STICKS AND STONES
June 7, 2005
Dear HonestReporting Canada Subscriber:
Reporting from Hebron, the Toronto Star’s Mitch Potter described being hit by an Israeli settler’s stone:
“Then, thwack. Sharp pain courses up from your left thigh. Not so refreshing. The bull’s-eye throw was no pop fly. This was a vicious line drive from a skilled hand no more than 12 years old. The settler boy creeps into your line of sight with impressive stealth. His eyes flash victory. With a satisfied sneer, he reaches down to scoop more stones.”
Potter’s article is one of a growing number of news reports focusing on the behaviour of Israeli settlers in the lead-up to Israel’s planned withdrawal from Gaza.
While the media are free to report on violence emanating from any quarter, including Israel, their coverage of Israeli violence should be balanced by coverage of the more extreme and pervasive Arab violence. And reporters should be as clear in identifying the source of Arab violence as they are in identifying the source of Israeli violence.
But that often does not happen.
Downplaying Arab Violence
While Potter covered Israeli stone-throwing settlers, Palestinian protesters were throwing stones at Israeli security forces at the site of Israel’s security barrier near Bil’in. An Israeli soldier lost an eye in the violence, in which Ahmed Tibi, an Arab-Israeli member of Israel’s parliament, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with members of Fatah and Hamas. But Potter’s entire description of the Arab violence was summarized as, “another in the almost daily demonstrations against Israel’s controversial security barrier turned violent.”
Nor did Potter report faithfully on the barrage of stones that Arabs unleashed at Israelis at the Temple Mount on Jerusalem Day, an Israeli national and religious holiday.
Potter wrote that “violence flared,” “crowds of Muslim worshippers clashed with religious Jews,” and “the standoff … began with a barrage of stones.”
But at no point did Potter inform readers that the violence was started by Arabs who hurled rocks at Jews. Not did he use descriptors like “vicious” and “satisfied sneer” that he used in reference to the Israeli.
Similarly, CBC’s online report of the incident, entitled “Jerusalem Day Sparks Violence,” blurred the lines of responsibility by reporting that:
“Violent clashes in the Old City on Monday marked the anniversary of Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War… The violence began when Israeli police were escorting a group of Jewish visitors near the mosque.”
CBC described the response of Israeli police first and the actions of Arab stone-throwers second, and weakened its description of the violence by prefacing it with the sceptical-sounding “Israeli police say”:
“Israeli police say they were forced to use stun grenades against hundreds of Palestinians throwing stones at Jewish visitors to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount.”
When Canada’s news media cover the violence of the Arab-Israeli conflict, they must speak the truth about Arab violence against Israelis. This includes the often-ignored day-to-day Palestinian violence that too many news media seem to take for granted: in the last week alone, it included rocket attacks, attempted kidnappings, attempted suicide bombings, and the continuing cult of Palestinian child martyrdom.
The Whole Truth?
Continuing on the theme of Jerusalem, Mitch Potter described a rally:
“…for the estimated 1,000 Palestinians facing one of the largest mass home demolitions in Jerusalem’s history. City council has served demolition orders to raze 90 buildings in the valley enclave to make way for a national park…”
Potter omitted from his report one important detail: many or all of the 100 or so homes in question were built illegally. Whether or not the Jerusalem municipality is correct in proposing the controversial demolition plan, doesn’t Potter have a professional obligation to inform readers that there is another side to the story?
How You Can Make a Difference
- Ask the Toronto Star to balance its coverage of Israeli violence with coverage of the more extreme and pervasive Arab violence.
- Email your letter to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax it to 416-869-4322.
Include full name, address, and phone number. Street names and phone numbers will not be published.
Keep your letter brief and polite.
Email a copy of your letter to email@example.com