JSalloum on 23 Nov 2000 09:19:26 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Antidote 13: The biased reporting that makes killing acceptable

to be removed from this list pls indicate in reply.

The biased reporting that makes killing acceptable 
By Robert Fisk
Independent 14 November 2000 

       When CNN's Cairo bureau chief, Ben Wedeman, was shot in a gun battle 
in Gaza last month, I waited to hear how his employers
       would handle the story. Having visited the spot where Wedeman was hit 
in the back, I realised that the bullet must have been fired by
       Israeli soldiers at a location on the other side of the nearest 
crossroads. So, what happened? CNN reported that "most of the bullets"
       fired came from the Israelis, but - according to a pathetic response 
from a company spokesman in London - CNN was not going to
       suggest who was to blame "at this time". Indeed not. The American 
Associated Press news agency later reported - a real killer, this
       one - that Wedeman had been "caught up in crossfire". 

       So much, I thought, for the 150 or so Palestinians shot dead by Israeli
 troops over the past six weeks. If CNN didn't have the courage to
       tell the truth about the shooting of its own reporter, what chance did 
the Palestinians have? The latest shocking piece of American
       journalism promises to be an "exclusive" on the American CBS network, 
whose 60 Minutes team has been given access to an Israeli
       army "re-enactment" of the killing - by Israeli troops - of 
12-year-old Mohamed al-Dura. The picture of him cowering in the arms of his
       father and then collapsing dead beside him has become an iconic image 
of the current conflict in the Middle East. 

       The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, whose reporting of the battles 
outshines anything appearing in the supine American press, has
       already quoted an Israeli member of the Knesset, Ophir Pines-Paz, who 
complains that the reconstruction sounds "fictitious" and like
       an attempt to "cover up the incident by means of an inquiry with 
foregone conclusions... the sole purpose of which is to clear the IDF of
       responsibility for Al-Dura's death". Lobby groups in the United 
States, including a few brave American Jews, are demanding to know
       why the CBS network is filming a partial inquiry that is intended to 
prove that those who killed a little boy didn't kill him - without,
       apparently, even asking the Palestinians for their version of events. 

       It is all part of a familiar, weary pattern of biased reporting, 
which, over the past few weeks, has started to become dangerous as well
       as deeply misleading. The Israeli line - that Palestinians are 
essentially responsible for "violence", responsible for the killing of their
       own children by Israeli soldiers, responsible for refusing to make 
concessions for peace - has been accepted almost totally by the
       media. Only yesterday, a BBC World Service anchorman allowed an 
Israeli diplomat in Washington, Tara Herzl, to excuse the shooting
       of stone-throwers - almost 200 of them - by Israeli soldiers on the 
grounds that "they are there with people who are shooting". If that
       was the case - which it usually is not - then why were the Israelis 
shooting the stone-throwers rather than the gunmen? 

       The murder of Israelis rightly receives much coverage. The killing of 
two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah police station was filmed only
       through the courage of one camera crew. The Palestinians did their 
best to seize all picture coverage of the atrocity. Yet when an Israeli
       helicopter pilot fired an air-to-ground missile at a low-ranking 
Palestinian militiaman on Friday, it also killed two totally innocent
       middle-aged Palestinian women. In its initial reports, BBC World 
Service Television reported that. Yet by yesterday morning, the BBC
       was able to refer to the "assassination" of the Palestinian without 
mentioning the two innocent women - 58-year-old Azizi Gubran and
       55-year-old Arachme Shaheen - blown to pieces by the same Israeli 
missile. They had been airbrushed from the story. 

       Then we have that old bugbear the "clash". Palestinians die "in 
clashes" - as if they are accidentally shot rather than targets for Israeli
       snipers. The use of that word - and the opportunity it affords 
journalists of not stating that Israelis killed them - is little short of a
       scandal. Take Reuters' report from Jerusalem on 30 October by Howard 
Goller, which referred to five Palestinians "wounded in
       stone-throwing clashes" and the funerals of Palestinians "killed in 
earlier clashes". Yet, in a report on the same day, Goller wrote of an
       Israeli shot dead by a "suspected Palestinian gunman", while his 
colleague on Reuters, Sergei Shargorodsky, referred to "Palestinian
       shooting attacks on Jewish settlements" and an Israeli man stabbed to 
death, "presumably by Palestinians". Funny, isn't it, how the
       responsibility for the killing of Israelis tends to be so explicitly - 
and rightly - apportioned, while blame for the killing of Palestinians is

       But on we go, reporting the Middle East tragedy with all our own 
little uncontroversial clichs and amnesia and avoidance of
       "controversial" subjects. Such journalism is already leading - despite 
the extraordinary casualty figures - to a public view that the
       Palestinians are solely responsible for the bloodbath, that they are 
generically violent, untrustworthy murderers. I think this kind of
       reporting helps to condone the taking of human life. 

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