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June 18, 2015 2:54 pm

Watchdog Slams AFP for ‘Completely Unreasonable’ Report on Death of Palestinian Firebomber

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Arab teen aims slingshot at Israeli security forces in Jerusalem clash (illustration, photo: Dave Bender)

A Palestinian in the West Bank was killed by the IDF after throwing Molotov cocktails at Israeli soldiers. Photo: Dave Bender.

The famed Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency distorted its coverage over the weekend in an attempt to portray Israeli soldiers as deliberately attacking a West Bank Palestinian, a media watchdog group told The Algemeiner on Wednesday.

AFP ran the contested story on June 14 under the headline “Israel Army Kills West Bank Palestinian.” The article began saying that Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian man “in the occupied West Bank” by hitting him with their jeep. Only in the third paragraph is it explained, in a single sentence, that the Palestinian died after he threw a Molotov cocktail at the vehicle. The driver attempted to steer away from the ambush but the vehicle overturned onto the attacker.

Failing to mention a vital piece of information early on in the report is AFP’s attempt to highlight “notions of Israeli wrongdoing” and also minimize the role Palestinians play in their own suffering, Dexter Van Zile, a media analyst at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), told The Algemeiner.

“What happens is that people omit what happened before the Israelis act,” he explained, “and in this instance it was clearly an instance of – do they honestly think the driver of the truck put his own life at risk by intentionally flipping an armored car over onto a Palestinian? Because that’s what the narrative seems to indicate and that’s just completely unreasonable.”

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Van Zile has visited the West Bank and witnessed firsthand the confrontation between Jews and Palestinians. He told The Algemeiner he has seen peace activists and journalists focus all their attention on the Israelis, trying to get pictures of “Jews behaving badly.”

“And if AFP has to distort the story in order to provide their readership with that narrative that’s what it will do,” he continued.

Van Zile also faulted the way the perspective of the narrative changes so quickly in media coverage of Israeli-Palestinian confrontations. He said the media tends to “lionize” young Palestinians as heroes for standing up against Israeli soldiers and putting their lives at risk. However, the moment the young men are killed in a confrontation – either as a result of rock throwing or fire bombs – Van Zile said, “then all of the sudden the responsibility shifts immediately away from the young Palestinian men to the Israeli soldiers.”

“Just a few moments before, that Palestinian who is risking his life [is] being lionized for risking his life for a very unjust cause, and when the Israelis defend themselves and Palestinians die, then immediately the responsibility goes 100 percent on the shoulders of the Israeli soldiers.”

The AFP did not respond to The Algemeiner‘s request for a comment.

CAMERA has previously admonished AFP for falsely accusing Israel of wrongdoing. The news outlet was caught misreporting in February after it published a news report and video claiming that Israel deliberately flooded Gaza by opening dams. AFP pulled the story after CAMERA exposed that no such dams exist in the Gaza vicinity.

More recently, CAMERA prompted the AFP to correct an article which claimed that 17 “journalists” were killed covering the Israel-Hamas war last summer. The figure was claimed by Palestinians but disputed by the Israeli Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, which argued that eight of the 17 were Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror operatives, or worked for Hamas or Islamic Jihad media outfits.

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