Australian Jewish News – 13 February 2009
Atrocity or Atrocious Reporting?
In the front page of the January 31 Weekend Australian, Middle East correspondent John Lyons detailed uncorroborated claims by Palestinian eyewitnesses that Israeli soldiers had shot dead in cold blood two Palestinians who had their hands in the air, and had also shot two others in the arms. He also noted IDF responses that the two were Hamas fighters who were shooting at Israeli soldiers, but the tenor of the article was accusatory, to say the least. In response the blogger Israellycool compared the report to the official testimony given to B’tselem and noted some glaring inconsistencies. The blog noted, “I am once again left asking many questions.
1. How come in the Australian version, the IDF soldiers who shot the palestinians were on a balcony of a house they had taken over, and shouted for the palestinians to pull over, yet in the B’tselem version, the soldiers were ‘about 300 meters from al-‘Atatrah Square’ and fired without saying anything?
2. How come in the Australian version, Nabeela Abu Halima and Omar Abu Halima were shot, but not so in the B’tselem version in which they managed to run away?
3. How come in the Australian version, a man was shot through the arm because he refused to strip naked, but in the B’tselem version, there is no mention of this?” (All errors in original)
Paul McGeough launched a pre-emptive strike on Benjamin Netanyahu in the February 7 Sydney Morning Herald, once again quoting extreme left Israeli-born historian Avi Shlaim to “prove” his point. McGeough wrote, “In concluding that Netanyahu in his first term as prime minister was a proponent of the ‘Revisionist Zionist program of the undivided Land of Israel,’ Shlaim described him as ‘a destroyer of dreams’”. He somehow didn’t mention the significant steps Netanyahu took to further the Oslo Accords, such as the Hebron withdrawal or the Wye River Memorandum, or his serious negotiations with the Syrians
Greg Sheridan, in the February 4 Australian, effectively rebutted both McGeough and the type of atrocity stories typified by Lyons. He noted, “Netanyahu will be demonised by the usual suspects but he will be no barrier to peace. Within Israel there is a broad consensus on what a peace agreement would look like.” On Gaza, he wrote, “The cost in innocent Palestinian lives was heavy and tragic, and the fault for this rests entirely with Hamas, the terrorist death cult that rules Gaza. I do not believe a single story of Israeli war crimes or atrocities in Gaza. There is no evidence of any such story beyond Palestinian eye-witness accounts and on countless previous occasions these accounts have been fabricated. Remember the reports of the so-called massacre in the West Bank Palestinian town of Jenin in 2002, reports buttressed by eye-witness accounts?…The Israelis are among the most disciplined troops in the world and go to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties.”