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‘Protests turn violent’ with ‘gunfire’ — PBS lies about its own report on Israeli attacks in Gaza

Media Analysis
on 13 Comments

Last week PBS ran a brilliant piece from Gaza by Jane Ferguson that highlighted Israel’s maiming of hundreds or thousands of young protesters with leg-shattering rifle-shots.

The focus of the piece was Dr. Adnan al Borsh, a surgeon, who described in precise English the explosive nature of the wounds and his efforts to save young Palestinians, captured by a photograph of him falling asleep in an operating room chair at 1 a.m. on May 14, 2018, the day that Israel killed over 60 protesters.

Dr. Adnan al Borsh on May 14, 2018.

The sympathy of the piece was entirely with young men who had once loved to play soccer in their open-air prison. Ferguson:

Most of these kids have never seen the outside world, trapped in a tiny strip of land under blockade by the Israeli government and ruled over by the militant group Hamas.

I watched this report last week as a rapt amateur, with my heart in my throat. Another excerpt:

Ferguson: Waleed and his friends say they were unarmed, protesting near the border fence, when he was shot by a sniper.

Waleed Al Ramlawi (through translator): The Israelis were dealing with us as though we were an army. They were not dealing with us as peaceful protesters. We had no weapons, just our bodies.

John Yang

I was planning to celebrate the PBS New Hour, then I saw the packaging of the report. The title on the PBS site is: “Gazans suffer life-shattering injuries when border protests turn violent.” And host John Yang — I missed this when I was sitting at dinner — put the blame on the Palestinians in his intro:

For many months now, Palestinians in Gaza have regularly protested their conditions along the border fence with Israel. Those protests have often turned violent, resulting in deaths and permanent injuries.

Militant Palestinians have lobbed rockets and gunfire at Israel, especially targeting the soldiers at the border. But some international observers say the response of late has taken a disturbing turn.

These are… lies. There was nothing in the report to justify such a misrepresentation. Ferguson never mentioned gunfire. She did say that Palestinians sometimes send flaming kites over the border that can burn farmland, and that “the most cynical here encourage the smallest to approach the fence, goading Israeli guards.” There has been no “disturbing turn” lately.

Ferguson never mentioned rockets, never mentioned gunfire– except from Israel.

The repeated judgment in the piece was: Israel shooting these protesters is a war crime.

Ferguson: Human rights groups say this is a war crime…

Saleh Hijazi [of Amnesty International]: The willful cause of injury and the willful cause of death is a war crime…

Ferguson: in a damning report released in March, the United Nations’ independent commission of inquiry disputed [the Israeli justification], saying the Israeli military sniping at protesters was unlawful and unjustified, and should be referred to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

The U.N. noted that some protesters threw stones and lit kites on fire to send across the fence, but the majority were peaceful civilians. Israeli soldiers, the commission said, shot and killed children, paramedics, journalists and the disabled, fully aware of who they were.

So Ferguson all but dismissed Israeli denials of the charge, and her piece took the p-o-v of a protester, Amin Asleep:

“I come every Friday, and I would come every day if the protest was every day. We in Gaza have nothing to do, no work. All of these people around don’t have a single shekel, because we are living under the siege. And the siege is constant.”

It’s hard to convey how disgraceful John Yang’s setup was and the New Hour’s packaging. It shows that the truth is simply too negative to Israel to be handed over to an American audience unspun. And yes I am completely cynical about PBS’s motivation. It is afraid of the Israel lobby, it is afraid of donor mutiny. So it lies about its own reporter’s story.

And here’s the proof, an Israel lobby group attacked the report last week for “humanizing” Palestinians, and said PBS “cripples the truth.” PBS anticipates that sort of attack. It is accountable to racists.

Addendum: There have been six Israeli fatalities at the border in the last 17 months, the UN says: one fatality to an Israeli soldier from the Great March of Return protests, but five others from Palestinian hostilities. The UN also counts 6 injuries to Israelis from the protests, and 188 at the border overall.

Thanks to James North and Allison Deger. 

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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13 Responses

  1. bcg on August 26, 2019, 1:49 pm

    But here’s the clever thing about the way PBS packaged it: the claim that “Gazans suffer life-shattering injuries when border protests turn violent” is, in the very narrowest technical sense, true – the border protests did indeed turn violent, it’s just that 99.9 % of the violence came from the IDF. PBS has ‘plausible deniability’, if that’s the correct term – it can continue to claim that its headline is correct.

    But surely they know how most people will interpret it.

    • Mooser on August 26, 2019, 2:59 pm

      “But surely they know how most people will interpret it.”

      They shouldn’t need a hut in Bletchley Park to figure out what a PBS newscast is saying.

      • lobewyper on September 1, 2019, 8:54 pm

        Not so. Most average Americans believe PBS is a source of reliable and essentially unbiased news.

    • CigarGod on August 26, 2019, 5:16 pm

      The protests, and the response to the protests, are two different things.

    • Misterioso on August 27, 2019, 9:34 am

      @bcg, et al

      Given its misrepresentation of Jane Furgusen’s report, it may be a good idea to determine who PBS’s major funders are and where their sympathies lie regarding the conflict. Perhaps one could start here: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/about/funders

      Also, for the record:
      https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/26/604523/video-Gaza-kids-shield-injured-protester

      Short video:
      Press TV. Released on August 26/19

      “This undated video shows how young Palestinian boys endanger their lives by bravely protecting a wounded Gazan protester against live fire from the Israeli forces using their own bodies to shield him.”

  2. CigarGod on August 26, 2019, 3:47 pm

    Germany, USA, England, etc. were full of this kind of enabler…back in the day.

  3. JWalters on August 26, 2019, 6:59 pm

    Thanks for this spot-on analysis of that Newshour story. It looks like there may be a struggle going on inside the Newshour. Clearly the Newshour’s freedom of speech is under assault from powerful forces of evil. I say “evil” because these forces are relentless and powerful in their efforts to hide the truth and maintain a brutal, predatory regime in Israel. Lying to maintain such cruelty cannot possibly be an oversight. It can only be a completely conscious decision. Conscious brutality is sociopathic. Lying to enable it is sociopathic. This is an age-old struggle. I hope the forces of truth and justice are able to prevail at the Newshour. It will take courage, commitment, and strong inner wills.

  4. Sibiriak on August 27, 2019, 2:17 am

    Ferguson: Most of these kids have never seen the outside world, trapped in a tiny strip of land under blockade by the Israeli government and ruled over by the militant group Hamas. .
    ——————————————————

    Not to detract from the laudable aspects of Ferguson’s reporting, but I do note a subtle “moral equivalence” construction in the nicely balanced phrases referring to the Israeli blockade and Hamas.

  5. on August 27, 2019, 8:46 am

    Phil and James, you don’t go far enough, PBS (a partially US government-funded-entity) is not afraid of the Israel Lobby. Rather, they’re part of it, as is much of the mainstream media.

    This was also demonstrated by PBS in 2015 hypocritically burying a video that exposed the biased treatment of Arabs in Western media, and which Mondoweiss commented.

    Here’s an excerpt from a letter I wrote in early 2016 to PBS President, Paula Kerger and my congressional delegation at that time and to which I received not one response:

    “I write to raise an issue regarding the journalistic and editorial conduct of David Fanning, a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) former Executive Producer and now Executive Producer at Large, in his work on PBS’s FRONTLINE

    That issue is whether Mr. Fanning improperly censored a documentary film and prejudicially favored special interests, including PBS funding sources, thus violating standards of journalistic integrity and ethics. These standards, which the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and PBS claim to uphold, include “…express[ing] diversity of perspectives, strengthen[ing] the democratic and cultural health of the U.S. and the highest commitment to excellence, professionalism, intellectual honesty and transparency (Emphasis added).See:

    PBS, FRONTLINE and Mr. Fanning trumpet adherence to these standards. On November 6, 2014, the Maine Jewish Film Festival and MPBN held an event in Portland, Maine entitled “An Evening with David Fanning: FRONTLINE Behind the Scenes”, featuring an interview with Mr. Fanning, then the Executive Producer of FRONTLINE. Pre-event publicity noted: “In 2013, Fanning was honored by the National Academy for Television Arts and Sciences with its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Emmy, awarded “for his remarkable career, and for FRONTLINE’s decades-long commitment to journalistic excellence, integrity, and independence.”

    Mr. Fanning’s actions to which I take exception, based upon FRONTLINE and PBS’s own standards, are set forth in a December 27, 2015 post on Mondoweiss, entitled “Valentino’s Ghost makes comeback after 4 years of suppression” by Terri Ginsburg, an Assistant Professor of Film Studies at The American University in Cairo:

    http://mondoweiss.net/2015/12/valentinos-comeback-suppression, from which I quote relevant excerpts and a transcript, as follows:

    “In the years since the first U.S. bombing of Iraq more than two decades ago, Arab Americans have been producing films that confront the negative portrayal of Arabs and Muslims in Hollywood films and U.S. culture in general [such as] Michael Singh’s Valentino’s Ghost: Why We Hate Arabs (2015), a ….documentary that [resuscitates] the …. question of anti-Arab/-Muslim stereotyping as a matter of the “special relationship” between the United States and Israel. …..

    For its daring to investigate and critically expose the relationship between Hollywood’s derogation of Arabs and Muslims, and the political alliance between Israel and the United States, Valentino’s Ghost ….has in turn suffered censorship and suppression. The film received a standing ovation at the 2012 Venice Film Festival and a successful screening at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. It was the top box-office draw at the Doha-Tribeca Film Festival in Qatar and managed week-long runs at the Quad Cinema in Manhattan and Laemmle’s Playhouse 7 in Pasadena….

    This initial enthusiasm quickly devolved into a seemingly endless series of reactions and rejections….In an exclusive e-mail interview, Singh [said]:

    But perhaps the most troubling instance of the film’s censorship was evidenced by Singh’s encounter with PBS’s David Fanning…. Singh and co-producer Catherine Jordan not only envisioned Valentino’s Ghost being shown on PBS’s Independent Lens or POV, but felt assured that it would be when they were told by a chief programmer at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting affiliate which pitched Valentino’s Ghost to PBS, that Valentino’s Ghost was going to be the network’s “flagship” film.

    [Singh said] “And I believe it would have been splashed everywhere on PBS as a highly acclaimed film …. if we had omitted Israel/Palestine and done the sort of benign film that other PBS documentaries on ethnic imagery have been.”

    …. Singh simultaneously transcribed one of his revealing telephone conversations with Fanning, which subsequently became a diary entry …. Singh…. shared [with me].

    “FANNING: I agree with your premise and your arguments, but I will do everything I can to block the broadcast of your film on WGBH or in fact any other PBS affiliate in the country.

    SINGH: Why is that?

    FANNING: Because it’ll piss off my rich Jewish friends.

    SINGH: So this huge subject will remain under the rug.

    FANNING: It’s not a huge subject. You can cover your premise in about four minutes. What will you do for the next 50 minutes?

    SINGH: I actually have enough material for a three-hour miniseries.

    FANNING: How are you going to fund that?

    SINGH: I don’t know. Get grants.

    FANNING: And if you get Arab money, I’m going to find you out.

    SINGH: What about Holocaust films made with Israeli money?

    FANNING: That’s okay. Not a problem.

    SINGH: That’s a double standard.

    FANNING: Yup. It’s a double standard, and you’re going to have to get used to it.

    SINGH: That’s hypocritical.

    FANNING: Well, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

    SINGH: That’s the exact opposite of PBS’s mission. In fact, it is a violation of their charter for the money people to influence filmmakers editorially.

    FANNING: That’s the way it is, and if you quote me, I’ll deny it.”

    Indeed Fanning told me in an e-mail that he does not recall this conversation or Michael Singh or anything to do with the film that became Valentino’s Ghost, and that he in fact supports the broadcasting of independent films like Valentino’s Ghost on PBS. He also acknowledged the “double standard” regarding Arab and Muslim perspectives in U.S. media.

    The content of Ms. Ginsburg’s Mondoweiss post, if accurate, illuminates shocking candor by Mr. Fanning (and, therefore, his employer, PBS) about: (I) his hypocrisy, (II) his support for double standards, (III) the influence of his “rich Jewish friends” (and the possible loss of their support), (IV) his intent to block the showing of Mr. Singh ‘s film on any PBS affiliate, (V) his pledge to “find you out” if Mr. Singh got Arab money to support his film, and (VI) his breach of fairness and conflict of interest standards in the context presented (e.g., saying it’s okay to get Israeli money to support Holocaust films, but not Arab money for films like Mr. Singh’s).

    Mr. Fanning’s alleged conduct makes a mockery of the praise, recognition and awards he and FRONTLINE have received, as well as violating, insulting and mocking the standards Mr. Fanning, Frontline, CPB and PBS all purport to uphold, including PBS’s and FRONTLINE’s journalistic, fairness, control by funders and conflict of interest guidelines and principles.

    Indeed, the CPB ombudsman received complaints about Valentino’s Ghost, which was broadcast on a few PBS affiliate stations, including from Stand With Us, a Zionist watch-dog group. But he determined, inter alia:

    “[the film] to be a thorough, well-done film which does have an agenda, but I do not find that agenda …. unreasonable [or] anti-Israel. I agree with Mr. Singh and Ms. Jordan, who say that:

    Every documentary film has an “agenda,” be it about national parks, Monsanto chemicals, the Holocaust, or Israel/Palestine. Our agenda is to expose the social acceptability of bigotry against Arabs and Muslims in mainstream American cultural products, and, in doing so, to deal in relevant historical facts while presenting the Biblical images of religious myths and historical cultural biases for what they are: the images of ethnocentric allegories and folktales.”

    http://www.cpb.org/ombudsman/display.php?id=179

    In addition, Mr. Fanning’s alleged conduct, and its breach of governing ethical and professional standards, guidelines and principles calls into question whether FRONTLINE’s extensive coverage of the point of view of Israel and its leaders is objective and whether it encompasses a breach of these standards, guidelines and principles, including specifically avoidance of favoritism, political advocacy and conflict of interestrelationship/

    By copy of this letter I am also asking my representatives in Congress, in their oversight role monitoring the performance of agencies and programs receiving federal funds, to look into this matter.”

  6. ShabbesT on August 27, 2019, 11:53 am

    Truth telling about Israel is always dangerous in America. Praise to the brave journalists like Jane Ferguson and Chris Hedges which keep trying. The real sadness here is with wealthy Jews who have adopted Zionism as their vehicle of religious transcendence. Long ago they abandoned the universal aspects of Judaism for a false credo which is idolatrous.

  7. genesto on August 27, 2019, 12:10 pm

    “—an Israel lobby group attacked the report last week for “humanizing” Palestinians”. Doesn’t this say all we need to know about the ‘humanity’ – actually, the lack thereof when it comes to non Jews – in Zionism?

  8. eljay on August 27, 2019, 3:22 pm

    … And here’s the proof, an Israel lobby group attacked the report last week for “humanizing” Palestinians, and said PBS “cripples the truth.” PBS anticipates that sort of attack. It is accountable to racists.

    “HonestReporting” says:

    … Humanizing disabled Palestinians without explaining Hamas’s responsibility plays into the terror group’s hands. … A big problem with the NewsHour dispatch is that there are no Israeli voices. …

    I wonder if “Honest Reporting” is concerned with:
    – the fact that the Palestinians of Gaza are in Gaza when Israeli Occupation, Colonization and Oppression Forces disable them by firing across Israel’s expansionist border into Gaza;
    – how humanizing Israelis without explaining Israel’s responsibility plays into the colonialist, (war) criminal and religion-supremacist state’s hands; or
    – the big problem of dispatches that contain no Palestinian voices.

  9. Boomer on August 28, 2019, 8:10 am

    re: “And here’s the proof, an Israel lobby group attacked the report last week for “humanizing” Palestinians, and said PBS “cripples the truth.”

    Not the first time I’ve seen complaints about “humanizing” Palestinians.

    The bias in the MSM is amazingly consistent, such that exceptions are notable. I recall such an exception when a former CBS Evening News anchor mentioned in passing, during one of Israel’s attacks on Gaza, that the residents were refugees and children of refugees expelled from what is now Israel. He says now that he lost that job because he complained to management about the treatment of women in the news division. That’s plausible, but I suspect there were other problems too. CBS says it was all about ratings.

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