Friday, January 09, 2009

AP coverage of the Gazan school shelling [updated]

For those who read only the first two paragraphs of a news story:

GAZA, Gaza Strip — Israeli mortar shells struck outside a UN school where hundreds of Palestinians had sought refuge Tuesday, killing at least 30 people — many of them children whose parents wailed in grief at a hospital filled with dead and wounded.

The Israeli army said its soldiers came under fire from militants hiding in the school and responded. It accused Gaza's Hamas rulers of "cynically" using civilians as human shields. Residents confirmed the account, saying militants were seen staging attacks from the area. [emphasis added --DD]

Thirteen paragraphs down:

Two neighbourhood residents confirmed the Israeli account, saying a group of militants fired mortars from a street near the school, then fled into a crowd of people in the streets. Israel then opened fire.

Note: "a street near" the school. And then: "a group of militants...fled into a crowd...Israel
then opened fire."

Doesn't exactly pass the smell test, does it?
(Here's a somewhat different take. And a video.) The IDF make a claim, which is allegedly "confirmed" by (two) nearby residents, except that they don't confirm the claim at all.

Has there been a little judicious editing at the Globe and Mail, which carried this story?* Because the two reporters who share the by-line aren't exactly biased towards the official Israeli position. Ibrahim Barzak is a Gazan stringer for Associated Press, and his stuff doesn't flatter the IDF. Steve Weizman, for his part, has been slagged by the pro-Israel CAMERA propagandists for alleged anti-Israel bias. His reportage from the West Bank has exposed the murderous behaviour of Israeli settlers there, and more recently he covered the banning of foreign journalists from Gaza by the Israeli government.

I'll go with the "judicious editing" hypothesis. Comments welcome as always.

UPDATE: Other versions of the same Barzak/Weizman story, with some interesting differences.

*UPPERDATE: Damian Penny has blogged on this as well, although we don't agree on our conclusions. What I find odd is that
his lengthy quotation contains the "confirmed the Israeli account" wording--but the YahooNews version of the Barzak/Weizman story, to which he links, does not.

Could it be that the "judicious editing" was done by an AP editor--and that re-editing has been done since by other news editors picking up the AP feed, who have noticed the same inconsistency?

UPPESTDATE: (January 9) Two readers point me to an under-reported retraction, by Israeli authorities, that the IDF had come under fire from the school. This may explain the inconsistent AP story, being further (circumstantial) evidence that a meddling AP editor did a hasty re-write, which was then picked up uncritically by some (e.g., the Globe & Mail) and re-re-written by others. And it also indicates that UN schools are indeed being targeted. Three, in fact, have been shelled by the IDF to date.

Earlier video footage released by the IDF that supposedly indicated firing from within the school was taken in 2007.

As I noted above, there's not much in the media that corrects the initial claim that Hamas militants were in the school. Nor from outspoken Conservative politicians and right-wing bloggers. What do you have to say now, Peter Kent? Damian?

Later that day: Damian responds.

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