Molly Moore’s Narrow Turnstile

December 1, 2004 12:00 by

The Israeli military, like its American counterpart, has recently faced public scrutiny for alleged ethical violations. When reporting such allegations, the media can play a constructive role by conveying information in a balanced manner.But much of the media coverage of alleged IDF wrongdoing does not meet that standard of objectivity. Rather, media outlets often take a tendentious line against the IDF by (1) omitting essential context for IDF actions, and (2) treating accusations of wrongdoing as accepted fact.

Case in point: A Nov. 29 front-page Washington Post article by Molly Moore addressed alleged IDF abuse, describing checkpoints as

concrete lanes resembling cattle shutes… [Palestinians] jammed against a narrow turnstile… a thin man… gripping his whimpering child by one arm…At least 83 Palestinians seeking medical care have died during delays at checkpoints, according to the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group.

But as media monitor EyeOnThePost found, the report that Moore cites (itself emerging from a dubious source) does not in fact claim that this number of Palestinians died ‘during delays at checkpoints.’ Rather, the PHRMG report contains a list of 83 deaths

anecdotally associated in any imaginable way with checkpoints and not necessarily by virtue of any delay in seeking medical care.

For example, the PHRMG list includes a 78-year-old man who ‘died at al-Hamra military checkpoint in the Jordan valley, coming back from Jordan,’ and a 25-year-old Gazan who died ‘as a result of being shot at by an Israeli tank.’ The first death was likely from natural causes, and the second was clearly due to armed conflict. Neither appears due to ‘delays at checkpoints,’ as Moore states.

Major media outlets such as the Washington Post should know by now that Palestinian spokespeople have a record of fabricating Israeli ‘outrages.’ In one high-profile case early in this terror war, several media outlets amplified Palestinian claims that Issam Judeh Mustafa Hamed was ‘tortured and burned to death by Israelis.’ Pathologists brought in by the Palestinian Authority later concluded that Hamed died in a traffic accident, and Physicians for Human Rights declared that

Inaccurate information about injuries and death has the possibility of inciting more violence and further prolonging the move towards peace.

Yet Moore continues to lend credence to such allegations. In January, Moore cited the Hamas website claiming without substantiation that ‘Israeli soldiers began firing weapons in the direction of Palestinian workers.’ Upon realizing that it should never have drawn news from such an unreliable source, the Washington Post removed the reference from its website.

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Moore also allows a fringe Israeli protest group‘s accusation of abusive IDF behavior appear as accepted fact:

This month, soldiers at the Beit Iba checkpoint… ordered a Palestinian to open his violin case and play for them while the lines behind him grew.

In this incident (pictured at right), the IDF at first said that soldiers asked the man to open the case and play the instrument to verify it didn’t contain explosives. [It's important to recall that the terrorist who perpetrated one of the most heinous attacks ? the bombing of Jerusalem's Sbarros pizzeria in 2001 ? used a guitar case to transport his bomb.]

Yet Moore gives readers the impression that soldiers not only ordered the man to play for their own amusement, but did so as part of a larger pattern of abuse. But a video of the event, showing soldiers calmly going about their work while the man calmly plays, clearly documents that no such abuse occurred.

The IDF has since found that the man’s fiddling was not upon soldiers’ orders at all, but rather of his own volition.

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Moore set the tone of her entire report with these opening lines:

At a sandbagged military checkpoint on a bleak patch of asphalt in the West Bank, an Israeli soldier yanked 29-year-old Mohammad Yousef out of a Palestinian ambulance. When Yousef’s medical papers were produced, the soldier waved them off and bellowed, “I wouldn’t let you in even if you brought God here with you!”

Moore provides no more information on this supposedly representative incident ? no explanation why the soldier had a particular problem with Yousef, and no mention whatsoever (in the entire 2,100-word article) of the numerous documented cases of Palestinians using ambulances and medical clearances to smuggle terrorists and bombs past IDF checkpoints.

[In January, for example, a female suicide bomber from Gaza bypassed a checkpoint's metal detector by claiming to have a metal implant in her leg. She then detonated her explosives among soldiers, killing four. The abuse of medical leniency made it more difficult for Palestinians to cross the checkpoint for legitimate purposes.]

HonestReporting encourages subscribers to write to the Washington Post, expressing concern that Moore’s report ? which lacks essential context and accepts dubious claims ? does not contribute to the important public debate on potential ethical violations.

Comments to: letters@washpost.com

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

HonestReporting

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