Saturday, March 28, 2009

Just the facts?

It is said that in times of war, the first casualty is truth. I think my readers already know that the msm rarely, if ever, sticks to "just the facts, ma'am." Obviously, we all have our own biases, but all too often, so-called 'reporters', and msm groups, let their own biases shine bright and clear. Reporters biases, editors' agenda, usually get in the way of the facts. This is not just a north American problem. It IS international. Nowhere is this more stark than the news coming out of Israel. Read on:

"War Crimes" and Shoddy Journalism

Ha'aretz and The Guardian's war crimes allegations debunked.

Browsing the Israeli press can provide a broader and more informed picture of events in Israel than the narrower and sometimes slanted international media coverage. Indeed, Israel's press is hardly monolithic with a variety of competing political narratives and a penchant for self-criticism, so much so that many of the most negative stories appearing in the international press are first broken by the Israeli newspapers.

Unfortunately, Israeli journalists, like their Western counterparts, also have their own biases and journalistic lapses. Such is the case of a recent Ha'aretz story alleging "war crimes" and serious ethical failures on the part of the IDF in Gaza. Predictably, many international media outlets, including the New York Times, The Guardian, The Independent, Australian, and Globe & Mail to name but a few, repeated the allegations without bothering to do any rudimentary checks.

Separately from Ha'aretz but only a few days later, The Guardian published its own claims of evidence of alleged Israeli "war crimes" (repeated in Australia's The Age). Online videos and accompanying articles accused Israeli forces of using human shields, deliberately firing on Palestinian medical staff and indiscriminate killing of Palestinian civilians with unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as claims that Israel had used a variety of weapons in "illegal ways." (See section below for more on The Guardian.)

Both Ha'aretz and The Guardian are guilty of shoddy journalism. But the international press is hardly any better. Instead of checking the facts on such a highly contentious issue, publications simply repeated the allegations. Had they done a modicum of research, they would have uncovered numerous flaws. Melanie Phillips, for example, examines Ha'aretz's pieces:

There are precisely two charges of gratuitous killing of Palestinian civilians under allegedly explicit orders to do so. One is what even Ha'aretz made clear was an accidental killing, when two women misunderstood the evacuation route the Israeli soldiers had given them and walked into a sniper's gunsights as a result. Moreover, the soldier who said this has subsequently admitted he didn’t see this incident - he wasn’t even in Gaza at the time - and had merely reported rumour and hearsay.

The second charge is based on a supposedly real incident in which, when an elderly woman came close to an IDF unit, an officer ordered that they shoot her because she was approaching the line and might have been a suicide bomber. The soldier relating this story did not say whether or not the woman in this story actually was shot. Indeed, since he says 'from the description of what happened' it would appear this was merely hearsay once again.

Writing in The Jerusalem Post, Herb Keinon points out:

It is important to note that none of the testimony was about what the soldiers did themselves, but rather of what they heard or saw other soldiers do. It is also important that what was reported seems to fall within the realm of aberrations by individuals during war against a cruel enemy hiding behind civilians, not a systematic loss by the army of its moral compass.

The second piece of context is Dani Zamir, the head of the program, who had the soldiers' words transcribed and published. A story in Haaretz on Thursday said that in 1990 Zamir, then a parachute company commander in the reserves, was tried and sentenced to prison for refusing to guard a ceremony where "right-wingers" brought Torah scrolls to Joseph's tomb in Nablus.

The allegations were rebutted by other IDF soldiers interviewed by YNet News:...

Yet again, someone has taken the time to set it all out in black and white. Go here to Honest Reporting to read the rest.

"Just the facts"??????????? Not so much.

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