Shamir Remembered–With Selective Amnesia

In death, the U.S. media remembered the late Yitzhak Shamir as “a political hard-liner who served two terms as Israeli prime minster” (CNN, 6/30/12), “the hawkish Israeli leader who balked at the idea of trading occupied land for peace with the Palestinians” (MSNBC, 6/30/12) and “a man of iron will and simple tastes” (Washington Post, 6/30/12) who

prided himself on his hard-line views, his relentless determination to hang onto every square inch of what he considered the Land of Israel, and his championing of Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, defying the demands of Israel’s most important ally, the United States.

Neither CNN  or MSNBC mentioned Shamir’s terrorist past, but the Post offered a taste of the bloody history with a couple of paragraphs on Shamir’s leadership of Lehi (AKA the Stern Gang), the most extreme Jewish militia in Palestine in the 1940s:

While mainstream Zionist groups forged a truce with the British to combat Nazism during World War II, Mr. Shamir and Lehi fought on, even offering to cooperate with the Germans to rid Palestine of British rule.

Mr. Shamir was the architect of Lehi’s most daring attack, the 1944 assassination in Cairo of Lord Moyne, Britain’s top Middle East official and a close friend of Prime Minister Winston Churchill.”

The New York Times (6/30/12) obituary, which described Shamir as  “promoting a muscular Zionism,” included some reporting on his terrorist past, but when it came down to calling things what they are, the Times would only report that some Shamir opponents called him a terrorist:

Many of his friends and colleagues ascribed his character to his years in the underground in the 1940s, when he sent Jewish fighters out to kill British officers whom he saw as occupiers. He was a wanted man then; to the British rulers of the Palestine mandate he was a terrorist, an assassin. He appeared in public only at night, disguised as a Hasidic rabbi. But Mr. Shamir said he considered those “the best years of my life.”

The evidence that Shamir was a terrorist is conclusive. Shamir was one of three men leading Lehi as the group carried out dozens of assassinations, including those of the British diplomat Lord Moyne, in 1944, and the Swedish-born United Nations peace envoy, Count Folke Bernadotte, in 1948.

Lehi joined forces with the Irgun, another Jewish militia responsible for terrorist atrocities, in the 1948 killing of between 100 and 250 Palestinians, including many women and children, in the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin. According to the Nexis news database, no U.S. news story about Shamir’s death mentioned his r0le in what would come to be known as the Deir Yassin Massacre.

The U.S. press isn’t always so delicate in naming someone a terrorist. For instance, in the Times 2004 obituary for Yasser Arafat (11/11/04), reporter Judith Miller reported that the Palestinian leader “began his long political career with high-profile acts of anti-Israel terrorism.”

It’s a double standard based on whether the terrorist was considered a friend or foe by U.S. officialdom. From the outpouring of respect expressed by U.S. officials on Shamir’s passing, one could have predicted a whitewash of his terrorist history in the press.






About Steve Rendall

Senior Media Analyst and Co-producer of CounterSpin Steve Rendall is FAIR's senior analyst. He is co-host of CounterSpin, FAIR's national radio show. His work has received awards from Project Censored, and has won the praise of noted journalists such as Les Payne, Molly Ivins and Garry Wills. He is co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error (The New Press, 1995, New York City). Rendall has appeared on dozens of national television and radio shows, including appearances on CNN, C-SPAN, CNBC, MTV and Fox Morning News. He was the subject of a profile in the New York Times (5/19/96), and has been quoted on issues of media and politics in publications such as the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and New York Times. Rendall contributed stories to the International Herald Tribune from France, Spain and North Africa; worked as a freelance writer in San Francisco; and worked as an archivist collecting historical material on the Spanish Civil War and the volunteers who fought in it. Rendall studied philosophy and chemistry at San Francisco State University, the College of Notre Dame and UC Berkeley.