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Thursday, July 7, 2022

The Killing of Shireen and Trial by Media

In a recent video, I discussed how the media contributes to Jew hatred.

Sadly, in the past few weeks we’ve seen a good example of this phenomenon.

On Wednesday 11 May 2022, Al Jazeera  journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was tragically killed in a gun battle between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the West Bank town of Jenin.

Al Jazeera wasted no time in accusing Israel of deliberately targeting the journalist.

This claim was repeated in New Zealand by commentators on TV and in print and by an MP.

Kamahl Santamaria, hosting the Breakfast show, said, “the Qatari govt have called it state sponsored Israeli terrorism…which is an extraordinarily strong claim, but probably not far off the truth”. 

Donna Miles, in a Stuff op-ed article, repeated the Al Jazeera accusation of Israel “deliberately targeting and killing” Abu Akleh.

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman wasted no time in accusing the IDF of assassinating Abu Akleh and committing a war crime.

Repeating unproven assertions as fact has the effect of embedding the information in people’s minds – and at the end of the day, the truth hardly seems to matter. It’s a classic propaganda technique. 

Furthermore, on 11 May, Ghahraman re-tweeted this comment – “Don’t waste your time reading western/Israeli news headlines about what happened to Shireen Abu Akleh. Hear it firsthand from the Palestinian journalists who were with her and witnessed everything”.

It’s worth noting, that according to Reporters without Borders, Palestinian media has an abysmal rating on freedom, ranking 170 out of 180. Press freedom is severely limited and censorship high.

Reporters without Borders states that in the West Bank, critical websites are shut down by the Palestinian Authority, while journalists are arrested and interrogated in order to put pressure on the political opposition.

The Palestinian journalists on the job are not likely to give an unbiassed picture of events, and subsequent evidence has shown their testimony to be unreliable.

Also, Al Jazeera is hardly a news outlet to be trusted on such matters. The Media Bias Fact Check site, finds that Al Jazeera has a mixed record on factual reporting and a medium credibility rating. Al Jazeera also has an opinion page that exhibits significant bias against Israel.

In addition, AJ is owned and funded by Qatar, a country that rejects normalisation with Israel, sends millions of dollars in funds to Hamas, the terrorist entity that rules Gaza, has connections with terrorist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and the Taliban.

Qatar has a low score on the Reporters Without Borders freedom of press rating – ranking 119 out of 180. Reporters Without Borders notes that Qatari journalists are left little leeway by  oppressive legislation and a draconian system of censorship.

Al Jazeera is not a neutral source but has a clear bias against Israel, so why would local media outlets quote it uncritically?

After the killing of Abu Akleh, Israel called for a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority. They refused to co-operate or hand over the bullet which would help determine who killed Shireen. The Palestinian forensics institute found the initial autopsy was inconclusive. The PA conducted their own investigation, which conveniently found Israel guilty. The IDF Chief of the General Staff LTG Aviv Kohavi has categorically ruled out a targeted killing. He has pledged a thorough investigation into the incident.

Other investigations have been undertaken, most notably by CNN and the Bellingcat Investigation Team. Media Watch groups and others have analyzed these reports and raised significant questions that undermine the credibility of both reports.

Honest Reporting noted that the witness testimonies were far from reliable, unbiased sources.

Their report is linked in the notes that accompany this video, which you can read for the details.

The Comittee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA) also slammed the CNN report stating,

It relies not so much on objective, incontrovertible evidence, but on the feelings of biased eyewitnesses. All the while, plausible alternative explanations are not only cast aside, but effectively covered up by CNN’s reporting.

These are the acts of a partisan organization, not a serious news agency.

The Bellingcat Report has also come under scrutiny. The Elder of Ziyon blog site has noted errors in the audio analysis and that Bellingcat ignored video footage of other groups of militants who were within range.

Further evidence continues to emerge which throws doubt on the CNN and Bellingcat reports.

Let’s step aside for a moment from the question of who killed Abu Akleh – a matter that still demands an impartial investigation – and ask some broader questions:

Why the media rush to lay blame at Israel’s feet even while evidence is still being gathered?

Why the obsessive focus on this one death?

It is indeed tragic that Shireen was killed, but according to Reporters without Borders, there have been 27 journalists killed since 1 January this year and 1,059 journalists have been killed in the past ten years. The International Federation of Journalists calculates that in the 30 year period 1990 to 2020 2658 Journalists were killed. This amounts to about two journalists or media workers dying every week.

How many kiwis know the names of these other journalists? How many have been named by our media?

Why the near universal silence about the context for this confrontation? The upsurge in terrorist attacks in which 19 Israelis were murdered in a six week period and numerous attempted attacks foiled.

Our Foreign Minister tweeted the need for an investigation into Shireens death – that we support – but made no mention of the terror attacks in which 19 Israelis were murdered and NZ continues to fund Palestinian schools that incite and glorify the attacks.

Do Israeli lives matter?

Has the media considered how absurd the claim is that the IDF would target a journalist?

The IDF understands the enormous repercussions of such an action. The notion that they would kill a journalist for their reporting is not only laughable, but shows how disconnected the accusers are from the reality in Israel. Israel is a democracy that values freedom of the press. Amongst the harshest critics of Israel are Israeli journalists and activists living and working in Israel.

Another explanation for the intense focus on this incident, is highlighted in an interview with Professor Richard Landes.

He claims that none of this outrage and blame is about determining whether it was an Israeli or Palestinian bullet that killed Abu Akleh in a crossfire. The allegations are far worse: Israel is charged with the deliberate execution of Abu Akleh, though there is no evidence to back this claim and no reason to believe it is true.

This, he argues, makes the accusation a blood libel –  a false allegation, a cynical use of dead people to smear and foment violence against the Jews.

Landes points out that the Abu Akleh story is not a fresh news story, but an old story. He compares it to the Mohammed al Durah story in 2000, in which the death of  a young boy was falsely pinned on Israel. There was a longstanding attempt to cover up the truth not only by an Arab populace hostile to Israel, but by the media, and in fact, this was a collaborative effort between the two.

It was Prof. Landes who documented the al Durah story. He coined the term “Pallywood” to describe the theater put on for the media by the Palestinians in their cognitive war against the Jews. Landes claims that the media lapped up the al Durah fakery and more than that, helped to create it.

The Al Durah Project made this statement:

The Al Durah affair symbolizes the active collaboration by one of democracy’s foremost institutions – the free media – in the propagation of lethal narratives about a democracy and in the service of one of a quasi-totalitarian society that brainwashes its own people with hate. It embodies the failure of an open society to grapple with obvious efforts to subvert and manipulate its news and public

Matti Friedman in his essay What the Media Gets Wrong About Israel, comments on what he calls a ‘Journalistic hallucination’.  These, he said:

…tend to occur, when reporters are not granted the freedom to write what they see but are rather expected to maintain a “story” that follows predictable lines. For the international press, the uglier characteristics of Palestinian politics and society are mostly untouchable because they would disrupt the Israel story, which is a story of Jewish moral failure.

Our hearts go out to Shireen Abu Akleh’s family and we hope that her killer will one day be brought to justice, whoever he or she may be. It is of grave concern that journalistic standards continue to decline with the handling of such cases.

The Israel narrative as promulgated by much of mainstream media bears only a passing resemblance with reality. And as such, journalists who engage in biased reporting share some of the blame for perpetuating the conflict.

(Note: at 5.43 the presenter mistakenly says “1,059 journalists have been murdered” rather than “1,059 journalists have been killed”).

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