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Media Analyses





AP Revises Caption About Palestinian Prisoner's Violence


Following communication with CAMERA staff, the Associated Press today revised a photo caption which grossly understated the terror acts and which severely exaggerated the prison sentence of one of the West Bank prisoners released last week to the Gaza Strip. The photograph along with its original erroneous caption follow:

In this photo taken Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011, freed Palestinian prisoner Hamuda Saleh, age 38, who was originally from the West Bank city of Nablus, prays near the pool at a hotel in Gaza City. Palestinian prisoners exiled to the Gaza Strip in a dramatic swap for a captive Israeli soldier last week are contemplating the rest of their lives after years behind bars. Some say they want to put their violent pasts behind them and move on with their lives, now that the celebrations marking their release have faded. In 1989 Saleh claims he was sentenced to multiple life sentences for being part of the 'Ezz Al-Din Al Qassam' militia, the military wing of Hamas.

As noted earlier today in CAMERA's Snapshots blog:

Based on Ms. Todras-Whitehill's caption, Saleh would have been just 16 when he was supposedly sentenced to multiple life terms for his membership in Ezz Al-Din Al Qassam (but no specific terror act), a scenario which did not seem plausible. Indeed, a check of the Prison Service's list of prisoners released in the Shalit deal shows that Hamuda Said Abdul Rahim Saleh has been in prison since July 7, 2000, not since 1989. And his sentence was 22 years, not multiple life terms. (Also he was born in 1976, making him younger than 38.) We are still looking into his crime, but given that the rest of the information that he supplied to the AP was false, a dose of skepticism is in order regarding his claim that "being part of the 'Ezz Al-Din Al Qassam milita" was the sole reason for his imprisonment.

Todras-Whitehill does not specifically say that Mr. Saleh was one of those who claims he'd like to put his violent past behind him, but if he was, obviously that claim would be suspect as well.

Following communication today from CAMERA staff with the AP, the wire service added the Prison service's information to the caption, but did not issue an outright correction. Thus, the resubmitted caption today under the heading "ADDITION Mideast Israel Palestinians Prisoner Swap" reads:

In this photo taken Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011, freed Palestinian prisoner Hamuda Saleh, age 38, who was originally from the West Bank city of Nablus, prays near the pool at a hotel in Gaza City. Palestinian prisoners exiled to the Gaza Strip in a dramatic swap for a captive Israeli soldier last week are contemplating the rest of their lives after years behind bars. Some say they want to put their violent pasts behind them and move on with their lives, now that the celebrations marking their release have faded. In 1989 Saleh claims he was sentenced to multiple life sentences for being part of the 'Ezz Al-Din Al Qassam' militia, the military wing of Hamas. A list of prisoners released by Israel's Prison service states Saleh was born in 1976, arrested in 2000 and sentenced to 22 years in jail for premeditated murder, membership in an unrecognized organization, planting a bomb and shooting at people. (Emphasis added.)

It is worth noting that neither Hamas nor any other source disputes the veracity of the Prison Service's data. (The Hebrew list of released prisoners includes their acts of terror; the English does not.) While we commend the AP for quickly including the Prison Service correct information about Saleh's sentence and crimes, a straightforward correction would have been preferable. A news outlet is under no obligation to report a source's lie just because s/he said it.


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