“Huge Settlement” = Huge Mess

observerlogoOn 24 December, Israeli father-of-seven Meir Chai, 45, was murdered in a terror attack in the West Bank. This act of murder received scant coverage in the international media (irrespective of the timing during the holiday season). The Israeli response, however, which saw three terrorists responsible for the fatal attack killed in an IDF raid, generated some disgraceful headlines, which HonestReporting addresses in a separate communique.

An article written by Rachel Shabi for The Observer, however, stood out for its failure to meet the most basic of journalistic standards.

Shabi refers to:

the shooting dead of three members of Fatah’s armed wing – the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – in a raid on the northern West Bank city of Nablus, apparently in retaliation for the shooting of an Israeli driving near the settlement at Shavei Shomron.

  • This is the only mention of the murder of Meir Chai in the entire article. While the three Fatah members were shot dead, Shabi refers to the “shooting of an Israeli”. She fails to even make clear that the Israeli was also killed and no further details are given concerning the incident.
  • The IDF operation, according to Shabi, was “apparently in retaliation”. This, despite the fact that a ballistics analysis showed that weapons found in the house of one of the terrorists were those used in the murder of Meir Chai. The identities of the terrorists had been confirmed by both the IDF and Fatah itself.
  • To term this as an “apparent retaliation” is completely misleading – the legitimate army of Israel was responding to an unprovoked attack carried out by terrorists.

Shabi continues:

It also follows the discovery of an improvised explosive device on a busy road leading to the huge Israeli settlement at Modi’in with a letter from an al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades unit claiming responsibility.

  • Even allowing for the possibility that Shabi was referring to a larger area rather than specifically the city itself, Modi’in is clearly within the Green Line and is not a settlement.
  • Perhaps Shabi was referring to Modi’in Illit, which is, indeed located beyond the Green Line and is a settlement. If so, then this simply demonstrates more shoddy journalism.
  • The busy road to which Shabi refers – Route 443 – does not lead to Modi’in but actually connects Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, via Modi’in. It also does not connect to Modi’in Illit. Either way, Shabi has, once again written misleading and incorrect information.
  • What constitutes a “huge settlement”? The term “huge” is emotive and unquantifiable. Even if one presumes that Shabi is referring to Modi’in Illit, this settlement is under 5 square km. Is this “huge” in the mind of a British reader?

Rachel Shabi’s article fails to meet journalistic standards and basic requirements for accuracy. At a very minimum The Observer should publish a correction concerning the location and status of Modi’in.

Please demand that The Observer takes the appropriate action by sending your comments to its readers’ editor – reader@observer.co.uk

Update: Only hours after the release of this communique, The Observer amended its online version and issued the following statement at the foot of Rachel Shabi’s article:

This article was amended on Tuesday 29 December 2009 to correct an error introduced in the editing process: Modi’in is not a settlement. Also, an editing change removed the information that the shooting of an Israeli in his car near Shavei Shomron was fatal. This has been corrected.

This statement suggests that the editing process at The Observer is fundamentally flawed and that the journalist, in this case Rachel Shabi, is not always the source of inaccurate reporting. Journalists, should, however, be aware and take responsibility for such serious errors in their work.