AP Corrects Captions: Palestinian Killed by Policemen Was Attacker

CAMERA’s Israel office yesterday prompted corrections of multiple Associated Press captions which had failed to make clear that the Palestinian shot dead by Israeli policemen in Jerusalem Dec. 4 had just stabbed an Israeli citizen and attempted to attack the police.

The incomplete and unclear captions stated (examples at left): “Israeli police shot a Palestinian on Saturday after an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man was stabbed and wounded near Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, a crowded area that is often the scene of demonstrations and clashes.”

Based on this partial information, the shot Palestinian could have been a bystander entirely uninvolved in the stabbing incident, when in fact Muhammad Salameh was the assailant.

AFP’s brief captions, in contrast, clearly reported that the Palestinian killed by policemen had stabbed an Israeli:

 Israeli forces inspect the body of a Palestinian man killed by policemen after he stabbed an Israeli man on December 4, 2021 outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City.” Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP

In response to communication from CAMERA, AP amended all of the captions in question. In the AP photo archive, the amended captions carry a prominent “Correction Israel Palestinians” heading. The corrected wording of the caption for the photograph immediately above, for example, states:

Israeli police examine the body of a Palestinian attacker who was killed by Israeli forces after stabbing an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man near Damascus Gate next to the Old City of Jerusalem, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. Surveillance footage released by police and a widely circulated video shot by a bystander appeared to show an officer from Israel’s paramilitary Border Police shooting the attacker when he was already lying on the ground, prompting calls for an investigation into possible excessive use of force. Israeli leaders have said the police acted properly. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Regarding the policemen’s shooting of Salameh when he was down on the ground, AP had reported:

The shooting drew comparisons to a 2016 incident in which an Israeli soldier was caught on camera shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker who was lying on the ground. The soldier was imprisoned for several months in a case that divided the country.

The passage’s passive language — the “shooting drew comparisons”—  strikingly fails to identify who exactly drew this comparison. Identification of the subject would have been instructive regarding the comparison’s validity.  Haaretz writer Nir Hasson, who raised concerns about the shooting, nevertheless wholeheartedly rejected any comparison with the 2016 Hebron incident involving Elor Azaria. He wrote (“The Shooting of the Jerusalem Terrorist Was No Execution, But Police Should Think Twice“):

This was no execution. Nor was it a case like that of the soldier Elor Azaria, who arrived at the scene of a stabbing in Hebron minutes after the assailant, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, lay on the ground, wounded and unarmed, and Azaria shot him in cold blood.

The entire incident on Saturday in Jerusalem, from the moment Salameh stabbed the young man until the last shot was fired, lasted 27 seconds. Although the police video has no sound, Salameh can be seen furiously attacking the ultra-Orthodox man. The police could have claimed that they feared that Salameh would get up and attack again. The Justice Ministry department that investigates police misconduct will probably accept their version of events.