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Thursday, July 10, 2008

More reasons not to trust the Arab press

This example is small, but telling.

Saudi Arabia's Arab News states:
Israeli soldiers kill unarmed Palestinian lad
A 17-year-old boy who crossed into Israel in search of work was killed by Israeli troops yesterday.
Ma'an says:
The Israeli army killed a Palestinian on Thursday near the Kissufim crossing southeast of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip.

Medical sources from Al-Aqsa hospital in central Gaza named the dead man as 18 year-old Salim Jum'a Hamidi from the village of Az-Zawaydeh in the central Gaza Strip.

Local sources in the Gaza Strip believe he was attempting to cross the border into Israel to look for work, and maintain that he was a civilian.
Al Jazeera is the most accurate of the Arab news sources:
Israeli troops have shot dead an unarmed Palestinian man in the Gaza Strip, marking the first fatality there since a truce between Israel and Palestinian armed groups took effect three weeks ago.

"At around 3 o'clock an army force identified a suspicious person crossing the fence from Gaza into Israel near Kissufim," an Israeli army spokesman said on Thursday.

"The force called on him to stop and fired warning shots but he did not stop and the soldiers fired at him and killed him. When they approached his body they saw he was unarmed," the spokesman said.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, which is linked to the Fatah party of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said the man was one of its members.

Muawiya Hassanin, head of Gaza's emergency services, said the man was Salim Jumaa al-Hamedi, aged 18.
So now we know an 18-year old member of a recognized terror group attempted to infiltrate Israel, and Israel stopped him after warning him. The only truce violation here is from the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades who seem to have cynically used the young man as live bait to force an Israeli reaction. It is not a breach of the truce for Israel to kill someone who is attempting to break into Israel, apparently for violent purposes, at 3 AM.

The Arab News, whose publication time is midnight Saudi time, had 15 hours to get the story right, and completely fabricated the age of the man as well as calling him a civilian after the Al Aqsa Brigades already claimed him as a fellow terrorist. This disregard for facts has been a consistent pattern with Arab News.

Ma'an English has a more subtle way to show its bias. It will report the initial, unreliable Arab accounts of any event fairly early (this story had a timestamp of 9:33 AM) and it will never correct it, even after other Arab sources admit that the initial facts are wrong. Moreover, it will even leave that story as its main headline all day, even after it adds other stories much later (as of now, it has articles written as late as 22:04 on its front page, but the main headline is still the inaccurate and uncorrected 9:33 story.)

Such is the state of the English-language Arab press - a combination of lies and purposeful omissions. In this case, Al Jazeera has shown that for all its problems it is usually more reliable and careful about reporting facts.