July 08, 2008

Humanizing the Muslim murderer

Muslim pimple-faced bastard pig murderer and fortunately for the rest of us, now rotting dead, impotent, flaccid, and powerless in his grave, unfulfilled in his desire to destroy Israel and Jews, having died for something called allah - a ripoff of the real and living Jewish God - and a complete failure pissed on by rats and waterbugs - vermin equivalent to the level of his dark, black, vicious, filthy soul

In the immediate aftermath of the Palestinian bulldozer rampage, which killed three Israelis and injured dozens more, HonestReporting focused on the headlines on the BBC’s website. The headlines went from "Israel bulldozer driver shot dead" to "Bulldozer rampage hits Jerusalem" and finally settled on "Deadly Jerusalem bulldozer attack."

The BBC, however, was not the only media outlet that raised eyebrows with its coverage. Numerous news outlets, including newspapers that provided otherwise honest and fair coverage of the day's events, placed surprising emphasis on the attacker's motives to humanize him and "explain" his actions.

The British Daily Telegraph for example, noted that the attacker, Hussam Dwayat, "never recovered from a doomed romance with a young Jewish woman." The Toronto Star added that Dwayat "had been fined $50,000 for building his house without a permit, and a demolition order was on file…That might explain Dwaith’s motivation in the attack."

A Jerusalem Post editorial took a good look at some of the other offenders:

Why did Hussam Taysir Dwayat do it? The hasty and erroneous answer offered by an overwhelming number of news outlets amounted to: "It's the occupation, stupid." That is the type of "context" one would expect from Al-Jazeera, which described the rampage as an "operation."

Yet even the otherwise fine coverage provided by The New York Times was marred, apparently by editors, who inserted a tendentious paragraph about... bulldozers: "Caterpillar equipment has a special resonance among Palestinians. Human rights activists have lobbied the company to stop selling its heavy vehicles to the Israeli military out of concern that they have been used to demolish Palestinian homes, uproot orchards and construct Jewish settlements in occupied land."

Reuters unhelpfully contrasted Israel's supposed oppression of Palestinians generally with its maltreatment of Jerusalem Arabs: "Unlike Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip and in the occupied West Bank, those living in occupied east Jerusalem have free access to the Jewish west of the city and to Israel." The wire service added that it found no evidence that Dwayat was a "guerrilla."
Meanwhile, the BBC’s coverage of the bulldozer attack did elicit an apology… but not the one we would have liked. While BBC news editor Craig Oliver explained his decision to air the footage, the BBC instead apologized for showing images of the killing of the terrorist in the bulldozer, saying it was “wrong” to screen the video and that the images “failed to strike the right editorial balance.”

Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick noted that the bulldozer attack was only the second Palestinian attack on Israelis to be preserved on film - the first was the bloody lynching of two IDF reservists in the first days of the second Intifada in 2000. Both cases, she added, drew apologies from the networks that showed them.

In this case, as in the case of the lynching eight years ago, the reason the BBC apologized is not because the film's images were too gruesome, but because it strayed from the accepted narratives of the Palestinian war against Israel. To maintain the narratives, "the right editorial balance between the demands of accuracy and the potential impact on the program's audience," is one that engenders the belief that Israel is either morally indistinguishable from the Palestinians, or that Israel is morally inferior to the Palestinians.