Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Reuters: Israelis are racist, gun-toting thrill-seekers (but we didn't say it)

Reuters Middle East correspondents frequently pen “human interest stories” in an effort to peddle their own point of view without having to declare their work as an op-ed. We have previously linked to several examples of such stories clearly intended to paint the Palestinian Arabs as oppressed victims of Israeli aggression and inequity and to elicit sympathy from the reader.

While Reuters’ consistently fails to report on the culture of violence endemic in Palestinian Arab society and ingrained in Palestinian children, its correspondents diligently pursue opportunities to portray Israeli society in this light from a variety of angles including the human interest format.

In "Terrorist" targets popular at West Bank gun range, Erika Solomon tells the tale of an Israeli anti-terrorism course in Gush Etzion where Israelis, Americans, and Europeans learn to shoot “everything from handguns to M-16 combat rifles”.

Through her storytelling, Solomon wants the reader to buy several notions she is peddling. First, that Israel is teaching its children to use violence:
“Sharon Gat… steadies a little girl who comes up to his gunbelt. They're holding a rifle almost as big as she is.”
Second, that Israelis are racists. Here, Solomon cherry picks a quote from one of the participants:
"It could indoctrinate children with racist beliefs. It was sad to hear young kids express such racism."
Next, is an association between Zionism and the use of violence:
“… Gat says his course is not just about shooting guns; it also teaches "Zionist values."
Finally, that the Israelis consider this a lot of fun:
"Gat says his anti-terrorism theme is mostly for excitement."
Conspicuously missing from Solomon's story on the weapons training at Gush Etzion is any account of the devastating history of that community which amongst other appalling events, includes the massacre of 240 Jewish residents who had surrendered to an Arab army in May of 1948.

Perhaps the significance -- and irony -- is lost on her.


  1. Also missing is any justificaton for the scare-quote headline, which suggests that the range targets look like terrorists. Nowhere in the story does this claim appear. Also, I was troubled by the quote from an American visitor saying that he overheard children excitedly talking about "shooting Arabs." How, I wondered, could he understand what the children were saying? Were they speaking in English? I found myself wondering if these children were even Israelis.

  2. Diane, thanks for the comment. It's unlikely an Israeli child would have made the alleged comment in English. Solomon tells us that there were Americans attending the course so if "James" didn't translate, it most likely was an American. It was an offensive comment but Solomon has clearly cherry-picked it to reflect badly on Israel and we have never seen a Reuters piece that even begins to scratch the surface of the vile antisemitism endemic in Arab society. Ultimately, that's the main problem with Reuters' Middle East reporting; it's not even-handed.