Letters

Readers respond to Eric Boehlert's "Manufacturing a Massacre."


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Salon Staff
November 24, 2002 5:10AM (UTC)

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At one point in an otherwise excellent deconstruction of media coverage about the so-called Shabbat massacre, writer Eric Boehlert states: "But there is an important difference, particularly in how the world sees the conflict, between opening fire on unarmed worshipers and targeting trained soldiers, who many Palestinians see as part of an illegal occupying force."

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"... who many Palestinians see as part of an illegal occupying force"? Why the CNN-esque formulation? There is nothing subjective about Israel's status as an occupying force. That Israel's relationship with the West Bank (which includes Jerusalem) and Gaza Strip can be described as a "military occupation" is an internationally accepted fact. The phrase is regularly used in official resolutions and documents published by the U.N. and the U.S. State Department, and it is regularly used by Israeli leaders and the Israeli press.

To cast the Israeli occupation, involving tens of thousands of Israeli troops and hundreds of Israeli tanks -- all stationed outside Israel's borders -- as a figment of "many Palestinians'" imaginations is to contradict the intent of Boehlert 's otherwise revealing look through the fog of Israeli government spin.

-- Nigel Parry and Ali Abunimah

Really? The media is not correcting the false accounts of a massacre of Jewish worshipers in Hebron? You mean the same media that did such a great job correcting the brazenly false accounts of 500 Palestinians supposedly massacred in Jenin, and the same media that went out of its way to point out that independent investigations showed that Mohammad Al-Durra -- the 12-year-old Palestinian boy who was killed in the arms of his father and became the symbol of the second intifada -- was most likely shot by Palestinian gunmen?

By the second day after the Hebron attack, the Israeli media criticized the initial reports of the attack and characterized them as "spin" (see the Haaretzdaily.com coverage). However, the American media loves a massacre -- the more shocking, the better. They cover every incident rapidly and inaccurately; later stories that report the truth are not nearly as inflammatory, as likely to catch people's eyes and then lead them to the adjacent ads, so those stories hardly get any play. And it's usually the Israeli side that gets this raw deal.

-- Irina Raicu

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While Eric Boehlert makes a valid point about the media's failure to correct reports about the targets of the Palestinian gunmen in Hebron, he is off-base in describing the "idea that gunmen would open fire on unarmed worshipers as they walked home from prayer" as "demented." History is rife with instances of military and terrorist attacks during holidays, prayers, etc., and it certainly wouldn't be the first instance that Palestinians attacked Israelis during a sacred time.

As an aside, perhaps someone can explain how it's worse to be killed after prayer than after dancing in a nightclub or eating at a restaurant.

-- Tom Maddox

I was encouraged to see Boehlert's article chastising the U.S. news media for its unquestioning regurgitation of Israeli propaganda regarding the successful Palestinian attack on Israeli occupation forces in Hebron. It wasn't just the newspapers that parroted Netanyahu's line -- I listened with disappointment to National Public Radio's Linda Gradstein on Sunday, Nov. 17, still repeating the already debunked claims that Palestinians had attacked civilians. Now we are watching the media repeat the same pattern regarding the supposed El Al "hijacking" attempt -- which appears so far to be a case of Israeli propaganda spinning an incident of air rage as "terrorism."

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The Palestinian operation against the Israeli military in Hebron should be commended by those who criticize terrorism. This attack, unlike most Israeli attacks on Palestinians, seems to have been designed to minimize civilian casualties.

-- Dylan Schwilk

Jewish soldiers are in Hebron to ensure that Jews have the same freedom to worship at the Tomb of the Patriarchs that Muslims enjoy. The Israeli soldiers were in Hebron on Friday evening for the explicit purpose of ensuring access to this holy site for Jewish prayers. Eric Boehlert's argument is equivalent to saying that it is all right to shoot the bus driver, as long as the school children are spared. Or fine to kill the pilot, just not the innocent passengers. Without the protection of uniformed soldiers, there is no freedom of worship for Jews in Hebron.

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-- Diana Muir

If the gunmen were aiming only at soldiers and not unarmed settlers, then this attack is the exception and not the rule. Why would Netanyahu and/or Sharon need to fabricate a massacre to justify the occupation when they have a long list of real massacres to use: the killing of five people on a kibbutz last week, including two children and their mother who was reading them a bedtime story; people dancing at a bat mitzvah; Israelis eating in restaurants, [gathering in] nightclubs, sitting on buses, etc. The list goes on and on.

Mr. Boehlert has a tough task in defending the Palestinians. So many of their methods are despicable that the one time they take care not to harm civilians must be given maximum exposure to mask all their other crimes.

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-- David Lasky

Who is the author trying to kid? The Palestinians, among other radical Islamic terrorists, have no problem targeting civilians, even children. Let's look at the situation closer -- were the soldiers closest? If you wanted to kill many people, would you first kill the soldiers, who were firing at you, or at the civilians? Perhaps the intent was correctly portrayed in the headlines, and the settlers would have died had the Palestinian terrorists killed the soldiers faster.

By the way, I have no sympathy for the settlers in their quest to push the Palestinians out of the occupied territories. This is an unreasonable provocation. There is no doubt in my mind that the Palestinians and Israelis deserve each other --- they seem to be trying to outdo each other with regard to gruesome acts of terror. May someone force these people to understand how a settlement can be reached.

-- Daniel Sheehan

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Thank you for your very well-written article. The more we try to get at the truth, the closer we can come to resolving the otherwise intractable problem between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

-- Saad Husain

Thank you for your article describing the distorted news stories about the recent shootings in Hebron. To seek the truth regarding the complex and tragic conflict in the Middle East is not only important journalism, but a mitzvah as well.

-- Maia Ettinger

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