"Israeli army begins deploying in Jerusalem against attacks" – Deconstructing AP bias

Alison Weir

Alison Weir
Associated Press Deconstructed
October 15, 2015

Once again, the Associated Press provides a blatantly slanted news report on Israel-Palestine. The problem is, AP’s slant is only blatant to those who know the full facts. This is the article that hundreds of newspaper wire editors around the US, most of whom have never visited the region and whose information comes largely from AP, are seeing. Below I will discuss AP’s October 14 news report. I will quote the AP report in full, commenting below each section about what it contains and does not contain.

By Aron Heller

As is typical, AP’s story is written by an individual with strong connections to Israel. Aron Heller grew up in Israel, graduated from Tel Aviv University, and may be an Israeli citizen. It is likely that he or members of his family have served in the Israeli military. None of this is disclosed to AP readers. [We’ve noticed that, hours after this appeared, the byline for this same basic story is now given as “Tia Goldenberg,” who is probably updating it.]

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military began deploying hundreds of troops in cities across the country on Wednesday to assist police forces in countering a wave of deadly Palestinian shooting and stabbing attacks that have created panic across the country.

According to what seem to be the figures at the time of the article, Israelis have killed 30 Palestinians and injured somewhere between 1,100 and 1,400 since the beginning of the current violence, while Palestinians have killed 7 or 8 Israelis and injured about 30. Yet, Heller’s focus is on Israelis.

Israel was created in 1948 through violently pushing off their ancestral land hundreds of thousands of the Muslims and Christians who originally constituted the large majority of the population on the land (these are the Palestinians; the Palestinians who stayed within the borders of what is now Israel are called by Israelis and those who follow the Israeli line “Israeli Arabs”).

Since 1967 Israel has maintained an illegal and often brutal occupation of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. The human rights of Palestinians both inside the Green Line (Israel) and in the Occupied Territories (the West Bank and Gaza) are frequently violated, and over the decades thousands have been rounded up and imprisoned, often with minimal if any judicial processes. None of this context is included in Heller’s story.

The military’s planned deployment of six companies marks the first implementation of measures by Israel’s security Cabinet to counter the attacks that have intensified dramatically in recent days.

Heller continues his focus on Israelis. In the past few days Israelis have killed eight Palestinians, including a three-year-old, a thirteen-year-old, a fifteen-year-old, and a 26-year-old pregnant woman. Yet, these appear of no concern to Heller.

The Cabinet met late into the night and announced steps early Wednesday that included allowing police to seal off points of friction or incitement.

Heller fails to report that the original incitement came from the Israeli government; see below.

Many of the recent attackers have come from Arab areas of Jerusalem, prompting calls to seal off those neighborhoods to contain potential attackers. In a new step, Israeli forces placed makeshift checkpoints in Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem to monitor traffic leaving the areas.

As in most US media reports, readers are not told that Israel’s acquisition of Jerusalem was done through unlawful military actions. Nor are readers informed that the Palestinians in Jerusalem originally constituted the large majority of Jerusalem’s inhabitants, a population that Israel has attempted through the years to push out as it works to “Judaize” the area.

The Cabinet, which was meeting again Wednesday, also decided to strip residency rights and demolish homes of some attackers and draft hundreds more security guards to secure public transport.

Heller fails to note that destroying family homes – which in addition to containing the spouse and children of alleged attackers, also often contain grandparents, cousins etc – constitutes collective punishment, making large numbers of men, women and children who are innocent of any alleged crime homeless. Collective punishment is illegal under the Geneva Conventions.

Israeli police said 300 soldiers had already been incorporated into their deployment on the streets of east Jerusalem, where many of the assailants are from.

Heller neglects to mention that Israeli forces have assailed large numbers of Palestinian men, women, and children. Again, he focuses on Palestinian violence, not the greater amount of violence perpetrated by Israel.

In new violence Wednesday, Israeli police said they shot and killed an Arab man after he pulled out a knife and attempted to stab them. His identity was not immediately known.

Heller reports the Israeli version of this death without bothering to confirm it with eyewitnesses. He doesn’t even bother to learn the dead man’s age or anything about the human being that Israeli police just killed. He also uses Israel’s term “Arab,” rather than calling the man Palestinian, a more accurate terminology that also implies a history of the area that Israel has tried to erase.

In recent weeks, eight Israelis have died in a string of stabbings, shootings and the stoning of a car, while 30 Palestinians have been killed – 13 of them identified by Israel as attackers, the rest killed in stone-throwing clashes with Israeli forces.

Finally, in the eighth paragraph, Heller mentions that Israelis have killed 30 Palestinians. And it finally comes out – put another way, but certainly not the way Heller chooses – that Israeli forces have killed at least 17 people that even Israeli spokespeople don’t accuse of criminality.

Heller fails to note that crowd control in most civilized nations does not usually consist of live ammunition. Such a lethal method of crowd control is only used by Israel against non-Jews. When extremist Jewish Israelis riot and throw stones, Israeli forces do not have a policy of using live ammunition in which people are shot in the head. In some instances Israeli claims that those killed had stabbed or were about to stab Israelis have been refuted by video and eyewitness testimony.

In addition, Heller errs in saying that all the other Palestinians killed by Israel were killed in stone-throwing clashes. Some were killed at close range, for example; another was killed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. Much of this is documented by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. However, it appears that Heller relies entirely on Israeli military reports for his information and does not seek additional information.

Israel’s internal security minister said Wednesday that the bodies of dead Palestinian attackers would not be returned to their families for burial.

Again, Heller takes Israeli officials’ word that these were all “attackers,” even though eyewitnesses and videos have refuted this claim in a number of cases.

Gilad Erdan said the funeral processions of Palestinians who killed Israelis often turn into “an exhibition of support for terror and incitement to murder.” He said Israel should not allow them to “enjoy respect and ceremonies” after their deaths.

Heller fails to report that to many Palestinians and others these are resistance fighters defending their population. Instead, Heller quotes the Israeli official view without interviewing Palestinians or others to report their viewpoint and information, which has been reported widely in the Palestinian media. Heller appears to only use official Israeli sources.

The funerals are a frequent flashpoint for clashes and often include calls for revenge. Erdan suggested the attackers be buried without fanfare in distant cemeteries where previous Palestinian killers have been buried.

Israel provides no proof that those it kills and buries in its sometimes secret cemeteries were actually attackers. Second, as discussed above, those who actually were combatants could validly be seen as members of a resistance movement fighting a far more powerful force illegally occupying their land. Yet, Heller calls them “Palestinian killers.” He never refers to Israelis who have killed Palestinians – in fact, far more – as”Israeli killers.”

The comments come after a particularly bloody day Tuesday in which a pair of Palestinian stabbing and shooting attacks in Jerusalem killed three Israelis and another two attacks took place in the normally quiet Israeli city of Raanana. Three Palestinians, including two attackers, were also killed.

A few days ago Israelis killed five Palestinians, including a 10-year-old; a few days before that Israelis killed six Palestinians; and not long before that they killed seven Palestinians in one day. However, for Heller It is only the day in which three Israelis are killed that is “particularly bloody.”

The government has been unable to stop the violence, carried out mostly by young Palestinians unaffiliated with known militant groups and apparently acting on their own. The violence erupted a month ago over the Jewish New Year, fueled by rumors that Israel was plotting to take over Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site, sacred to both Muslims and Jews. Israel has adamantly denied the allegations.

Heller leaves out an event that took place five days before the Jewish New Year: Thousands of Palestinians gathered at a village in the occupied West Bank to mourn the excruciating death of a young mother burned in an arson attack by Israeli settlers. The attack had also killed her husband and infant son. Her four-year-old son, while burned on 60 percent of his body, has so far survived. Israel, worried that Palestinians would demonstrate at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque, restricted access to the Mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam.

This was just one of what the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports were a spate of “nationalist hate crimes, known as ]price-tag’ attacks, by suspected Jewish settlers. Such groups have warned in the past there would be a price to pay for any action by Israeli authorities they regard as hostile to the Jewish settlement movement or to far-right religious beliefs.”

None of this makes it into Heller’s story.

Heller also leaves out many other incidents that took place in the days before the Jewish New Year, including:

  • The Israeli Tax Authority rejected a claim for compensation by officials of the Catholic Church demanding compensation for the burnt Church of Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes, which was burnt in an Israeli terrorist arson attack, last June.
  • Dozens of Palestinians, including children, were injured on Friday evening and early night hours, in Silwan town, in occupied East Jerusalem, during clashes that took place after Israeli fanatics assaulted an 8-year-old child, while Israeli soldiers invaded homes and fired gas bombs, concussion grenades and rubber-coated metal bullets.
  • Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon confirmed, on Wednesday, that Israeli occupation authorities know who burned the house of the Dawabsha family, in July, but failed to identify them.
  • Palestinian medical sources reported, Friday, that four young men were wounded, one moderately, after Israeli soldiers assaulted the weekly protest in Kufur Qaddoum, near the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia.
  • Israeli soldiers assaulted, on Friday, the weekly nonviolent protest against the illegal Israeli Annexation Wall and colonies, in Bil’in village, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, leading to scores of injuries.
  • The Palestinian Detainees’ Committee has reported, Thursday, that detainee Bilal Kayed is ongoing with the hunger strike he started on September 5, demanding his removal from solitary confinement.
  • The Israeli Prison Authority renewed, Thursday, the Administrative Detention order against a hunger striking Palestinian journalist, for three additional months, without charges or trial.
  • Israeli soldiers kidnapped, on Thursday morning, five Palestinians in different parts of the occupied West Bank, including a teenager walking to school in Jerusalem.
  • Israeli soldiers invaded, on Thursday morning, the al-‘Arroub refugee camp, north of the southern West Bank city of Hebron, and clashed with scores of students as they were heading to school.
  • Several Palestinians fishing boats were attacked, on Thursday morning, by Israeli navy fire close to the shore in the Sudaniyya Sea, northwest of Gaza City.
  • Reporters from RT (Russia Today) traveled to Gaza to look into last year’s report that 90% of Gaza’s water is undrinkable. As they sampled water from different parts of the coastal Strip, they found that the report is accurate – the water throughout Gaza is dirty, salty and undrinkable.
  • Israeli forces, on Wednesday morning, threw teargas grenades on the Kharabtha Boys School, near Ramallah, causing tens of suffocation cases among students.
  • A group of Israeli extremists, living in illegal Israeli colonies in the northern West Bank district of Nablus, burnt on Wednesday at dawn, Palestinian olive orchards and farmlands.
  • About five Israeli military machines, Tuesday night, entered the town of Khuza’a near Khan Younis city, southern Gaza Strip, to raze agricultural lands.
  • etc.

Heller mentions Palestinian concerns about Israeli changes to the status quote at one of the holiest sites in Islam and reports they were denied by Israel, but fails to inform readers that Jordan, Egypt, the Arab League, and the UN also protested Israeli actions at the site. Heller also omitted information that Jewish extremists openly call for the destruction of the site. He also fails to mention “Israel’s numerous efforts to restrict Muslim prayer at the mosque and the increasing presence of Jewish worshippers, who are protected by troops when they visit the compound,” as journalist Barbara Erickson reports in an analysis on the New York Times‘ similar pattern of omissions. Erickson reports:

“In recent weeks, for instance, Israel has prevented women from entering the Al Aqsa area, retained the identify cards of worshippers, allowed Jewish extremists to enter the mosque compound for “tours,” restricted the entry of students attending schools in the Al Aqsa compound and confiscated land in an Islamic cemetery next to the mosque.

“After the latest incursion, the director of the mosque compound, Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, said that Israel occupation authorities “have imposed their sovereignty over [the mosque compound] by power of force.” Israel controls who enters and exists, he said, and officials use force against anyone who challenges them.

“This is a cry of alarm from a site revered by millions of Muslims throughout the world, but it found no mention in the Times. Instead, we receive the Israeli spin on this tragic saga as the newspaper glosses over the expansionist aims of a Zionist state.”

None of this is in Heller’s story, which only reports, as usual, an Israeli official statement denying Israeli culpability, and suggests that Palestinian views are illusory. Heller omits the statement by the heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem expressing concern at Israel’s violations at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Israel says the violence has been fueled by what it says is rampant incitement against Jews and Israelis on social media spread by Islamic groups and the Palestinian leadership. In a briefing to foreign journalists Wednesday, Israeli Cabinet minister Yuval Steinitz said it had less to do with political differences and more with anti-Semitic incitement to create a religious war.

He showed Palestinian videos and animations that glorified the stabbings of Jews in the Old City of Jerusalem and the killing of a Jewish settler couple in the West Bank in front of their children.

He also quoted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ recent statement where he blessed “every drop of blood spilled for Allah” and that Jews desecrated a Jerusalem holy site with their “filthy feet.”

“This is not new. It is just a new wave of terrorism and violence and this time it’s totally clear that the main approach here is a religious approach,” Steinitz said. “It’s all about horrible, anti-Jewish, racist incitement.”

Heller reports, without question or context virulent accusations by an Israeli official, while failing to provide counter statements by Palestinian officials and others.

He fails to mention the Palestinian boy with head injuries and broken legs lying on the ground whom Israeli soldiers reportedly let bleed to death while Israeli spectators looked on, cursing him: “The boy was able to raise his head a few times, but the police officers kicked him back down until he bled to death.” (More details and video here.)

Also missing from Heller’s report are Israeli attacks on Palestinian hospitals and medics, a Palestinian woman who was shot dead by Israeli forces while her hands were up, the 10-year-old Palestinian boy arrested and blindfolded by Israeli soldiers, and the 13-year-old boy whose leg was scheduled to be amputated after he was shot by Israeli soldiers. There is virtually no mention of Palestinians injured and maimed by Israelis, even though there are over 1,400.

Palestinians say the violence, coming at a time when prospects for gaining independence appear nil, is the result of years of occupation and failed peace efforts.

Finally, in his 18th paragraph, Heller provides Palestinian information.

“Israel is an occupier in Jerusalem. It should end its occupation. This is the key to peace and stability,” said Saeb Erekat, a top Palestinian official.

“Decisions such as the ones adopted by the Israeli Cabinet pour gasoline on the fire,” he added. ” Measures of collective punishment and killings and arrests and demolishing houses and confiscation of lands will only lead to the escalation of the situation.”

For the first and only time in his very long article, in the final quarter of his story, Heller quotes Palestinians.

The clashes erupted last month when young Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, hurling stones and firebombs at police.

Heller leaves out the dozens of Israeli soldiers and settlers who assaulted Al-Aqsa Mosque. He ignores the mother and infant burned to death the previous month, and the ongoing Israeli attacks, kidnappings and destruction that have taken place week after week, month after month, year after year against Palestinians.

Israeli attacks against Palestinian men, women, and children, it appears, simply don’t matter to AP on the same scale as attacks on Israelis.

For history on Israel-Palestine see The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict and Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel.

For a statistical study of AP coverage see: Deadly Distortion: Associated Press Coverage of Israeli and Palestinian Deaths

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