Burying the ChildrenApril 5, 2001 12:00 by ManagingTeam
The deliberate murder of the Jewish baby, Shalhevet Pass, by a Palestinian sniper was condemned around the world, leaving people everywhere to wonder how a human being could line up a baby’s head in the crosshairs of his sniper scope and pull the trigger.
But the atrocity apparently had a different effect on some reporters who have toiled for six months to present a “balanced and even-handed” portrayal of the fighting — or in some cases a sympathetic picture of the Palestinian side. These reporters have mitigated Palestinian terrorist bombers by calling them “militants,” while whenever possible labeling Israeli victims as “settlers” — in an attempt to “downgrade” them from the ranks of innocent civilians.
So how did the “even-handers” handle Shalhevet’s funeral?
On April 2, The New York Times ran Deborah Sontag’s report headlined “Israeli Baby’s Funeral Becomes Focus of Settler Militancy.” Sontag reminds readers several times of Palestinian casualties in describing Shalhevet’s funeral: “One [Jewish mourner] held a framed photograph of Shalhevet in her Purim costume, in the style of the Palestinian mothers who grieve for their martyred sons.”
That sentence provided Sontag with the perfect and immediate segue into her reminder of youthful Palestinian casualties killed by Israelis: “An 11-year-old Palestinian boy, Muhammad Tamini, was buried today in a small quiet funeral in his village near Ramallah. The boy died of wounds sustained in clashes with Israeli troops two weeks ago.”
In her search for evenhandedness, Sontag then finds a backhanded way to portray Shalhevet as a despised settler: “Many Israelis have long considered the Hebron settlers to be extremists, living in a world apart. But they rallied behind the community after Shalhevet was killed; newspaper headlines referred to the killing of an Israeli baby and not a “settler baby.”
Sontag makes the outrageous implication that Jews might normally disregard the ruthless murder of another Jew, simply because they don’t share the same political views. Is the average Israeli so petty and cold-hearted? I don’t believe so. But perhaps Sontag is.
Not to be outdone, Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian paints a nasty picture of Shalevet’s mourners: “Thousands of Jewish settlers, bristling with sophisticated weapons and swearing revenge, gathered yesterday for the funeral of a baby girl…”
Goldenberg then attempts to “even out” the atrocities: “Few Palestinians shed tears for Shalhevet. About 130 of the 455 people who have been killed in the uprising were Palestinians under the age of 18, the latest an 11-year-old Ramallah boy who was also buried yesterday, after being shot in the head by an Israeli soldier.”
In Goldenberg’s eyes, two children have been shot in the head, and there is no distinction to made. But the comparison, of course, is false. No Israeli soldier has ever aimed to kill innocent children sitting in baby carriages or playing in a sandbox. Tragically, Palestinian children are shot when they participate in violent demonstrations or by errant bullets that may have also come from Palestinian gunmen shooting at Israeli soldiers.
And in a Guardian analysis piece, Jonathan Freedland draws another false comparison: “[Palestinians] have seen a 12-year-old boy, Muhammad al-Durrah, shot dead in his father’s arms (just like Shalhavet).”
Of course, the Muhammad al-Durrah incident left a lot of questions unanswered, the most important being what he and his father were doing in the heart of crossfire shooting, whether it was actually an Israeli or Palestinian bullet that struck him, and how the media came to be perfectly placed to photograph it. Is this comparable to Shalhevet being murdered in cold blood on the playground?
CNN had its own version of even-handedness: “Two children on either side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are being buried on Sunday. Jewish settlers are burying a 10-month-old girl killed by sniper fire while Palestinians are burying an 11-year-old boy shot during clashes with Israeli forces.”
Meanwhile,Los Angeles Times reporter Tracy Wilkinson downplayed the Arab identity of Shalhevet’s killer, leaving it as mere Israeli “hear-say.” She writes: “Jewish settlers buried 10-month-old Shalhevet Pas on Sunday, six days after the army says she was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper… Shalhevet was shot to death and her father, Yitzhak, was wounded by what Israeli authorities say was a single bullet from a Palestinian gunman.”
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NOTE TO HONESTREPORTING MEMBERS:
Last week, we wrote about the media’s aversion to call Palestinians “terrorists” — even when referring to suicide bombers. Since then, both The New York Times and CNN have referred to Palestinian acts of “terror.”
Is it possible we are having an effect?