Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Iran-backed group behind the recent attacks on Israel, is rated by the Australian government as one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organisations. It is completely banned in Australia.
Why then is the Australian media failing to report that the majority of the casualties are actually terrorists, as defined by our own law?
As at 9am on November 14, the Palestinian death toll was 24. We know that some of these 24 are civilians, reportedly even children, and this is a tragedy. No child deserves to die in conflict.
Yet most of the people killed have been much less innocent.
The most prominent casualty has been Baha Abu al-Ata, the PIJ leader responsible for most of the rocket attacks on Israel in this past year.
Let’s remember that Abu al-Ata chose not to fire those rockets at Israeli military establishments, rather at Israeli homes, kindergartens and industrial areas. The only things that stood between one of Abu al-Ata’s rockets and Israeli civilian casualties has been Israel’s missile defence shield, Iron Dome, and luck in getting into a bomb shelter in time. The same relief that greeted the demise of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, should have greeted news of al-Ata’s removal.
Most of the other casualties have been Abu al-Ata’s PIJ comrades. The final numbers are unknown, but the Australia Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) has seen photographic evidence of at least 15 PIJ casualties.
How do we know who they are? Not because Israel alleges this but because the PIJ itself has told us so. These groups are savvy users of social media. When they lose a fighter, they quickly lionise them with “martyr” declarations, replete with a flattering photo of the deceased in full military uniform, often carrying a high-powered weapon.
And just who is the PIJ? According to the Australian government, the PIJ ranks among the 25 most dangerous global terrorist groups, PIJ promotes the military destruction of Israel as the only viable means to attain its goal of a sovereign Islamic state within the historic borders of Palestine and rejects a two-state solution. The details, on an Australian government website, continue: “Despite being a Sunni group, PIJ remains ideologically supportive of, and maintains close ties with, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Lebanese Hezbollah. Syria has historically provided support and sanctuary to PIJ—and the group’s leadership is likely currently based in Damascus.”
According to a current assessment by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), “Palestinian Islamic Jihad continues to be directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of terrorist acts or advocates the doing of terrorist acts.”
Therefore, while one should anticipate an Australian government statement critical of PIJ’s rocket attacks, it beggar’s belief that much of the Australian media is failing in its duty. These rocket attacks should not be reported as anything other than ongoing terror attacks from a group Australia defines as one of the world’s most dangerous, alongside the likes of Al-Qaeda and ISIS. Reporters also have a responsibility to inform their audiences that most of the Palestinians killed have not been “alleged militants” or “gunmen”, but acknowledged members of a terrorist group.
Naomi Levin is an analyst with the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.