49 words: A “toy gun”, a Palestinian teen and a classic Guardian obfuscation

Harriet Sherwood’s Dec. 13 report, Hamas rallies in Fatah-dominated West Bank suggests growing Palestinian unity, included this passing reference to an incident in Hebron last week.

In Hebron, clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers erupted at the funeral of a teenager who was shot dead at a checkpoint on Wednesday. The Israel defence forces said a female soldier had killed Muhammad Ziad Awad Salaymah, whose 17th birthday it was, after he waved a toy gun. [emphasis added]

First, the Arab assailant did much more than “wave” a toy gun at the IDF.  He reportedly pointed a quite realistic looking weapon (at night) at an IDF Border Patrol Officer, pressing it to his throat and further attacked IDF officers, throwing punches and grappling with one officer.

Here’s an IDF security video of the incident. 

By the way, here’s the toy gun.


As Captain Barak Raz, of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, noted:

“Ask yourselves how you would react if this was pressed against your partner.”

Moreover, Sherwood’s passage about the incident, like so much reporting about Israel at the Guardian, is revealing in what information is included, the specific words used to characterize events and – just as importantly – what is left out:

  • Sherwood didn’t deem it important to note the gun (later discovered to be fake) in the context of the suspect’s unprovoked assault on the Israeli officer.
  • Sherwood didn’t deem it important to note that the gun likely looked quite real at the time (especially considering it was in the evening).
  • Sherwood deceptively characterized the suspect as having merely “waved” a “toy gun” at the Israeli officer, designed, presumably to downplay the presumed danger to the Israeli officer who had what appeared to be a real weapon reportedly pressed to his throat.
  • Sherwood evidently deemed it important in the context of the story to note that the Arab suspect was celebrating his 17th birthday.

Sherwood’s passage about the incident in Hebron only had 49 words, but so much deception.

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