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A Beating in Jerusalem

The Washington Post and New York Times present two rather different accounts of the beating of a young Palestinian in Jerusalem. Per the Times [1], which follows closely the Israeli media’s description of what occurred:

Seven Israeli teenagers were in custody on Monday, accused of what a police official and several witnesses described as an attempted lynching [2] of several Palestinian [3] youths … A 15-year-old suspect standing outside court said, “For my part he can die, he’s an Arab.” The police said that scores of Jewish youths were involved in the attack late Thursday in West Jerusalem’s Zion Square, leaving one 17-year-old unconscious and hospitalized. Hundreds of bystanders watched the mob beating, the police said — and no one intervened.

The article continues:

The police said Thursday’s beating of Mr. Julani, who regained consciousness in the hospital on Sunday, resulted from a brawl after a girl in a crowd of Israeli youths complained that she had been harassed by an Arab. Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, said the girl had spurred the crowd to seek vengeance, though her lawyer denied that on Israel Radio on Monday. The crowd then arbitrarily focused on Mr. Julani and his friends, Mr. Rosenfeld said, beating Mr. Julani until he lost consciousness. …

[Julani’s] cousin, Muhammad Mujahid, 17, said he and four friends were walking in the square and suddenly found themselves being chased by a group of youths. “They were shouting ‘Arabs, death to Arabs,’ ” he said. “I saw about 50 people chasing us. We ran, but about 10 of them caught Jamal.”

The incident shocked many Israelis and there was considerable commentary regarding it, mostly deploring the attack:

Nimrod Alonithe head of the Institute for Educational Thought at a Tel Aviv teachers college, said, “this cannot just be an expression of something he has heard at home.” “This is directly tied to national fundamentalism that is the same as the rhetoric of neo-Nazis, Taliban and K.K.K.,” Mr. Aloni said. “This comes from an entire culture that has been escalating toward an open and blunt language based on us being the chosen people who are allowed to do whatever we like.”

So what does the Post report? “Seven people, mostly Jewish youths, have been arrested on suspicion of assaulting a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem.” Why did it occur?  “The incident snowballed, and the Jewish group verbally abused and violently attacked.” No other details of what actually happened were provided by the Post, which took its material from a Reuters dispatch [4] and then edited out much of the reporting to tell the story in a truncated form. The account appeared in the Post’s print edition but does not appear on its website, though another story [5] “Attacks on Palestinians, presumed by Jews, kindles debate on state of Israeli values” sourced to AP did subsequently appear online providing more details, after an earlier version of the same article reduced the incident to one sentence: “On Friday, a group of Jewish youths beat up a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem, where he remains in hospital.”

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Even though the Post has a correspondent in Israel, the coverage of the story is limited to edited replay of two wire services. Someone learning about the incident only from the Post might note various versions of the story and could easily obtain what appears to be a deliberately skewed account of what had occurred. Based on the earlier versions, some readers might conclude that it was little more than two groups of teenagers involved in a gang fight. Unfortunately, when it comes to Israel/Palestine far too much of the news goes through gatekeepers like the Washington Post.

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#1 Comment By Sheldon On August 22, 2012 @ 10:27 am

No one outside Washington reads the Post, and probably fewer within it do as well. Under Hiatt it has become a neocon rag.