Wednesday, January 29, 2014

29-Jan-14: A teachable moment about news reporting in today's attempted (but foiled) terrorist shooting attack

Near the entrance to the community of Ateret, today: scene of the
shooting attack by an armed Palestinian Arab [Image Source]
Reuters reports that a Palestinian Arab man, identified by "a Palestinian medic", was killed today by Israeli soldiers. That nameless medic provides the dead man's name: Muhammad Mubarak. Reuters says the dead man was 21 and "a laborer from Jalazoun refugee camp near the Palestinian city of Ramallah, north of Jerusalem".

It's interesting to us that the Reuters editors, evidently not wishing to actually mix in, avoid expressing any view as to the circumstances in which Mubarak "was killed".

Perhaps they just want readers to make up their own minds about what happened. Thus, according to Reuters:
An Israeli military spokeswoman said a Palestinian gunman was shot after attacking troops stationed near the settlement of Ofra. "The soldiers responded immediately to eliminate the imminent threat to their lives and fired at the terrorist, identifying a hit," she said.
Two versions: an un-named "Palestinian medic". And the official spokesperson of the IDF.

Reuters is saying, as it often does in Israel-related stories, take your pick. As if its news gatherers have never before encountered the phenomenon of the obvious spinning of contentious facts by interested parties when the source is (a) anonymous) and (b) not especially well placed to know or to say.

In fact what happened is that a gunman opened fire near the entrance to the Binyamin-region community of Ateret, located some 40 km north-west of Jerusalem and home to some 80 families. The gunfire was returned, and he is now dead. There was another shooting attack by a Palestinian Arab assailant close by a week earlier.

The Arabic-language translators over at Palestinian Media Watch had already noted by this afternoon that Muhammad Mubarak, who Reuters says "was killed" without actually clarifying how, did not die just any old way but as a hero.

Their source is a public official in the PA power structure, an Abbas "insider", one Sultan Abu Al-Einein, referred to in the Arabic-language media as "President Mahmoud Abbas' adviser on civil society organizations". Abbas found it necessary some months ago to rush to the defence of this Al-Einein, reminding us that he is "an elected leader of the Fatah movement and a Palestinian Authority official".

Why necessary?

Because of calls by US public figures, including a bi-partisan group of Congresspersons, for this Al-Einein to be fired by Abbas after he had professed deep admiration for a man who had stuck a knife into the unprotected body of an Israeli Jew, a greatly admired young husband and father of five who was standing at a hitch-hiking post in April 2013. The victim of the "heroic fighter", murdered in that unprovoked lethal attack, was Eviatar Borowski, of blessed memory. (Abbas, of course, shrugged off the suggestions.)

This Sultan Abu Al-Einein called the knife-wielding murderous attacker of a hitch-hiker a "heroic fighter". On his Facebook page in Arabic, this prominent leader and widely-quoted figure, practically a statesman in the PA universe, did the same in relation to the man Reuters says "was killed" today. Here's part of the English translation:
'Of the believers are men who are true to that which they covenanted with Allah. Some of them have paid their vow by death (in battle), and some of them still are waiting; and they have not altered in the least.' [Quran, Sura 33:23, Pickthall translation] With the most exalted expressions of honor and pride and with symbols of Jihad and resistance, we part with piety from our heroic Martyr Muhammad Mahmoud Mubarak from the resolute Jalazone refugee camp, who ascended to Heaven as a Martyr in the battlefield while challenging the Zionist enemy. We ask Allah to grant mercy on our Martyr and give forbearance and solace to his family and relatives. To the eternal Paradise, oh our heroic Martyr."
The same Al-Einein can be seen here in December 2010 declaring - without having a clue as to the facts behind the claim which have since turned out to be nonsense - that Yasser Arafat was poisoned by the Israelis.

Arafat was in fact one of this Al-Einein's favourite subjects. In a 2009 interview [video here] translated by MEMRI, he helpfully discloses what Palestinian Arab insiders have always known and media sources like Reuters pretend not to know: that when the Palestinian Arab leadership speaks confidently about X, the truth may is just as likely be the exact opposite of X.

Reminder: don't ever expect Reuters - or any of the other large media organizations that package the news in this area - to tell you this or anything like this. It just doesn't pay for them to be that frank and honest.

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