April Fools?

April 1, 2002 12:00 by

Over the course of the recent war, HonestReporting has noticed that whenever Palestinian terrorists commit a horrific attack against Israeli civilians, Palestinian spokesmen quickly responded with a tale of an Israeli atrocity.

Yesterday, after two Palestinian homicide bombers attacked in Haifa and Efrat, Palestinian spokesman Nabil Sha’ath went on CNN to report that 30 Palestinian women died in labor at Israeli checkpoints. The canard joins other Palestinian claims of Israel using radioactive ammunition, Nazi tactics, and nerve gas along with the charges that Jewish settlers tortured Palestinians — who investigations revealed had actually died in traffic accidents.

Last week, when two international observers were killed by Palestinian gunfire in Hebron, the Palestinians issued a statement simply saying that “Israel did it.” No proof, just an accusation thrown out to the media to counter the previously established facts.

Some reporters buy the Palestinian tales hook, line, and sinker. Recall the Reuters reporter who described Palestinian residents of Beit Jalla as victims of Israeli gunfire, presenting as evidence the collection of bullet casings collected by Beit Jalla residents. Yet bullet casings, ejected from the gun, are of course found at the origin of the shooting, not the target.

* * *

As Palestinian bombers blasted innocent civilians all over Israel this week, Palestinian spokesmen produced another “Israeli atrocity” — claiming that Israel had “executed” five Palestinians in a Ramallah office building.

Here is how three reporters covered the story:

(1) Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor of The Observer (UK), filed “Without mercy: Israelis execute Arafat’s elite guards” (March 31). [Later, The Observer's website changed the headline to "I saw the bodies, killed by a shot to the head."] The bulk of the story, including the headlines, accepts as gospel the Palestinian side of the story. Shalabi saw the bodies hours after the firefight; it is likely that the Palestinian never saw them.

Beaumont graces the readers with 23 words of the Israeli side of the story.

Read Beaumont’s article at:
http://www.observer.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,676830,00.html

(2) Similar charges were filed by The Washington Post’s Daniel Williams in “Killings Raise Questions About Israeli Tactics” (March 31). Williams reveals that five Palestinian police officers “had been shot in the head or neck, yet most of the blood on the wall near them was splattered no more than two or three feet high, according to a reporter who saw the scene.”

Only six paragraphs later does Williams reveal that the reporter “who saw the scene” was an Abu Dhabi reporter Shalabi. And there are discrepancies between what Shalabi told Williams and Beaumont. Williams, quoting Shalabi, wrote, “There were no signs that the Palestinians had fired from their last position.” Beaumont quotes Shalabi: “I heard heavy shooting; maybe it was an exchange of fire.”

Williams claims that the five Palestinians were policemen in charge of traffic and border duty. Beaumont at least saw the bodies, and he reported that the men were dressed in the uniforms of Arafat’s “elite guard unit, Force 17.” The unit is a front-line terrorist organization, not a bunch of traffic cops.

Some 200 words into his story, Williams gives lip service to the Israeli side of the story: “Israeli officials said the men were killed in a ‘close firefight.’”

On another point: Williams included this unequivocal legal pronouncement: “Soldiers searched the ArabCare Hospital in downtown Ramallah for weapons, and for wounded fighters. Such searches are in breach of international rules of war.”

As detailed at the very beginning of this communique, Palestinians are using ambulances to transport “suicide bomber explosive belts.” Perhaps that explains why Israeli troops had a responsibility to inspect the hospital. One thing is certain: Williams had the responsibility to report on the Palestinian abuse of ambulances and the Palestinian Red Crescent. A computer search of The Washington Post’s reporting last week failed to find mention of the Palestinian’s breach of international rules of war.

If you wish to complain about the Williams article, write to The Washington Post editor at:
letters@washpost.com
(include home address, and home and business telephone numbers)

Letters to the Editor
The Washington Post 1150 15th Street Northwest Washington, DC 20071

Write to The Post ombudsman, Michael Getler, at:
ombudsman@washpost.com

(3) A much different story was presented by CNN reporter Michael Holmes (March 30). Unlike Williams and Beaumont, Holmes did not depend on third-hand reports. He visited the room. He saw the bodies of five dead Palestinian “gunmen.” He saw the uniforms. And he saw evidence of a gun battle.

“There are dozens and dozens of shell casings [at the scene],” Holmes reported, citing evidence of Palestinian gunfire. “The vast majority, in fact, almost all of those shell casings are from M-16s, which is the usual weapon of the Israeli army. [HR notes: M-16s are also used by Palestinians and are visible in all Palestinian demonstrations.] We found maybe half a dozen shells from AK-47s, which is what you normally see Palestinian gunmen using… Obviously, these were, however, people who were fighting because they were wearing army uniforms…” Unlike his colleagues, Holmes doesn’t jump to biased conclusions. “It would require a forensics team to work out what exactly happened,” he reported.

Read Holmes’ accounts at:
http://www.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/meast/03/30/holmes.otsc/index.html
http://www.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0203/30/cst.08.html

======= AMBULANCE UPDATE =======

HonestReporting members have asked for evidence of Palestinians using ambulances in military operations.

On March 27, a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance driver was caught transporting an explosive belt containing 10 kilograms of explosives of the type detonated by suicide bombers, Israel Radio reported. The ambulance was stopped and searched between Nablus and Ramallah, and soldiers found the explosive belt under a stretcher upon which a Palestinian boy was lying. The boy’s family was with him in the ambulance.

The ambulance driver told interrogators he received the belt from a senior Tanzim activist working for Palestinian Authority West Bank security chief Marwan Barghouti.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was “shocked and dismayed” and “condemns such abuse of an ambulance and of the Red Crescent emblem.”

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