Following reports that a Palestinian woman was killed by tear gas fired by the IDF at a Palestinian demonstration, we asked why the mainstream media had reported this as fact even though there were more than enough question marks surrounding the circumstances of the death.
Considering that there are no recorded instances of anyone in the world dying as a result of tear gas inhalation in an open space and the fact that out of all of the Palestinians present at the demonstration, only one person was allegedly fatally affected, shouldn’t the media approach the Palestinian “eyewitnesses” with a certain degree of skepticism?
In light of the ever-increasing holes in the Palestinian story that were coming to light, it was disappointing that virtually no media outlets were prepared to follow up on a story that had all the hallmarks of an anti-Israel libel.
The New York Times, however, did follow up. Would this bastion of supposedly professional reporting re-examine its initial story? Unfortunately not. Instead, Isabel Kershner decided to concentrate on the supposed battle of narratives in an article headlined “Israeli Military Officials Challenge Account of Palestinian Woman’s Death”.
The article stated:
Pro-Israel advocates quickly pounced on the Israeli military official’s anonymous conjectures, accusing the Palestinians of fabricating the story of death from tear gas for propaganda purposes.
Considering the poor record of reliability and actively promoting Big Lies in order to discredit Israel, we wonder why many media outlets operate such a double standard when it comes to official or unofficial statements from Israeli sources such as the IDF.
In this case, Robert Mackey, writing on the New York Times’ blog The Lede, Mackey dismissed the views of a couple of pro-Israel bloggers by virtue of the fact that they had been invited to an IDF briefing on the matter, instead giving carte blanche to a group of left-wing Israeli bloggers commentating from one site with a very pronounced political bias. Rather than question the veracity of Palestinian claims, Mackey turned the issue into whether tear gas should be used at all to disperse Palestinian protestors.
Meanwhile, James Hider of The Times of London (subscription only) included the following statement in a separate story, filing this days after it was well known that the facts of the case had certainly not been established:
Last week, a Palestinian woman died after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli soldiers during a weekly demonstration against Israel’s huge security barrier built inside the West Bank.
The New York Times wasn’t the only media outlet that appeared to actively take sides in favor of the Palestinians. The Guardian went to considerable effort to publish a puff piece interview with the mother of the allegedly tear gassed Abu Rahma along with embedded PDFs of a Palestine Red Crescent emergency case form, a CT scan and hospital report relating to the case.
Perhaps the Guardian should have looked at the evidence more closely before publishing. The emergency case form appears to confirm that Abu Rahma was evacuated from her own home or another residential location as opposed to the site of the demonstration. The CT scan reveals no relevant information whatsoever while the hospital report actually states that tear gas is the cause of the medical condition based on the claims of the family rather than any empirical medical examination.
Meanwhile, Sky News’ Dominic Waghorn attended the demonstration at Bilin a week after the Abu Rahma incident. He states:
Every Friday both sides argue over who was responsible for starting the week’s clashes.
This week we observed protestors march to the fence, hang onto it and rattle and shake it. One protestor tried to cut it with pliers, ineffectually.
The Israelis responded with Skunk.
Note: Skunk is a non-toxic, non-harmful but extremely smelly liquid spray used by the IDF for crowd dispersal.
Waghorn claims that the protestors then started throwing stones following the IDF’s deployment of Skunk.
How does Waghorn explain this video filmed at the scene which confirms the ineffectual attack on the security fence yet also shows a considerable amount of Palestinian stone throwing before the IDF responds with the Skunk?
The IDF is even more convinced, having carried out investigations, that its initial suspicions were correct that Abu Rahma was not killed as a result of tear gas inhalation.
As YNet reports:
“Our assumptions were verified this week after we received additional documents from the Palestinians,” said Judea and Samaria Division Commander Brigadier-General Nitzan Alon.
He added that “the documents and data we received strengthened the understanding that her death was caused by the method of the medical treatment and other medical aspects.”
The division commander said some details remained to be examined on the matter, but that further talks would be held with the Palestinians in a bid to reach a final understanding.
“We now understand that she herself was not at the protest, but in a more distant place, where remains of the tear gas may have reached her. But this was not the cause of her death. She died from other illnesses and medical care.”
So why is it that the mainstream media operates different standards when it comes to reporting on the statements from official Israeli sources and particularly the IDF? Why are Palestinians automatically given the benefit of the doubt even after many examples of misleading information and outright libels?
Professor Barry Rubin, in a detailed examination of the New York Times report and the unsubstantiated Palestinian claims surrounding Abu Rahma’s death, writes:
So that’s the bottom line: The whole worldwide story and still another blood libel is based on…zero evidence.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, however, few people–and most incredibly of all, very few if any journalists–are going to read this article or go through all of this evidence.
That’s precisely my point: Anti-Israel sources can produce an infinite number of these stories that take time and a detailed explanation to debunk. And then nobody will pay any attention to such responses. That’s why this kind of thing should be systematically discounted and not reported unless some real evidence is offered that there is any truth in the accusation.
The huge anti-Israel demonstration at her funeral and mass media coverage shows us that Abu Rahma will be remembered as a Palestinian martyr to an Israeli war crime. She will also figure anonymously in the statistics intended to prove how evil Israel behaves. In future, people might be killed in terrorist attacks intended to revenge her death. And so on.
Only when it is understood in general that the Palestinian Authority and such sources as extremist anti-Israel activists who happen to be Jewish do everything possible in order to slander Israel–and that none of these claims should be accepted unless accompanied by real proof–will the situation improve. Haven’t the mass media and others had enough lessons that they should discount such claims?