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December 27, 2017 10:16 am

Coverage of Gaza Amputee’s Death Showed UK Media at Its Worst

avatar by Aron White

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Ibrahim Abu Thuraya, shortly before his death, Dec. 15, 2017. Photo: Reuters / Mohammed Salem.

There’s been much media attention given to the death of Ibrahim Abu Thuraya at the Gaza border, during violent Palestinian protests earlier this month. But very serious questions have been raised about the story.

Media outlets that reported the story should have been more careful in their initial reporting, and should now issue retractions and apologies in light of the new evidence that has come to light.

A screenshot from The Independent.

There were two central parts of the story that have now been seriously called into question.

It was originally reported that:

a) Abu Thuraya was a Palestinian fisherman, who lost his legs in an Israeli air strike during Operation Cast Lead in 2008.

b) Abu Thuraya was shot in the head and killed by the IDF on December 15, in a “shocking and wanton act.”

But facts have now emerged that seriously challenge both of these assertions.

Abu Thuraya was, in fact, a terrorist — and he injured his legs in that context. Initially, Abu Thuraya was a militant in Fatah’s Force 17 commando unit, and he was shot three times in the leg in 2005 by Hamas fighters — during the inter-Palestinian fighting between Fatah and Hamas. (This was reported by none other than The Independent, in 2005).

Moreover, there are also now serious questions as to what actually happened on December 15, 2017.

The initial IDF report last week said that the military found no evidence that live fire had been directed at Abu Thuraya. The IDF investigation also found that there were no moral or professional failures on the part of the IDF. This IDF claim was repeated on Saturday by Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, who stated that there is “no basis” that Abu Thuraya was shot by an IDF sniper.

Given the IDF statement, and the fact that the Hamas Health Ministry refused to cooperate with the IDF investigation, media reports that Abu Thuraya was killed by an IDF sniper are based entirely on unsubstantiated Hamas claims.

Indeed, the source of the initial accusation that the IDF shot and killed Abu Thuraya was presented in the Guardian as a statement from “Gazan medical officials.” This obfuscates the fact that those officials work for the Hamas government. In sum: the IDF was accused by members of a designated terrorist organisation sworn to the destruction of Israel, not some objective bystanders. Such a claim should never have been taken at face value, or — at the very least — it should have been presented as a claim, not a fact.

When ISIS controlled Raqqa, if the ISIS Health Ministry had accused the coalition of civilian casualties, would this accusation be quoted as fact, coming from “Iraqi medical officials”?

Furthermore, the media is not learning the lesson from its past mistakes. Coverage of this story followed a similar pattern of media coverage of Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

During that war, Hamas officials in Gaza accused Israel of atrocities, claiming that Israel was indiscriminately bombing Gaza, resulting in a high ratio of civilian casualties. UN agencies unquestioningly quoted these statistics, and Israel was accused in the media of heinous crimes.

Only when the dust settled — when proper analysis could actually be done — did it become clear that the accusations were exaggerated; the true picture made it clear that Israel had achieved historically low levels of civilian casualties.

The Head of Statistics at BBC News, after analyzing the figures, warned that “caution was needed” in analyzing statistics from the Gaza war. But that warning came after the war had finished; the lies had already been propagated and spread, before they could be debunked. Caution is needed not after the fact, but in the initial reporting.

It surely should be a pretty simple rule: if the story originates with Hamas, treat it with extreme caution.

More broadly, a story should not be run simply because it fits with a narrative of Israel as the aggressor. Journalists need to check their sources, and be critical and questioning (yes, even of Palestinians, and yes, even of emotive stories). In that way, and only in that way, can media outlets bring fair and accurate reports to news consumers.

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  • Gerry Wright

    The whole thing should have been covered up immediately, shame on the British Press for reporting it. The people who allowed this story to be released are the real villains. Not one single Palestinian should be allowed to own a cell phone, this is what happens.

  • Lauren Janell

    This is why I try not to pay much attention to the Israeli/”Palestinian” conflict. There’s always two sides

  • Elliott

    Just more fake news from the left stream U.K. media 🤢💩

    • Gerry Wright

      Someone needs to buy BBC and put stop to these stories.

  • Kris Kristian

    As usual, the media “are there” before anything happens.
    This was a staged show. This terrorist was shot by one of his own friends, so that the media can once again, blame Israel.
    Has the TV cameras been able to show that any member of the IDF actually shot him?
    Certainly not.
    And the world media esp. BBC, CNN etc have once again condemned the IDF .with out any proof.
    But they have never condemned the stabbing, cars driven into bus stops etc
    Let us also go back some years ago, tyo the Al Dura boy story. The media was there, before anything happend
    That boy was in total fear for his life.
    The IDF was accused o killing that boy
    Yet, there was no blood anywhere.
    He was not killed.
    And this was proven in a court case.
    Time for Israel to cancel the media licences, and to expel those whores who are obviously paid well to do this.
    Expel them from Israel and never allow them to return.
    The only time that Israel must allow the media into the country, is if they swear to show the truth

  • Michael

    Obviously, fake news is not limited to the corrupt leftist media in the US. Journalism today is little more than contrived political bias disguised as news.

  • Pepper Wingate

    More bull has been published by the mainstream media based on Hamas lies.

  • Michael Garfinkel

    Everyone knows the BBC and the rest of the U.K. media is virulent in its hatred of Israel, and that hatred stands in stark contrast to the sympathy shown to Hamas, not just in this incident, but often, and over many years.

  • Marshall Schwartz

    While there is no question that both Hamas and Fatah functionaries lie almost all the time, it is important to remember that they do this not because they are Palestinians, not because they are Arabs, and not because they are Muslims. The underlying reason is that they have always lived under the thumb (fist?) of dictatorial or autocratic regimes — where telling the truth is more likely than not to get you imprisoned or killed by the government. When the truth is worthless, lies and myths will prevail.

    • Gerry Wright

      That would be George Soros, (lies and myths) imagine the good his money could do. How many desalinization plants could his money build?

  • Efram Paul

    They should receive an apology, but they will not. These so-called journalists have long since ceased reporting facts and substituted bigoted editorials. They accept what Hamas says because THEY ARE ON HAMAS’ SIDE. It is like those who say Obama made mistakes in judgment. He did no such thing. His goals, which convinced him to run for president in the first place, were the support of terrorism and increasing anti-Israeli and antisemitism in the US. He acted as quickly as he could, knowing full well that the vast majority of Americans would disapprove of his actions. But, from day one, he did all he could to bring his goals to fruition, capped off with the obscene UN resolution he engineered in his last hours on the throne.

  • LtcHoward

    Haaretz reported these lies as facts. The newspaper and the writer should be sued by all IDF troops present for libel.

    • Gerry Wright

      I have heard there is Qatari money that is keeping Haaretz running. Whoever sold Haaretz to Qatari’s should face arrest.