West Bank Shooting Reveals WaPo Bias
Both the Washington Post and the New York Times reported in their Jan. 16 editions the fatal shooting of a Palestinian youth by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank village of Budrus. But they differed sharply about the circumstances that led to the death of Samir Awad.
In the Washington Post version (''Troops kill teen near West Bank barrier" page A7), Jerusalem correspondent Joel Greenberg starts off by telling readers in his lead paragraph that "Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian teenager near Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank."
Amplifying on the circumstances, Greenberg writes in his second paragraph that "the shooting at Budrus, west of Ramallah, occurred when a group of high school students, out walking after first-semester final exams, approached the fence that runs outside the village."
Seems like a peaceful scene of Palestinian youngsters taking a walk before Awad gets gunned down. Later in his article, Greenberg provides some additional details, still pointing a finger at Israel:
● An IDF spokeswoman says that the students tried to damage the barrier in an attempt to "infiltrate into Israel and soldiers, following rules of engagement, shot at one of them."
● Also, according to villagers, Awad was shot as he fled soldiers who had been hiding in a trench near the fence. According to these villagers, Awad first was shot in the leg as soldiers tried to arrest him, they then fired at him again "as he tried to run away."
Greenberg also reports that an Israeli self-described human rights group, B'Tselem, produced photos showing that the youth had wounds in the chest and head. And Greenberg questions why the soldiers couldn't have used non-lethal means.
In sum, Greenberg leaves an inescapable impression that the Palestinian youths staged a peaceful, nonviolent protest, while Israeli soldiers were too quick on the draw.
Except -- and it's a huge except -- Greenberg fails to provide a critically important detail which can be found in the New York Times version ("Israeli soldiers kill Palestinian at Barrier," page A10) and, incidentally, also in a Palestinian wire service dispatch. In her report, the Times' Jerusalem correspondent, Isabel Kershner informs readers that the head of the Palestinian village told the independent Palestinian news agency Maan that "a group of students leaving the village high school after an examination threw stones at Israeli soldiers gathered nearby and that the soldiers responded with live fire."
No such account appears in Greenberg's version, yet it would seem to be essential in reconstituting what actually happened. The fact that Palestinian teens instigated the incident by hurling stones at Israeli soldiers puts an entirely different light on the matter than does Greenberg's portrayal of peaceful, nonviolent teens encountering live fire from IDF soldiers.
There is a long history of stone-throwing Palestinian incidents that have resulted in critical injuries and death. In this case, the more credible version would seem to be that Palestinian youths -- not Israeli soldiers -- turned a confrontation into something violent. This version comes not from the Israeli side but from Palestinian sources -- the Maan news agency and the Palestinian head of the village.
Kershner's piece lays out all available reports from the scene -- without being judgmental. In contrast, Greenberg's piece, accusatory from the start, degenerates into an indictment of the IDF, conveniently omitting Palestinian-sourced accounts that throw a quite different light on this unfortunate incident.
Greenberg has an agenda. And does it ever show!
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers