Apparently misled by a deceptive statements by United Nations official Robert Serry, multiple journalists incorrectly reported that Israeli security forces prevented the envoy and a crowd of Palestinian Christian worshippers from reaching the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for the pre-Easter Holy Fire ceremony.
Concerning the April 19 incident involving the U.N.’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, the British Observer had originally reported (“Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem find their path to the Via Dolorosa is an ever harder road,” April 20):
On Sunday morning it emerged that Israeli police had prevented the UN’s peace envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry, other diplomats and a crowd of Palestinians from attending the Holy Fire ceremony on Saturday.Serry said in a statement Israeli security officers had stopped a group of Palestinian worshippers and diplomats in a procession near the church, “claiming they had orders to that effect”.
But, as CiF Watch, a CAMERA affiliate, noted earlier, a CAMERA affiliate, Serry was permitted to pass and did attend the ceremony. As The Washington Post reported at the time:
“A precarious standoff ensued ending in an angry crowd pushing their way through,” Serry said. Serry spokeswoman Elpida Rouka said that the envoy and his party were trapped for about 30 minutes but that eventually the police retreated and the group, along with “an anxious crowd of worshipers,” was able to enter.
Furthermore, Israel police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed to CiF Watch that Serry and the crowd of worshippers did enter the church for the service. In response to correspondence from CiF Watch, Observer editors partially corrected:
CNN, for its part, also left readers with the erroneous impression that Serry and the crowd was not permitted to attend the Holy Fire ceremony. The headline, story highlights and the text itself of the April 20 article (“Israeli police block U.N. envoy during procession with Palestinian Christians“) by Greg Botelho and Kareem Khadder reinforce the false charge that Israeli security forces prevented the group from entering the church:
While the article does cite Israeli spokesmen Yigal Palmor and Peter Lerner, who said that Serry “showed poor judgment in fabricating an incident,” and that police were acting to limit crowds, nowhere does the article make clear that, in fact, Serry and the other worshippers were permitted to enter after a 30 minute delay.
A second CNN article, about Easter celebrations around the world (“Easter 2014: Amid celebrations, tensions in Jerusalem and prayers in Boston”), also gave credence to the misleading charge that “Israeli security forces halted Palestinian Christians who took part in a pre-Easter procession in the Old City.” Its “story highlights” also emphasized: “A procession of Palestinian Christians was halted in Jerusalem.”