Harriet Sherwood’s Munich Massacre story follows Guardian rule on obscuring Palestinian terrorism

My post on March 23rd, 2011 – following a terrorist bombing in Jerusalem which killed one woman and injured dozens – critiqued coverage of the attack by the Guardian’s Conal Urquhart (who was filling in for Harriet Sherwood). The post was titled “Four simple Guardian rules for journalists reporting a terrorist attack in Israel.”

I noted that Urquhart seemed to be at pains to avoid characterizing the violence as a terrorist act.  

This passage, from his initial report on the attack (close to Jerusalem’s main conference hall and central bus station), represents a prime example.

A bus has exploded opposite the central station in Jerusalem, killing one woman and injuring at least 25 people, four of them seriously.” [emphasis added]

Of course, the bus didn’t “explode”.

A bomb was placed by a terrorist in a trash can, near a crowded bus stop, with the intent of killing Israelis. Some on an Egged bus which had stopped to pick up passengers there were injured (along with others closer to the bomb) as a result of the blast.

Further, in contextualizing Urquhart’s work with other Guardian reports about Palestinian terrorism, I arrived at what appeared to be a few of the Guardian Group’s guiding principles.

One of the rules which Guardian journalists often observe pertains to intentionally unclear causation:

They use passive language which may obscure the fact that an intentional act of violence was perpetrated by a Palestinian terrorist against innocent Israeli civilians.

Harriet Sherwood recently published a report, titled “London 2012 Olympics: IOC rejects silence for Munich victims” (May 15th), which is quite consistent with the Guardian rule detailed above.

Sherwood writes:

“The Munich attack began in the early hours of 5 September 1972, when eight members of the Palestinian military organisation Black September infiltrated the Olympic village, and took 11 members of the Israeli team hostage. The attackers demanded the release of 234 Palestinian prisoners in return for the hostages’ release.

By just after midnight, all 11 athletes, five attackers and a German police officer were dead.” [emphasis added]

By midnight, they were dead. Not “killed but “dead“. Sherwood fails to distinguish between victim and perpetrator, and offers no further explanation about how the Israeli hostages lost their lives.

In fact, the Israeli athletes were murdered brutally and quite deliberately by Palestinian Black September terrorists.

Recently the Guardian published a thorough, well-researched and clear account of the murder of Israeli athletes in Munich.  It was written by sports editor Simon Burnton and titled, “50 stunning Olympic moments No 26: The terrorist outrage in Munich in 1972“.  Evidently it takes a sports writer to report on Palestinian terrorism without ideological blinders.

Burton recounts how, on the last day of the crisis, nine of the eleven Israelis were killed while on helicopters (with their captors) at the runway of Fürstenfeldbruck Air Base near Munich. The terrorists were hoping for a deal, whereby they would fly to safety in Egypt, until negotiations with German authorities broke down.

“…a terrorist threw a grenade into one of the helicopters, killing all but one of the four hostages on board. Another terrorist sprayed the second helicopter with bullets, killing the five tied together there. The final hostage, David Berger, died of smoke inhalation before he could be rescued.”

However, per Burton, two of the Israelis were killed in the athletes’ residence on the first day of the crisis. 

“In all 12 hostages were taken, but as the wrestlers were led downstairs to join the coaches one of them, Gad Zabari, managed to escape, with the assistance of the wounded [Moshe] Weinberg. The latter was shot dead and his body thrown, naked, on to the street. The remaining 10 were shepherded into a single bedroom, where the weightlifter Yossef Romano attempted to overcome one of the intruders. He too was shot, apparently castrated and left to bleed to death on the floor.” [emphasis added]

The brutality was beyond description.

Harriet Sherwood’s rhetorical obfuscation is all too predictable. 

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