Friday, May 30, 2014

Continuing Correspondece with NYTimes Public Editor

My Right Word

I received this response to my compaint*

Dear Mr. Medad, After having looked into this article, we see that Mr. Mackey engages in reasonable discussion of the ammunition the soldier used in the incident. Certainly it would have helped clarity if there was some mention of that earlier in the piece but overall, our office is satisfied with the way the article was handled.
Best,Jonah BromwichOffice of the Public EditorThe New York Times
I sent back this reaction:

Dear Mr. Jonah Bromwich
Office of the Public Editor
The New York Times

Thank you for your response to my complaint regarding the May 28 post of Robert Mackey, “Israel Suspends Soldier in West Bank Shooting Investigation”, but I do not think you adequately address my concerns that there was less than a “reasonable discussion” therein and for sure, your point that “[c]ertainly it would have helped clarity if he had written it differently and that is the point.  While your office may have been “satisfied with the way the article was handled”, I think there is another opinion  which must be considered.

His opening lead-in is blunt and forceful and sets the tone:

“The Israeli military suspended a soldier who was captured on video this month firing his rifle at protesters in the occupied West Bank. Video evidence showed that the soldier fired his weapon within seconds of a Palestinian boy’s collapsing to the ground with what proved to be a fatal gunshot wound.”
That assertion links two untruths.  Only at the end of seven paragraphs does the reader realize that what the soldier fired was claimed not to be a lethal bullet but a rubber-coated pellet, which, at the range fired, could not have been fatal.  In addition, since we do not know, even after several days of discussions and news reporting, who fired the bullet, not to mention that over an hour separates two different shooting incidents, the deaths of two Arab youths would seem to warrant focusing on investigating the reporting on the issue.  That goal, usually to theme of Mackey’s blog, of reviewing how various media outlets and formats deal with news reporting is absent.  Mackey has a very narrow circle of sources, rather than “open”, when it comes to Israel.

Blogs that have analyzed, using sophisticated synchronized comparison viewing of the various video clips are ignored.  Pro-Israeli sites are non-existent whereas quite often, such pro-Arab sites, such as Electronic Intifada and BDS-promoting NGOs, appear with ever-increasing regularity.

Mackey’s "a Palestinian boy’s collapsing to the ground with what proved to be a fatal gunshot wound" is not proven, at least by acceptable standards of proof such as a court of law, a scientific lab or a credible expert.  All is conjecture.  Indeed, he is following his previous post on the matter which is headlined "Video Shows Killing of Palestinians on Nakba Day".  That headline is not supported as when one does read the text, one learns that "Security-camera footage obtained by the rights group Defense for Children International appears to show the fatal shooting of two young Palestinians on Thursday...”.  The headline is not only unethical but inflammatory.  Truth was obfuscated, which is not what the NYTimes should be doing.
He also informs us that a doctor said that the protestor's heart was "destroyed." If a bullet destroyed a heart, would it exit?  It seems that any outlandish anti-Israel claim are readily and uncritically accepted, rarely treated to an analysis and challenged whereas pro-Israel claims are quite often doubted and qualified. Moreover, the official Israeli responses are couched in language that leads the reader to doubt but sources, such as a Richard Silverstein or Ali Abu-Nimah, who engage unabashedly in propaganda, are put on stage-front in his columns.

There is another narrative out there but Mackey ignores it.  The possibility, as far-fetched as Mackey personally regards it, is that the "shootings"  filmed by the security cameras would/could appear to be  staged events, set-up by people.  A “victim” shot from in front falls forward (not backward) and holds out his arms to break his fall.  A person who was shot through the heart does not exhibited significant bleeding.  A bullet that supposedly entered a body and backpack and books does not have the form of what a bullet should look like if so.

A still that shows an apparent pellet indentation of a victim’s trousers is ignored.  Mackey’s only independent contribution is negative to any pro-Israel story.

Insisting, as Mackey does, that what appear would seem to favor Israel are simply ‘allegations’, should be a matter that demands the same treatment for other, different sources.  Awarding the same level of believability to a newspaper whose editorial line is stridently opposed to the IDF actions in the territories as to official spokesmen is another failure on his part.

Mackey’s relationship with the news from the territories administered by Israel has been colored, normatively tendentious and displays a personal unprofessional involvement with the issue.

Can I suggest a review of his posts on the theme Israel’s administration over, say, the past two years which would analyze his sources (quantitatively as well as qualitatively), the amount of stories vis a vis similar themes outside the Middle East, and other elements that could contribute to a biased result, one I suspect is the reality.
In any case, both what I and Mr. Mackey are doing is presenting elements surrounding the reporting of an event.  We should be raising doubts, suspicions and dealing with various theories.  The two Arab youths could have been killed by an Israel security person and they could have been killed by others.  The two bodies claimed to have been killed and buried could have been who they claimed they were and also, the two persons seen in the videos could have been there for a staged reenactment.  In any case, the number of odd scenes shown do warrant at least a mention and discussion and not a summary exclusion or minimalization while, at the same time, one side receives an overwhelming amount of attention.

A newspaper, even if now a news web site, should deal less in unproven and surely unsupported speculation and more in balancing the sources from which a media consumer can draw his own conclusions.


Yisrael Medad


In his post today, [Mackey] quotes the Haaretz newspaper regarding a soldier suspended due to firing his rifle and connects it to the death of two Arab youths.

But Mackey neglects to quote the source indicating the rifle was outfitted with a rubber-bullet attachment.

Here is Mackey:

The Israeli military suspended a soldier who was captured on video this month firing his rifle at protesters in the occupied West Bank. Video evidence showed that the soldier fired his weapon within seconds of a Palestinian boy’s collapsing to the ground with what proved to be a fatal gunshot wound.
As the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Wednesday, the suspended soldier, seen in video recorded by a CNN producer, was a member of a communications unit assigned to document the work of combat troops and border police deployed to contain a demonstration in the West Bank town of Beitunia, near Israel’s Ofer Prison, on May 15. The CNN video appeared to show that another shot was fired by a police officer who was standing near the soldier on a hillside above the protesters.

​Here is Haaretz:

A probe into the deaths of two Palestinians killed in the West Bank village of Bitunia during a Nakba Day demonstration earlier this month took a dramatic turn on Wednesday, when a CNN video clip showed a non-combat soldier, who had accompanied his comrades on the mission, firing what appeared to be a rubber bullet during the incident.
The soldier, a member of an IDF communications division, apparently fired his bullet at around the same time that one of the Palestinians, Nadim Nuwara, 17, was killed. However, the IDF has found no evidence proving that this soldier's bullet caused Nuwara's death. The details of the case are under a military court gag order.
The highlighted section is missing from Mackey.

This is unethical, an act of malfeseance and purposefully biasing his account.

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