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Media Analyses





Ha'aretz Columnist Sacrifices Truth to Show IDF "Wrongdoing"


Ha’aretz columnist Uzi Benziman has an agenda — to expose Israel’s consistent guilt, of which he is certain. If there is ever any doubt about who is responsible for a Palestinian death, if there is ever any question as to whether or not the IDF is innocent, Benziman is there to quash it.

Take, for example, Benziman’s April 30, 2008 article "Deep Regret Would Suffice." His premise is that the IDF routinely and wrongly denies involvement in Palestinian killings and "casts doubt about the very information that arrives from Palestinian sources about the circumstances of the killing." Benziman condemns this, calling it a form of "demonizing the enemy."

A curious stance for a veteran journalist, given the ample evidence of falsification by sources who blame Israel and the IDF without warrant, even — perhaps especially — when they themselves are to blame.

For example, claims by Palestinian spokesmen that Israel had perpetrated a massacre in Jenin in 2002 and had destroyed the city were subsequently proven false. (See "Palestinian Spokesmen, Jenin Lies and Media Indifference".) The allegation that the icon of Palestinian martyrdom, Mohammed Al Dura, was shot dead by Israeli soldiers was demonstrated to be false. (See "Mohammed Al Dura: Anatomy of a French Media Scandal") Claims that Hamas has made about Israel detaining passage for Palestinians awaiting medical treatment were shown to be false. (See "IDF:WHO Report 'Completely Wrong') And numerous examples of Hezbollah staging media events during the Second Lebanon War have been documented in television footage, wire service photographs, and on the internet. (See "Hezbollah's Media Weapon")

Even more to the point, Palestinian sources frequently blame Israel for explosions initiated by Palestinian terrorists themselves.  For example, Ha'aretz's Avi Issacharoff reporting on  the death of two Arab children in Beit Lahiya hit by a Palestinian rocket that fell short on August 8, 2007,  stated:

No group claimed responsibility. Palestinian journalists, however, were pressured to report that the children were killed by an Israeli bombardment.

And an April 5, 2008 report in Yediot similarly demonstrated that while "medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported that a Palestinian farmer was killed  in an IDF artillery strike in northern Gaza, local residents say the farmer was killed after a rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists toward Israel fell short and hit him." 

Indeed, international newspapers have corrected claims based upon faulty Palestinian sources. For example, a June 29, 2006 article in the International Herald Tribune falsely blamed an Israeli shell for a blast in Khan Yunis that killed two Palestinians.  On July 12, 2006, the newspaper issued the following correction:

An article June 29 on the deaths of two Palestinians in an explosion in the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunis misstated the cause. Palestinians initially blamed an Israeli shell for the blast, but Palestinian security officials and Palestinian journalists later said that the blast appeared to be a Palestinian explosive that went off unintentionally.

Benziman makes no mention whatsoever of this history of Palestinian falsehoods, apparently believing the only ones capable of lying are Israelis.
 
Regarding the recent death of a Palestinian mother and her four children in the Gaza Strip on April 28, 2008, he rushes to blame the IDF without bothering to wait for the final results of the military's investigation.  Thus, Benziman discusses the IDF's  "attack on the Abu Muatak family" as if Israeli soldiers had intentionally targeted the woman and her children, and condemns the IDF for "denying involvement" in the tragedy and "feeding alternative information to radio broadcasters."  He ridicules and denounces the IDF"s "alternative information" — namely, that the source of the explosion was the armed terrorists hit by the army's fire.

But, in fact, an unmanned aircraft video of the scene released on May 4, 2008 demonstrated that the IDF's  "alternative information" was indeed the most likely explanation for the explosion.

The columnist proceeds on to a litany of supposed crimes for which he alleges the IDF was responsible.  Although he appears ignorant about the facts and circumstances surrounding these incidents, he nevertheless blames Israel.

As an example of IDF wrongdoing, Benziman presents the alleged shooting of 12-year-old Mohammed Al Dura at the beginning of the second Palestinian intifada, but  does not  bother to refresh his faulty memory or  investigate the facts. (The English translation even gets the date wrong, claiming that the Al Dura incident took in December 2000.  It took place on September 30, 2000.) He puts forth the demonstrably false allegation that Al Dura was killed by Israeli forces, authoritatively stating that Al Dura was shot dead by Israeli soldiers on camera.  He could not possibly have watched the clip, as the only footage taken shows the boy lifting his head and peeking at the camera after the announcer claims he was shot dead.  And there is no scene at all of Israeli soldiers shooting the boy.  The Ha'aretz journalist bases his false allegation on the claims of the Palestinian cameraman who was caught in a lie and the France 2 reporter who accepted the cameraman's words at face value, even though it is no longer the accepted truth. Their claim has been analyzed by journalists and interested parties around the world and has repeatedly been proven false in the Atlantic Journal, Le Figaro, and a German documentary film, among others.

Benziman also misleads with his statement:

The first reaction then on the part of Yom-Tov Samia, who was at the time the head of Southern Command, was:  "There is no certainty that the boy was shot by the IDF." Ever since then, Israel has officially denied responsibility for the boy's death.

In fact, the first official reaction of the IDF was to do a rushed preliminary investigation and take responsibility for the shooting even though Yom Tov Samia, the commander at the time, was convinced it could not possibly have happened the way it was reported.  And the first official response was to express sorrow over the tragedy, and to say that its troops were probably responsible for killing Al Dura. IDF Major General Giora Eiland said:

There is no way to prove who shot him. But from the angles from which we fired, it is likely that he was hit from our gunfire.... It is very reasonable that they were hit from our gunfire.

Contrary to what Benziman says, the IDF has been faulted for being overly willing to accept responsibility for something its soldiers did not do. The more extensive investigations based on ballistic tests revealed that if the boy was indeed shot, it could not have been done by the IDF.

If Benziman is so quick to twist the truth and  blame Israeli soldiers in cases where there is overwhelming external evidence that they are innocent, it is no surprise that he completely discards the IDF's own investigations in favor of Palestinian claims. Thus, Benziman states:

When seven members of the Ali Ghaliya family were killed on the Gaza beach (9.6.2006), Galant said that they may have been hit by an old mine (in fact it transpired that they were hit by a fresh Israeli shell).

Although the columnist states with complete certainty that it was "a fresh Israeli shell" that killed the Ali Ghaliya family, an IDF commission of inquiry  headed by Major-General Meir Kalifi documented where the shells fired in the anti-terror operation landed, and concluded that none could have hit the family.  In addition, laboratory investigations of the shrapnel extracted in an Israeli hospital from one of the wounded Palestinians revealed that it was not from a 155mm shell of the type used in the IDF operation. Even the representative from Human Rights Watch (an organization quick to support Palestinian claims over Israeli ones) who had initially blamed the IDF acknowledged that he could not  contradict the IDF investigation's findings. (Human Rights Watch, basing its assumption of guilt directly on Palestinian claims, called for a new, independent investigation.) But Benziman is undeterred by these facts.
 
His thesis that the IDF always tries to cover up its own wrongdoing by "demonizing the enemy" and accusing them of nefarious schemes is repeated when he mentions the bombing of a building in Kana during the Second Lebanon War.  He charges, "The IDF also claimed that Hezbollah had staged the display of the bodies opposite the cameras." 

But it wasn't the IDF who made these claims. Foreign journalists and watchful people in the blogosphere noted this. Richard North of the British blog "EU Referendum" became intrigued with wire service photographs of the rescue mission which looked staged to him. These photos did not appear to reflect a typical rescue mission, and North, with the help of other bloggers, studied all the wire photos of the rescue available online, concluding that:

the bulk of the relief effort at Khuraybah [Kana] on 30 July was turned into a perverted propaganda exercise. The site, in effect, became one vast, grotesque film-set on which a macabre drama was played out to a willing and complicit media, which actively co-operated in the production and exploited the results.

North's observations (available in detail here)  were also supported by a film broadcast by German television station NDR (Norddeutscher Rundfunk) which showed a boy being removed from an ambulance and the person in charge of the rescue mission directing a cameraman to film as he clears the area and uncovers the body for a close-up shot.

All these facts are meaningless to Benziman whose politics supersede adherence to ethical journalism. 


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