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NY Times and LA Times coverage of the conflict in the Occupied Territories

by Milad Ali Ershaghi Thursday, Oct. 19, 2000 at 11:15 AM (310)251-5516

Observations made while reading through NY Times and LA Times articles covering the conflict in the Occupied Territories.

Tuesday, October 17, 2000

New York Times and Los Angeles Times coverage

of the conflict in the Occupied Territories

from 9/28/2000 to 10/15/2000:

By Milad Ali Ershaghi []

1. Palestinians murdered at Sabra and Shatilla:

The following table summarizes the number of Palestinians the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times reported were killed at Sabra and Shatilla in 1982 by Christian militiamen taking direct orders from then Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon:

09/29/2000 NYT "hundreds"

10/01/2000 LAT "thousands"

10/02/2000 NYT "hundreds"

10/02/2000 LAT "hundreds"

10/14/2000 NYT "hundreds"

The real death count, however, is 2750 according to the International Red Cross and over 3000 according to other estimates.

Question: Why is it that the NYT and LAT reported figures ten times lower than the actual statistic? Where do they get their information from, and why aren't they using internationally accepted data? Also, why did the LAT change from "thousands" on 10/1/2000 to "hundreds" on 10/2/2000 and 10/14/2000? What kinds of pressures could have caused this change?

2. Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount:

In the first week of conflict, neither the NYT nor the LAT reported the number of IDF troops that accompanied Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount. But then on 10/7/2000, the NYT finally reported that "hundreds of Israeli officers" showed up. The problem with this report, however, is that one thousand troops showed up, not "hundreds".

Question: Why in the first week did neither paper report the number of troops that accompanied Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount? And why, when it finally reported a statistic, did the NYT report "hundreds" instead of "one thousand"? Where, again, is the NYT getting its information, and why isn't it using accurate data?

One thing that didn't get due coverage was the fact that Ariel Sharon and his entourage of IDF troops weren't alone in their visit to the Temple Mount; fans and supporters of Sharon actually showed up to cheer him on. An excerpt from a 9/29/2000 LAT article follows:

In the waiting crowd below Temple Mount, Jews

who came to support Sharon chanted: This is

Jewish land! Get out!" And some hailed Sharon:

"King of Israel!"

Question: Why is the LAT the only paper that covered this, and why was its coverage so limited? Couldn't this coupled with false statistics about the number of troops that accompanied Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount have led readers to believe that Ariel Sharon did in fact come as "a messenger of peace"?

As for the numerous Israeli officials who stressed their conviction that Ariel Sharon's visit was not a provocation, note the following excerpt from a 10/2/2000 NYT article:

Today, ... a senior Israeli official said,

"It's clear to everyone that it's the Sharon

show that created the original damage.

It's unfortunate, though, that the NYT didn't release the name of this "senior Israeli official". Because if it did, the Israeli government would have had a hard time defending their official position that the Palestinians alone were to blame for the escalating violence.

3. The IDF's use of live ammunition and rubber bullets:

The NYT reported on 9/30/2000 that the Israeli police denied that live bullets had been used. They claimed that only nonlethal forms of ammunition were used such as tear gas and rubber bullets. The next day, however, both the NYT and the LAT reported that live ammunition was used. This lie about the use of live ammunition demonstrated how the Israeli police could not be considered as a trustworthy source of information.

It's also interesting to note how IDF troops defined the term "nonlethal" in relation to rubber bullets they used against Palestinian civilians. According to a 10/4/2000 NYT article, they claimed they were officially instructed to shoot rubber bullets "from at least 100 feet away and only at the feet and legs." In the same article, however, the heads of two hospitals in Jerusalem revealed that Israeli troops were violating the rules of engagement they were supposed to adhere to: Dr. Khaled Qurie, the director of the Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem, reviewed the cases of 35 Palestinians who had been admitted there and was surprised at "the high number of upper body injuries - abdomen, chest, neck and head." Michael Cook, chief executive of St. John's Eye Hospital in Jerusalem, noted that 18 Palestinians had been treated for getting shot in the eye with rubber projectiles. He added that most of the damaged eyes were left sightless.

What should be clear, then, is that the Israeli police lied when they said that they didn't use live ammunition against Palestinian civilians, and when they did utilize their so-called "nonlethal" rubber bullets in ways contrary to their "rules", their weapons could no longer be described as "nonlethal".

4. Muhammad Al-Durrah caught up in the "crossfire":

The NYT reported twice, on 10/2/2000 and 10/7/2000, and the LAT reported once, on 10/1/2000, that Muhammad Al-Durrah died in the "crossfire". In a way, this suggests that neither paper could be sure whether Israeli or Palestinian bullets killed Muhammad. But when evidence was produced to prove that the killing was deliberate, the NYT did not report anything further on the matter and led its readers to believe that he died in the "crossfire"; end of story. The LAT, however, was more balanced in its coverage. The following are excerpts from LAT articles related to the shooting:

A 12-year-old Palestinian boy, Rami Durra, was

among the dead in Gaza. He and his father,

apparently caught in the cross-fire, could be

seen crouched behind a concrete block, flat

against a wall.

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