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August 25, 2005

USA Today's One Large Omission

A single omission invalidates an entire August 25 USA Today feature article. "Palestinians won't miss long lines at Gaza checkpoint; Thousands often wait for hours to clear notorious Israeli gateway to settlements" never mentions why the checkpoints existed in the first place.

Misleadingly one-sided

Reporter Martin Patience writes of the Abu Houli Checkpoint, which "became a symbol of humiliation for Palestinians, a notorious bottleneck ...", of "thousands of fuming Palestinians waiting to clear the checkpoint," and about "painful memories [that] will last long after the lines of travelers are gone."

Readers never learn basic facts. Among them:

1) The checkpoints exist in response to the Palestinian terrorism war -- "the al-Aqsa intifada" -- launched in September 2000 after Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority rejected an Israeli-U.S. offer of a state on more than 97 percent of the Gaza Strip and West Bank in exchange for peace;

2) In the past five years, more than 1000 Israelis -- more than three-fourths of them non-combatants -- have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists, more than 5,000 wounded or maimed, of Israel's population of 6 million-plus. A similar proportion of casualties in the United States would mean roughly 290,000 Americans murdered or wounded by terrorists. In such circumstances, the context of long delays at checkpoints would be reported and understood;

3) Palestinian terrorist attempts continued even during the Israeli disengagement, which began on August 15. For example, as Patience's Gaza checkpoint article appeared, the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Ahronoth was reporting on its English-language Web site (Ynet News) that "the Ministry of Defense said there has been a sharp rise in the number of daily terror warnings in recent weeks, with about 45 concrete warnings per day. 'The warnings include attempts to strike the heart of Israel proper, as well as the West Bank,' a source said.", and;

4) Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip have launched rockets both at Jewish settlements in Gaza and from the Strip into Israel even during the "calm" agreed to in February by the terrorist group Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) with the Palestinian Authority. Efforts to smuggle in weapons also have continued. Checkpoints long have helped Israeli security forces monitor and restrict movement of terrorists, their supporters, and weaponry. Numerous terrorists have been caught at checkpoints, preventing them from murdering Israeli civilians.

The article's omission of why the checkpoints existed violates one of the key requires of basic journalism -- the why is conspicuously missing from the article's "who, what, when, where, why, and how." As a result, "Palestinians won't miss long lines at Gaza checkpoint" is not objective reporting but tendentious criticism. USA Today's readers deserve better, beginning with coverage that includes basic context.

Posted by ER at August 25, 2005 12:50 PM


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