CAMERA has prompted correction of a Los Angeles Times article (“Gaza’s weaponized kites; How a simple plaything confounds the Israeli army“) which erroneously identified all Gazans killed in “March of Return” clashes at the Israeli border as “protesters,” despite the fact that armed and active combatants were among the casualties. Hana Salah and Noga Tarnopolsky wrote June 19:
Within Gaza, the kites’ success in harming Israel is seen as an unlikely triumph in a dark season in which about 130 protesters have been killed by Israeli troops, with thousands more injured in weekly Friday demonstrations at the border.
But the casualties included not only rioters who hurled stones and Molotov cocktails and attacked the border fence, but also armed and active combatants, who can in no way be fairly and accurately be described as “protesters.”
Prior coverage, including by the Los Angeles Times, underscores just how incorrect that word is to describe all of the casualties.
On April 1, the LA Times cited an Israeli official saying that Palestinians along the border “turned violent and hurled firebombs, rocks and burning tires at Israeli soldiers” and that “troops came under gunfire at least twice.” It cited Hamas acknowledging that “five of the dead were fighters in its military wing,” and referred to “videos showing Palestinian snipers shooting at soldiers.”
A May 15 story in the New York Times made clear that such active combatants were among those killed. Among 60 fatalities the previous day, “eight of the dead, the army said, were armed Hamas militants in civilian clothes who tried to storm the fence in northern Gaza and attacked Israeli forces with grenades and pipe bombs before being killed in a shootout.” And “another three militants were killed while laying an explosive device in the south, the army said.”
Among the combatants killed was Muhammed al-Najjar (at left), from Hamas’s naval police and its “military wing.” He was killed May 14 outside Jabalia — the same day and place the eight Hamas operatives opened fire on IDF troops and were killed by return fire. Also among the killed “protesters” were these three Islamic Jihad military wing members who were planting explosives.
The Los Angeles Times agreed with CAMERA that it is not journalistically defensible to describe these men as mere protesters given that they were killed during an armed attack against a neighboring country.
On June 21, The Times published the following correction in its print edition, and also appended a correction to the digital article:
Gaza kites: In the June 19 Section A, an article about the use of kites as weapons in the Gaza Strip said the Israeli military has killed about 130 protesters in Gaza. Those killed include armed militants, as well as one press photographer and one medic.
The New York Times and NPR have refused to correct similar errors, insisting it is not misleading to describe gunmen and bombers as “protesters.”