Monthly Archives: July 2010

‘Officials say’, ‘officials say’, ‘according to an official’

Our last MediaShot ‘The false reality of news journalism’ – Reporting Palestine and the Mavi Marmara analysed reporting of the Israeli attack on the international aid flotilla destined for Gaza. The analysis focused on the broadsheet newspapers, the Irish Times, Irish Independent and Irish Examiner, where we found a clear bias in favour of Israeli government sources.

Along with distributing MediaShots to subscribers we often send them to journalists and editors who we think might wish to comment on the criticisms made. Sometimes we hear back.

The following response was received from a senior journalist at the Irish Times:

David:

I did not manage to get beyond the second paragraph of this because of your self-serving selective quote from the report to which you refer. You say below: “An Israeli naval patrol killed at least four Palestinians…on their way to carry out a terror attack.”

But the Reuter report, as published on our breaking news service, said: “An Israeli naval patrol spotted a boat with four men in diving suits on their way to carry out a terror attack and fired at them,” an Israeli army spokesman said, adding that the patrol had confirmed hitting its targets (emphasis added).

We therefore anchored the claim of motivation firmly where it belongs – with an Israeli army spokesman. It is the duty of the media to report assertions of both sides, as we did in this case.

If you are going to throw stones, you’d need to do rather better than this.

[Name withheld] [Email, 5 July, 2010]

This is a sentiment the Editor of the paper would no doubt fully endorse. In the paper’s ‘Message from the Editor‘ Geraldine Kennedy states:

“We never go to publication without seeking both sides of the story. And if, in spite of our best efforts, we cannot get one side’s version, we make it clear in our report that we have made every reasonable effort to secure that information.”

The idea that reporting assertions by various sides constitutes impartial journalism clearly discounts the attributing of authority to one source over another and the potential bias involved in creating a hierarchy of statements simply by virtue of where they are located in reports. But even if we accept this limited condition, the Irish Times entirely failed to live up to it. The Palestinian source was simply used to confirm the deaths, the only “side of the story” reported was the Israeli side.

Subsequently, we contacted the Reuters journalist to find out why there were no reactions from Palestinian officials or eye witnesses, why one side had been excluded from the narrative. He responded:

“Information from Gaza political, securiy [sic] and hospital officials was — indeed, is always — sought but it rarely sheds significant light on events in the field, or in this case, under water.

Officials with operational details prefer to keep out of the limelight and their spokesmen only divulge information that is often of no operational significance.

As I recall, there were multiple claims of responsibility by Palestinian militant groups at the time for the action but nothing was unequivocal and if I am not mistaken, there was also some backtracking by at least one of the claimants.” [Email, 11 July, 2010]

We responded the same day:

“I can understand that, especially in the wake of an incident like this, solid information is hard come by. But I was thinking more along the lines of reactions to the incident from Palestinian sources – perhaps with regards to the legality of Israel killing what may have been armed or apparently unarmed militants in Palestinian waters.

Israeli sources appear to dominate the report, with Hamas officials only confirming the deaths. With no definitive evidence of an immediate threat, I would have expected some sort of Hamas denunciation.” [Email, 11 July, 2010]

To which we received the following response:

“Please note that probably in the majority of cases, our first source for reporting on military action is the Palestinian side, with Israeli confirmation coming later.

The Israeli military spokesman’s office is often more cumbersome and holds back on responding to queries until it feels it has received accurate reports from the field. The Palestinian side, to whom our Gaza team has excellent access are often first off the mark to give details of a clash that has just ended or is still in progress.

We treat both sides with equal deference.

But, for example, if the Palestinian side say Israel launched an air strike we will wait for the Israeli side to tell us what happened becase they were the ones who deployed the military hardware. In the same way, we will only trust a Palestinian source that can confirm a body has been found, so if the army says they identified hitting somebody, it doesnt necessarily mean that person is dead. Indeed, the army is often careful and uses the term “identified hitting x” rather than giving x’s condition in cases where they do not have access to those targeted.” [Email, 26 July, 2010]

Whatever about Reuters policies for reporting the who and the where, this forumla does not explain the obvious bias contained in the report in terms of context. Israeli violence is explained as a reaction to a threat, as opposed an act of aggression: “militants in Gaza frequently try to attack Israeli border patrols and sporadically fire rockets and mortar bombs at Israel” and “[i]n February, Palestinian militant groups in Gaza sent explosive devices, thought to be primitive sea mines, out to sea intending to hit naval vessels. At least three devices washed up on Israeli beaches and were detonated by sappers.”

But going back to the response to our MediaShot. Selective quoting is a charge we take very seriously, it is after all something we would be quick to criticise if it were found in the Examiner, Independent or Times.

In this case “selective quoting” suggests not that the quote was attributed incorrectly or that the meaning of the quote had been skewed by the way in which it was presented, but that the selection of the quote misinterpreted the substance of the piece. We are accused of inventing bias where there is none.

We responded:

[Name withheld],

That’s exactly the point made. As Fisk says further on in the piece: ‘officials say’, ‘officials say’, ‘officials say’, ‘according to an official’.

With regards the opening reference, clearly we’re reading different reports. The report leads with a two paragraph justification from the Israeli military. It is followed by a statement from Hamas officials confirming the deaths. The report then mentions the flotilla attack, before adding a short tit for tat and then concluding with the journalists own commentary, corroborating the Israeli official’s ‘claim of motivation’:

Palestinian militants in Gaza frequently try to attack Israeli border patrols and sporadically fire rockets and mortar bombs at Israel. In February, Palestinian militant groups in Gaza sent explosive devices, thought to be primitive sea mines, out to sea intending to hit naval vessels. At least three devices washed up on Israeli beaches and were detonated by sappers.”

I can’t imagine a situation where if Hamas’ military wing conducted assaults in Israeli territory killing a number of Israelis (military or otherwise) the Irish Times would publish reports leading with ‘claims of motivation’ from Hamas officials, followed by a short sentence from Israel confirming the deaths, followed again by a couple of paragraphs about, for instance, the number of attacks launched by Israel over the last couple of years or maybe reference to the number of Palestinians killed during ‘Operation Cast Lead’.

In the same way I couldn’t imagine a situation where if the Turkish military killed 9 Israelis the Irish Times would publish an opinion article by the Turkish ambassador 7 days before they published one from the Israeli ambassador.

Here’s another few examples. I’ve just plugged the words ‘palestinian’ ’attack’ ‘israel’ into the Irish Times archive:

5 Palestinian “militants” killed by Israeli troops. Only Israeli viewpoint sought.

5 Palestinian “militants” killed by Israeli troops. Confirmation of the deaths by both Israeli and Hamas officials. Context for the killing provided by Israeli official only: “Before the Israeli air strike took place, militants fired two rockets from coastal Gaza, both striking near the city of Ashkelon and causing no casualties, a military spokesman said.”

1 Palestinian “gunman” killed by Israeli troops. Israeli statement sought only. Context provided as follows: “Hamas has been urging smaller militant groups to refrain from launching attacks against Israel, which carried out a devastating military offensive in the Gaza Strip 17 months ago with the aim of halting cross-border rocket fire. Israeli air strikes targeted tunnels in the northern and southern Gaza Strip this morning after Palestinian militants fired two rockets that landed in fields inside Israel. The Israeli army says that some 350 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip since Israel ended its military offensive there in January 2009. More than 3,000 rockets and mortar rounds were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip in 2008.”

1 Palestinian “militant” killed by Israeli troops. Israeli officials dominate report. Palestinian officials relegated to closing lines.

1 Palestinian “militant” killed by Israeli troops. Only Israeli viewpoint sought. Palestinian statement used to confirm deaths only.

1 Palestinian “militant” killed by Israeli troops. Only Israeli viewpoint sought. Palestinian statement used to confirm deaths only.

1 Palestinian “militant” killed by Israeli troops. Only Israeli viewpoint sought. Palestinian statement used to confirm deaths only.

2 Palestinian “militants” killed by Israeli troops. Only Israeli viewpoint sought. Palestinian statement used to confirm deaths only.

3 Palestinians killed by Israeli military. Israeli statement comes first, followed by Palestinian statement. The Palestinian statement is broken by commentary: “Palestinian medical workers said three workers in the tunnel, part of a system used mostly to smuggle goods and weapons into the Gaza Strip, were killed and six wounded when the tunnel collapsed in the attack.”

No one is throwing stones. The Times’ record speaks for itself.

Best wishes,

David [Email, 5 July, 2010]

A closer look at these reports serves to reinforce the argument made in our MediaShot, that “Palestinian attacks on Israeli targets are depicted as random acts of violence, with no mitigating or explanatory considerations whereas Israeli attacks are predominantly reported as responses to a Palestinian threat.”

This is best demonstrated by the last of the reports listed above:

“Israeli aircraft bombed a tunnel under the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt on today, killing three Palestinians inside, medical workers said.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said aircraft attacked the tunnel after Gaza militants fired rockets into southern Israel yesterday, slightly wounding one soldier.

Palestinian medical workers said three workers in the tunnel, part of a system used mostly to smuggle goods and weapons into the Gaza Strip, were killed and six wounded when the tunnel collapsed in the attack.

Gaza’s smuggling tunnels, which still number in the hundreds despite air attacks and an Egyptian crackdown in which some have been blown up or flooded, are a frequent target of Israeli retaliation for attacks by Gaza’s armed Palestinian groups.

Smugglers send weapons and goods through tunnels to Gaza to circumvent an Israeli-led blockade.

The level of cross-border violence between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, had been relatively low in recent weeks.

In January, Israel ended a devastating three-week military offensive into the coastal territory aimed at ending Palestinian rocket fire into southern Israel.” [Israeli aircraft kill three Palestinians, August 25, 2009]

Here we have a report of the deaths of three Palestinians, killed by the Israeli military in Palestinian territory. They were working in one of the many tunnels constructed in order to “circumvent an Israeli-led blockade” and used to bring goods into Palestine. According to the report the tunnels are used for “smuggling“, the Palestinians are smugglers and the items being smuggled are “weapons“. They are therefore engaged in criminal, potentially violent activity, which by definition invites some sort of authoritative response.

There is no mention of the fact that, according to Amnesty International, “much of the available food [in Gaza] is provided by the UN and other aid agencies, or smuggled in through tunnels running under the Egypt-Gaza border.” Also unmentioned is the fact that the blockade or siege has been described by the United Nations as “collective punishment“, a “crime against humanity” and a “war crime.”

But the attack on the tunnels is not just framed as a pre-emptive security operation, it is of course a response to Palestinian violence, coming only “after Gaza militants fired rockets into southern Israel.” The tunnels are a “frequent target of Israeli retaliation for attacks by Gaza’s armed Palestinian groups.”

And, lest we missed the message, the closing line states emphatically that Israel’s “devastating three-week military offensive” into Gaza, which claimed over 1,400 lives, was carried out on the grounds of self-defence, since it was “aimed at ending Palestinian rocket fire into southern Israel.”

Yet the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, often referred to as the Goldstone report, states in its conclusions:

“The Gaza military operations were, according to the Israeli Government, thoroughly and extensively planned. While the Israeli Government has sought to portray its operations as essentially a response to rocket attacks in the exercise of its right to self-defence, the Mission considers the plan to have been directed, at least in part, at a different target: the people of Gaza as a whole.”

“In this respect, the operations were in furtherance of an overall policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population for its resilience and for its apparent support for Hamas, and possibly with the intent of forcing a change in such support.”

“When the Mission conducted its first visit to the Gaza Strip in early June 2009, almost five months had passed since the end of the Israeli military operations. The devastating effects of the operations on the population were, however, unequivocally manifest. In addition to the visible destruction of houses, factories, wells, schools, hospitals, police stations and other public buildings, the sight of families, including the elderly and children, still living amid the rubble of their former dwellings – no reconstruction possible due to the continuing blockade – was evidence of the protracted impact of the operations on the living conditions of the Gaza population. Reports of the trauma suffered during the attacks, the stress due to the uncertainty about the future, the hardship of life and the fear of further attacks, pointed to less tangible but not less real long-term effects.”

So instead of stating the findings of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission the Irish Times offers the Israeli Government narrative as fact.

And this in a report about the killing of three Palestinians attempting to bypass a crippling siege.

ESRI – Thought-provoking or depressing?

There’s another ESRI report out today. Below are two takes on it, one from a Nobel Prize winner in Economics and the other from the Editor of a newspaper that has an expensive sideline in property advertising and has championed fiscal consolidation since the ‘downturn’:

“In a thought-provoking excercise, published today, the ESRI sketches both a “high growth” rebound and a more plodding “low growth” pace of recovery.

Stronger international demand for Irish-made goods and services will act as an engine of growth, hauling the economy back to sustainable prosperity.

But the positive effect on the overall economic outlook of its upward revision for exports is more than offset by its more downbeat analysis of the costs of the banking crisis. These are far greater than it believed just 14 months ago.

[T]he ESRI concludes that even in its best- case scenario, the Government will need to introduce further budgetary consolidation measures, on top of those to which it has already committed, if it is to bring its budget deficit below 3 per cent of GDP by 2014, as it has targeted.

At a time when kites of many kinds are being launched in anticipation of the forthcoming budget, the ESRI flies its own. It suggests that there may be real benefits, in the short term and long, of a more front-loaded fiscal adjustment.

Specifically, the report’s lead author, Prof John FitzGerald, calls for the Government to consider a reduction in the deficit next year of €4 billion, rather than the planned €3 billion. This additional pain could yield gains in terms of lower debt servicing costs and higher investment. The Cabinet will begin its consideration of all these matters today.” [The Irish Times, July 21, 2010]

“There’s a new report out from Ireland’s Economic and Social Research Institute (pdf) calling for even more austerity, arguing that this will lead to faster economic growth. And the report looks authoritative: it’s full of charts and tables, and frequently refers to an underlying quantitative model.

What the careless reader might miss, however, is the fact that the policy conclusions are not, in fact, derived from the analysis — they come out of thin air. The authors simply assert that more austerity now would lead to a lower risk premium and hence higher growth, based on no evidence I can see. They don’t even offer any quantitative assessment of the extent to which more austerity while the economy is still depressed would reduce future debt burdens. In short, it’s a pure appeal to the confidence fairy.

One more thing: a key element in the ESRI analysis is the assumption that the financial crisis has permanently lowered Ireland’s growth track. That may be so — but if it is, a large part of the reason is the effect of a prolonged slump on investment and structural unemployment (the long-term unemployed tend to stay that way even after recovery). Now, some of us would argue that these effects suggest that government should do all they can to avoid prolonging the slump even further, that austerity may be self-defeating. But such concerns don’t even get mentioned.” [The New York Times, July 21, 2010]

US war on Afghanistan – “A more realistic perspective”

An Editorial in today’s Irish Times brings readers bang up-to-date on the US war on Afghanistan.

We are told “NATO…are quietly scaling down their commitment to it ahead of withdrawing troops,” while the US and UK are still willing to give military means one last chance before the inevitable “political negotiation with the Taliban.” As the costs continue to rise, their critics are not so confident, saying “it is time to scale down ambitions there and to reduce and redirect the military effort.”

Afghans are in agreement, they “do not want Nato there and support efforts to reach a political deal with the Taliban, based on the assumption that it is not a unified resistance run by al-Qaeda, but a coalition of regional and local opponents who could be attracted to an alternative path.”

An ‘assumption’ supported by at least onewestern official” in Afghanistan, who said in 2006:

“The name “Taliban” may be misleading, he explained – as certainly is the assumption that its insurgency is a simple black and white struggle of foreigners versus fundamentalists. “This is about narcotics, corruption, tribal tensions, warlordism, illegal armed groups, Arabs, Iranians, Chechens – and all of these factors are interrelated. You never know who you are dealing with. You probably have some guys working for good and bad at the same time.” [July 4, 2006]

The US legacy to Afghanistan is summarised as follows: “rampant insecurity, endemic corruption, widespread poverty and weak government.” Along with the possibility of “a new civil war” potentially resulting in “an effective partition between the north and south of the country, which could make parts of it even more of a haven for international terrorism.”

This analysis is interesting in several respects, the most obvious of which being that the story is told entirely from the perspective of those in Washington and London. According to the Times there are only two sides to the war: the proponents in the White House and Downing Street and the critics in the White House and Downing Street.

Long gone are the days when anti-war activists (the vast majority of the world, including Afghans) had a say in the matter, even if the reasons for their objections became entirely bastardized when squeezed through the journalistic editing process practiced at the Times: “They were never going to be convinced it could work, or convince a country that believes it has a right to strike back.” [October 10, 2001]
Another useful omission is the purpose of the whole bloody venture. The purpose of the war, which has gone through countless improbable iterations, now seems to be the idea of a courageous defeat, following Obama’s unfulfilled lofty ambitions of “reveres[ing] the recent impression of slow defeat or stalemate.” But lest we forget the original motive, finding and killing Osama bin Laden:

“The United States-led military riposte so intensively under preparation since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11th is now under way. A formidable force has been assembled to attack bases in Afghanistan used by the al-Qaeda organisation and its leader, Osama bin Laden, and the political and military infrastructure supporting them.” [October
08, 2001
]

“Nearly three weeks on from the beginning of the US-led military campaign against Afghanistan it is clear that its objectives are increasingly difficult to attain. There is little sign that the Taliban regime is close to collapse. It is proving difficult indeed to assemble an Afghan coalition that might replace it. The search for Osama bin Laden and his al-Queda organisation, blamed by the United States for the atrocities in New York and Washington on September 11th, has so far proved fruitless.” [October 26, 2001]

“It should be remembered that even if a major transition is successfully engineered in Afghanistan as a result of these events the objective of bringing the perpetrators of the attacks on New York and Washington to justice remain to be achieved. The chief suspects, Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organisation, are still at large.” [November
14, 2001
]

The “military victory” of this “this short war” “demonstrates the awesome effectiveness of modern US air power accurately deployed.” “It will allow the US-led campaign in pursuit of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organisation to go ahead unhindered and maybe successfully.” [December 7, 2001]

“The 18,000 US troops still deployed have failed to find Osama bin Laden despite inflicting huge casualties on his supporters.” [November 21, 2006]

No Weapons of Mass Destruction and no dead bogeyman. That’s 0 for 2 for the US military, unless that is, they had an ulterior motive?

[Image via Wikicommons "Pullout of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. 1988. Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev."]

I’ll eat my hat if the Irish Times publishes this

Madam

Given the significance of the Corrib gas project to the Irish economy and the highly controversial nature of the way it has been carried out so far it beggars belief that severe criticism of the project from no less a person than a former Norwegian oil company board member does not get front page billing in The Irish Times.  On the 12th of July another of Lorna Siggins’ scrupulously accurate pieces about Corrib was once again buried in the paper despite the importance of its content.

Could your muted coverage be explained by Managing Editor, Peter Murtagh’s documented hostility towards the local people who oppose the project for all the reasons identified by Mr Stein Bredal?  When an experienced oilman observes that just about everything is wrong with the project – from the location of the pipeline and refinery to the terms on which the deal was done this is big news indeed.  Mr Bredal also refers to the tried and trusted tactic of oil and gas companies who set out to manipulate the media to act against local communities by accusing them of being ‘crazies and fundamentalists’.  This is exactly what has happened in much of the Irish media in relation to Corrib, with Mr Murtagh being among those most willing to lead the charge against people under enormous stress, including many incidences of physical assault and, according to Pat O’ Donnell, the threatened use of guns.  Two men are now scandalously in jail on dubious charges for opposing the Corrib project on entirely legitimate grounds – both of them caricatured by the media exactly as Mr Bredal describes.

Of course Peter Murtagh is by no means alone.  Pat Kenny for RTE, for example, has marked him every inch of the way in helping to promote a mountain of widespread media inaccuracies about the protest such as claiming that the pipe in Mayo is no different to the domestic pipes that are under the streets of Dublin.   In fact the pipeline in Mayo would be running at up to five times the pressure and will contain volatile, untreated gas close to some people’s homes – allowing them just 30 seconds of life in the event of a rupture.  I wonder what the story would be if the pipeline and refinery were located outside their own front doors or in whatever no doubt leafy suburb or satellite of Dublin they live in? Is there any siginificance in the fact that Shell Oil’s most senior PR representative in Ireland, Mr John Egan, was previously an RTE reporter, well known to his former colleagues and friends in the small world that is the Irish media?

The IMF have just ordered Brian Lenihan to discover another E3.5bn from the wages of Irish people but still no editorial from the Editor of Ireland’s paper of record calling for a root and branch reappraisal of our disgraceful oil and gas licensing terms though we so desperately need it.  Meanwhile, Mr Connor Lenihan has confidently announced that there could not be a BP/Gulf of Mexico type of disaster in Irish waters.  If ever The Fates were tempted, they surely were by that.

And I will eat my hat if this letter is actually published.
Yours sincerely
Miriam Cotton
Editor
MediaBite

The BBC’s random complaint response generator

Below is the response from the BBC Complaints department to this email, sent over a month ago.

Thank you for contacting us about ‘Freedom Flotilla’.I understand you felt the coverage of the Israeli armed forces attack on the Gaza ‘Freedom Flotilla’ was bias against Israel. I have added your views to our audience log. This is the internal report of audience reaction which we compile daily and which is circulated to all programme makers, commissioning executives and senior management. Your points, with other comments we received, are therefore circulated and considered across the BBC.

The BBC places very high importance on achieving impartiality in its coverage of the Middle East and all other issues and strongly rejects allegations of bias for or against either Israel or the Palestinians.

From its Middle East Bureau in West Jerusalem, the BBC is well placed to report the Israeli point of view and the office is visited frequently by senior Israeli officials appearing on-air. Israeli Government spokesman Mark Regev makes regular appearances and has done so during these events too. Other interviewees include such prominent Israelis as Israeli cabinet minister Benny Begin, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, David Horowitz of the Jerusalem Post and Gerald Steinberg of the Israeli organisation NGO Monitor.

We have of course also had frequent contributions from our correspondent Wyre Davies who was gathering information inside Israel. We also carried the press conference given by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In addition, our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen has reported from both Jerusalem and Gaza throughout these events. We are scrupulous at all times to try to ensure our coverage remains fair and balanced.

I do understand you feel strongly about this, so let me reassure you that I have added your views to our audience log mentioned above. We appreciate all viewers comments as this helps us in future decision making when producing programmes.

Thank you once again for taking the time to contact us.

Kind Regards
BBC Audience Services

News or advertising?

Flicking through a copy of the Irish Times someone had discarded in a cafe the other day I came across this half page spread. At first glance it appeared to be ‘news’, but without a name to go with the article and the words ‘Commercial Report’ emblazoned above in tiny writing, it seems the article is actually an advertisement. I thought this kind of thing was only done in the Metro Herald.

‘Officials say’, ‘officials say’, ‘officials say’, ‘according to an official’

Below is an exchange with a senior journalist from the Irish Times, who takes issue with our latest MediaShot ‘The false reality of news journalism’ – Reporting Palestine and the Mavi Marmara.

David:

I did not manage to get beyond the second paragraph of this because of your self-serving selective quote from the report to which you refer. You say below: “An Israeli naval patrol killed at least four Palestinians…on their way to carry out a terror attack.”

But the Reuter report, as published on our breaking news service, said: “An Israeli naval patrol spotted a boat with four men in diving suits on their way to carry out a terror attack and fired at them,” an Israeli army spokesman said, adding that the patrol had confirmed hitting its targets (emphasis added).

We therefore anchored the claim of motivation firmly where it belongs – with an Israeli army spokesman. It is the duty of the media to report assertions of both sides, as we did in this case.

If you are going to throw stones, you’d need to do rather better than this.

[Name withheld]

I responded:

[Name withheld],

That’s exactly the point made in the piece. As Fisk says further on in the piece: ‘officials say’, ‘officials say’, ‘officials say’, ‘according to an official’.

With regards the opening reference, clearly we’re reading different reports. The report leads with a two paragraph justification from the Israeli military. It is followed by a statement from Hamas officials confirming the deaths. The report then mentions the flotilla attack, before adding a short tit for tat and then concluding with the journalists own commentary, corroborating the Israeli official’s ‘claim of motivation’: “Palestinian militants in Gaza frequently try to attack Israeli border patrols and sporadically fire rockets and mortar bombs at Israel. In February, Palestinian militant groups in Gaza sent explosive devices, thought to be primitive sea mines, out to sea intending to hit naval vessels. At least three devices washed up on Israeli beaches and were detonated by sappers.”

I can’t imagine a situation where if Hamas’ military wing conducted assaults in Israeli territory killing a number of Israelis (military or otherwise) the Irish Times would publish reports leading with ‘claims of motivation’ from Hamas officials, followed by a short sentence from Israel confirming the deaths, followed again by a couple of paragraphs about, for instance, the number of attacks launched by Israel over the last couple of years or maybe reference to the number of Palestinians killed during ‘Operation Cast Lead’.

In the same way I couldn’t imagine a situation where if the Turkish military killed 9 Israelis the Irish Times would publish an opinion article by the Turkish ambassador 7 days before they published one from the Israeli ambassador.

Here’s another few examples. I’ve just plugged the words ‘palestinian’ ‘attack’ ‘israel’ into the Irish Times archive.

5 Palestinian “militants” killed by Israeli troops. Only Israeli viewpoint sought.

5 Palestinian “militants” killed by Israeli troops. Confirmation of the deaths by both Israeli and Hamas officials. Context for the killing provided by Israeli official only: “Before the Israeli air strike took place, militants fired two rockets from coastal Gaza, both striking near the city of Ashkelon and causing no casualties, a military spokesman said.”

1 Palestinian “gunman” killed by Israeli troops. Israeli statement sought only. Context provided as follows: “Hamas has been urging smaller militant groups to refrain from launching attacks against Israel, which carried out a devastating military offensive in the Gaza Strip 17 months ago with the aim of halting cross-border rocket fire. Israeli air strikes targeted tunnels in the northern and southern Gaza Strip this morning after Palestinian militants fired two rockets that landed in fields inside Israel. The Israeli army says that some 350 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip since Israel ended its military offensive there in January 2009. More than 3,000 rockets and mortar rounds were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip in 2008.”

1 Palestinian “militant” killed by Israeli troops. Israeli officials dominate report. Palestinian officials relegated to closing lines.

1 Palestinian “militant” killed by Israeli troops. Only Israeli viewpoint sought. Palestinian statement used to confirm deaths only.

1 Palestinian “militant” killed by Israeli troops. Only Israeli viewpoint sought. Palestinian statement used to confirm deaths only.

1 Palestinian “militant” killed by Israeli troops. Only Israeli viewpoint sought. Palestinian statement used to confirm deaths only.

2 Palestinian “militants” killed by Israeli troops. Only Israeli viewpoint sought. Palestinian statement used to confirm deaths only.

3 Palestinians killed by Israeli military. Israeli statement comes first, followed by Palestinian statement. The Palestinian statement is broken by commentary: “Palestinian medical workers said three workers in the tunnel, part of a system used mostly to smuggle goods and weapons into the Gaza Strip, were killed and six wounded when the tunnel collapsed in the attack.”

No one is throwing stones. The Times’ record speaks for itself.

Best wishes,

David