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Associated Press under fire for calling antisemitic anti-Israel demonstrations 'anti-war' protests

Ayaan Hirsi Ali called on news outlets to stop referring to the "insurrection underway on our university campuses as Pro Palestinian protests."

Published: April 25, 2024 11:02pm

The Associated Press is under fire for portraying the protests wracking college campuses across the United States as "anti-war demonstrations" while omitting how many of the demonstrations include violent rhetoric and have been connected to the assault of Jews. 

"When people are chanting in their protests, 'intifada now,' simply look up the definition of 'intifada' – that is not anti war," said Natalie Sanandaji, a New Yorker who survived the Nova music festival massacre, where more than 360 people were killed by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, 2023. "To downplay it is to make these people feel like what they're doing is okay. We need to talk about how serious it is. Downplaying it is just putting more people at risk," she said on the "Just the News, No Noise" TV show.

"Intifada," an Arabic word for "uprising," is used to refer to two violent periods, one in the late 1980s and the other in the early 2000s, where nearly 1,000 Israelis were killed or injured in Palestinian terror attacks, including suicide attacks in civilian areas. Chants in support of the intifada have been heard at anti-Israel protests multiple times since Oct. 7, when about 1,200 people in Israel were murdered and 250 others were kidnapped. 

"Nobody is pro-war. To call this an anti-war protest is absurd," said Dan Schneider, the vice president of Media Research Center's Free Speech America, a conservative-leaning nonprofit media watchdog. "This is not about war. This is about the extermination of Jews and the elimination of Israel as a legal state."

While calls in support of another intifada have increased over the past month on college campuses, multiple stories from The Associated Press have framed the incidents as student protests against the Israel-Hamas war, while glossing over or even omitting how the demonstrations have been associated with antisemitic incidents and chants calling for the destruction of the state of Israel and for another intifada.

The Associated Press only mentioned pro-intifada chants in one story that Just The News could find, when covering Michigan protests over the war in Gaza added comments from made by Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Mich., during a congressional hearing on antisemitism on college campuses.

McClain asked Shafik if phrases such as "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" or "long live intifada" are antisemitic. "I hear them as such, some people don’t," Shafik said.

The Associated Press did not respond to requests for comment from Just the News.

Chants and signs in support of another intifada have been heard during recent protests at multiple schools, including the University of California, Berkeley, Columbia University, George Washington University and the University of Michigan

Schneider, a graduate of Columbia Law School, said that the media's coverage of the demonstrations is influenced by their desire for President Joe Biden to win reelection. "This protest against Israel, oddly enough, is a part of this election campaign," he said. Polls show that Biden is losing support among young people and in vital swing states such as Michigan, while support for former President Donald Trump is increasing, including among the Jewish community.

"The media is desperate to make sure Donald Trump does not get reelected president," Schneider also said.

Other people have criticized coverage of the protests and said the movements are supportive of Hamas, not the Palestinian people. 

"Let’s stop referring [to] the insurrection underway on our university campuses as Pro Palestinian protests. They are not pro Palestinian. They are anti-Jewish and anti-American," human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali said Thursday on X. "What you see are Pro Hamas operatives exploiting gullible students. They are flexing their Islamist muscles. Incompetent and weak university presidents who allowed this problem to get out of hand will not stop them."

Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said on X that a demonstration at Northwestern University is "no longer a pro-Hamas campsite. It’s a Hamas campsite," after a video emerged of a person on campus wearing a sweatshirt featuring Hamas military spokesperson Abu Obaida.

Some celebrities have added their point of view, most notably reggae superstar, Ziggy Marley, the son the legendary Bob Marley, whose "Free Gaza from Hamas" social media meme went super-viral

This is not the first time that the Associated Press has come under fire for its coverage of the Israel-Hamas war. For example, the wire service said none of its staffers were at the Gaza-Israel border during the time of the Oct. 7 attacks, but four photographers appeared in the agency's photo credits from the border area that day. The wire service also became embroiled in an ethical scandal where the AP, among other news organizations, had used freelancers who it was later discovered had ties to Hamas. The AP dismissed the claims for "lack of evidence."

Follow Madeleine Hubbard on X or Instagram.

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