Scene of car-ramming attack in Abu Dis, June 23, 2020. (TPS) (TPS)
Car-ramming

Security footage released by the Border Police, showing the vehicle turning sharply and speeding up abruptly when close to the soldiers, leaves little doubt as to the nature of the incident.

By Gidon Ben-Zvi, Honest Reporting

On Wednesday, a Palestinian Arab driver drove into soldiers at an Israeli checkpoint tower near Jerusalem. In response, Israeli Border Police on the scene opened fire and killed the driver.

Palestinian officials charged Israel with cold-blooded murder. According to them, the suspect, a nephew of senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat, was simply rushing to pick up his sister and mother ahead of a family wedding later Tuesday evening.

However, security footage released by the Border Police, showing the vehicle turning sharply and speeding up abruptly when close to the soldiers, leaves little doubt as to the nature of the incident.

This is the headline from Sky News: “Israeli border guards kill relative of top PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat”

From the headline, you wouldn’t have known that Israeli soldiers were the target of a terrorist attack. Instead, Sky News buries that lead. Readers are told only that the border guards opened fire on and killed a relative of a top PLO official, with no justification mentioned.

In the much less noticeable sub-headline, lip service is paid to the Border Police’s version of events. “Police say” the suspect drove at officers.  This is followed up with the family’s take on the events. Presented this way, both versions are equally likely. Also, note that while words like ‘relative’, ‘family’, and ‘accident’ humanize the deceased, words such as ‘car ramming’, ‘attack’, and ‘terrorist’ are nowhere to be seen.

This is much more than a mere matter of semantics. People tend to scan headlines first and only read the articles that catch their eye. But if all that people know about this incident comes from this headline what conclusions will they draw?

This is unfortunate, since the body of the article is relatively balanced. In today’s 24/7 world, the media industry is more competitive than ever. As a result, the desire by headline editors to grab readers quickly is intense. This can lead to a situation whereby the journalist underneath an article’s by-line actually had nothing to do with the headline of the piece.

The video evidence is irrefutable: this was a clear-cut attack.  Yet Sky News’s headline and sub-headline suggest something very different: a young man rushing to a wedding getting caught in the cross hairs of trigger-happy Israeli soldiers. And if the video footage isn’t sufficient, here’s an eyewitness account of a Border Police officer who was injured during the attack:

“I signaled to him to halt, the car started to slow down, and I moved in his direction… He saw that I took a step, he looked me in the eye, turned the steering wheel and rammed into me, and I flew to the other side of the median.”

This isn’t just a bad headline, it’s a serious lapse in journalistic standards.

Sky News readers deserve much better than this.

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