CAMERA Prompts Improved Reuters Captions on Palestinian Arson Attacks

CAMERA’s Israel office yesterday prompted improved Reuters photo captions regarding Palestinian arson attacks against southern Israel, also known as “kite terror.” Gazans have been sending kites and flying balloons with molotov cocktails or other flammables over the border to southern Israel, destroying more than 17,000 dunums (almost 7 square miles) of Israeli farm land and nature reserves. 

But Reuters’ brief captions earlier this week accompanying photographs of the devastation did not mention at all that the destruction is the result of Palestinian arson attacks. Without this basic information, news consumers may easily conclude that the fire is the result of natural causes or negligence. (Indeed, Israel has been plagued by fires resulting from both of these causes in the past.) The following is a small sample of the incomplete and thus misleading June 3 captions:

A fire burns in scrubland on the Israeli side of the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, near kibbutz Gevaram, June 3, 2018 

A fire burns in a field on the Israeli side of the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, near Sderot, June 3, 2018

Burnt ground and trees are seen on the Israeli side of the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, near kibbutz Or HaNer, June 3, 2018

CAMERA contacted Reuters, noting the captions omitted essential information which had been included in captions published by Associated Press, another leading news agency. One AP caption, for instance, read:

An Israeli soldier extinguished a fire started by a kite with attached burning cloth launched by Palestinians from Gaza, a near [sic] the Israel and Gaza border, Friday, June 1, 2018. 

In addition, in the past Reuters captions did identify arson as the probable cause of a non-fatal church fire in Israel (see below), although the police had not yet finished their investigation. In the fires in recent days on Israeli land next to Gaza, the cause has already been established, and yet Reuters captions did not say anything about the cause (arson) or the culprits (Palestinians from Gaza.)

An Israeli fire fighter hoses down burnt leaflets on the floor of the Church of Loaves and Fishes on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel June 18, 2015. Fire gutted part of the Church on Thursday and investigators suspected arson as a possible cause, a police spokesman said. . .

In response to CAMERA’s communication with Reuters, editors agreed that subsequent captions about the Palestinian arson attacks on southern Israeli should note the cause of the fires and those responsible. Indeed,  captions yesterday about the attacks commendably noted that “Palestinians have been causing blazes by flying kites and balloons loaded with flammable materials.” Yesterday’s improved, more informative captions follow:

A burnt scrubland is seen in an area where Palestinians have been causing blazes by flying kites and balloons loaded with flammable materials, across the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, near Sderot, Israel June 4, 2018

A burnt scrubland is seen in an area where Palestinians have been causing blazes by flying kites and balloons loaded with flammable materials, across the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, near Sderot, Israel June 4, 2018

A feather is pictured in a burn area where Palestinians have been causing blazes by flying kites and balloons loaded with flammable materials, across the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, near Sderot, Israel June 4, 2018

CAMERA commends Reuters for quickly improving its captions by including basic facts about the Palestinian arson attacks targeting southern Israel.