The release of killers is not a cause for celebration

An objection to a +972 post.

I looked at the photo essay published in +972 Magazine yesterday, about the West Bank celebrations for the 26 released Palestinian prisoners, and I thought: are we celebrating these killers’ release, too? Are we cheering them as heroes too?

+972 practices what’s called engaged journalism – the writers, editors and photographers here all take a stand on the subjects we deal with, and while there are differences of opinion among us, we’re all agreed that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and African refugees is wrong, and this opinion is right up front in all the stuff we publish. And when Activestills’ photographers take photos of Palestinian, Bedouin or African refugee protests, it’s clear from the photos that Activestills, and +972 as the publisher, supports them. And that’s fine with me because I support those protests, too.

But in the same way, the message from the photo essay of the heroes’ welcome for the freed Palestinian prisoners is that Activestills and +972 welcomes them as heroes, too. I doubt that anybody at +972 actually takes that view; I know I don’t. It’s one thing to support the release of these people from prison, and even to accept, in principle, as I do that Palestinians have the same right to strike back at their foreign masters as does any other subject people, including the Jews of pre-state Israel. It’s quite another thing, though, to cheer the killers as heroes.

And while I’m sure that the other people at +972 weren’t inwardly congratulating these prisoners on winning their freedom, either, that’s the message which gets conveyed by the photo essay.

It seems that whoever wrote the text and captions for it was uncomfortable with the subject: there is no mention of the crimes the prisoners committed, no clue that they killed people – Israeli soldiers, civilians and Palestinians suspected of collaboration. The writer or writers, I’m convinced, did not want to say that the freed prisoners were killers or who they killed because that would have struck an extremely dissonant chord in such a celebratory photo essay.

So the inconvenient detail about the nature of the prisoners’ crimes was left out. And its absence couldn’t be more conspicuous. The impression left by that absence is that +972 is telling its audience that the release of these men is indeed a cause for celebration – but it’s deliberately leaving out any fact that could get in the way of that message.

Again, I’m sure there are others at +972 who don’t see these killers’ release as a cause for celebration, but as members of a collective that practices engaged journalism, that message has gone out in our name.

This photo essay never should have run on the site. Or if it did, the author/photographers should have made it clear what acts the prisoners committed, they should have stated their opinions of those acts and the reception given to those who committed them, and they should have signed their names to those opinions. Either +972 should not celebrate the freedom of these very nasty pieces of work, or, if any of us do celebrate it, they should say so explicitly.

PHOTOS: Palestinians are released from Israeli prisons after 20 years