Palestinian “Eyewitnesses”: Proven Unreliable – AgainAugust 27, 2013 16:00 by Simon Plosker
The aforementioned AP report, relied upon by numerous media outlets describes how Youssef Khatib was arrested based on his brother Hatim’s testimony:
“After half an hour we started hearing shooting from the soldiers inside our house, and then people started throwing stones at them,” he said.
Youssef was arrested after he returned from morning prayers at 7 a.m., he said.
The New York Times, however, quotes another Palestinian claiming to be Youssef’s brother:
Amer Khateeb, 27, said undercover Israeli forces had come to arrest his brother Yusef, who was released from an Israeli prison two years ago. Yusef escaped to a neighbor’s house, but the forces caught up with him and beat him, his brother said.
Apparently two brothers from the same Palestinian family cannot agree on what happened. Which is it? Was Youssef Khatib arrested after returning from morning prayers or was he already at home when Israeli security forces arrived to arrest him?
Considering by 7am a large-scale riot was taking place in the camp, it seems unlikely that Khatib casually walked back to his house from the mosque to find Israeli troops waiting for him.
The Daily Telegraph reports the following:
After police used explosives to blow open the door of his home, Mr Khattib initially escaped to the upper storey before jumping on to the roofs of two adjoining buildings. He was finally caught in a storeroom after officers forced entry to one of the buildings.
Intent to kill?
Consider this in The Guardian:
Robin al-Abed, 32, was shot in the chest as he tried to get from his home to his workplace, and Jihad Asslan, 20, was pronounced brain dead after being shot on the roof of his house where he had gone to watch the clashes, said a neighbour of the men, Abu Omar Hammad. The third dead man was Younis Jahjouh, 22, who was also shot in the chest.
Hammad, 46, who sells sweets in the camp, said he had been woken by his children at 6am to find “soldiers smothering the neighbourhood”. He said he saw al-Rabed shot as he tried to get to his job with the UN Palestinian refugee agency, Unrwa.
“He was not throwing stones. The soldiers opened the back door of their jeep and shot him in the chest. The bullet came out of his back and he was puking blood. I called an ambulance, but it was prevented from entering the camp,” he said.
“I’ve seen many incursions in this camp, but this was different. They came to kill.”
Based on other newspaper reports and a statement from UNWRA itself, “Robin al-Abed” is actually Rubin Zayed. Perhaps we can forgive The Guardian for this error but not for promoting a narrative that Zayed was deliberately targeted.
In reference to the three Palestinians killed during the incident, the New York Times reported:
Witnesses in Qalandia said that two of the dead had been participating in the riot but that Mr. Zayed, a father of four who worked for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which assists Palestinian refugees, was caught between stone throwers and the Israeli military on his way to work.
This description is also repeated by the Daily Telegraph: “caught between stone throwers and the Israeli military on his way to work.”
So while the NY Times and Daily Telegraph refer to multiple witnesses, The Guardian chooses one who claims that the IDF “came to kill.”
In conclusion, the events in Qalandia offer us a good case study as to how Palestinian eyewitness accounts can lead to multiple versions of a story as well as how different journalists and media outlets choose to present the story.
One thing is clear, however: the media should take into account the unreliability of so-called Palestinian “eyewitnesses” and spokespeople before accepting their narrative without question.