Here’s how the story could have been reported, Part II

A few months ago, I took umbrage at a BBC news story that reported that Israel killed Palestinian children and only saw fit to mention, in the 5th and 6th paragraphs, that the children were fiddling around rocket launchers when Israel fired its missiles. I felt that the news was being reported to demonize Israel, and that’s why it led the story with the dead children. Just to refresh your recollection, here are the headline and first three paragraphs of that story:

Palestinian children die in blast

Three Palestinian children have been killed after an Israeli tank shell hit northern Gaza, Palestinian doctors say.

Israel’s military confirmed it launched an attack, saying it had targeted people setting up a rocket launcher.

Doctors said two boys aged 10 and 12 died of shrapnel wounds. A 12-year-old girl who was critically injured in the blast died also in hospital.

Two months later, I now have an interesting comparison study about how newspapers report child deaths in the Middle East. As you may recall, yesterday Hamas, a Palestinian organization, fired into a crowd of supports of Fatah, another Palestinian organization. Here are a few headlines and first paragraphs.

From the BBC:

Deadly clash at Arafat Gaza rally

At least six people have died in gunfire at a rally in Gaza City organised by Fatah to mark three years since the death of Yasser Arafat.

The violence occurred when Fatah supporters began taunting Hamas police and throwing stones, witnesses said.

From the London Times:

Bloody anniversary wrecks hopes for peace between Gaza factions

Seven people were killed and more than 100 wounded yesterday when Hamas paramilitary police clashed with Fatah supporters during a massive Gaza City rally marking the third anniversary of Yassir Arafat’s death.

In the worst inter-Palestinian clashes since the Islamist Hamas drove its secular Fatah rivals from the Gaza Strip in June, the self-appointed Hamas police force fired on a demonstration and beat protesters, claiming that Fatah snipers on rooftops had triggered the violence.

From Sky News:

Gunmen Open Fire At Gaza City Rally

At least five people have reportedly been killed at a mass rally marking former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s death.

Hospital officials said 50 others were wounded when security forces opened fire in Gaza City.

From the AP (via the Winnipeg Sun):

7 killed as Hamas open fire on Fatah rally

GAZA CITY — Seven civilians were killed and dozens were wounded in a clash between Palestinian factions yesterday when Hamas police opened fire after protesters began hurling rocks.

On the anniversary of the 2003 death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, a rally of more than 250,000 Fatah supporters posed the strongest challenge to Hamas rule in Gaza since the Islamic militants seized the territory.

From the New York Times:

6 Palestinians Killed in Gaza at Fatah Rally

GAZA, Nov. 12 — At least six Palestinians were killed and more than 100 wounded here on Monday when a rally by the relatively pro-Western Fatah movement to mark the third anniversary of the death of its founder, Yasir Arafat, ended in armed clashes with its rival, Hamas.

Doctors at two Gaza hospitals said all of the dead and most of the wounded were Fatah supporters who had taken part in the rally.

None of these stories, from major news outlets, make any mention of children amongst the dead after this Palestinian violence. Yet, surprisingly, at least one child was, in fact, a victim of this internecine bloodshed. I discovered that tidbit in paragraph 9 of a London Times story from today looking back on yesterday’s events.  Yesterday, buried deep in its initial report of the event, the London Times did have witnesses report that children were in the line of fire, but it mentioned no juvenile deaths.  The New York Times also didn’t mention juvenile deaths in its initial report, although I think it gets credit for reporting the Palestinians’ dawning realization that they opted for a sizzling Palestinian fire in lieu of the warmer, more humane, Israeli frying pan:

At Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Afaf Abu Tayeh, 45, was waiting by the morgue. She was there to look for two sons, ages 16 and 17. “The Israelis were more merciful than them,” she said of Hamas. “They beat children in front of my eyes.”

Maybe it’s just coincidence, but I think there is something going on when the death of children is reported so differently, depending on who is doing the shooting.  And I think that what is going on is that the media, either purposely or because of an inherent, uncontrollable bias, views Israel as a demonic child-killing country (sort of the modern blood libel), while it is loathe to give any openings for too many value judgments regarding the Palestinians, whom the media has championed for so long.  And all the while, as we excuse the Palestinians for their bestial conduct towards others as well as to themselves, we give them carte blanche to continue with such behavior, so that more children will die.

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  • Ophiuchus

    Bookworm, I think your entire thesis collapses in one possibility: that the death of the children was not known at first, was therefore not included in the initial reports, and became known sometime later, at which point the media included it in their stories. The acid test of this possibility is to go back to the sources and see if they included that information in later stories. I checked and was frustrated by the fact that most of today’s news stories concentrated on the arrests of Fatah activists and only cursorily mentioned the deaths. The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The International Herald Tribune, the AFP, Haaretz (an Israeli newspaper) and the Voice of America all reported the story that way. The ONLY newspaper to mention the death of the 12 year-old boy was, ironically enough, the Manchester Guardian, one of the most left-wing major newspapers in the English-speaking world.

    I think you have misinterpreted the stories.

  • InkMiser

    Wait a minute, Ophiuchus. Are you suggesting that all of these news outlets, which are very good at getting detailed information about casualties in virtually every conflict in the world, just weren’t able to get the details of the dead in this incident before going to press? This did not happen out in the sticks. This was a major political event in this region. Reporters were on the scene. And they didn’t get the identities of the dead? I don’t buy that for a minute.

    The BBC sure got the ages of the deceased in the story about the Israeli attack. Speaking of which, do you suggest that burying the fact that the kids were playing around rocket launchers was the proper way to report the story.

    As for the way the stories were reported across the board. I would suspect that many of the papers cited pulled the story off of wire services. If so, your theory may fall apart.

    As for the Manchester paper, good for it. Perhaps it does not allow its bias to get in the way of fact. That’s a rare event these days in the media.

  • Ophiuchus

    InkMiser, conditions in Gaza are not as orderly as they are in suburban Peoria. You can be certain that the aftermath of the shootings was accompanied by much chaos and confusion, with different victims taken in different directions. I can easily imagine a long time lag between knowledge of the shooting and confirmation of the number of the dead and then the identities of the dead. In many places in the Third World it can take days for all the information on something like this to come together.

    I have no judgement on the earlier story because I don’t have access to any of the details.

    As for the way the stories were reported across the board. I would suspect that many of the papers cited pulled the story off of wire services. If so, your theory may fall apart

    I don’t quite get your drift, but if you’re indulging in a conspiracy theory, I’m not sympathetic.

    Look, none of us is in possession of enough information to determine with accuracy what really happened here. I suggest that, in the absence of clear evidence, we lay off with the accusations.

  • Lulu

    Actually, the BBC report sounds sympathetic to Hamas.

  • Mike Devx

    IF a drug cartel took over the border city of Nuevo Laredo in Mexico and started firing rockets into Laredo, Texas, you can believe the situation would not be tolerated.

    I have no clue how the Israelis manage to continue this outrageous state of affairs. The people living in towns near Gaza never know where these rocket bombs will fall. Will it happen when the wife is walking to the store? When their children are out playing and running in the streets?

    This is a unique escalation of the usual problem for any government: When people are under a cloud of fear and feel unsafe in their communities, due to crime or gangs or other rampant lawlessness, trust and belief in government totally breaks down. Military assaults – and rockets are a military assault – are so far beyond the usual that it is breathtaking.

    And people across the entire world expect the Israelis to just sit back and TAKE it. People: you’re nuts.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    nd people across the entire world expect the Israelis to just sit back and TAKE it. People: you’re nuts.

    Come on Mike, you know that we are the wing nuts here.

    Only a wing nut like me would advocate demonstration nuclear detonations in order to prove a point.

  • Ophiuchus

    And people across the entire world expect the Israelis to just sit back and TAKE it. People: you’re nuts.

    Mike, what people are saying that the Israelis should just sit back and take it? Can you provide me with quotes from newspapers or politicians? I think that you’re distorting what’s going on. My impression is that people the world over are criticizing Israel for its general policy of occupying territory not its own, for its policy of illegally annexing territory, for its policy of building settlements in territory not its own, and for particular incidents of apparent overuse of force. Not one of those criticisms is anywhere near akin to “just sit back and take it”. The closest parallel comes when people the world over criticize Israel for making a pre-emptive strike that kills innocent bystanders. Do you think that pre-emptive strikes that kill innocent bystanders should be above criticism?

  • boqueronman

    Gotta love the last sentence above, “Do you think that pre-emptive strikes that kill innocent bystanders should be above criticism?” Apparently if they have been conducted for nearly 60 years without cessation against Israelis by the so-called Palestinians and their Arab allies, well, yes, it is “above criticism.” Because, after all, they are uncivilized, poor and oppressed brown people. It’s awfully arrogant to expect Western ideas of morality to be relevant to them.

  • Ophiuchus

    boqueronman, since when is it a “Western idea of morality” that it is proper to kill innocents in retaliation for similar outrages?

  • InkMiser

    Ophi – I’m not suggesting a conspiracy theory, only pointing out that if these papers are getting their stories from the same source, you would see the same story multiple times. I am questioning whether we are not seeing the same story (which is wrong, or incomplete, biased or none of the above – take your choice) again and again and again. The serial publication of the same story from a single source does not lend it credibility.

  • Ophiuchus

    InkMiser, that seems a likely explanation for the similarity of the stories. But, if there’s only one hospital or only one doctor who announces that one of the dead was a 12 year old boy, what’s wrong with using the sole source?

  • Lulu

    Hello Ophi,
    Do you get similarly incensed about the Chinese occupation of Tibet and its brutal suppression of Tibetan religion and culture?

    Do you protest Australia and New Zealand for occupying land belonging, respectively, to the Aborigines and the Maoris? Without restitution.

    Do you live in North America? One or two hundred years ago, did the land your home sits on belong to an American Indian tribe? Do you think the territory you live on was legally annexed? Think someone who marched on the Trail of Tears or who lived there previously might disagree? Ready to give iyour land back?

    Think anyone was displaced in the creation of Pakistan?

    Why are Israeli borders the only ones ever challenged?

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    Weakness, in the end, makes you vulnerable to many things. People will take your lands, your women, and anything else you value. Because you and your society are weak, you can do nothing except die and suffer.

    This is the law of nature, something no uppity socialist or environmentalist can change even if they knew how.

    Classical liberals instead of trying to change this law, simply obey it as best as we can. If the laws of the world dictate that strength is the only defense against injustice, then so be it. We will stronger than all our enemies combined.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    Why are Israeli borders the only ones ever challenged?

    Because Israel won’t kill off the challengers, which is the usual permanent solution.

    No challengers, no need to give back property.

    People know that Israel is like this, which simply means Israel deserves to be weakened and attacked in the eyes of the world’s “greatest moral philosophers”.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    The Left sees strength only through social cooperation. They forget that the strength of a chain relies upon its weakest member. By refusing to promote the increase in personal strength, through competition and adversity, the Left creates a society of weaklings. Only useful for making it easier on the conquerors to find slave populations and to exterminate the undesirables, since they are all in one place.

    I will ask an honest question in the end. Would human beings serve well in a society that will not protect its weakest member? Protect, not exploit now. The world community has no desire to protect Israel or the Palestinians. How can any human being function well in an organization that doesn’t a damn for its members?

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    But, if there’s only one hospital or only one doctor who announces that one of the dead was a 12 year old boy, what’s wrong with using the sole source?

    The Associated Press and Al Reuters are the sole source for the majority of printed news agencies and various prints of cable news in the West.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    Essentially, the propaganda apparatus creates a “source” that is in itself nothing but a filter that separates out the useful propaganda from the bad propaganda. By calling such a mechanism a “source”, news agencies acquire proxy credit but they are nothing but arms of the same organ.