Israel Trades Palestinian Terrorists for 3-Year-Old Jewish Girls. The Media See a 'Prisoner Swap.'

Hostages released by Hamas arrive in Tel Aviv (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)
December 1, 2023

Israel on Sunday released from prison Israa Jaabees, a 38-year-old West Bank woman who was convicted for an attempted suicide car bombing in 2015. On the same day, Hamas released Abigail Eden, a 3-year-old Israeli girl whom the terrorist group abducted on Oct. 7 after murdering her parents in front of her.

Mainstream news outlets in many ways treated the release of prisoners like Jaabees and hostages like Abigail as equivalent. It's part of a tendency by the media to obfuscate the huge moral distinctions between Israel and its enemies.

Under a weeklong truce that appears to have ended as of Friday, Israel released 240 women and teenage prisoners. Most of those let go in the initial days of the truce were held for violent offenses, including 10 for attempted murder, 13 for inflicting serious bodily harm, 19 for placing a bomb or throwing an incendiary device, and 7 for shooting at people, according to an American Jewish Committee review of Israeli records. In addition to Jaabees, the released prisoners included the likes of Misoun Mussa, 28, who was convicted for stabbing a female Israeli soldier in Jerusalem in 2015.

Hamas, as part of the deal and separate negotiations, released 81 of the more than 200 Israeli hostages who were taken to the Gaza Strip during the terrorists' Oct. 7 massacre in the Jewish state. Other released hostages include 3-year-old twins Ema and Yuly Cunio, 9-year-old soccer fan Ohad Munder, and 85-year-old Holocaust survivor and great-grandmother Yaffa Adar.

International headlines often conflated the released Israeli hostages with the released Palestinian prisoners—referring to an "Israel-Hamas prisoner swap," "swaps of captives," or worse.

At the same time, news outlets in many cases covered the Palestinian prisoners and their families with at least as much sympathy as the Israeli hostages.

The New York Times reported on the triumphant homecoming of two West Bank cousins who were released from Israeli prison on Sunday. Only 14 paragraphs into the report did the Times note that one of the cousins, Anwar Atta, 18, had faced charges for throwing an "incendiary device" at Israeli soldiers. It took 27 paragraphs to reveal the same information about the other cousin, Mourad Atta, 17.

CNN last week highlighted the emotional reunion of an East Jerusalem mother with her daughter, 33-year-old Malak Salam, whom Israel released from prison after she served seven years of a nine-year-sentence for trying to stab an Israeli police officer. CNN's "chief international investigative correspondent" Nima Elbagir outright rejected Israel's characterization of the released prisoners as terrorists and described Salam as only "accused of attempting stabbing."

Days earlier, CNN aired a segment about another East Jerusalem mother's self-described "nightmare" as she waited for Israel to release her "so innocent" "child" from prison. At no point did CNN mention that the daughter, Marah Bkeer, 24, was convicted for trying to stab an Israeli police officer in 2015.

The Times portrayed Jaabees, the attempted suicide bomber, as the unfortunate victim of her car exploding, even though she had detonated a gas canister in an effort to kill an Israeli police officer who stopped her en route to a planned attack on civilians.

The media were also there for the public celebrations of prisoner releases in the West Bank. Somehow the reporters managed to miss the prisoners, their families, and the crowds advocating for Hamas and the killing of more Israelis.

The media just saw a party.

On the other hand, the Times recently asked the mother of a 23-year-old American-Israeli hostage to answer for the suffering of Palestinians: "I wonder, as a mother, how you see the civilian casualties in Gaza. Is that upsetting to you?" and, "Do you see there being context here that is important to understand?"

"What would you want Hamas to understand about you as a Jewish person, as an Israeli in this moment?" the Times also asked Rachel Goldberg, whose son, Hersh Goldberg-Polin, was maimed and abducted by Hamas terrorists at a music festival on Oct. 7. "What do you want them to understand about who you are?"