The ABC’s of Skewed Jenin Coverage

July 9 UPDATE:

ABC Corrects

In response to communication from CAMERA's Israel office, on July 6 ABC introduced several improvements to the article, including representing the claims about Israel's use of tear gas within the hospital as disputed, and not fact, adding response from the Israeli military spokesperson's unit, including the army's information about the number of combatants killed, and correcting the number of Israelis injured in the Tel Aviv terror attack. See below for a detailed update.

ABC's July 4 article covering the Israeli military's Jenin incursion and a Palestinian terror attack in Tel Aviv provides a particularly striking example of egregiously skewed news coverage of the recent violent events ("Israeli forces fire tear gas inside hospital as raid continues."

The problems start at the beginning, with the headline stating as fact the disputed claim that Israeli forces fired tear gas in the Jenin hospital. In communication with CAMERA, the Israel Defense Forces' International Press Desk has stated that the claim is false.

Indeed, The New York Times earlier reported: "The Israelis denied any attacks near hospitals."

Likewise, Reuters reported the IDF's denial of its troops firing in the area: "The Israeli military said it had no knowledge of its forces firing in the vicinity of a hospital but that it did carry out an air-strike at gunmen that had taken up positions in a cemetery and posed a threat to the withdrawing troops."

Similarly, AFP had reported:

The Israeli army said there were reports on social media regarding fire by soldiers towards a hospital.
"The reports are not currently known to security forces," it said, adding that "terrorist organizations have exploited civilian areas as a hideout".
Not only does ABC's headline state the disputed claim as fact, but the accompanying article by assignment editor Ellie Kaufman, apparently reporting from New York, also fails to note Israel's denial, citing only the Doctors Without Borders allegation:

Israeli forces fired tear gas inside of a hospital in the West Bank city of Jenin on Tuesday that injured 125 people as a two-day raid on the city continued, Doctors Without Borders said.

The tear gas fired inside of the hospital made the emergency room "unusable," and the ER and the rest of the hospital were "completely filled with smoke," after the attack, Doctors Without Borders said in a tweet.

Marcus Moore's broadcast, embedded on the same page, likewise cites the Doctors Without Borders accusation without including the Israeli denial. He avers: "Thousands of civilians flee, mainly to a local hospital where Israeli forces fired tear gas, leaving the emergency room unusable according to Doctors Without Borders."

In a second dismal failure, Kaufman blames a protesting car, as opposed to the Palestinian assailant, for a brutal car ramming and stabbing attack which injured eight Israelis, including a pregnant woman who lost her unborn child. Assigning agency to the protesting car, Kaufman writes that "an [sic] car rammed into a bus stop in Tel Aviv in protest of the raid, injuring six." Not all of the injured (there were eight, not six) were wounded by the car ramming. As footage of the attack demonstrated, several were injured after the ramming when terrorist Abed al-Wahab Khalaila exited the vehicle following the ramming attack, and chased after victims, stabbing them. 

Third, the article's reporting on the Palestinian casualties in the Jenin incursion fails to inform readers that all of the fatalities were apparently combatants. Kaufman elliptically reports:

The two-day raid on the West Bank city of Jenin has killed 11 Palestinians, including three children, and left at least 120 Palestinians injured, 20 of them in critical condition, the Palestinian Health Ministry said Tuesday.

In contrast, The New York Times included this highly relevant information:

Israel said that all the Palestinians who had been killed so far were combatants. The Palestinian authorities did not specify whether those who died were all combatants or included civilians.

Fourth, Kaufman's piece does not contain any information about the Israeli military's discovery of caches of weapons, including in a mosque, explosive devices, additional military equipment, explosives labs, and rocket manufacturing infrastructure (as reported by The Times and numerous other media outlets.)

CAMERA has contacted ABC to seek redress of the multiple reporting failures. Stay tuned for any updates.

July 9 Update: ABC Corrects

On July 6, in response to communication from CAMERA's Israel office, ABC commendably addressed many of the problems in the article. For instance, the amended headline no longer states as fact: "Israeli forces fire tear gas inside hospital as raid continues." Instead, it correctly casts the claim as just that, stating: "Israeli forces fire tear gas inside hospital during raid, organization says." In addition, editors added the following information from the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson's Unit:

The Israel Defense Forces initially denied any fighting around the vicinity of the hospital but later acknowledged friction, IDF spokesman Richard Hecht told ABC News Wednesday, declining to elaborate further.

Regarding the Palestinian fatalities, ABC changed the original wording regarding "11 Palestinians, including three children," to "12 Palestinians, including three teens," and added Israeli military's information that all were combatants:

The IDF claims that the Palestinians killed in the operation were militants.

"No non-combatants were killed during the counterterrorism activity in the Jenin Camp," Hecht said. "The IDF is not fighting against the Palestinian people - only against terrorist operatives. As is the case when operating in Jenin, the Gaza Strip or anywhere that terrorists threaten us, we make great efforts to avoid civilian casualties during operational activity and allow civilian life to continue. For example, tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians from the wider Jenin region continued to cross into Israel for work and humanitarian purposes during the operation." …

Israeli officials defended the incursion as a counter-terrorism operation. Hecht told ABC News the aim was "to dismantle terrorist infrastructure in the area and break the mentality of the camp as a 'safe haven' for terrorist operatives."

Finally, while the amended article still fails to report that the perpetrator in the ramming attack in Tel Aviv was Palestinian, and that he also attacked his victims with a knife, sending several to the hospital with stab wounds, the updated text does correct the number of victims from six to eight and removes the languages that the car rammed into a bus stop "in protest of the raid." The new wording is: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited an outpost near the Jenin refugee camp on Tuesday after a car rammed into a bus stop in Tel Aviv, injuring eight."

In addition, editors appended the following note to the bottom of the article alerting readers to the changes: "Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect additional reporting."


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