Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Amos Harel in Haaretz reports that "[T]he United Nations has reversed its stance on one of the most contentious and bloody incidents of the recent Israel Defense Forces operation in Gaza, saying that an IDF mortar strike that killed 43 people on January 6 did not hit one of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency schools after all." - UN backtracks on claim that deadly IDF strike hit Gaza school.

Maxwell Gaylord, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Jerusalem, said Monday that the IDF mortar shells fell in the street near the compound, and not on the compound itself. Gaylord said that the UN "would like to clarify that the shelling and all of the fatalities took place outside and not inside the school."

Of course, the damage has already been done. Those in the media who are quick to pounce whenever there's a suspicion of Israeli indiscretion, fell for the lies and pushed this line incessantly from the beginning even though there were doubts cast on the story from the very beginning. Meanwhile, Israel and the Jews took the brunt of accusations of war crimes in the streets of Eurpoe, North America and even in Australia where swatickas were (and photographed) seen among crowds of demonstrators in Melbourne.

Meanwhile, we're still waiting for the Melbourne Age to publish a repudiation of the lie that dominated the headlines of its online edition of 7 January, 2009.


Anonymous said...

Wilbur - can you please provide a link to the January 7 Age coverage?

Wilbur Post said...

Anonymous said...

So it would seem that the "lie" here is either that:

1) Israel targeted the school


2) That Israel hit the school, whether it targeted it or not.

The Age clarified point 2) on January 8, and you know this because you cited it in your complaint about the debate between Christopher Gunness and Yigal Palmor to support your argument that the UN did not hit the school.

The Age never carried a UN claim that the school had been targeted, but it did carry an explicit denial that the school had been targeted by a top UN official on January 19, 10 days before Canada's Globe and Mail began carrying reports of a UN "retraction".

Anonymous said...

Here it is:

Wilbur Post said...

Anonymous - what part of "Israel strike kills 48 in school refuges" don't you understand?

The initial Age report which ran all day as the lead item of the Age on line edition was clearly false.

Any newspaper with an ounce of integrity would have apologised for misleading its readership.

The issue is when will the Age do so?

Anonymous said...

As I have already said, and you cannot deny it because you cited The Age to support your argument, The Age's reporting became clearer within one day of that initial story being run. All of the supposed calumnies Israel suffered at the hands of The Age were in fact redressed in the paper's coverage 10 days before The Globe and Mail report on January 29 which began this so-called scandal.

But there is a more important point at issue here. You (and the Globe and Mail) have used this "scandal" to attack the UN. And yet the UN agencies which The Age quoted never claimed the school had been targeted or hit. The source of claims that the school had been hit, and that it had been a target, were officers of the IDF named by Jason Koutsoukis. Unlike Jason Koutsoukis and the world's media, those officers had access to the camp. The question, therefore, is when the IDF's story changed.

Wilbur Post said...


While the tenor and the content of reports in the Age in the days following the strike did change, the editor never admitted to making the original incendiary error in the first place. That is what an editor should be doing when making such a grave mistake which so blatantly misrepresents the true facts of an item of news.

It's also true that the IDF version changed when further investigation was carried out but the IDF said so. It's story was always that it was not targeting the school and it is clear that it was targeting terrorists operating close to the school.

If you read the Haaretz article, even UNRWA admits there was a mistake but says "that the source of the mistake in recent weeks had originated with a separate branch of the United Nations."

Whichever way you look at it, the original Age story gave the war criminals who used Palestinian people as human shield and their apologists ammunition to wage their propaganda war against the Jewish State and because the Age refused to clarify the situation, they're still getting away with it.

Portofino said...

TO Anonymous 9:48

It seems to me that you're the one who is being devious.

There is a big difference between an apology or a retraction and with how the Age dealt with this story.

In fact, as both you and Wilbur have noted, Jason Koutsoukis did write that the shells fell outside the school.

That was the appropriate time for a mea culpa from the Age.

That it did not come is particularly damning and speaks volumes of this newspaper's culture and lack of journalistic ethics. But we know all about that culture from the Backman episode which took place a week later.

Whispering_Jack said...

You are talking rubbish anonymous. I personally emailed the Age on 7 January giving it references to other news sites which were telling a different story to the one being told on its on-line banner headline. The Age knew its story was at least suspect and yet it kept its damning headline and the story up on the site for several hours thereafter.

UNRWA made no attempt to absolve Israel of the claims made that Israel targetted the school - instead it sought to justify its own position which was that it wasn't harbouring terrorists inside its compound.

It never ceases to amaze me how those who oppose Israel's actions attempt at every turn to put the blame on the Israelis even when the other side is clearly culpable. In this case, those who died were either Hamas fighters or people being used as shields by Hamas fighters. Either way, Hamas is the cause but it's far more convenient to blame the Israelis.

Anonymous said...

Between them, Wilbur and "Portofino" raise six separate matters. I will address each of them briefly. If people want longer versions of each response, they will have to ask for them.

1) At the beginning of this discussion, we were told that there was a "lie" that The Age had not yet repudiated. Wilbur now tells us there was a "mistake" or "incendiary error". Not the same thing at all. Moreover, there was no mistake.

2) Wilbur tells us that the IDF's story "was always that it was not targeting the school". Simply not true.

3) Wilbur tells us "even UNRWA admits there was a mistake" and quotes the Harel story, which contains a number of discrepancies and leads with the information that the UN has "reversed it stance", which is unsatisfactory in a story where multiple UN agencies are dealt with and Harel also states that "UNRWA . . . maintained from the day of the attack that the wounded were outside of the school compound".

Anonymous said...

4) The Globe and Mail's Jan 29 story does not accuse anyone of lying, though it does say that Israeli spokespeople backtracked, though crucially not when. Either it is wrong or Wilbur is wrong. Its strongest accusation against the UN is that agencies "allowed the misconception to linger" and that the WHO and OCHA made incorrect statements. The Age clarified any misconception within 24 hours and never relied on the WHO or OCHA for its coverage.

5) Is this kind of clarification through coverage with no mea culpa really a proof of anti-Israel bias and a violation of journalistic ethics, as both Wilbur and Portofino contend? No. There have been at least two other such cases, involving stories from Africa and SE Asia, this month alone. In each sources were quoted in good faith whose information turned out to have been false. This was amended through coverage with no mea culpa.

6) The offensive and incorrect Backman piece might certainly reflect a culture problem at The Age if the Foreign Desk, which has overseen the paper's news coverage of the Gaza offensive and the wider conflict, had been involved in even the tiniest way in the decision to run it in the paper. It wasn't, and so attempts to conflate the two matters won't wash.

Anonymous said...

Dear Whispering Jack,

In situations where the facts are contested, The Age - like most media outlets - would obviously prefer to rely on its own correspondent to sort out the wheat from the chaff. And that's what it did.

Wilbur Post said...

Anonymous, you're being disingenuous and avoiding the fact that the AFR (the original source of the story) and the Age misled its readership on day one, it was never retracted and that the UN was a willing helper in keeping up the pretence that the IDF had deliberatley targeted the school.

End of story.

Portofino said...

Five children were killed in Afghanistan yesterday in a firefight involving Australian soldiers and the Taliban.

The Age will not run with a headline "Diggers target Afghan children" because such claim would be preposterous. It will not publish photographs of the children's relatives parading their bodies, nor interview local Taliban sympathizers, Norwegian doctors from the Taliban fan club and there will be no hysterical headlines about war crimes.

However, the paper has no qualms about routinely allowing wild allegations against Israeli soldiers and not apologising later when the claims are found to be patently false.

That's what this is about anonymous. You're defending racism!

Anonymous said...

Wilbur, I put six statements of fact on the board. If you can refute one of them, be my guest.

And it is AFP, not AFR. The complaint you make about that story is addressed already in my points 4 and 5.

I can't keep riding this carousel of one-eyed grievance ponies. I have a job.

Wilbur Post said...

I hope you do better in your job than you're doing here because you don't seem to have convinced anyone.

I'll close this thread with a quote from AAP on the incident mentioned by Portofino:

"It may be weeks before military chiefs can explain how five children died in Afghanistan after getting caught in a firefight between elite Australian soldiers and the Taliban."

Had the Age been prepared to give the IDF the reasonable benefit of the doubt as AAP has given the diggers in the above sentence, we wouldn't be debating this issue at all. That's the point many people are making about the suspect culture prevailing at the Age.

Wilbur Post said...

I'll repeat that the Age did not at any point in time clarify "any misconception within 24 hours".

Koutsoukis' article was not an attempt to "clarify" - it was an article written on its own and quite separately from the offending article of 7 January. It made no reference to that article.

And the Age was derelict in its duty to provide honest reportage by failing to retract the false and incendiary article that appeared on its on-line home page on 7 January 2009.

I'll also repeat that this thread is finished. Case closed.