LONDON: Israel’s Channel 13 apologized earlier this week for running a news headline that criticized the Israeli government for authorizing a deadly attack on three high-ranking members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement in Gaza, that killed 10 civilians, including women and children.
The network was accused of “attempting to distort the Palestinian narrative” for the headline run during the channel’s main show that said: “Green light from the prime minister: Women and children killed overnight in Gaza.”
Shortly after running the chyron on Tuesday evening, the Tel Aviv-based TV channel became the target of offended viewers around the country.
According to some sources close to the channel, after the incident, its ratings plunged to 6 percent, a historic low for the network.
The incident angered Israeli authorities, and on Wednesday some politicians called Channel 13 “Jazeera 13,” after the Qatari network.
“The hatred for the prime minister on this channel had made them lose their minds. No Israeli flag can cover up this disgrace. Be ashamed of yourselves,” said MK Keti Shitrit, a member of Likud, the political party led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israeli Minister for Public Diplomacy Galit Distel Atbaryan also issued a statement arguing that the network had deliberately “aligned with the bad guys.”
She said on Twitter: “I don’t know what is going on with this channel, but it is simply improbable that an Israeli channel would directly assist the enemy forces. Totally implausible.”
By midday on Wednesday, the channel appeared to have backtracked and issued an apology for the “mistake” in the chyron.
“The headline that appeared in the main edition was worded inappropriately and in an incorrect and misleading manner. We apologize for this to our viewers,” Channel 13 said in a statement.
The same day one of the network’s journalists, Talia Cohen, and photographer Ivan Alekseevich were attacked and pepper-sprayed on live television despite the apology.
Channel 13 was not the only media organization at the center of the storm.
Channel 12, as well as Israeli newspapers Yediot Aharonot and Haaretz, also sparked controversy for publishing a headline that took aim at Israel’s targeted killing of the three high-ranking Islamic Jihad terrorists.
Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi also intervened in the debate, arguing that the media was “collaborating with the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement) and with antisemitism.”
The episode sparked a wave of online criticism towards both the channels and the Israeli government for attempting to downplay the incident through a “vile” rhetoric.
“Insane! Israel’s Channel 13 mentioned the killing of 10 civilians in Israeli strikes. They were immediately ravaged for it, attacked by gov ministers, Knesset members, pundits…” wrote Palestinian writer and civil society activist Muhammad Shehada on Twitter.
“How dare they say we’re human?”
Another user said: “The hell with the Israeli media. Even when they take a small brave step, they immediately walk it back.”
The news comes amid rising tension in the region, and a few days before the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, the day the Israeli military expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes.
On Friday, sources reported that at least 33 Palestinians in densely populated Gaza, including women and children, have been killed in the past three days, while one person in Israel was killed when an apartment was struck by a rocket in a Tel Aviv suburb.