestinian violence.
These disparities are a form of Anti-Palestinian Racism as defined by the Arab-Canadian Lawyers Association (ACLA). They fall into the category of “erasing the human rights and equal dignity and worth of Palestinians.” These consistent linguistic disparities when describing events constitute the erasure of the dignity and worth of Palestinian lives.
I urge the Associated Press to correct these gross contraventions of journalistic ethics now and going forward.
In addition, your use of words like “battle” or “fighting” serve to further obscure the asymmetrical nature of the violence. Your failure to note that Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank are “illegal” under international law leaves readers without critical context. The establishment of Israeli settlements is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and is considered a war crime under the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
If you would like to discuss this matter further, please contact me at 438-380-5410.
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East
Director of Media Advocacy