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Canada, Israel Attacks Get Different Media Treatment

Two violent incidents occurring in two separate countries on the same day were both described as terrorism — but were covered in very different ways.
Posted at 8:42 PM, Oct 23, 2014

What makes a terrorist, a terrorist? As we've noted in the past, the line between violent killings, and capital-T "Terrorism" isn't always clear.

It's a distinction that came into sharp relief once again this week after two countries, Canada and Israel, were rocked by similar violent incidents on the same day.

When a lone gunman shot and killed a Canadian serviceman and threw Ottawa into lockdown before being fatally shot Wednesday, there was no question about how to define the attack. (Video via The Globe and Mail)

CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER VIA C-SPAN: "This week's events are a grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the types of terrorist attacks we've seen elsewhere in the world."

PRESIDENT OBAMA VIA THE WHITE HOUSE: "It emphasizes the degree to which we have to remain vigilant when it comes to dealing with these kinds of acts of senseless violence or terrorism."

Now compare that response to what happened after a Palestinian man's car plowed into a crowded light rail stop in Jerusalem Wednesday, killing a 3-month old baby and wounding seven others. The driver was shot at the scene by Israeli police and later died in a hospital. (Video via Al Jazeera)

Israel's government classified the incident as a terrorist attack, and many Israeli media outlets followed suit. But reading Western media coverage of the incident, you'd be hard-pressed to find the terms "terrorist" or "attack" outside of scare quotes or qualifiers.

That's if you can find coverage of the Israel attack at all — there's no question that the Ottawa shooting got far more airtime in the U.S. than the Jerusalem car crash did.

And to top it all off, there's been widespread outrage about some of the early headlines surrounding the Israel incident — organizations like the Associated Press, BBC, and AFP published headlines that focused on the use of lethal force by Israeli police rather than the victims of the crash.

Many pro-Israel sites saw the coverage as evidence of anti-Israel bias, using phrases like "blatant racism" and "deep anti-Israel pathology." But the disparities between the two stories also likely has something to do with where the attacks took place. 

As The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin points out, we're used to violent news coming out of Israel: The media reaction to the attack so far has been "'Oh, another attack in Israel.'"

But terrorism in Canada is much more infrequent, and much more sensationalized when it does happen. Case in point — a Daily Beast writer describes the Ottawa shooting as an "unprecedented assault" which "brazenly targeted Canadian institutions in the nation's capital."

The U.S. Department of State has condemned both attacks as terrorism, and urged for calm in Israel after clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police broke out Wednesday night.

This video includes an image from Getty Images.