Jumping the Gun in Bethlehem

Dear Honest Reporting Member,

The Chicago Tribunes’ Hugh Dellios reported: “Two bullets cracked windows inside St. Catherine’s basilica about 20 minutes before 9 a.m. mass, when about 50 people were inside, church officials said.” Dellios then quoted a 16-year-old parishioner who blamed the “Israelis [who] do not sense the difference between a vacant lot and a holy place.”

Comments to:

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The New York Times’ James Bennet also blamed Israel, quoting local Palestinians: “Parishioners and priests in the Church of the Nativity, beside the square, said Israeli bullets fired this afternoon had knocked splinters from the wooden roof and chipped the stone floor, which was laid in the 12th century by crusaders. A Palestinian security official said he had no conclusive proof of that claim.”

Read Bennet’s report at:

Comments to:

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One reporter, however, broke out of the pack. Reuters’ Jeffrey Heller squarely blamed Palestinian gunmen: “A church caretaker pointed to two bullet holes in an upper window and a third in the roof after Palestinians fired automatic weapons in the air outside its stone walls during a funeral procession for a Palestinian killed Saturday. Palestinians often fire in the air during funerals to vent their emotions.

Associated Press and Reuters photos, posted on the Internet, portray large numbers of Palestinian gunmen firing on Israeli positions or shooting in the air during funerals. View the photos at:

HonestReporting members are encouraged to respond to those newspapers that blamed Israel. How did your newspaper cover the story?

The most effective method is to write a letter in your own words. Otherwise, use the following letter as a basis.

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.


========== SAMPLE LETTER OF COMPLAINT ============

To the Editor:

Your coverage of the recent shooting of Bethlehem churches suggests that Israeli troops were responsible for the desecration. Your conclusion is based on dubious Palestinian testimony. Reuters and other agencies, however, categorically blamed Palestinian gunmen who fired automatic weapons in the air outside church walls during a funeral procession.

The West Bank is often marked by random and undisciplined shooting by bands of Palestinian gunmen, who could easily damage property, and for that matter hit innocent Palestinian civilians as well.

Moreover, the State Department’s annual Human Rights report puts the onus on the Palestinians for putting civilians in the crossfire: “Palestinian police and Tanzim members with firearms participated in violent demonstrations and attacks. Palestinian security forces sometimes fired at Israeli civilians or soldiers from within or close to the homes of Palestinian civilians; residents of the homes consequently bore the brunt of IDF retaliation for these attacks.”

So why did your report jump the gun and blame Israel?



“For Some Jewish Leaders, Partnership With Muslims Is a Casualty of Sept. 11 Attacks” — a shocking look at anti-Jewish sentiment in the American Muslim community. The New York Times: