The New York Times, which the Israeli government has accused of being unfairly biased against Israel, has apologized for incorrectly reporting that a terrorist freed in the Shalit deal only ”threw stones and hanged PA flags.”
The mistake was discovered by the CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) media watchdog organization and illustrates the difficulty of mainstream media's relying on sources, particularly concerning Arab allegations against Israel. The incident also is another case of poor dissemination of Israeli government information.
Jerusalem-based journalist Ethan Bronner, in reporting the second stage of the terrorists-for-Shalit deal Sunday, named only one of those released and stated that he was arrested three years ago at the age of 15 for "throwing stones and hanging Palestinian flags from telephone poles.”
In fact, the terrorist, identified as Izzedine Abu Sneineh, was reported by the Israel Prisoners Services as having been convicted and sentenced for “weapons training; attempted murder” and possession of “weapons/ammo/explosives.”
After being informed by Aruz Sheva of the CAMERA charges, Bronner replied that he sent a correction to the Times. He explained to Arutz Sheva, “I should not have taken his grandmother’s description, given to me in Ramallah last night, as fact. Earlier in the day I had examined the list of convictions of those being freed and in a substantial number of cases the charge was limited to ‘throwing stones – nationalist motives.’ But Abu Sneineh’s case was not one of those.”
Perhaps because of the quick discovery by CAMERA and Arutz Sheva’s notification, the Times was able to make the correction, something that is rarely done in mainstream media because of the lack of immediate contact between the government and the media.
In this case, the Prisoner Services did not display all the information in English that it did in Hebrew. When Arutz Sheva checked the list of prisoners on Sunday, the Hebrew site issued a full description of the crimes committee by the terrorists and prisoners, including until what year they were to serve in prison. The English site omitted this information and left reporters with having to contact a Justice Ministry information center for more information.
Bronner pointed out to Arutz Sheva that misinformation is not one-sided. CAMERA wrote in its critique on Bronner, “And why did the ludicrous claim that Israel imprisons children for years just for throwing stones and hanging flags ring true to Bronner? The journalist replied that the list of those released indeed included dozens of Arabs who were jailed for throwing stones.
However, lost between the lines is that “throwing stones” is often not just a childish prank but is nothing short of a terrorist attack that is aimed at trying to cause fatal crashes. This is exactly what happened two months ago when a “rock-thrower” smashed the windshield of the car of Asher Palmer, who lost control of the vehicle that then crashed into a guard rail and killed him and his baby son.
A familiar example of mis-reporting is mainstream’s media relying on “official” Palestinian Authority and Hamas news sources that almost daily accuse “settlers” and soldiers of acts that are routinely reported as fact but which usually are found to be totally baseless.
After almost every Israel counterterrorist action in Gaza or in Judea and Samaria, Arab sources say that the victims include Arabs who are mentally retarded, pregnant, insane or elderly. The allegations are almost never checked by mainstream journalists.
When Arutz Sheva once asked an IDF spokesman concerning an allegation in the Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency of a supposed IDF incursion, the off-the-record response was that the spokespeople are fed up checking outright lies that are reported as news.