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June 19, 2012

Differences in the Coverage of the Shooting Incident involving an Israeli Trucker and Three Palestinians

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Coverage of the recent shooting of three Palestinians by an Israeli truck driver who claims self-defense reveals differences in the wording of the headlines and the contextual facts that were included. The political biases of news organizations covering the incident are discernible in some instances by which statements offered by Israeli and Palestinian authorities they chose to include and how these statements were framed.

Many news organizations carried an Associated Press dispatch. But the report was altered in some cases by the news organizations carrying it.

The most frequently appearing version of the piece was headlined either: "Israeli driver kills 2 Palestinians, wounds 1" or "Israeli truck driver kills 2 Palestinians, wounds a third in West Bank shooting"

The lede sentence laid out the basic facts:

An Israeli tow truck driver shot dead two Palestinians and wounded one Sunday during what police said was an attempted car robbery in the West Bank.

The article provided useful context to assess the statements made by authorities:

The Palestinian men have criminal records, according to Palestinian police.
Though the Israeli driver has been identified by police as coming from the south of the country - and not a West Bank settlement - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the shooting was the work of a Jewish settler and implied it was intentional.

The Guardian, known for its fervently pro-Palestinian stance, released a version of the AP report with a crucial difference. Its version of the AP report stated:

Though the Israeli driver's identity has not yet been verified, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the shooting was the work of a Jewish settler and implied it was intentional. "Those (settlers) ... commit their crimes under the protection of the government and Israeli military," Abbas said.

By asserting that the Israeli driver's identity is unverified, the Guardian implicitly attaches more credibility to Abbas's demonization of the settlers, which resonates in much of the Guardian's coverage.

Reuters' headline provides the motive for the Israeli shooter: "Israeli kills 2 Palestinians, says they attacked him."The lede establishes similar facts but in a more logical manner from the perspective of the Israeli trucker than does the AP article:

An Israeli tow truck driver shot and killed two Palestinians in the occupied West Bank on Sunday and told Israeli police he opened fire after they attacked him and tried to steal his vehicle.

AFP ran the headline: "Two Palestinians shot dead by Israeli lorry driver: police." The lede stated that "Two Palestinians were shot dead by an Israeli truck driver after they tried to steal his vehicle in the south Hebron Hills on Sunday morning, Israeli police said." In contrast to the AP report that provided the useful context of past criminality on the part of the Palestinians involved, the AFP story stated: "A Palestinian police source also denied the two had been involved in any criminal activity when they were shot."

The BBC, known for its pro-Palestinian sympathies, headlined the story: "Palestinian 'attackers' killed by Israeli truck driver." Notice the use of scarequotes around attackers. The lede established:

Two Palestinians have been shot dead in the West Bank by an Israeli truck driver, who said they attacked and tried to rob him, Israeli police say.

The article did not provide the contextual information about the attackers included in the AP article. Instead it stated:

Palestinian Maan news agency quoted Yatta municipality chief Zahran Abu Qbetta as saying the men who were killed were on their way to work at the time of the shooting.


The Israeli media uniformly accorded credibility to the version of events reported by Israeli police.

The Jerusalem Post's headline read: "Israeli shoots dead 2 would be Palestinian carjackers." The article established that the driver was a resident of Ashkelon, not a settler and that he had been attacked and hurt prior to shooting the Palestinians.

Haaretz's headline read: "Israeli man kills two Palestinian assailants after attacked in West Bank incident." The article that followed handled the story in a similar manner to the Post.

The Christian Broadcast Network, sympathetic towards Israel, headlined the article: "Two Arabs Killed in Carjacking Attempt."

On the other side of the spectrum an internet site calling itself Occupied Palestine - 'Blogging 4 Human Rights and Liberation of Palestine' headlined their report: "Terrorist Settlers kill 2 Palestinians." The body of the report was of a similar tone and incorrectly reported that one of the Palestinians who was shot was 79 years old.

The Arabic news organization Al Ahram headlined the piece: "Israeli driver kills two Palestinians in occupied W. Bank." It's lede sentence stated:

Two unarmed Palestinians are shot and killed by Israeli tow-truck driver in occupied West Bank

The Qatar News Agency was somewhat more balanced. Its headline read: "Two Palestinians Killed by Israeli in Hebron." Its lede stated,

Two Palestinians were shot and another injured after an Israeli civilian shot them here Sunday. The shooting took place after an alleged attack by the Palestinians.

Posted by SS at June 19, 2012 12:12 PM

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