Official Palestinian Authority media glorified an attacker who murdered 29-year-old U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force and wounded nearly a dozen others in Israel earlier this year.
The news outlets labeled Bashar Masalha a "martyr" when covering his funeral over the weekend, according to reports compiled by Palestinian Media Watch on Tuesday. Masalha stabbed the American tourist to death before being shot dead by Israeli police in March. His body was only recently delivered to the Palestinian Authority.
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"His family, friends, and people of the region took it upon themselves to ensure that this [burial] would be a large national wedding befitting of Martyrs. … The Martyr was accompanied to his last resting place in the cemetery for Martyrs in Hajja," an official Palestinian television reporter stated during a Saturday broadcast.
"Martyr Bashar Masalha, 22, ascended to Heaven in Jaffa on March 8 . … He returned and was embraced by his homeland as a Martyr within it," the reporter later stated.
The broadcast also spotlighted a poster at Masalha’s funeral labeling him the "heroic Martyr," a phrase previously used to describe the attacker on the official Facebook page of Fatah, the political party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. In total, official Palestinian television labeled Masalha a "martyr" 11 times during the broadcast.
The official Palestinian daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida labeled Masalha a "martyr" in a report published the day of the funeral, which was attended by hundreds. "Masalha died as a Martyr on March 8 , after carrying out a stabbing operation in Jaffa, in which he killed an American tourist," Al-Hayat Al-Jadida stated on Saturday.
Force, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was studying business at Vanderbilt University, was on a trip with classmates to the ancient port city near Tel Aviv when he was stabbed to death by his attacker. Force, a West Point graduate, served as a field artillery officer in the U.S. Army for five years.
"Taylor embarked on this trip to expand his understanding of global entrepreneurship and also to share his insights and knowledge with start-ups in Israel," Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos said in a statement at the time.
"He exemplified the spirit of discovery, learning and service that is the hallmark of our wonderful Owen community," Zeppos continued. "This horrific act of violence has robbed our Vanderbilt family of a young hopeful life and all of the bright promise that he held for bettering our greater world."
Force is one of several individuals who have been wounded or killed at the hands of Palestinian attackers in Israel in recent months.
The stabbing took place as Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Israel for two days of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.