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April 19, 2016

USA Today Prints Palestinian Attacker as Victim—And Refuses to Correct

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USA Today omitted essential context in its print coverage by correspondent Shira Rubin of the March 24 shooting of a Palestinian terrorist who attacked Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in Hebron (“Israeli soldier to be charged in shooting,” April 14, 2016). This failure allowed readers to draw the false conclusion that IDF soldiers murdered, without any cause or explanation, an innocent man.

As CAMERA has noted (“Vox’s April Fools’ Day ‘Reporting’ on Palestinian Terror Attacks,” April 7) on March 24, 2016 two Palestinian terrorists, armed with knives, attacked an IDF checkpoint in Hebron. During the attack, an IDF soldier was stabbed before both terrorists were shot, one of them fatally. Shortly thereafter, the wounded terrorist, Abed al-Fatah al-Sharif, was again shot, this time fatally in the head, by an IDF soldier named Elor Azaria. Azaria later claimed he thought al-Sharif was armed with a vest of explosives that he was attempting to detonate. The incident was filmed by B’Tselem, an anti-government group, and the IDF is investigating.

In its print edition, USA Today reported that Azaria was being charged with manslaughter after he was, “caught on video fatally shooting a Palestinian in the head.” Later the paper said, “Video shows the soldier firing on the wounded Palestinian man, Abd al Fattah Yusri al Sharif.”

However, the paper failed to explain why al-Sharif was wounded in the first place. No mention was made of the attack that preceded the incident, that another Palestinian assailant was involved and that an Israeli soldier was stabbed before the two perpetrators were shot. Instead, readers were left with the impression that a Palestinian Arab was inexplicably murdered by an Israeli soldier.

USA Today’s online version (“Israeli soldier who shot Palestinian to face manslaughter charges,” April 14) did note these essential details. It clearly stated, “The military initially said two Palestinians stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier before troops shot and killed the pair.” Unlike the print version, the online article also detailed statements by Israeli officials who criticized Azaria’s actions. While not perfect—the online version failed to note B’Tselem’s history of anti-Israel distortions (see, for example “B’Tselem Casualty Count Doesn’t Add Up,” CAMERA, Nov. 2, 2008)—it did offer a more nuanced and detailed accounting of the Hebron shooting as it was understood at the time than the print version.

On April 15, 2016 CAMERA contacted USA Today requesting a correction to the misleading print article, noting that other outlets such as the Times of Israel (“IDF: Enough evidence to charge Hebron solider in killing,” April 5) and The Los Angeles Times (“Israeli military battles public furor,” April 8), among others, reported that two armed Palestinian Arab men had precipitated their shooting by initiating an attack on IDF soldiers.

In an email response to CAMERA, USA Today refused to correct, although it implicitly acknowledged that the print version of the article did not provide the context that could be found online. The paper claimed, “there is limited space in print to elaborate on all the context of what is often a complicated story, however, we did run a longer version online with further context as you suggested.”

USA Today’s explanation did not pass muster. The same day that USA Today published its misleading article on Hebron, The Washington Post ran a four paragraph Associated Press brief (“Soldier to be charged in death of Palestinian”) on the same topic. Unlike USA Today’s print version, it managed to provide the “who” and the “why” that basic journalistic standards require.

Posted by SD at April 19, 2016 04:45 PM

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