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Question & Clues

Why don’t we know what is going on in Israel & Palestine?

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Question

Recent studies of U.S. media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reveal that the media reported Israeli children’s deaths at rates 7 to 40 times greater than Palestinian children’s deaths. Some typical examples:

  • In 2004, when 8 Israeli children were killed and 179 Palestinian children were killed, NBC reported on 100% of Israeli children’s deaths and on 10% of Palestinian children’s deaths, ABC on 100% and 11%.
  • The New York Times reported on 50% of Israeli children’s deaths and 7% of Palestinian children’s deaths.
  • In the first six months of the current uprising – during which time four Israeli children were killed and 93 Palestinian children were killed – the San Francisco Chronicle reported prominently on 150% of the Israeli children’s deaths (through repetitions) and on 5% of the Palestinian children’s deaths.
  • A 2004 study of Portland’s Oregonian newspaper revealed headline coverage on 88% of Israeli children’s deaths and on 2% of Palestinian ones.

At least 82 Palestinian children were killed before the first Israeli child. Why is there such an immense differential in reporting on deaths related to the ethnicity of the victim? Why are so few Palestinian children’s deaths being reported to the American public?

Clues

The Associated Press is the major source of international news for U.S. news media. Virtually all AP news reports about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict go through its bureau in Israel.

Clue Card #1

Clue #1

On Nov. 1, 2004, while we were in the Palestinian territories meeting with the AP bureau chief in the West Bank, he received a phone call from a correspondent. Israeli military forces occupying the area had just killed a 12-year-old Palestinian boy who had been throwing stones from approximately 300 meters away. A soldier had shot the boy in the throat with live ammunition. The bureau chief immediately phoned the bureau in Israel with all the details.

Later, back in the U.S., we looked up AP coverage of the killing of this child. We found no story. We did find an AP photo on the internet, but could not find a single American publication that had printed it – perhaps because there was no news story accompanying it.

Clue Card #2

Clue #2

On October 17, 2004, several armored Israeli vehicles invaded a Palestinian refugee camp. The vehicles stayed for twenty minutes, asserting their control. There was no Palestinian resistance. At one point an Israeli soldier poked his gun out of his vehicle, aimed at a boy nearby, and pulled the trigger. The 14-year old boy was shot in the lower abdomen. (He survived.) A Reuters photographer photographed this incident, and an Associated Press cameraman filmed it. AP never aired this footage and it was erased.

In other words, AP had video footage of an Israeli soldier intentionally shooting a young Palestinian boy who was not attacking him, and they erased it. How could such footage not be considered newsworthy?

Clue Card #3

Clue #3

On Dec. 2, 2004, newspapers around the country received an Associated Press story about a candidate for the Palestinian presidency. The story reported that the candidate was in an Israeli prison, but, oddly, did not mention that he was being physically abused while in custody. It also failed to mention that over 8,000 Palestinians are incarcerated, that they are routinely abused, and that many are tortured, despite never having been charged with a crime.

This article carried a Palestinian byline and dateline. In reality, however, the Palestinian journalist given as the author of this report does not write articles. He phones information in to the AP bureau in Israel, where a journalist living in Israel writes the story. This ghost writer is almost always either an Israeli citizen or a person with strong ties to Israel.

It seems fraudulent to portray articles as having been written by one party in this conflict, when, in reality, they have been written by members of the other party.

Clue Card #4

Clue #4

On May 11, 2004, an AP news story reported: “The Geneva-based Defense for Children International and Save the Children, based in Sweden, said that as of May 2004, 373 Palestinians under 18 were being held in Israeli detention centers and prisons. At least three of the detainees are under 14...The groups charged that the treatment of Palestinian child prisoners by Israeli authorities amounts to a pattern of violence that has gone unchecked for years...”

This is important information for American taxpayers, since the US gives Israel over $10 million per day, and people throughout the world are aware that the US is Israel’s major supporter, thus blaming Americans for Israel’s actions. Oddly, however, AP sent this story out only on its Worldstream newswire, and not to American newspapers. Thus, people everywhere else in the world learned about these reports on Israeli human rights violations, but Americans did not.

Clue Card #5

Clue #5

In 2004, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Thomas Moorer passed away. Moorer, a World War II hero and one of the country’s highest ranking officers, had long been an outspoken critic of Israel – particularly of Israel’s brutal attack on a U.S. Navy ship, which had killed 34 American servicemen and injured 174. Just months before his death, Moorer appeared on Capitol Hill heading an independent inquiry, which found that Israel had “committed acts of murder against U.S. servicemen and an act of war against the United States” – words he repeated in an op-ed in the military’s Stars and Stripes newspaper on Jan. 16, 2004.

On Moorer’s death three weeks later, AP quickly sent out a 366-word report. The story included a sentence stating that Moorer had “...accused Israel of deliberately attacking the USS Liberty, an American spy ship.”

Within a few hours, AP sent out an expanded, 529-word obituary. The above sentence had been removed, and with it any hint of Moorer’s views on Israel: “The American people would be goddam mad if they knew what was going on.”

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Media Report Cards

Deadly Distortion: Associated Press
Jan. 2004 - Dec. 2004

Off the Charts: ABC, CBS, & NBC
Sep. 2000 - Sep. 2001
Jan. 2004 - Dec. 2004

Off the Charts: New York Times
Sep. 2000 - Sep. 2001
Jan. 2004 - Dec. 2004

SF Chronicle (CA) Report Card
Sep. 2000 - Mar. 2001

San Jose Mercury News (CA) Report Card
Oct. 2002 - Mar. 2003

San Jose Mercury News (CA) Report Card
Apr. - Sep. 2002

New London Day (CT) Report Card
Mar. - Jun. 2003

Resources

Short Movie: AP Erased Footage of Palestinian Boy Being Shot – Watch Online!

AUPHR Report – Accuracy in Oregonian Coverage of the Palestine / Israel Conflict

FAIR Report – The Illusion of Balance

Book – Bad News from Israel

Leaked Document: Israeli Communications Priorities 2003

Related Organizations

PM Watch

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

American Hummus


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