Some Terror Victims Don’t Count // Why Won’t They Use the T-Word When Palestinian Arabs Attack?

Family and friends attend the funeral of 6-years-old Yaakov Israel Plai, a victim of the deadly car-ramming terror attack near the Ramot junction today, in Har HaMenuchot Cemetery, Jerusalem, February 10, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** הלוויה טרור יעקב ישראל פלאי הר המנוחות פיגוע הרוג

A recent United Nations report on violence in Israel and the territories during the past year omitted 11 of the 31 Israelis who were murdered by Palestinian Arab terrorists. 

Why do many international organizations, media outlets, and even the US State Department often downplay the extent of Palestinian terrorism? Why are they sometimes reluctant even to call it by its name?

The UN’s peculiar way of counting Israeli victims of Palestinian Arab terrorism came to light recently when the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Norwegian diplomat Tor Wennesland, presented his annual report to the UN Security Council. He accused Israel of killing 150 innocent Palestinians last year, when in fact “at least 80 percent of them were terrorists,” according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

When it came to Israeli victims of Arab terror, not only did Wennesland refrain from calling the attackers “terrorists,” but his list omitted 11 of the victims. Among those not included were Har Nof yeshivah student Aryeh Shchupak and Ethiopian Jewish immigrant Tadese Tashume, who were murdered in the November 23 bomb attacks near the Jerusalem central bus station.

Also omitted were two of the victims in the March 29 Palestinian Arab shooting attack in Bnei Brak, Victor Sorokopot and Dima Mitrik; Ivan Tarnovsky, the victim of a March 21 stabbing by a terrorist in Jerusalem; 84-year-old Shulamit Rachel Ovadia, who was beaten to death by a Palestinian Arab terrorist in Holon on September 20; Border Police officers Shirel Abukarat and Yemen Falah, who were murdered in Hadera on March 27; and Rabbi Moshe Kravitsky, Laura Itzhak, Doris Yahbas, and Meha and Menach Yehezkel, who were shot, stabbed or run over by a Palestinian Arab terrorist in Beer Sheva on March 22.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, sent a letter to Secretary General Antonio Guterres of the UN, protesting the omissions as “distorted and disconnected from reality.” Ambassador Erdan asked the UN to reevaluate its data, but he has not received a reply.


The phenomenon of Israel’s critics minimizing Palestinian Arab terrorism, or even refusing to call it terrorism, extends far beyond the United Nations.

Major media agencies likewise employ various euphemisms. The Associated Press refers to Palestinian Arab terrorism as “assaults” or “attacks” and describes individual terrorists with phrases such as “a knife-wielding Palestinian.” The New York Times prefers to call them “assailants” or “militants.”

Human rights groups do not use the word “terrorism” in their annual reports concerning Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. Amnesty International’s latest report refers to “armed conflict between Israel and Palestinian armed groups.” When describing Arab mob attacks on Israeli Jews, it calls them “protests that were mainly against Jewish Israeli settler activities.” 

Even when referring to internationally recognized terrorist groups, Amnesty will not use the T-word. Last year’s report described the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is on the official US list of terrorist groups, as “a political party with a military wing that Israel has banned.” The PFLP is best known for its airplane hijackings in the 1970s, its murder of an Israeli Cabinet minister in 2001, and its massacre of rabbis in a Har Nof synagogue in 2014.

Human Rights Watch follows a similar line. Its latest annual report on “Israel/Palestine” characterizes Palestinian terrorist groups as “Palestinian armed groups” and individual terrorists as “those alleged to have attacked Israelis.” It referred to six Arab terrorists who escaped from an Israeli prison merely as “Palestinian prisoners,” without acknowledging that they were convicted of multiple murders and other terrorist offenses. Describing the number of terrorists in Israeli jails, Human Rights Watch stated that Israel “held 4,460 Palestinians in custody for ‘security’ offenses,” with quotation marks around the word “security” to indicate that it does not recognize their terrorism as such.

Some groups on the American Jewish left likewise hedge their rhetoric when it comes to Palestinian Arab terrorism. Although these groups do occasionally condemn Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis, they refrain from calling them terrorists.



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