Harriet Sherwood’s Munich Massacre story follows Guardian rule on obscuring Palestinian terrorism

My post on March 23rd, 2011 – following a terrorist bombing in Jerusalem which killed one woman and injured dozens – critiqued coverage of the attack by the Guardian’s Conal Urquhart (who was filling in for Harriet Sherwood). The post was titled “Four simple Guardian rules for journalists reporting a terrorist attack in Israel.”

I noted that Urquhart seemed to be at pains to avoid characterizing the violence as a terrorist act.  

This passage, from his initial report on the attack (close to Jerusalem’s main conference hall and central bus station), represents a prime example.

A bus has exploded opposite the central station in Jerusalem, killing one woman and injuring at least 25 people, four of them seriously.” [emphasis added]

Of course, the bus didn’t “explode”.

A bomb was placed by a terrorist in a trash can, near a crowded bus stop, with the intent of killing Israelis. Some on an Egged bus which had stopped to pick up passengers there were injured (along with others closer to the bomb) as a result of the blast.

Further, in contextualizing Urquhart’s work with other Guardian reports about Palestinian terrorism, I arrived at what appeared to be a few of the Guardian Group’s guiding principles.

One of the rules which Guardian journalists often observe pertains to intentionally unclear causation:

They use passive language which may obscure the fact that an intentional act of violence was perpetrated by a Palestinian terrorist against innocent Israeli civilians.

Harriet Sherwood recently published a report, titled “London 2012 Olympics: IOC rejects silence for Munich victims” (May 15th), which is quite consistent with the Guardian rule detailed above.

Sherwood writes:

“The Munich attack began in the early hours of 5 September 1972, when eight members of the Palestinian military organisation Black September infiltrated the Olympic village, and took 11 members of the Israeli team hostage. The attackers demanded the release of 234 Palestinian prisoners in return for the hostages’ release.

By just after midnight, all 11 athletes, five attackers and a German police officer were dead.” [emphasis added]

By midnight, they were dead. Not “killed but “dead“. Sherwood fails to distinguish between victim and perpetrator, and offers no further explanation about how the Israeli hostages lost their lives.

In fact, the Israeli athletes were murdered brutally and quite deliberately by Palestinian Black September terrorists.

Recently the Guardian published a thorough, well-researched and clear account of the murder of Israeli athletes in Munich.  It was written by sports editor Simon Burnton and titled, “50 stunning Olympic moments No 26: The terrorist outrage in Munich in 1972“.  Evidently it takes a sports writer to report on Palestinian terrorism without ideological blinders.

Burton recounts how, on the last day of the crisis, nine of the eleven Israelis were killed while on helicopters (with their captors) at the runway of Fürstenfeldbruck Air Base near Munich. The terrorists were hoping for a deal, whereby they would fly to safety in Egypt, until negotiations with German authorities broke down.

“…a terrorist threw a grenade into one of the helicopters, killing all but one of the four hostages on board. Another terrorist sprayed the second helicopter with bullets, killing the five tied together there. The final hostage, David Berger, died of smoke inhalation before he could be rescued.”

However, per Burton, two of the Israelis were killed in the athletes’ residence on the first day of the crisis. 

“In all 12 hostages were taken, but as the wrestlers were led downstairs to join the coaches one of them, Gad Zabari, managed to escape, with the assistance of the wounded [Moshe] Weinberg. The latter was shot dead and his body thrown, naked, on to the street. The remaining 10 were shepherded into a single bedroom, where the weightlifter Yossef Romano attempted to overcome one of the intruders. He too was shot, apparently castrated and left to bleed to death on the floor.” [emphasis added]

The brutality was beyond description.

Harriet Sherwood’s rhetorical obfuscation is all too predictable. 

15 replies »

  1. A shame that Burnton (who rightly makes perhaps a dozen references to “terrorists”) ruined an otherwise sound account with that utterly stupid last line.

    Although given that said sentence sticks out like a sore thumb, perhaps it was an editor.

  2. To this day, no one knows who put explosives at the Jerusalem bus station last year. Israeli officials never said anything about it. Rumor had it that it may have been a far right wing settler organization in Israel rather than a Palestinian militant. No one knows, so M. Levick had better be cautious and not make up theories of his own, which may offend the victims and their families.

    • Rumor had it that it may have been a far right wing settler organization in Israel rather than a Palestinian militant.

      No, rumour never had anything at all like that. Stop making up stories to demonise Israel/ Jews/settlers in order to fit your own agenda. Contrary to your conspiracy theories, Israel does not go around killing its own civilians in order to create mistrust and fear of Palestinian and Islamic terrorists. I demand that you retract your slander of Israel or else provide proof of your “rumours”.

      Islamic Jihad and/or Al Quds Brigades were held responsible and suspects were even brought in to Israel by the PA.

      • And of course (from Annie’s link) the fact that Islamic Jihad and Hamas welcomed the attack, and the international community (even Human Rights organisations) agreed it was “obviously” a terrorist attack are all irrelevant in Benyamin-world, where the Middle East is infested with Israeli agents in the form of sharks, bee-eaters, vultures etc, where 9/11 was a Mossad conspiracy, where Ahmedinejad really loves peace and where the Fogels slit their own throats – all in a dastardly attempt to give the Palestinians bad PR.

        • The international community has never accused anyone of committing the bombing at Jerusalem Gate, since to this day, no one knows who did it. It’s one of the rares cases of terrorist attacks in Israel where the perpetrator has remained completely unknown.

      • To the best of my knowledge, no group has ever claimed being responsible for the bombing atht he Jerusalem Gate in 2011, and no one has ever been indicted by Israeli authorities. Whoever committed this bombing remains a mystery to this day.

        • Way to miss the point as usual. The Guardian’s spin continues in the Munich Massacre, and we all know who committed that one. The Guardian has a consistent pattern of bias against Jews and Israel. Nitpicking won’t change a damn thing.

      • I never wrote that “Israel had done it”, I wrote what everyone who’s part of the diplomatic circles or who’s in contact with Israeli diplomats has heard: that this may well have been the act of extremist far rightist Israelis or settlers. It would not be the first time. Rabin was assassinated by a far rightist Israeli, and settler Baruch Goldstein committed a massacre in the Caqve of the Machpela.

        • Again – it was never once mentioned, not as a rumour and not as a fact, that the “right-wing” or the demonised settlers ever committed this terrorist attack.

          Trying to extrapolate from the 2 other events you mentioned is nonsense. They were isolated events and not aimed at masses of Israeli civilians. The only people who target Israeli civilians are Palestinian terrorists and their supporters.

          • Well I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Israeli security officials and I can tell you that Shin Bet does monitor and even infiltrate some extremist, religious settler groups to check what they’re doing, precisely because they think they might be tempted to committ fanatic attacks on civilians, no matter whether they’re Israeli or Palestinians. If you go to some remote outposts in the West Bank, you will meet fanatics who see every secular Israeli as targets.

  3. The way that Harriet Sherwood whitewashes the most brutal acts of Palestinian terror is disgusting.

    But telling the truth would lead to increased support for Israel, which of course the Guardian cannot allow. So irrespective of the injustice it to the victims of terror, they will suppress whatever facts they can, and downplay the rest. Their treatment of the murder of the Fogel children was a prime example..

  4. So – the particular perpetrators may not have yet been convicted. This offers no support whatsoever for your entirely unfounded allegation that this atrocity was committed by any sort of Israeli group. This was clearly a terrorist attack – whoever the perpetrators – and it is the Guardian’s pointed failure, again and again, to call such acts terrorism that is the point of this article.

    And pretzel – I have no need to trust (or not to trust) Annie. I can click on a link and read what’s there, without having to make any judgment on the provider of the link.

    • I think you’re talking to the kind of person who says: rumour has it the Zionists wiped out the dinosaurs.