Saturday, October 18, 2008

Reuters blames Israel, again

Here's today's textbook example of Reuters' bias:
Harvesting olives is a laborious process, not made easier if teargas is drifting over the groves as it does most Fridays here in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli-Palestinian clashes are almost ritual.
Since this is the first paragraph of the article, it sets the tone for the piece: Israelis fire tear gas and Palestinian Arab farmers therefore cannot harvest their crops.

One has to read the entire article, and parse out the bias, to see the truth.
"This happens two or three times a week maybe. But with an emphasis on Fridays," says Ram Kaho, an Israeli border police officer whose squad of 40 patrols one of the many fault-lines on the tense interface between the two communities.

Kaho's sector is where the Jewish settlement of Hashmonaim rubs up close to the Arab village of Nilin -- soon to be cut off by the barrier Israel is building in the valley between.
So Reuters is saying that the problem is both Jews having the audacity of living near Arabs, which is of course considered provocative, and Jews wanting to separate from Arabs with a fence, which is considered a violation of international law. Either way, the Arabs can't be blamed for anything.

"This is an especially difficult place," he says. "In relation to other places we have lots of injuries. So it's a very problematic area."
Injuries? From what? Reuters has not yet told us. The only people at fault mentioned so far are Jews, so perhaps they are injuring themselves?
Israeli settlements on occupied land in the West Bank are perhaps the most contentious issue in the way of a peace settlement with the Palestinians ending decades of conflict.
This has been repeated so often that most people cannot notice the obvious absurdity: settlements don't stop peace; terrorism is what stops peace. Before the current Intifada, Israelis and Palestinian Arabs visited each other, shopped in each others' villages, and worked together, and the settlements weren't a factor in real-life interactions.
The Nilin clashes have been going on for about a year.
Again, we have yet to be told what exactly happens in these "clashes."
In 2004, the World Court in The Hague ruled that Israel's proposed 720-km (430-mile) barrier on occupied Palestinian land -- begun in 2002 -- was illegal.

Israel says the barrier, a mix of wire fence and concrete walls, keeps suicide bombers out of its cities.
But why believe them? Just because the number of successful suicide bombings has decreased dramatically since the barrier was started? Nah, it is just an unverified claim. And why should Israel's claim that lives are being saved be more important than a non-binding court ruling?
When Kaho's police hear the Friday Muslim call to prayer from the hill opposite, they brace for action. They are sure that as soon as prayers are over, some Palestinians backed by international activist supporters, will begin throwing rocks.
Rocks? Who said anything about rock throwing? No, in Reuters' universe, the (potentially lethal) rocks that are thrown at Israelis is in paragraph 9, but the (non-lethal) tear gas that Israel shoots in return is in paragraph 1. Causality is a bit less than obvious.
...Half-way up the hill, a couple of young Palestinian men and their father perch on ladders, stripping blue-black olives from a tree onto canvasses spread on the ground below.

They seem oblivious of the flying whiz and exploding pop of tear-gas canisters just up the slope. But the breeze soon blows acrid fumes over the small stony terrace of ochre soil where they are working.
Would anyone even dare to suggest that if the protesters would stop throwing rocks that perhaps there wouldn't be any tear gas? Or is the IDF more active against the olive harvesters?
"There would be more of us here harvesting, normally, but the soldiers make us go away. And we send our young kids home," said one of the men, who declined to give his name.
Ah, we have someone here saying that Israel stops the olive pickers. Sometimes. Although not when any reporter is around.
The protesters are no match for the Israelis, who have automatic weapons and armoured jeeps. Three Palestinians have been shot dead in the West Bank over the past four days, for aiming firebombs at troops, the army says.
The first sentence implies that only Israel uses deadly force and sets up the "David and Goliath" myth. The second sentence follows through, saying that Israel kills protesters, only incidentally mentioning that the "protesters" had deadly weapons themselves. The entire paragraph is structured to make Israel look as aggressive as possible and to give it no reason to defend itself against firebombs - perhaps because the IDF has jeeps?
"Here we really, really try to avoid any use of lethal force," says Kaho. He relies on an arsenal of gas and stun grenades, or "shock weapons" as he calls them, to keep the stone-throwing attackers at bay.
Here we start to get a little balance - when most readers have already moved to the comics page. The major part of the article demonizing Israel is finished, now Reuters can pretend to be fair. Allow that Israel tries to avoid using lethal force after accusing Israel of killing protesters for little reason.
The olive harvesters are allowed to get on with their work but when the protesters mingle among them "we start to worry".
You mean that the protesters - many from nowhere near the area - are perhaps the problem? You mean that the Palestinian Arab farmers would be allowed to harvest their olives without any problem if it wasn't for these outside troublemakers who encourage stone throwing and firebombs? Would real journalists perhaps try to expand upon this just a little bit?

Nah - that would place blame on someone other than Israel, and that just is not an acceptable position for this article. Move along, nothing to see here.

Many facts are here in this article, but Reuters skillfully highlights some and backpedals others to give an impression that is opposite the truth. Not that this is a great piece of writing anyway; it meanders between the tear gas, the olive pickers and the barrier, and it ignores the protesters almost completely. Since this is a "feature" article one would expect it to be a bit more expansive and organized, but that would defeat the theme of Israel's culpability.