AP’s “Blanket Closure” Report Contradicted by AP Photos

A recent AP story by reporter Gavin Rabinowitz, “Israelis head into holy day mourning their dead,” falsely claimed that Israel’s “closure” of the West Bank and Gaza prior to Yom Kippur confined Palestinians to their homes:

Israelis and the Jewish world on Sunday marked the start of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, by burying the dead from a suicide attack and somberly reflecting on the 30th anniversary of the 1973 Mideast war. …

The attack occurred despite a blanket closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip that confined some 3 million Palestinians to their homes in advance of the Jewish holiday. (Oct. 5, 2003)

In fact, the closure barred Palestinians from entering Israel, it did not confine Palestinians to their homes. And, according to the IDF announcement on the closure, an exception was made for Palestinians who needed to enter Israel for humanitarian reasons:

According to the decision of the political echelon, and due to security assessments, a complete closure has been placed on the West Bank and Gaza Strip from today (3/10/03) for the duration of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

As such, entrance into Israel will be permitted only for humanitarian cases which have been authorized by the Liaison Offices.

If proof is needed that Palestinians were not confined to their homes, one need only sample some of the work of AP photographers during this period, which showed numerous Palestinians who were not at all “confined to their homes” :

Rally Kalandia checkpoint

Friday Oct. 3, 2003: Gaza rally marking the third anniversary of the intifada. AP/Adel Hana.

Oct. 4, 2003: At the Kalandia checkpoint. AP/Muhammed Muheisen

Remains of bombers home Gaza taxis

Oct. 5: Going through the rubble of the suicide bomber’s home in Jenin. AP/Mohammed Ballas

Oct. 6: Palestinian taxis line up in Gaza. AP/Kevin Frayer

Clearly, as proved by the AP’s own photographs, Rabinowitz was wrong to claim that Palestinians were confined to their homes. And, in addition to this error, the AP reporter also misrepresented the history of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, claiming that the Arab onslaught was aimed only at “reversing Israel’s seizure of Arab lands”:

For weeks, Israel has been filled with commemorations marking the 30th anniversary of the surprise attack launched by the Egyptian and Syrian armies against Israel on Oct. 6, 1973. The attack, aimed at reversing Israel’s seizure of Arab lands in 1967, is viewed as one of the most traumatic conflicts in Israel’s history.

In fact, as Arab leaders made clear, the war aim was the destruction of Israel. For example, in the middle of the war the leader of Syria, Hafez al Assad, stated that:

Our forces continue to pursue the enemy and strike at him and will continue to strike at enemy forces until we regain our positions in our occupied land and continue then until we liberate the whole land. (Assad speech, October 15, 1973, as reprinted in The Israel-Arab Reader.)

For his part, PLO leader Yasir Arafat stated after the war that:

The road is still long. Just as the Hattin campaign was only the beginning of the Crusaders’ defeat, the Ramadan campaign [the 1973 war] is only the beginning of the advance of the Arab nation. This advance will cease only in Tel-Aviv. (Quoted in Atlas of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Martin Gilbert, p 99)

These statements from Assad and Arafat contradict any claim that the war’s aim was merely to undo the results of the prior war. In addition, there is no evidence that Syrian forces which fought their way almost to the pre-1967 lines in the Golan Heights, had any intention of stopping there. They were stopped, and thrown back, thanks only to a determined Israeli counterattack.

AP is generally the best of the wire services, but unfortunately that’s not much of an endorsement when the competition is the likes of Reuters and Agence France-Presse. Putting out stories that are contradicted by your own photographers is sorry testament to that.

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