Deconstructing the Associated Press coverage on Land Day

Reading the Washington Post online this morning I came across two articles from the Associated Press written about Land Day. The coverage struck me as particularly biased towards Israel, especially for a news agency that has the global reputation of merely reporting the news with the bare minimum of opinion or slant. I have personally met some high-ranking members of the AP staff in Jerusalem and I am well aware of their partisanship. My colleague Roi Maor already penned a piece about the Associated Press’ horrible coverage of the Mahmoud Abbas speech to the UN in September, but I thought it would be useful to analyze their treatment of the Land Day protests to show that such bias is not a one-off.


Here is an AP piece on Land Day, carried, among others, by the Washington Post. Let’s start with the headline.

Israeli security on high alert, as Arabs and Palestinians protest against Jewish State.

Umm, excuse me? First of all, Land Day is not a protest against the Jewish State. It is a commemoration of the 1976 demonstration by Palestinian citizens of Israel against massive expropriations targeting Arab-owned land for Jewish settlement purposes. The protest left six Palestinians dead and hundreds injured. Today’s Land Day demonstrations, which occur throughout the whole of the country occur to protest the continuation of this policy by the Israeli government.

Secondly, the entire framing of the news forces the reader to associate Palestinian demonstrations with a security threat to Israeli citizens, which it clearly is not. I don’t remember any Israelis getting killed during Land Day demonstrations, but I do remember quite a few victims from among Palestinians and other Arabs. Now, it is possible that this headline was written by the Washington Post: The Associated Press usually gives a title that the publishing outlet is free to change at their leisure, I believe. I am not sure which is the case in this instance. But even if it was from the Post, I am not surprised they would choose such a title given the article’s content.

Moving on to the body of the text.

Israeli security forces in riot gear prepared Friday for Palestinian and Arab demonstrations, deploying at traditional flashpoints and along Israel’s frontiers and confining West Bank Palestinians to their territory.

This first sentence frames the entire article. “Israeli soldiers in riot gear.” The demonstrations are labeled indirectly as riots from the outset, justifying the use of riot control measures against them.

Palestinians threw rocks and Israeli troops responded with stun grenades. No casualties were reported. Elsewhere things were calm.
Palestinians were banned from entering from the West Bank except for medical emergencies, and police barred Palestinian men under 40 from visiting a volatile Jerusalem holy site. Military deployments along Israel’s borders were reinforced to repulse any attempts to breach Israel’s borders as demonstrators did twice last year, touching off deadly clashes with Israeli troops.

So, Palestinians initiated, Israeli responded, but not lethally. Palestinians were also banned from Jerusalem (their territory according to international law) except for medical emergencies. It is great that they made sure to add that last part so the whole world can know how benevolent the Israeli army is by its willingness to treat those it injures at its finest medical facilities.

Then the military terminology: “Military deployments;” “reinforced;” “repulse;” “attempts to breach.” As if the Palestinian-Arab demonstrations are a military operation against the ‘Jewish State.’

It goes on to describe Israeli military deployments, all to thwart the singing and dancing Arabs from their deadly assault, coordinated from their (historical) military fort:

In southern Lebanon, more than 3,000 Lebanese and Palestinians gathered outside the Crusader-built Beaufort castle 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the Israeli border, waving Palestinian flags, singing Palestinian national songs and performing the traditional dabke dance. Security forces kept them from moving any closer to the border.

The rest of the article is almost comical. No context at all is given to Land Day. It is basically Palestinians gather peaceably, Israelis respond in security-fashion to prevent the possibility of it turning violent.

Only one quote is given,  from a 70-year-old Palestinian refugee from Lebanon who talks about liberating the land from Israel.

The second article I alluded to in the opening was a short piece quoting Israeli politician Danny Danon referring to the Land Day protests as “political terrorism.” There were a few more articles from AP Jerusalem on Land Day, but I didn’t read them all. A small excerpt from one reporting a death in Gaza is also revealing.

Security forces in riot gear deployed in high numbers along the frontiers of Israel and the Palestinian territories in anticipation of a repeat of last year’s violence, in which at least 38 people died near the borders with Lebanon and Syria.

Security forces are deployed in anticipation of a repeat of last year’s violence… which they perpetrated. Hmm. interesting.

So, all in all, a great display of coverage by the Associated Press! Bravo!