Friday, August 10, 2007

Confusion in reporting a terror attack

Earlier this morning a young Palestinian man grabbed the weapon of an Israeli guard in the Old City of Jerusalem and shot him. The guard's colleague shot back, chased the attacker through the alleys, both of them shooting, until the attacker was killed. A number of passersby were wounded, most of them lightly; the wounds sustained by the first guard were moderate.

So much for the facts. And now, for the reports.

The best, clearest, and most concise report was filed by CNN. It's title is reasonable: Eight Hurt in Jerusalem Shooting, it contains all of 68 words, and no ideological slant I can see. Simply the news.

Ynet is beyond comprehension. Ynet, you may be interested to know, is Israel's most popular news website, and it's run by the company that publishes Yediyot Acharonot, Israel's most popular newspaper. Their Hebrew-language description of the event is fine, but it appears they had it translated either by a computer or by an an-alphabetic shepherd from Mongolia. The result is unhelpful if you want to understand the event, which is a problem since some people don't read Hebrew.

The English at Haaretz is fine. The report contains useful details for Jerusalemites trying to understand what happened, such the names of the alleys. The number of injured (10) differs from CNN (8) and from Ynet (11). Interestingly, Haaretz also carries the allegation that the guard continued shooting even after the attacker was down, thereby wounding more people. This allegation comes from "a witness". I wasn't there, but given the street names they've so helpfully supplied us with it seems to me reasonable that the witness is a local Palestinian - who could be telling the truth, could be telling the truth as he or she believes it, but also just might be embellishing a wee bit on the story. Haaretz then goes on to allow Aharon Franco, the head of the police, to commend the guard while noting that the witness is being questioned.

Where the Israeli sources reflect the chaos of such an event and the lack of time required to unravel its elements before going online, the BBC has no problems in using it to trot out their usual agenda. Watch this:

Title: Palestinian killed in Jerusalem

Keep in mind who's the victim, right? This is followed by a picture of at least six uniformed Israelis standing over the covered dead body.

A Palestinian man has been shot and killed in Jerusalem's Old City after trying to seize a weapon from an Israeli security guard, police say.

He may only have been trying, mind you, and we only have the word of the police for it, not, say, the hospital where the wounded guard is lying. You have to read all the way to the end to learn that even the BBC knows that the attacker really did attack anyone.
The Old City lies in East Jerusalem and houses the key Jewish, Muslim and Christian sites. East Jerusalem has been occupied by Israel since 1967. Palestinians hope to establish their capital there but Israel claims the entire city. Israel's annexation of the city is not recognised by the international community.
It would be rude to ask how this might be essential to the story, because in the minds of the staff of the BBC it is the story. The attack happened because Israel claims the Old City, and our task as readers, if any of us are part of "the international community", is to reject Israel's position; this leaves us, if not quite cheering the attacker, at least agreeing with his frustration.

1 comment:

Lydia McGrew said...

I once read that some Israelis think the BBC is even more biased than Al-Jazeera. Could be.