Sunday, August 27, 2006

Karma, Crime or Coincidence? More Hasty Israeli Missile Allegations 

(UPDATE at bottom appears to indicate that, despite inconsistencies in reports and somewhat puzzling pictures, the attack in question may have indeed erroneously targeted a press vehicle without realizing it.)

AP has rushed to press with more wild, unrebutted allegations of intentional Israeli barbarity without waiting to learn the facts, check for plausibility, or even note that such charges in the past have been fabrications. Apparently the chance to accuse Israel of intentionally rocketing an occupied Reuters vehicle as some sort of Karmic payback is just too rich to pass up, even if only long enough to check available evidence for the likelihood such a direct missile strike really even happened.

AP reports (via MSNBC) as quickly and hysterically as it can of another "cold-blooded crime" as "Israeli aircraft fired two missiles early Sunday at an armored car belonging to the Reuters." AP confidently reports this because Palestinian witnesses told them so. As long as there is more than one Palestinian witness willing to make the same accusation, that anchors the story in the modern journalistic bedrock of 'multi-sourced' objectivity, wherein multiple unreliable or obviously biased statements can magically be combined into God's own testimony.

And just in case accusations from witnesses aren't enough to convince you of this horrible crime, AP also includes expert testimony from another Reuters employee who presumably wasn't even at the scene:

The Reuters cameraman, Fadel Shama’a, 23, and Sabah Hamida, 25, who worked for a local television company, had the doors open and were about to get out of the armored vehicle in the nearby Shajaiyeh neighborhood to film the raid when it was struck by the missiles, according to Shamas Odeh, chief of Reuters TV in Gaza.
Lest the nature of the propaganda AP is selling you not be clear enough yet to get you to hate Israel, let's clarify that this was allegedly a totally intentional Israeli attack, directly targeting a clearly marked press vehicle:

The white sport utility vehicle was emblazoned with the Reuters logo and had "TV" and "Press" written on it in English, Arabic and Hebrew.

"This is a cold-blooded crime," said Mohammed Dawdi, head of the local journalists union.
Clear enough? I would hate to think AP's propaganda-sponsoring effort was being wasted. It's not easy getting the accusations out there quickly enough to beat the Israeli denial deadline, while still carefully crafting text of sufficient quality to convey the full effect of the alleged barbarity. By denial deadline, I refer to the fact that it takes more than 30 minutes for the IDF to rebut allegations of having struck a press vehicle with missiles intentionally, if at all. So AP and others print the most inflammatory and quotable statements of biased observers without delay or context, sidestepping any difficult questions by inserting meaningless boilerplate anywhere facts from the accused might contradict the testimony -- the phrase "the army said it was checking the report" appears no less than three times in the article in spots where countervailing facts will be airbrushed in after a day or two, after the Israel-hating world has already been whipped into a phony frenzy.

Am I claiming there were no injuries to Reuters personnel? Frankly, all we have to work on are the early propaganda reports from the wire services, photographs of the damaged vehicle and injured occupants, and knowledge of how easy it has been to put out phony, stage-managed, or exaggerated allegations against Israel using the easily duped or quietly complicit news services, especially in the last month. So I can't and don't say I was a witness to what happened. But it's pretty obvious that Reuters employees driving around in an active area of conflict can get injured without having been targeted for journalistic assassination.

After even a cursory look at the pictures, I do find it amazing the wire service ran so quickly with the wildest of allegations without even checking the photos for plausibilty. Perhaps they enjoyed all the publicity from having been repeatedly used and abused as Hizballah's PR wing in Lebanon. It certainly looks pretty unlikely from the photos that any missiles actually struck the vehicle, as is so hysterically alleged:

(from Yahoo): A Palestinian looks at Reuters' armoured car after it was hit by an Israeli air strike in Gaza August 27, 2006. An Israeli air strike hit a Reuters vehicle in Gaza City on Saturday, wounding two journalists as they covered a military incursion, doctors and residents said. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem (GAZA)
They want to believe THAT is the result of an Israeli missile strike? Compare:

Israeli missile strike.

NOT an Israeli missile strike

For more comparisons between actual Israeli missile strikes and fraudulent allegations of a missile strike, see Section 3 of Zombietime's definitive deconstruction of the ambulance libel.

And what of the victims who were hit directly by missiles from one of the world's strongest and most barbaric militaries? The pictures of their charred and scattered remains must be too grotesque for even the newswires to publish. Or not:

(from Yahoo): Fadel Shanaa of Reuters TV is carried to hospital after a missile struck an armored jeep in Gaza city. Two Palestinian television cameramen were seriously wounded by a missile fired overnight by an Israeli helicopter in eastern Gaza City, hospital officials said. Fadel Shanaa of Reuters TV and a cameraman from the Palestinian Media Group were wounded when the missile struck their armored jeep. A woman and a child were also injured in the attack, said the hospital official.(AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Injured, certainly. Struck by Israeli missiles targeting his vehicle? What do you think?

There are other less histrionic possibilities that can explain the limited damage and injuries in these pictures. The pictures look much more consistent with a revised shade of the truth that emerged hours later; although, the new information is still not reflected in the AP report running on MSNBC. This might be understandable, since these later reports, sadly, undermine the anti-Israel message so conveniently supported by the earlier reports -- by earlier reports, I mean the ones that most readers actually see. Despite this obvious short-coming in anti-Israel content, I nonetheless link to these later reports here, just in case readers don't typically go back to read old MSNBC and AP stories a day later to see if anything has been changed. From Bangkok Post via LGF:

The eyewitnesses said that the two camera operators were in a Reuters jeep heading to the area to cover the Israeli Army incursion into eastern Gaza City. They said that an Israeli helicopter fired two missiles at people gathering in the Sheja’eya neighbourhood in eastern Gaza City as the Reuters’ car drove past nearby.

Shrapnel hit the car
, wounding Faddel Shana’a of Reuters and Sabah Hemeida, who works for Dubai Television.
There is a big difference between intentionally targeting journalists with missiles, and hitting their passing vehicle with shrapnel from a strike against a unrelated nearby target. Ignoring that difference is ignoring the difference between a "cold-blooded crime" and an accident.

When they said Palestinians in Gaza would learn from Hizballah, they weren't just talking about obtaining Iranian missiles.

UPDATE (2pm same day): Via Haaretz is information that the Reuters vehicle, not recognized as a press vehicle in the darkness of the early morning hours, may indeed have been the unfortunate target:

An Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman said the vehicle was hit because it was acting suspiciously in an area of combat and had not been identified as belonging to the media.

"During the operation, there was an aerial attack on a suspicious vehicle that drove in a suspicious manner right by the forces and in between the Palestinian militant posts," army spokeswoman Captain Noa Meir said.

"This car was not identified by the army as a press vehicle. This has been a combat area. It is not recommended for anyone to be around. We do not target the press. If journalists were hurt, we regret it," she added.
I still don't understand the moderate level of damage and injury -- what would be called minor if it were caused by a suicide bomber -- if indeed missiles struck the vehicle, nor do I understand the disagreement between the spokeswoman's statement and the witnesses in the Bangkok Post who said the Reuters vehicle was only hit by shrapnel while passing by.

Regardless of the circumstances and despite any running disagreement I might have with the work of Reuters' and other news agencies' stringers, I wish the same speedy recovery to the injured journalists and bystanders as to any other wounded non-combatants.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: