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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

AFP bias of the day

AFP "reports:"
The World Health Organization lashed out at Israel on Tuesday for denying or delaying travel permits for critically ill Gaza Strip residents, saying the right to health appeared to be optional for Palestinians.

Ambrogio Manenti, who heads the WHO's West Bank and Gaza office, said case studies of patients who died while waiting for permits to travel to Israel for treatment "show nonsense, inhumanity and, at the end, tragedy".

"The right to health appears to be optional for Palestinians," he added.

...Between October 1 and March 2, 32 patients died in Gaza after the permits they requested were delayed or refused, the WHO said.

The number of patients who were denied permits rose from just over three percent in January 2006 -- when the Islamist Hamas movement won Palestinian parliamentary elections -- to almost 36 percent in December 2007.

"From a health perspective this is something unacceptable. I think my organisation should stigmatise this behaviour," said Manenti.

But Captain Shadi Yasin of the Israeli military liaison office for Gaza insisted the WHO report was "completely wrong."

Israel "gives high priority for all urgently needed treatment in Israel and the West Bank for Gaza people and for the entry into Gaza of medicine and medical supplies," the spokesman said.

AFP includes details (not shown here) of two cases where Israeli actions supposedly led to the deaths of Gazans. But it does not go into details of Israel's side of the story, besides a general denial.

The German news agency DPA covers the same story and adds a few sentences you would never see in the AFP version. Something called "context:"

The denial of permits rose from 3 per cent in the beginning of last year, to nearly 36 per cent in December, Manenti pointed out.

In absolute terms, nearly 670 Gazans were nevertheless treated in Israel in December 2007, compared to an in fact smaller number, under 360, in December 2006.

...A 22-year-old female Palestinian suicide bomber on her way for treatment in Israel killed three Israeli security guards and a civilian at the Erez border crossing between Israel and the northern Gaza Strip in January 2004. The woman had told the guards she had a metal plate in her leg to circumvent the metal detector.

A similar suicide attack was thwarted at the Erez terminal in June 2005, when a 21-year-old Palestinian woman tried to cross into Israel using her medical travel documents, but soldiers found a bomb belt on her.

So, three facts that AFP couldn't bring themselves to mention but DPA did: in absolute terms, Israel is treating more Gazans than ever; and that on at least two occasions Gazans used their freedom to travel to Israel as a means to try to kill as many Israelis as possible.

Another fact that neither of them managed to mention is that Egypt also shares a border with Gaza and that Egypt has been far more reluctant to treat sick Gazans than Israel has. It is unclear whether WHO even mentions Egypt as having any responsibility for this problem.