A guest post by AKUS
The death of Jawaher Abu Rahma following the demonstration at Bil’in has given Harriet Sherwood of the Guardian an opportunity to try her hand at following the Guardian’s ignoble role in the Al-Durra and Jenin “massacre” libels.
As everyone following events in the Middle East knows, a woman named Jawaher Abu Rahma died at a Ramallah hospital last week. That is the one apparently indisputable fact. Everything else is either under investigation or assumption. The IDF has said that it has information that she died of other medical complications. “She most probably died as a result of other complications, combined with problems in the medical care she received at the Palestinian hospital,” the IDF’s commander in the West Bank, Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon said. The Palestinians and their supporters have rushed to claim that she died as a result of inhaling tear gas. In many versions of the Palestinian claims, which seem to have now been dropped, the IDF was accused of using a special kind of tear gas that affected (only) her.
There is an immense amount of conflicting information available.
Rather than waiting to see what might actually have happened, the Guardian, as usual, has rushed to judgment. A long article by Sherwood lists every statement by various Palestinians to accuse Israel of sole responsibility for this woman’s death. She includes statement by the Liar-in-Chief Saeb Erekat, whose claim of a massacre in Jenin fed reports for weeks in the Guardian before it was totally disproved, that this was a “war crime” and links to medical records that a family member provided.
Linking Abu Rahma to Al Dura
But the hasty judgment is not the only issue. The Guardian takes the space and trouble to link this latest event to the Al Dura affair, in which it played a major role in presenting “facts” that were later disproved.
Sherwood claims that “that unnamed Israeli military sources told Yedioth Ahronot: “This is the new Muhammad al-Dura story and an attempt to delegitimise Israel.” (If they can find this unnamed source I hope they demote him to the ranks as a lesson that IDF “sources” should not be talking to the press as they seem to have no idea of the damage they do to Israel). This allows the Guardian to revive its version of the Al-Durra libel over four paragraphs at the end of her article.
While Sherwood notes that “The Israeli army initially apologised for the killing [of Al-Durra], but then backtracked after conducting a controversial investigation in which it cleared itself and blamed Palestinian gunfire for the deaths” she completely avoids mentioning that it has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was no possibility that the boy was shot by Israel, there is some doubt that he was shot at all, and if he was shot, it was apparently by Hamas as a method of punishing his father for “collaboration” with Israel (he had worked for an Israeli farmer). So when Israel’s investigation showed it was not responsible, that was “controversial” – i.e., not to be believed, in Guardian-speak. But the other investigations, which actually formed the basis for the IDF finally and belatedly realizing that it was not responsible, were simply ignored by Sherwood.
Richard Landes and Philippe Karsenty have shown conclusively that the reporting of the Al-Durra affair was a carefully edited job by France2’s Gazan cameraman and France 2’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Charles Enderlin, made for maximum damage to Israel. A film by German documentary producer Esther Schapiro of the Association of Public Broadcasting Corporations (ARD) in the FDR left her in no doubt that whoever shot Al Dura it was not the Israeli soldiers (on YouTube in German, parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 you can see Palestinian children watching a faked reconstruction showing an Israeli soldier shooting the boy at close range before she shows the real clip and her findings). In fact, it seems possible that father and son agreed to play their roles in order to get the father off the hook for his alleged “collaboration”, and the father’s sudden horrified turn away from the Israeli position was due to his sudden realization that he and his son were being shot at from behind – by Hamas. See Stephanie Gutmann’s superb recounting of the whole affair in “The Other War” and a summary of key events, here.
The chief Guardian reporter on the issue at the time was none other than Brian Whitaker, abetted by the as-a-Jew Suzanne Goldenberg (who was chiefly responsible for the Jenin blood libel and now reports on environmental matters from Washington). Goldenberg reliably played her role for the Guardian by reporting that Israel washes its hands of boy’s death. Whitaker, still active on ME affairs, has a bias against Israel that has been shown in dozens if not hundreds of articles in the Guardian. The Guardian has never published a retraction of its stories about this affair.
“[Whitaker’s] articles reveal skepticism about information provided by the Israeli government, and a suspicion of those who support the Israeli narrative of events”.
CAMERA points out that Whitaker tried to link Al-Durra’s death in 2000 to the deaths at Qibya during a raid against fedayeen in 1953. Now Sherwood tries to link, courtesy of a blabbermouth at the IDF, Abu Rahma’s death to death of Al-Durra, making it quite clear that like Whitaker, out of ignorance and bias, she regards the proven fact that Israel could not possibly have hit the boy with skepticism
But there are two resemblances between the two events that Sherwood omits.
There is a series of conflicting reports and a rush to judgment against Israel, just as there was with the Al-Durra affair. The Palestinian version, as with the” Jenin massacre”, turned out to be false. Anything Israeli sources say is being discounted by anti-Israeli media and bloggers while the version by some Palestinian doctors, who are not likely to provide evidence that would show lack of capability or negligence is taken as absolute truth.
Mohammed Al-Durra’s body was never presented for a post-mortem examination to an independent commission of inquiry. In fact, there appears to be no record of his burial at all, and no grave is known. In the same way, Palestinians, who never hesitate to call for international commissions of inquiry when the feel it will suit them, rushed Abu Rahma’s body into the grave and have refused to release it for examination.
As recently as June 2010, the BBC had to apologize for repeating the Al Dura libel:
June 15, 2010
The BBC apologizes after a BBC2 program, Generation Jihad, says Israeli soldiers killed Mohammed Dura. Fraser Steel, Head of Editorial Complaints wrote, “In the light of these points, I think that, in stating as fact that Muhammed Al-Durrah was killed by the Israeli Army, the programme went beyond what could be said with certainty.”
We may yet see a similar apology days, months or years from now from various sources eager to blame Israel for the death of Abu Rahma.
However, there is one other thing that seems to have escaped the Guardian and the various protesters, Palestinian and Israeli. What is going on at Bil’in and elsewhere on Israel’s front lines is a low-grade war. Abu Rahma’s death is far from the only one in the last week or so. On Saturday, three shells slammed into a kibbutz near Gaza hitting a house and injuring three foreign workers, one moderately seriously. On Friday, an Israeli soldier was killed by friendly fire during a fire-fight at the border with Gaza. And, also on Saturday, an Arab (who was carrying a pipe bomb) was shot and killed after he rushed towards a check post on the West Bank shouting “Allahu Akbar” Yesterday a man in Hebron was shot because he was mistaken for the Hamas terrorist living downstairs from him who killed four people including a pregnant woman a few months ago. During war, people, tragically, die.
Continuing to create a media feeding frenzy around Bil’in will, I believe, lead inevitably to live fire and fatalities. The Guardian, which already is being accused of having blood on its hands regarding its orchestration of the Wikileaks publications (regarding the danger such leaks created for Westerners operating in certain countries), should consider if it wants to stir up more violence in Bil’in – as it did with the Al-Durra affair and the Jenin Massacre libel – and temper its reporting accordingly.