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Media Analyses





NBC Can't Be Sure, Assailant Ahmed Manasrah, 13, Could Be Innocent


During the recent spate of Palestinian terror attacks, the first big Palestinian lie that the mainstream media embraced and elevated to a legitimate "dispute" with Israel was the now infamous, and subsequently retracted, New York Times article that it is not in fact known if the first and second Jewish temples really stood on the Temple Mount ("Historical Uncertainty Proves Elusive at Jerusalem's Holiest Place," Rick Gladstone).  
 
The second big Palestinian lie repackaged by a major media outlet as a disputed claim whose truth cannot possibly be determined is the Oct. 14 NBC report, "Dispute Over Viral Video of Shot Ahmed Manasrah Sums Up Israel-Palestinian Conflict," by Cassandra Vinograd, Lawajez Jabari and Paul Goldman. The three argue that the facts are simply too murky to determine whether or not 13-year-old Ahmed Manasrah carried out stabbing attacks against Israeli civilians, including possibly, a child, before Israelis forces shot him dead.
 
In both cases, journalists treat sources lacking credibility as credible, and manipulate and exploit credible sources to serve their own purposes.
 
In the NBC piece, the trio place the unfounded vitriolic allegation proliferating on Palestinian social media, and outrageously repeated by Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, that the innocent Manasrah was shot in cold blood on equal footing with information confirmed by Israeli witnesses, police and medical workers that Manasrah stabbed and critically wounded two Israelis, including a 13-year-old.
 
In order to present the false Palestinian claims as at least as credible, it not more so, than the information provided by Israeli police and emergency medical services, as well as from footage of the attack, the NBC reporters cover up the fact that Abbas himself lied that the Israelis shot the boy dead, when clearly he is still alive.
 
Jeez, Golly, We Just Don't Know
 
The first four paragraphs describe in graphic detail the "writhing" pain and injuries suffered by Manasrah, the screamed curses from Israeli bystanders, and his ostensibly callous treatment by Israeli authorities. Here only, nothing is in uncertain, according to the authors: his legs are "awkwardly bent under him, a pool of blood under his head," someone shouts "die, you son of a whore," an officer "nudges the boy with his foot."
 
Then, throwing up their hands in supposed journalistic helplessness, the triumvirate declares: "The circumstances preceding the video could not be independently verified by NBC."
 
The article goes on to present a he said/she said dispute, misreporting many of the facts along the way:
Israeli police say Manasreh and his 15-year-old cousin stabbed and seriously wounded two Israelis and then ran away before being shot. They released a surveillance video on Tuesday amid the online furor that police said shows what appeared to be Manasrah and his cousin calmly walking past a camera then running back into the frame with what appear to be knives raised.
 
Manasrah's family denies he attacked Israelis.
 
Some headlines and videos say Manasrah was run over by an Israeli civilian, others say it was by an Israeli civilian vehicle. Some say he was shot and bled to death, others say he's in the hospital. There's been little clarity from officials, too, except to confirm that Manasrah is alive. (Emphasis added.)
In fact, much more is clear regarding the incident, but the NBC journalists do their best to hide clear facts with outright falsehoods.
 
NBC Covers Up For Abbas
 
For instance, it is crystal clear that on Oct. 14, the day the NBC report appeared, Palestinian President Abbas'gave a speech on Palestine TV (the clip is below) in which he held up a picture of the wounded and suffering Manasrah and declared that the boy was executed. As The New York Times reported: "Nonetheless, Mr. Abbas held up a still image from the video of Ahmad in a televised address broadcast Wednesday night, and he asserted that the boy had been killed."
 
 
Specifically, Abbas said in his Oct. 14 televised speech:
We have told the entire world from the U.N. stage that in no way will we accept the existing situation in occupied Palestine, nor will we surrender to the logic of oppressive force and to the policy of occupation and aggression adopted by the Israeli government and its settler herds, who are using terror against our people, our holy places, our homes and  our trees and are executing our children in cold blood, just as they did to the boy Ahmad Manasra and to other children in Jerusalem and elsewhere. (Translated by MEMRI.)
Apparently reluctant to out Abbas as a completely untrustworthy source regarding the incident, NBC does not tell readers that he falsely claimed the boy was dead. Moreover, they refer only to a statement by PA spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh saying that Ahmed's cousin, Hassan, who had carried out the attack with him, had been executed. Thus, the NBC journalists state:
It was Mansrah's [sic], the reporters are inconsistent with the spelling] cousin who died -- and the Palestinian presidency condemned the 15-year-old deaths as "an execution . . . in front of the media" and a "heinous crime."
Double Standard: Quick to Point to Netanyahu's Imprecise Statement
 
While ignoring Abbas' blatantly false charge that Israelis killed Ahmed Manasreh, the journalists are quick to point out an allegedly imprecise statement by "Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu." Netanyahu, for the record, is prime minister, not president. They write:
Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the sea of misinformation and misrepresentation -- but himself got the facts wrong, saying a Jewish child had been killed instead of injured -- in an impassioned speech telling Palestinian authorities to "stop lying" and inciting violence.
 
"An Arab boy fatally wounds a Jewish child and after that the security forces stop him and prevent him from continuing on a stabbing spree and he becomes a martyr supposedly executed unjustly?" Netanyahu told the Knesset. "First of all, he is not dead, he is alive. Secondly, he was not executed; he was attempting to execute others. He tried to kill and murder, but the exact opposite is presented in a distorted and outrageous manner."
Netanyahu did not say "An Arab boy fatally wounds a Jewish child."

In his Oct. 13 address to the Knesset, he said (see Hebrew speech here) an Israeli youth was critically wounded, not killed: "An Arab youth critically wounded an Israeli youth. . ."

Unfortunately, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided an incorrect English translation of Netanyahu's speech, and NBC exploited that error to falsely cast Netanyahu as the purveyor of false information.

Abbas' Credibility Protected, Israeli Police's Credibility Maligned
 
NBC's efforts to protect Abbas' credibility are also particularly striking in comparison to the article's treatment of the Israeli police spokesman.Vinograd, Lawajez and Jabari write:
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told NBC News that Manasrah's cousin was shot because he had a knife in his hand, and that the 13-year-old was run over by a car. He also said that an Israeli died in the Pisgat Ze'ev attack -- although the Israeli Red Cross [sic] has no record of that.
CAMERA spoke to Rosenfeld who confirmed that he and the Israeli police consistently provided foreign correspondents with correct information about the two Israeli wounded (no Israeli fatalities) during the Pisgat Zeev attack. Indeed, his Twitter feed from that day includes the following two tweets:
 
 
 
 
Video Showing Attack: It is Only What "Appears to Be"
 
The NBC journalists not only seek to destroy the credibility of Netanyahu and Rosenfeld, they even call into question the actual surveillance footage of the attack. Thus, while the journalists do not at all qualify the images of the video depicting Manasrah's agony after he was hit by a vehicle as he fled, they do qualify the images showing the Manasrah cousins attacking their 13-year-old victim. They refer to the surveillance video that "police said shows what appeared to be Manasrah and his cousin calmly walking past a camera then running back into the frame with what appear to be knives raised."
 
Why "appears to be"? About the video showing Manasrah down on the ground after the attack, they did not write that a pool of blood "appears to be" under his head or that his legs "appeared to be" awkwardly bent under him.
 
Viewers can decide for themselves whether or not they see the Manasrahs running with knives in their hands after an Israeli child on a bike.
 
 
Really, Not So Murky
 
The NBC reporters labor hard to give the impression that nearly all of the facts regarding the Pisgat Zeev attack are unclear including whether a 13-year-old Israeli boy was attacked, and whether Ahmed was shot by police, or hit by a vehicle.
 
About the Israeli victim, they write:
Israeli police have offered several different ages for the stabbing victims, ranging from 13 and to later a 16-year-old. A hospital spokesman told NBC News on Wednesday that the Israeli victims were aged 13 and 21.
But any confusion in the immediate aftermath of the attack were quickly cleared up. Isabel Kershner, of The New York Times, reported Oct. 12, two full days before the NBC report was published, that:

In one, a 13-year-old Israeli boy in Pisgat Zeev, a Jewish area of East Jerusalem, was riding his bicycle when two Palestinians from a nearby neighborhood stabbed him, wounding him critically, according to the police. The assailants, cousins 13 and 15, also severely wounded a 25-year-old man.

The younger attacker was injured as he tried to flee, apparently hit by a car, according to the police. Officers fatally shot the elder one, the police said, when he charged at them with a knife and ignored calls to stop.

Total Fatalities: Blurring Assailants, Victims
 
Aside from Manasrah, the NBC reporters depict multiple other Palestinian perpetrators of stabbings, shootings and ramming attacks as victims. They write:
According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 30 Palestinians have been killed in clashes and other violence since Oct. 1.
Of the 40 Palestinians killed in the last month, 19 were killed as they attacked, or attempted to attack, Israelis.
 
Lessons Not Learned?
 
In the wake of the Brian Williams scandal earlier this year, NBC staffers were ordered to review the network's policy guidelines. At the time, NBC news director Debra Juarez was quoted as saying:
Defining accuracy as “ensuring all of the facts are correct and presenting them in their proper context,” the guidelines state: “Accuracy and fairness are fundamental principles of journalism. As we routinely rely on information and pictures coming from other traditional and non-traditional sources, we must verify their accuracy and authenticity and ensure fairness, because we are responsible for everything we air or publish.”
Some eight months later, Vinograd, Jabari and Goldman have failed miserably to adhere to their network's guidelines on accuracy and authenticity.  
 
Oct. 19 Update: Vinograd: Article Published Before Abbas Speech
 
In a Twitter exchange with this writer, NBC's Cassandra Vinograd first insisted that the article did mention Abbas' false allegation about Manasrah's "execution," and then subsequently backtracked and claimed that the NBC article in question was published before Abbas' speech, which is why it wasn't reported.
 
The exchange began with a tweet by this CAMERA researcher:
 
 
Vinograd initially insisted that the article did note Abbas' false allegation:
 
 
(Her reference to "both pieces" refers also to an Oct. 15 NBC article, a shorter piece which she wrote alone, and which did indeed mention Abbas' false claim that Manasrah was executed.)
 
When this writer pressed her about the Oct. 14 article, the subject of this analysis, tweeting "Where does this piece say Mahmoud Abbas claimed Ahmed Manasrah was shot dead," Vinograd changed course entirely. No longer  incorrectly insisting that the article did reference Abbas' lie, she then went on to make the entirely different argument that the article was published before the Abbas speech:
 
 
The article's timestamp is Oct. 14, 4:54 PM EST. One hour before this time, other media outlets, including Haaretz and Times of Israel, had already reported on Abbas' speech in which he claimed that the young Manasrah was executed. About the timestamp, Vinograd tweeted:
 
 
In another tweet, Vinograd wrote that timestamps are constantly updated.
 
 
 
This CAMERA researcher responded:
 
 
In other words, if a new timestamp appears when the story is amended, and the story was amended after the Abbas speech, why wasn't his false claim about Manasrah -- clearly highly pertinent to an article about "disputed" accounts concerning the incident -- added to the piece? It was at this point that Vinograd deleted any record of the extended exchange. (The above tweets were captured from email notifications of Twitter activity.)
 
Correction
 
This post was corrected on Oct. 19 to reflect the fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu never said that a Jewish boy was "fatally injured" in the Pisgat Zeev the attack.
 

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