The ABC’s of One-Sided Journalism

ABC News has once again issued a one-sided report on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, highlighting and sympathetically portraying Palestinian losses due to Israeli military actions, while downplaying the initial Palestinian attacks, and their impact on Israelis, that prompted the Israeli action.

The Dec. 11 “World News Tonight Saturday” report with Geoff Morrell, entitled “Children in the Crossfire,” focused on Palestinian children accidentally killed during recent Israeli counter-terror operations, but ignored the stories of Israeli children on both sides of the Green Line injured and killed in Palestinian Kassam rocket attacks originating from Gaza.

The segment opens with the funeral of a seven-year-old Palestinian girl who had been killed the day before, but makes no mention of the wounding of a seven-year-old Israeli boy by rockets from Gaza also on Dec. 10. In his introduction to the report, anchorman Bob Woodruff reports that “the girl was shot as soldiers fired on militants in the town of Khan Younis after a mortar attack,” completely disregarding the fact that the mortar attack on Neve Dekalim wounded four young Israelis, including an 18-year-old student from Belgium who was visiting relatives, a 26-year-old resident of the community, an 18-year-old resident who suffered a stomach wound, and 7-year-old Nehemia Kirshensaft who was critically injured when his lung was pierced by shrapnel.

Morrell goes on to provide specifics about Palestinian children killed and injured in the conflict, and he also interviews survivors and their friends. He reports from a United Nations-run elementary school in Khan Younis, stating:

Recently, a stray bullet flew into this classroom, striking 9-year-old Ghadir Moucheimer in the stomach as she studied. “I’m afraid what happened to her will happen to me,” says 11-year-old Dalya Abu Acher, who was sitting next to Ghadir when she was shot. Doctors desperately tried to save Ghadir, but could not.

Likewise, Morrell ends the report with the emotive conclusion:

In the past 18 months, five Palestinian children have been shot in Gaza schools. Pudha Darwish was hit in the head, spent 12 days in a coma, and woke up blind. ”I wanted to kill myself,” she says. ”The Israeli children should taste what we suffer.” Despite the danger, no parents have pulled their children out of this school. Staying at home can be just as dangerous.

Palestinian Attacks Downplayed

Israeli children in their homes and schools have also suffered, but Morrell does not bother to name or interview the victims of Palestinian mortar attacks. He provides no details at all about the Israeli victims or their perspective, instead resorting to perfunctory statements of his own which include prejudicial terminology that Israelis wouldn’t use (such as “militant” instead of “terrorist”). For instance, he states:

Israeli forces have destroyed almost all the Palestinian homes around this school in an effort to protect Jewish settlements, just a few hundred yards away.

In addition, he notes:

The Israeli army insists it is targeting Palestinian militants who fire at settlements from positions near the school.

Likewise, in reference to the seven-year-old who was buried that day, Woodruff reports:

The girl was shot as soldiers fired on militants in the town of Khan Younis after a mortar attack.

The Ignored Israeli Victims
A balanced report would have noted that the aforementioned mortar attack resulted in the wounding of four Israeli civilians, including the critically wounded Nehemia Kirshensaft. A balanced report would have interviewed Nehemia, a family member, or a witness to the attack, as Morrell had interviewed several Palestinians affected by the violence.

A fair report would have recounted the story of the Damari family in Nisanit, whose house was hit directly by a mortar shell on Nov. 9. “Liron Damari told reporters that her husband was playing with their five-month-old daughter in the living room when the mortar shell smashed into the entrance of their house, damaging furniture and walls,” reported the Jerusalem Post (Nov. 10, 2004). A balanced report could have shown footage of this damage, as it had shown images of bullet holes in the Palestinian school. (Incidentally, given the ongoing gun battles in Khan Yunis between Palestinian fighters and Israeli soldiers, the bullet holes might have just as easily come from Palestinian fire.)

A balanced report could have mentioned the tragic story of three-year-old Afik Zahavi, who was killed on his way to nursery school June 28 in Sderot, which is in pre-1967 Israel. (Note that Morrell had twice alluded to Palestinian attacks on settlements, and had failed to mention that Palestinians rockets had repeatedly hit locations within Green Line, especially Sderot, but also Ashkelon and other parts of the Western Negev.) Or, to be balanced, Morrell might have reported on the Na’amat family of Sderot, whose 16-month-old baby was wounded March 5, 2002 when a Kassam rocket landed in their backyard. And, on Oct. 29 of that year, a Kassam rocket exploded just meters from the Yesodei Torah school in Sderot, just moments after hundreds of children finished recess.

It should be noted that Captain Jacob Dallal, a spokesperson for the Israeli army, is quoted: “Urban war is tough. Urban war is really tough. And it’s not, and it’s something that’s forced upon us.” However, a uniformed military official hardly provides comparable counterpoint to cute, frightened Palestinian children telling their personal stories.

Palestinian Fighters Endanger Palestinian Civilians
Morrell also gives short shrift to the fact that Palestinian fighters endanger Palestinian children by launching rocket attacks on Israelis from heavily populated civilian areas. For instance, in the case of nine-year-old Ghadir Moucheimer, who was shot October while at school, the Israeli army had at the time said that the army was responding to mortar fire. As the Jerusalem Post reported:

The IDF Spokesman said the incident was being investigated but noted that several hours before the incident, Palestinians in Khan Yunis had fired three mortar shells at an IDF post at nearby Neveh Dekalim; soldiers returned fire at the source.

Officials said that around the time Maheymar was shot, soldiers had spotted Palestinians by a mosque –– located next to the school –– attempting to fire an additional mortar shell. (Oct. 13, 2004).

And, in the case of the seven-year-old whose funeral was shown in the segment, ABC fails to note that the Israeli army was attempting to stop a Palestinian rocket from being fired on Israeli civilians when she was shot. Instead, Woodruff states vaguely that she was shot “after a mortar attack,” as if Israel hit back simply to retaliate. In actuality, as AFP reported Dec. 10: “An Israeli military officials said soldiers had ‘returned fire towards the source of the mortar shell attack.'”

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