January 9, 2003
No room could be found for his bravery.
Staff Sgt. Noam Apter, age 23, died Friday night Dec. 27 as a hero in an attack on the Jewish settlement of Otniel. His picture was on the front page of every Israeli daily newspaper. His bravery reported on every newscast in Israel. His family's mourning and loss have been a subject of conversation at dinner tables, office coolers, essentially all over Israel for the past week.
Yet, the story of Noam did not appear in the Los Angeles Times, or in most papers abroad. Not even his name appeared. Nor his age. Nor the names or ages of the other three victims brutally murdered in the Sabbath eve massacre at Otniel. He was just another one of "four Israelis killed in the West Bank."
To illustrate how one-sided the coverage of Israel has been, one needs to go no further than the Los Angeles Times. During the four days after Noam's death, the Los Angeles Times reported extensively on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Seven major articles were published with a total of more than 7,000 words. Yet, no room could be found for Noam's name or for the story of his bravery, nor for the story of his family's loss. Is this because Noam was not a Palestinian?
It turns out that Palestinian stories, names and ages filled all of these seven Los Angeles Times articles over those four days. While not a single name of an Israeli victim was listed, nor the age of a single Israeli victim, the Los Angeles Times did find the room to list -- by name -- 17 Palestinians "victims" (some of whom were terrorists killed in gun battles with Israeli troops). The Times also found it appropriate to list the ages of a total of 20 different Palestinian "victims," while not a single Israeli receives the honor of being attributed with an age in this extensive reporting.
Lack of ages and names are only the beginning. Each Palestinian "victim" has a story -- heart-rending, full of context, detail, local color and moving quotes. The Israeli victims are just statistics, without quotes, without a context, essentially without a story. This lack of balance might be explained if the numbers were unbalanced -- so many more Palestinians dying than Israelis. Yet, in the Times reporting on Dec. 29, they noted that in the month of October more Israeli civilians were killed (45) than Palestinians (41). So why no names, no ages, no stories for the Israeli victims? Why don't the Israeli unarmed civilians who are deliberately targeted by terrorists get at least the same journalistic treatment as the Palestinian civilians who are tragically and mistakenly killed in a tough war against terror that Israel must fight in populated areas?
One is left with the unmistakable conclusion that for the Los Angeles Times, Palestinian suffering deserves color and details, Jewish suffering is simply a set of statistics, faceless soldiers conducting "aggressive" anti-terrorist campaigns, and government officials rolling out routine condemnation of terror.
Yet our victims do have names, ages and stories. The story of Noam Apter will be told by Israelis for generations. Since you probably missed it, here it is:
On erev Shabbat, Dec. 27, more than 100 Israeli teenagers and young adults sat down for the Sabbath meal at the yeshiva Jewish school of Otniel. These kids are not "ultra-Orthodox," as erroneously reported in the Los Angeles Times, but modern Orthodox kids who study in yeshiva before and sometimes during their army service. Four of the students whose turn it was to be the evening's waiters went to serve the main course in the kitchen adjoining the dining room. Noam Apter was among them. The other three waiters were: Yehuda Bamberger, 20; Zvi Ziman 18; and Gabriel Hoter, 17.
Suddenly, two terrorists dressed in Israeli army uniforms burst into the kitchen and sprayed the four waiters with fire from their M-16s. Hit by the bullets and mortally wounded, Noam used his last strength to run to the door connecting the kitchen and the dining room and close it. He locked it and threw the key into a corner. He then collapsed and died, lying against the door. The terrorists tried to open the door. Seeing it locked, they tried to spray fire through a small glass window into the dining room. After realizing that this fire was inaccurate and wild (it only wounded six more students) and having already killed the four student waiters, the terrorists fled the kitchen, later to be hunted down and killed by the Israeli army.
According to 18-year-old Yaacov Ohana, a wounded survivor of the attack who was quoted in the Israeli daily Ma'ariv, "Our great luck was that Noam succeeded in locking the door to the dining room and throwing the key into a dark corner, otherwise the terrorists would have massacred dozens."
Noam Apter was just another of the many heroes of the current war Israel is waging against terror. They all have names. They all have ages. And they all have stories. It's about time they were told.
Jonathan Medved is a venture capitalist living in Jerusalem.