Duma: A Misshapen-Media Narrative

Inaccuracy is of course the issue when instances of bias are perceived in the media, but these problems often manifest as omissions of fact, rather than outright lies. The mainstream media tends to be highly selective in terms of which stories it chooses to report, where coverage of events damaging to one side tend to be greatly emphasised. Within this selective coverage, there is a further layer of inaccuracy: odd omissions of information that would assist the reader or viewer. These absences include substantive omissions of fact, and a shaping of narrative as stories emerge. When judging such narratives, lapses of basic context are most revealing. A balanced report may otherwise lead the consumer toward a contrary viewpoint to the stances of the journalists/editors, or media institution, involved in a given news story.

BIN-OpEd-Experts-300x250(1)The July 31st arson attack on an Arab-Palestinian home in Duma, Judea and Samaria/West Bank, tragically led to the death of a child of 18 months. Jewish individuals are suspected of the attack, as Hebrew script was found outside the house, and media outlets have reported upon recent disputes between the regional Jewish populace and the Israeli authorities.

However, there is also a not unprecedented but more remote possibility that the attack originates with another quarter, to further stoke Arab-Palestinian violence, given that the attack coincided rather neatly with an Arab-Palestinian “day of rage”.

The story garnered heavy coverage throughout the world, with an intensity unlike the 2011 Itamar Fogel family massacre. RTE, Ireland’s public service broadcaster, provided a typical snapshot of global media coverage of the attack. Without its own regional bureau, RTE has to rely on proxy reportage.

Veteran RTE reporter Carol Coleman covered Netanyahu’s strong condemnation of the attack on the 31st, although she never addressed the dimension of Hamas’ incitement against all Jewish civilians. Her Lunchtime report  detailed the tensions between Jewish settlers and the Israeli authorities but of the opposing side she merely stated that “the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has called for revenge.”

al Asqa

Coleman’s reports took on a more overt anti-Israel narrative as the story developed through the day. Her six o’clock (“6.1”) News report refers to Israel’s limiting of access to the al Asqa mosque on the day of the attack. Coleman mentions a fear of reprisals but the vagueness of her narrative indicates that the move by the Israeli authorities to limit access could actually be part of the ‘feared’ chain of reprisals between Israel and Arab-Palestinians:

“In Jerusalem anger flared near the al Asqa Mosque, after Israeli forces limited those attending Friday prayers. The fear is that this could cascade into tit-for-tat reprisals. Already in Jordan, thousands are demonstrating to support the right of Palestinians to enter the Jerusalem Mosque.”

Coleman also suggests that Israeli authorities limit Arab access to the al Asqa Mosque, when in fact it is only done at times of intense tension. She whitewashed the nature of the Jordanian demonstration, which forwarded the old genocidists calumny that Israel wished to destroy the Mosque.

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The Nine O’Clock News was more misleading, with Coleman now making out the Jordanian protests concerned incidents of (presumably Israeli-Jewish) violence at the al Asqa Mosque – a most peculiar assertion given the demonstration’s sectarian themes:

“Already there are protests in Jordan against incidents of violence around the al Asqa.”

Arab violence at the Temple Mount is motivated by a supremicism seeking to deny the right for Jewish people to pray at their most holy of sites but one would never come to know this from watching RTE, which also failed to report on recent incitement by the Palestinian Authority, and the premeditated violence caused by Arab-Palestinian youths at the holy site.

Inference and Omission

At the opening of the Nine News report, presenter Eileen Whelan states:

“Tensions between Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and Israeli defense forces, are high, following the killing of an eighteen month old Palestinian boy by suspected Jewish extremists in the West Bank. Despite calls for calm by the United Nations and the Israeli Prime Minister, a Palestinian teenager was killed in Gaza by Israeli forces this evening.”

Without Justification, Coleman echoes the inference that the IDF are solely to blame for the Gazan death. However, scepticism would arise given the IDF’s absence from all but Gaza’s border. IDF accounts indicate the 27 or 17 year old individual was amongst two groups who crossed the restricted border zone and approached the fence, despite warning shots. This would suggest a provocative move but RTE presented the incident as solely Israel’s responsibility, when a few words referring to a border incident could have clarified the matter.

Coleman/RTE also failed to mention the intensive Arab-Palestinian violence and arson in Judea and Samaria, that occurred after early afternoon Mosque.

Other news outlets also ignored Arab-Palestinian violence in their reports, whilst highlighting Israeli responses. Such failures are not unusual. For example, RTE News also ignored recent bouts of violence in Judea and Samaria.

Continuing the near-obligatory trend of only reporting events after an Israeli response, news of clashes in the West Bank only emerged on RTE the following morning in bulletins on the ‘News Now’ channel, when news presenter Brian Finn announced, that one (or more) Arab-Palestinians had died in the West Bank, after three clashes between Arab-Palestinians and Israeli forces.

The lunchtime news bulletin succeeded in squaring the circle by simply recounting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s criticism of Israeli settlement policy as leading to the current outbreak of violence. No counter-view was presented during the short broadcast.