Here are some of the UK media headlines in late December accompanying articles about the death of Ibrahim Abu Thuraya during protests on the Gaza border over the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Though UK Media Watch was able to prompt corrections to the text of articles at the Independent and Daily Mail to at least add Israel’s initial official comments – which were available at the time of publication – expressing skepticism over the accusations, the headlines were indicative of the media’s overall rush to judgment against Israel, despite the paucity of evidence.
Even The Telegraph’s Raf Sanchez, among the more objective foreign journalists covering the region, wrote, as if it was an undisputed fact which ‘everybody knows‘ to be true, that an “Israeli soldier shot [Abu Thuraya] in the head and killed him”.
Though most media reports also misled on other aspects of the incident – omitting, for instance, Abu Thuraya’s terrorist background, and providing a false account of how he lost his legs – the central story conveyed to British news consumers reflected claims of the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry: that he was murdered in cold blood by Israeli snipers. This was the desired media narrative, despite the fact that photos of the body were never revealed, and forensic evidence was not turned over to Israeli medical officials.
However, in early January, Israel’s Military Police launched an investigation into Abu Thuraya’s death, the conclusions of which were reported yesterday in the Israeli media. According to Ynet, the probe concluded that the double amputee was not killed by Israeli soldiers, and that sniper fire was halted at least an hour before Palestinians say Ibrahim Abu Thuraya was shot. (The investigation also found Abu Thuraya bid farewell to his family as a ‘shahid’ the night before his death, which raises other serious questions about what exactly occurred that day.)
Moreover, IDF officials have noted an increased use, by Hamas, of disabled Palestinians, including people in wheelchairs, at such protests, often positioned in the centers of friction for the sole purpose of scoring public relations victories if they’re injured.
Thus far, no British media outlet has reported on the Military Police findings, and we will continue to monitor such sites to see if the Military Police’s conclusions are even noted in subsequent articles about the incident.
Of course, the broader take-away is the media’s perplexing credulity in the face of unsubstantiated claims of a proscribed terror group, and the failure of professional journalists to seriously examine the incident or ask the most intuitive probing questions of both Gaza officials and eye witnesses.
Though we may never learn with any degree of certainty what did cause Abu Thuraya’s death, the media have once again demonstrated their institutional failure to subject Palestinian claims to the same degree of skepticism and critical scrutiny that Israeli claims are almost always subjected to.