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Journalists Find "Calm" When Only Palestinians Die

by FAIR Sunday, Aug. 24, 2003 at 12:06 PM

Media reports are one sided in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Subject: Journalists Find "Calm" When Only Palestinians Die


Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting

Media analysis, critiques and activism


Journalists Find "Calm" When Only Palestinians Die

August 22, 2003

The deadly bus bombing in Jerusalem on August 19 was foreshadowed by a

pair of suicide attacks a week earlier which killed two Israeli civilians.

While U.S. media tended to portray these attacks as a return to violence

after a relatively peaceful period, there were numerous killings in the

weeks leading up to the suicide bombings that underscore the lack of

evenhanded attention given to loss of life in the Israeli/Palestinian


When the two Palestinian suicide bombers each killed an Israeli civilian

along with themselves on August 12, U.S. news outlets immediately depicted

the attacks as an apparent resurgence in Mideast violence. "Summer truce

shattered in Israel," announced CBS (8/12/03), while NBC (8/12/03)

reported that "the attacks broke more than a month of relative silence."

The Los Angeles Times (8/13/03) wrote that the bombings "broke a six-week

stretch during which the people of this war-weary land had enjoyed

relative quiet."

During this six-week period of "relative quiet," however, some 17

Palestinians were killed and at least 59 injured by Israeli occupation

soldiers and settlers, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society.

The dead included Mahmoud Kabaha, a four-year-old boy, who was sitting in

the back seat of a jeep with his family at a checkpoint when an Israeli

soldier shot him dead-- in a spray of bullets that the army simply called

an "accidental burst of gunfire" (Associated Press, 7/25/03). Virtually

none of the major U.S. news reports on the August 12 bombings alluded to

the Palestinian death toll in this period, leaving out a key piece of the

story: For Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, the violence had never

ceased; while the Israeli attacks had decreased, there had never been

anything like an Israeli cease-fire.

An Associated Press report on August 19 (filed prior to that day's

bombing) did acknowledge that since June 29, "more than 20 people have

been killed on the Israeli and Palestinian sides." What it didn't note was

that of those "more than 20," at least 21 were Palestinian, according to

the Red Crescent.

After a month and a half in which Palestinians were being killed several

times a week and receiving relatively little mention, the Washington Post

and New York Times both put the bombings on their August 13 front pages,

each declaring the violence a break from weeks of "relative calm," and

each including a front-page photo of the victims' relatives in mourning.

USA Today also put grieving relatives on the front page, along with the

headline, "Two Suicide Attacks End a Six-Week Lull in Conflict." One can

empathize with the losses of those survivors while recognizing that the

families of the Palestinians who died during the "lull" were virtually


On CNN, the August 12 bombings were a major story, with eight separate

segments mentioning the attacks in a three-hour period. Anchor Wolf

Blitzer declared a "grim return to the battle days in Israel and the

Palestinian territories." His colleague Aaron Brown echoed that theme,

noting that "after a period of relative calm there has been a major surge

in violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories." Correspondent

Jerrold Kessel reported that the bombings "cast doubt on the viability of

this peace process known as the road map for peace."

These bombings had killed four people, including the bombers. Just four

days earlier, on August 8, two Palestinians and one Israeli were killed in

an Israeli raid on a suspected militant, while two more Palestinians were

killed at an ensuing rally-- one shot, and the other killed by Israeli

tear gas (Chicago Tribune, 8/9/03). But those five deaths-- mainly

Palestinian-- were not deemed a "major surge in violence" or a "grim

return to the battle days" on CNN. Instead, anchor Carol Costello

(8/8/03) suggested that the Israeli raid "may be another smudge, a bump if

you will, on that road map to peace."

The media's tendency to downplay-- or completely ignore-- Palestinian

suffering and death is nothing new. In late 2001 and the beginning of

2002, for example, a loose cease-fire declared by Yasir Arafat led to a

period of very few Israeli deaths, but sustained Palestinian deaths-- and

the American media repeatedly referred to it as a time of "relative calm"

(FAIR Action Alert, 1/10/02, 2/5/02).

In order to convey the Mideast crisis in all its complexity, journalists

need to take seriously the violence suffered by all communities.

References to "relative calm" while Palestinians are being routinely

killed only serve to trivialize human life and obscure the cycle of

violence that afflicts the region.


To make a donation to FAIR:

Please support FAIR by subscribing to our bimonthly magazine, Extra! For more information, go to: . Or call 1-800-847-3993.

FAIR SHIRTS: Get your "Don't Trust the Corporate Media" shirt today at FAIR's online store:

FAIR produces CounterSpin, a weekly radio show heard on over 130 stations in the U.S. and Canada. To find the CounterSpin station nearest you, visit .

FAIR's INTERNSHIP PROGRAM: FAIR accepts internship applications for its New York office on a rolling basis. For more information, see:

Feel free to respond to FAIR ( ). We can't reply to everything, but we will look at each message. We especially appreciate documented examples of media bias or censorship. And please send copies of your email correspondence with media outlets, including any responses, to .

You can subscribe to FAIR-L at our web site: . Our subscriber list is kept confidential.


(212) 633-6700


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