Unreliable Palestinian ‘Witnesses’July 21, 2005 12:00 by ManagingTeam
The unreliability of Palestinian sources has long undermined the integrity of Mideast media coverage. In April 2002, Palestinian ‘eyewitness’ reports of an Israeli ‘massacre’ and ‘mass graves’ in Jenin were immediately transmitted and amplified around the world, but were later proven to be completely false.This problem is still very much with us. Last month, AP and Reuters reported Palestinian prisoners’ claims that their Israeli guards tore up copies of the Koran to humiliate them. A Palestinian prisoner later admitted that she herself did the ripping.
And yesterday (July 20) Reuters, relying on unnamed Palestinian witnesses, reported that ‘Jewish settlers stabbed a Palestinian boy to death in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.’ The accusation gained traction when The New York Times included the Reuters report in its own daily dispatch.
But today it’s become clear that the boy’s assailants were Palestinian. Haaretz reported:
Palestinians initially claimed the boy was stabbed during a violent clash with settlers… Later, however, senior Palestinian figures told Israel Defense Forces figures the boy was likely murdered within the context of a clan feud.
Reuters itself now reports senior Palestinian officials acknowledging that ‘there is no evidence that settlers were behind the stabbing.’ [UPDATE: Palestinian police have arrested a Palestinian suspect in the murder.]
So we have yet another case of dubious Palestinian claims unquestionably disseminated by the western media, but later proven false. Of course, the false version remains part of the public record, and for one who doesn’t see the correction, the fabrication is the only version that sticks.
Media monitors EyeOnThePost caught a similar case this week, when the Washington Post reported that ‘more than a dozen bystanders were killed [by IDF fire], according to [Palestinian] hospital officials’. That report was never substantiated, never repeated elsewhere ? and never corrected by the Post.
Joshua Muravchik notes in his book, Covering the Intifada: How the Media Reported the Palestinian Uprising:
Journalists seem to follow a canon that says when two sides are fighting, it is their obligation to report equally and with equal credence what is said by each. But the quality of the information provided by the two sides in this conflict is highly asymmetrical. By this I mean simply that the Palestinians repeatedly lie.
The time has come for the major news outlets to institute a mandatory fact-checking period before promulgating dubious claims from Palestinian ‘eyewitnesses’ of supposed Israeli outrages.
The other issue here is the further erosion of Reuters’ credibility. This highly influential media outlet ? whose staff members were caught last week cavorting with a Jenin terrorist in a ‘gag film’ ? consistently demonstrates an eagerness to function as a pro-Palestinian mouthpiece.
Are Reuters’ Mideast reports carried in your local paper? If so, HonestReporting encourages you to approach your editor with the mountain of material indicating that Reuters does not provide a public service in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A picture caption on nytimes.com on Saturday with an article about attacks on Hamas militants in Gaza described the scene incorrectly. It showed a Palestinian police tank involved in a battle with Hamas militants, not the attack on Hamas militants earlier in the day by Israeli forces.
Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.