Tactless in San Diego


Dear HonestReporting Subscriber,

Last July, a Hamas terrorist placed a bomb on a lunch table in the Hebrew University cafeteria and murdered nine students. Among the victims was 24-year old Marla Bennett from San Diego, who was in Jerusalem to pursue her M.A. degree.

In March, Rachel Corrie, 23, of Olympia, Washington marched defiantly in front of an armored, two-story IDF bulldozer in Gaza. Corrie worked as a “human shield” to block the demolition of a house used to smuggle Palestinian terrorist weapons from Egypt via underground tunnels. Corrie fell underneath the oncoming vehicle and died in an episode the IDF termed, after a lengthy investigation, “a regrettable accident.”

Comparable deaths? The San Diego Union-Tribune thinks so, publishing on Sunday a lengthy, dual profile of the deceased young women, two “college students who liked political science and collected food for the needy.” Both Bennett and Corrie had “parents who loved them very much,” and ventured to the Mideast because they each “believed in their struggle.”

Though acknowledging that “comparing Marla and Rachel opens a Pandora’s box,” the Union-Tribune goes right ahead and makes that comparison, drawing a highly offensive moral equivalence between an innocent student terror victim and a militant who actively participated — unauthorized and unprepared — in the heart of a combat zone.

Conspicuously absent from the Union-Tribune article was the fact that Corrie’s organization, the “International Solidarity Movement” (ISM), was found to be harboring a senior Islamic Jihad terrorist in Jenin in March, and served as cover for the terrorist who bombed a Tel Aviv nightclub in April, killing 3 and injuring more than 60.

The Union-Tribune merely refers to the ISM as a “pro-Palestinian activist group” that is part of the “peace movement,” ignoring their ties to terror groups similar to the very one that murdered Marla Bennett.

The fundamental comparison is bad enough, but the Union-Tribune has compounded their imprudence with terribly insensitive timing. Marla Bennett, 1978-2002 The impetus for this article was a local event: the one-year memorial service for Marla Bennett, to be held Monday evening in San Diego. The reporter, Sandi Dolbee, encountered considerable resistance in her research — she notes that the Bennett family declined to be interviewed (Linda Bennett said “it wouldn’t be appropriate to write about her daughter and Rachel together”) and that the Israeli consul general in L.A. called the linking of the two women “outrageous.”

Upon recognizing this flawed premise, a responsible journalist and editor would have gone beyond peppering their story with disclaimers and found a more honorable theme to mark the anniversary of Marla Bennett’s tragic death.

Comments to the reporter: sandi.dolbee@uniontrib.com
Comments to the editor: letters@uniontrib.com

For more background on media misrepresentation of the Rachel Corrie episode, see the original HonestReporting reports by clicking here


* * * Other American newspapers have joined the Union-Tribune recently in mythologizing Rachel Corrie:

— A June 30 Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial compared Corrie, “a young woman of uncommon compassion,” to Pvt. Jessica Lynch, the American soldier who was captured by Iraqis and later rescued. Lynch, says the Post-Intelligencer, “put her life on the line for something larger than herself, as did Corrie.” The Seattle paper followed the lead of Toronto’s Globe and Mail, which made a similar Lynch/Corrie comparison in a May article.

Neither Lynch nor Corrie would be flattered by the comparison. As seen in this photo, Corrie publicly burned the American flag in front of Palestinian Gaza schoolchildren to protest the impending American invasion of Iraq:

Comments to: editpage@seattlepi.com

— A July 15 Chicago Tribune report profiled Corrie in heroic terms: “To the people of Rafah, a troubled city on the Gaza border with Egypt, Rachel Corrie will always remain a very special martyr, their American martyr.”

The article features interviews with Gaza Palestinians, Rachel Corrie’s father, and the present ISM leader, but no balanced interviews with IDF spokespersons regarding their ongoing difficulties with the ISM.

Comments to: ctc-TribLetter@Tribune.com

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





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