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Journalists





LA Times Story on West Bank Demolitions: A Journalistic Wrecking Ball


In The Los Angeles Times article yesterday about Israel's demolition of homes of Palestinian terrorists who killed Israelis ("Israel knocks down homes in West Bank," by Maher Abukhater and Batsheva Sobelman), a journalistic wrecking ball spells disaster for multiple basic facts.
 
1) The full headline in the print edition is "Israel knocks down homes in West Bank. The punitive measure was approved by the Supreme Court." (Emphasis added.) On what basis does the headline refer to the demolitions as a "punitive measure"? Supreme Court President Miriam Naor stated the move is not punitive. Haaretz reported yesterday:
Speaking in the High Court on Thursday, court President Justice Miriam Naor, who headed the five-justice panel that deliberated on the appeal against the demolitions, said the purpose of destroying the homes of terrorists was deterrent rather than punitive.
If another source, say an advocacy group which opposes the demolition, maintains that the move is "punitive" then The Times is required to attribute the claim as just that, and not state as fact that the measure is punitive when the court itself has said it is not.
 
2) The headline in the print edition does not make clear that the demolished homes belong to killers, giving readers an incomplete and distorted understanding of Israel's move. Those who only glance at the headline, as many only do, would reasonably conclude that Israel is pursuing a policy of collective punishment against a wide swath of Palestinians uninvolved in violence. The online headline, although still problematic for the reason described below, is better: "Israel demolishes of accused Palestinian killers."
 
 
3) The online headline, along with the article itself, refers to the Palestinians as "accused" killers when in fact they have already confessed to the crimes.
 
The article misleads:
Israeli army units Saturday demolished the West Bank homes of four families of Palestinians accused of killing Israelis, two days after the action was cleared by the nation's Supreme Court
 
Three of the homes, demolished with explosives or heavy drills, were in Nablus and belonged to the families of three Palestinians arrested last month on charges of attacking and killing an Israeli couple Oct. 1 on a road not far from the northern West Bank city.
 
The fourth home was in the village of Silwad, near Ramallah. It belonged to the family of a Palestinian accused of killing an Israeli in June near Nablus.
The article goes on in this vein: "Residents said dozens of Israeli military vehicles raided several Nablus neighborhoods and surrounded the family homes of three people accused of being members of the militant Hamas movement who were held responsible for an attack that killed a Jewish couple, Naama and Eitan [sic] Henkin, in the West Bank on Oct. 1.
 
The perpetrators not only were "accused" and "charge[d with] attacking and killing" the couple, they also admitted to the murders.
 
As Haaretz reported earlier this month:
The two Palestinian men who confessed to the shooting deaths of Naama and Eitam Henkinin the West Bank last month carried out the attack to avenge a fatal arson attack on the home of a Palestinian family in July, presumably carried out by Jewish settlers. This, according to suspect statements that were made public Monday.
Haaretz had earlier reported that the cell of five responsible for the Henkin's murder admitted responsibility:

The Shin Bet said Monday evening that it had recently apprehended a Hamas cell suspected in the murder of an Israeli couple in a shooting in the West Bank on Thursday. The five suspects, including the cell leader and the two who fired at the Eitam and Naama Henkin car, are residents of Nablus.

The five admitted to the attack in their interrogation, the Shin Bet said. (Emphasis added.)

Those involved in the murder of Malachi Moshe Rosenfeld also confessed to the crime, Haaretz reported.
 
4) The Times inaccurately reports that the court
ruled Thursday in favor of demolishing five homes and evacuating the sixth because it is an eight-story apartment building.
 
The court ruled that demolishing the apartment in a building occupied by otherwise uninvolved people was not a proportionate measure that would help deter future attacks.
The court rejected demolishing one of the homes because it was a rented unit, not only because "it is in an eight-story apartment building," as the article states. As Haaretz reported yesterday: "The court stayed the demolition of the home of a fifth man because it is a rented apartment and not an owner-occupied house."
 
5) The article refers to Israeli victim "Machi Rosenfeld." His name is Malachi Moshe Rosenfeld.
 
6) The article refers to Israeli victim Eitan Henkin. His name is Eitam Henkin.
 
 .
 
 
7) The article refers to Supreme Court President Miriam Naor as "he." Miriam Naor is a woman.
 
Nov. 22 Update: Editors Issue Stealth Corrections Online Only
 
Editors have quietly changed some of the errors in the online article. "Eitan" was corrected to Eitam, "Machi" became Malachi, and High Court Justice Miriam Naor was restored to a "she" instead of a "he." On the other hand, the article still does not note that many of the perpetrators have in fact confessed to the murders. Nor did editors correct the inaccurate explanation as to why the court ruled that the rented property would not be demolished.
 
Contrary to standard journalistic practice, including the regular correction process at The Los Angeles Times, editors failed to append a note to the article alerting readers to the implemented changes.
 
Not a single one of the errors, including the reference to the demolitions as a "punitive measure" were corrected in the print edition. The errors live on in news databases like Lexis-Nexis.

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