Alison Weir / Council for the National Interest & Matti Friedman / Associated Press – 2011-04-12 23:49:15
Missing Headlines: How AP Distorts the Truth about Violence in Gaza
Alison Weir / Council for the National Interest & If Americans Knew
The Associated Press is the oldest and largest wire service in the world and is the primary source of international news for newspapers all over the country. â€¨â€¨As we expect you’re acutely aware, its reports are consistently Israeli-centric. Therefore, we are providing an analysis of today’s report on Gaza, telling what actually occurred over the past week, what AP chose to report, and what it chose not to report. â€¨Please feel free to share this widely, especially with your local news media.
This kind of highly distorted reporting misleads Americans on Israel-Palestine, resulting in the disastrous Middle East policies we see today. We feel that exposing this situation and educating the general public — as well as editors here in America — on the actual situation in the region will help to bring the change so urgently needed.
Alison Weir is President of the Council for the National Interest
1250 4th Street SW, Suite WG-1 Â· Washington, DC 20024
202.863.2951 Â· Fax: 202.863.2952
How AP Works
Since most newspapers don’t have their own reporters in Israel or the Palestinian Territories, they obtain their news on this region from wire services. AP is usually the only global wire service taken by U.S. newspapers.
Although AP is a cooperative, which means that it is “owned” by all the news organizations that use its news, in reality there is almost no oversight of its work. Editors around the country simply accept its reporting at face value.
The trouble is, however, that its reporting is consistently Israeli-centric.
The “control bureau” for the region, through which all news reports are funneled, is located in Israel. Its editors are living in Israel, their families are frequently Israeli, and quite often they themselves are Israeli citizens.
Even when an AP report carries a Palestinian dateline and even a Palestinian byline, in the large majority of cases the article was actually written in Israel, frequently by an Israeli editor.
A study of AP’s reporting found that it had reported on Israeli children’s deaths at a rate seven times greater than they reported on Palestinian children’s deaths — even though Palestinian children were killed first and in far greater numbers.
This blog will deconstruct AP’s daily reporting on Israel-Palestine: it will discuss its editors’ word choices, editorial decisions, and headlines. It will especially explore which “context” AP’s editors on this beat have chosen to include and which to ignore.
Associated Press Deconstructed
(April 8, 2011) — What is the unreported news behind the AP headline? “Israeli Army Strikes Gaza after School Bus Hit”
First, letâ€™s look at what has happened in Gaza in the past week:
# On Friday, April 1, Israeli forces assassinated a 24-year-old member of a Palestinian resistance group in Gaza.
# On Saturday, April 2, the Israeli air force assassinated three members of the group.
# On Tuesday, April 5, Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian in northern Gaza, reportedly unarmed and not part of any resistance groups.
# On Wednesday, April 6, at dawn Israeli forces bombarded Gaza in three air strikes, injuring four people, including two women (one of them pregnant) and a child.
# On Wednesday afternoon, hundreds of children in Gaza participated in a march asking the international community to protect them against ongoing Israeli raids and attacks.
# On Wednesday night the Israeli Air Force bombarded several areas of Gaza, causing extensive damage; at least one resident was injured.
# On Thursday morning, April 7, the resistance group that had suffered four assassinations fired mortars at a nearby Israeli town, which injured two people on an almost empty school bus, the bus driver and the one student (16) who hadn’t already been dropped off.
# Thursday at noon Israeli forces bombarded Gaza, killing five people and injuring over 40.
# Thursday evening, Palestinian resistance forces all agreed to a ceasefire to try to prevent the violence from increasing.
# Israel ignored this and continued its air strikes against Gaza, killing still more Gazans.
# In all, Israeli forces killed 14 people within 24 hours and injured dozens.
# Among those killed were a mother, her 21-year-old daughter, and an elderly man.
Following is how AP reported on this (in italics, with commentary in roman font). This story is on hundreds of newspaper websites around the country:
Israeli Army Strikes Gaza After School Bus Hit
Matti Friedman / Associated Press
JERUSALEM (April 11, 2011) â€” Israeli aircraft and ground forces struck Gaza on Friday, killing two Hamas gunmen and three civilians
No mention in either the headline or the lead paragraph that Israeli forces killed a total of 14 people in the past 24 hours, including a mother, her daughter (injured another of her children), and an elderly man, and that they injured dozens of others.
in a surge of fighting sparked by a Palestinian rocket attack on an Israeli school bus the day before.
No mention that this rocket attack was sparked by Israeli forces killing five Gazans in the preceding few days.
Just over two years after rocket fire from Gaza triggered
Israel had already broken the cease fire three times, killing seven Palestinian, which is what triggered the rocket fire.
a devastating Israeli military offensive in the territory,
which killed approximately 1400 Palestinians, at least 773 of them civilians — hundreds of them children.
Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers seemed on the brink of another round of intense violence.
AP still chooses not to mention the five Palestinians in Gaza that Israeli forces had killed in preceding days.
In Thursdayâ€™s attack, Gaza militants hit an Israeli school bus near the border with a guided anti-tank missile, injuring the driver and badly wounding a 16-year-old boy. Most of the schoolchildren on the bus got off shortly before the attack.
By Friday morning, Israel’s ongoing retaliation,
AP calls the Israeli action retaliation (for two injured, one with minor injuries) but fails to note that the rocket attack was retaliation (for the killing of five people).
had killed 10 Gazans — five militants, a policeman and four civilians — and wounded 45. The dead Friday included three civilians killed by Israeli tank fire and two militants killed in an air strike, both near the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis.
Still no mention of the mother and children.
Hamas, which had largely held its fire since Israelâ€™s last major offensive, claimed responsibility for the bus attack.
Had the bus been full, broader Israeli retaliation would have been all but inevitable and the region — already destabilized by the popular revolts sweeping the Arab world — could have been drawn into another war.
It’s odd to put such speculation in a news article, especially when AP left out so many newsworthy facts.
It is unclear if Hamas was trying to provoke a new conflagration, if it was not fully in control of all of its fighters, or if it believes Israel would pull back before invading Gaza again.
Again, it’s odd to put such speculation and commentary in a news article, especially when AP left out so many newsworthy facts.
Israel was condemned internationally after the last incursion.
“Incursion” is an odd word for the massive invasion by Israeli forces that was condemned in detailed reports issued by numerous highly respected international organizations.
Hamas said the rocket attack was in retaliation for the killing of three fighters in an airstrike earlier in the week. At around midnight Thursday, with Gaza rocked by explosions, the organization announced a cease-fire.
This was actually announced earlier and included all sectors of the Gazan resistance. The announcements about this also spoke of the 21-year-old killed on Tuesday, whom AP never mentions in the report.
But the Israeli strikes continued, hitting Hamas facilities and smuggling tunnels.
And many other facilities. AP also fails to mention that the tunnels are a response to Israelâ€™s suffocating siege of Gaza, noted by groups such as Christian Aid.
Electricity lines and transformers were damaged, causing power blackouts in some parts of the territory, according to Jamal Dardsawi, a spokesman for Gazaâ€™s Electric Distribution Company.
While AP speculated about what would have happened if the nearly empty Israeli bus had been full, there is no mention here about what electricity blackouts are actually doing to Gazan patients on respirators, in hospital operating rooms, etc.
In Israel, studies at some schools near Gaza were canceled Friday because of concerns for the students’ safety.
No mention of schools in Gaza, whose students have been injured, one killed, and parents killed and injured.
Palestinian militants launched nine mortars and rockets into Israel, causing damage to at least one building, the military said. Israeli casualties have been kept low thanks to reinforced rooms and early warning systems.
… and the fact that the Israeli military, thanks to Americans’ $8 million per day to Israel, is the fourth or fifth most powerful military in the world.
Matan Vilnai, the Israeli Cabinet minister in charge of the home front, told Army Radio that Israel was acting to deter attacks. “We are acting as we see fit so that this type of fire will not continue, and so that the people behind the fire will regret it,” Vilnai said.
Israel’s education minister, Gideon Saar, said in a briefing with reporters that any civilian casualties in Gaza were unintentional and that Israel did not target “anyone except the terrorists.”
AP fails to report that numerous international investigations have found evidence indicating that Israel has often targeted civilians.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday condemned the bus attack and expressed concern over civilian casualties in Israelâ€™s strikes. He called for “de-escalation and calm to prevent any further bloodshed.”
Thousands of rockets from Gaza have hit Israeli towns and cities since 2001.
AP fails to mention that these have killed a total of approximately 20 Israelis. AP also fails to mention that during the same period Israeli forces have killed thousands of Gazans, including numerous children.
Israelâ€™s attempts to stop the rockets have included military incursions and covert operations abroad aimed at disrupting Hamasâ€™ efforts to procure arms.
AP again gives the Israeli narrative. It fails to report that Israeli military incursions and covert operations precededGazan rockets.
In February, a Palestinian engineer was seized from a sleeper train in Ukraine and showed up several days later in Israel.
The normal way to report this would be to state that Israel kidnapped a Palestinian engineer in the Ukraine
where he has been charged with masterminding Hamas’ rocket program.
Once again, AP emphasizes Israeli claims without including countering claims.
Last year a Hamas operative was assassinated in Dubai, and Israeli agents are widely assumed to have been responsible. Israel identified the man as a Hamas agent responsible for obtaining weaponry from Iran.
Again, we get the Israeli narrative, and only the Israeli narrative.
This week, Sudan accused Israel of being behind an explosion that killed two in Port Sudan. The blast was thought to be linked to arms smuggling to Gaza. Israel would not comment.
AP doesn’t bother supplying any information about the two human beings in Port Sudan who were just killed.
Ibrahim Barzak contributed reporting from Gaza City, Gaza Strip.
[Note: “Yet, the story was written and edited in Israel by Matti Friedman, a journalist who may have family ties to the Israeli military.
“In case anyone is curious about what occurred before this period, March had seen increased Israeli hostilities, including tightening the siege and a gradual escalation of Israeli military attacks that killed 15 Palestinians, including 5 children, while another 90 Palestinians, including 22 children and 6 women, were wounded.”]
‘Israel Airstrike Kills 1 Gaza Militant’ —
Associated Press Reporting Deconstructed
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip* [March 29, 2011] â€” An Israeli aircraft attacked a pair of Palestinian militants* riding on a motorcycle in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, killing one and wounding the other, the Islamic Jihad group said.
1. Although the dateline says that the story was filed from Gaza City, it is highly unlikely that it was actually written there. Most likely a reporter in Gaza phoned information to AP’s control bureau in Israel, where this story was written — probably by an Israeli journalist.
2. The writer chose to call the victims “militants.” However, another, probably more historically accurate term for Palestinian fighters against Israel would be something like “members of the Palestinian resistance.” While such phraseology might seem odd to people used to US/AP news coverage, it is actually closer to the phraseology used in other conflicts.
The Israeli military said it had “targeted and hit a terrorist squad” that had launched rockets toward southern Israel the previous day. The military said the air force carried out an additional airstrike overnight that hit a smuggling tunnel in southern Gaza.*
1. Notice that the story gives the Israeli militaryâ€™s claims without any additional context.
2. For example, it doesn’t explain that the “smuggling tunnels” are used to bring in diverse goods to Gaza’s 1.5 billion men, women, and children, who have suffered from immense deprivation of medicines, building supplies, food stuffs, etc. due to Israelâ€™s blockade of Gaza.
3. It doesn’t tell that the Israeli military is the fourth strongest military in the region, supplied with the best tanks, weaponry, and fighter jets that American tax money can buy, while Palestinian resistance fighters usually have little more than home-made rockets.
4. It doesn’t report that the “aircraft” was an unmanned drone.
5. It doesn’t report that Israeli forces have killed thousands of Palestinian men, women, and children since 2000.
Islamic Jihad said the men were on their way to a nearby mosque to pray.* The Iranian-backed* group, which has killed scores of Israelis* in rocket attacks* and suicide bombings*, vowed revenge.*
1. In a less Israeli-centric report the statement that the men were on their way to pray would have been placed far higher in the story.
2. The group may or may not be backed by Iran. This speculation has yet to be confirmed. Yet, here AP reports it as fact.
3. Notice that AP, which ignored the thousands of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, does report on the “scores” of Israelis killed by Islamic Jihad.
4. Rocket attacks have killed approximately 20 Israelis in total. Why is this fact never in AP stories?
5. The last suicide bombing by Islamic Jihad was four years ago, it killed three Israelis.
6. AP frequently reports Palestinians vowing “revenge.” It virtually never describes grieving Palestinian widows, wives, children, mothers, fathers of the fallen. Conversely, it describes all these for the far rarer Israeli victims; yet, it almost never reports their vows to kill more Palestinians.
Israel invaded Gaza, which is ruled by* the Hamas militants*, more than two years ago, in a fierce* offensive meant to end years of rocket fire*.
1. Hamas was elected in fair elections. Some Christians ran on the Hamas ticket.
2. Again, the use of the derogatory, Israeli-centric term “militant,” rather than a more normal desgination, such as “resistance movement.”
3. What AP calls a “fierce offensive,” much of the world called a massacre.
4. The rocket fire had largely stopped in the truce that began in Juneâ€¦ Israel violated the truce three times, killing at least seven Palestinians; the rocket fire only began after that. Moreover, there is evidence that the invasion had been long planned and was merely awaiting a pretext. Finally, Israeli invasions preceded rocket attacks. The rocket launchings only began after Israeli forces had invaded and shelled Gaza, killing and maiming masses of people.
The operation inflicted heavy losses on Hamas* and brought about a period of relative quiet*, but Israel believes the group has recovered and restocked its arsenal with even more powerful weapons*.
1. Most of the victims were civilians, including hundreds of children.
2. For AP “relative quiet” means that Israelis have not died. In realilty, numerous Palestinians have been killed since that time.
3. AP says “ever more powerful weapons.” In reality, the weaponry of Palestinian resistance groups would never be called “powerful,” and largely consisted of home-made rockets launched out of the besieged, poverty stricken strip. Now some have acquired real rockets with longer range. They are still far from powerful, particularly when compared to the Israeli arsenal: nuclear weapons, F-16s, tanks, drones, etc.
Recently, there has been an escalation of violence* along the Gaza-Israel border. Both sides have indicated they do not want a repeat of the winter 2009 war* in Gaza.
1.The violence largely consists of almost daily Israeli invasions of Gazan territory and Israel declaring large swaths of farmland a “closed military zone,” creating extreme hardship for farmers whose subsistence comes from that land, and Israeli forces shooting farmers and nonviolent protesters who enter the area. Palestinian resistance fighters try to fight back, some using rockets.
There is no mention in the story that this was the the sixth member of Islamic Jihad to be killed by Israeli forces in the last ten days; no Israelis have been killed or even wounded.
2. The 2009 violence was hardly a “war.” Israeli forces killed 1400 Gazans; Gazans killed 9 Israelis (4 more were killed by Israeli “friendly fire.”)
3. There is no mention that the other victim of the Israeli strike is in critical condition.
4. There is no personal information about either victim; no mention that the one killed was 24 years old. If he had been an opponent of China or Libya, he would be reported as a fahero.
5. There is no mention that a high proportion of Gaza’s residents are refugees ethnically cleansed by Israel in its 1948 war to create a Jewish-only state.
To see how this incident was reported elsewhere view Maâ€™an News, IMEMC, Al Jazeera, and AFP. Interestingly, the UK Independent carried a version of the AP story, headlined
To see other newsworthy incidents that occurred during the same period see The Missing Headlines.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.