Investigation Clears Israeli Commandos of Wrongdoing; AP, WaPo Focus on 'Mistakes'

The Israeli commandos who intercepted a flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip on May 31 were cleared of wrongdoing by a military inquiry into the matter. The same panel faulted the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for "mistakes that were made in decisions, including some taken at relatively high levels," according to retired Israeli Major General Giora Eiland.

While we at NewsBusters have taken Reuters to task before for their biased coverage of the Middle East, the news wire actually broke from the pack a bit in its portrayal of the story, focusing on the conclusion that there was no wrongdoing by the Israelis in the now infamous raid.

By contrast, the Washington Post and Associated Press opened their stories focused on the negative. Below are the lede paragraphs for the respective news agencies:

JERUSALEM -- An internal Israeli review of the navy's raid against a Turkish aid ship faulted planners Monday for not formulating alternative plans and concluded that the agencies involved should have shared intelligence more efficiently before the operation. 

TEL AVIV, Israel — Flawed intelligence-gathering and planning led to Israel's botched and deadly raid on a Gaza-bound protest flotilla, with security forces underestimating the potential for violence, said the official report released Monday.

Reuters noted as early as the fourth paragraph of its July 12 story that the Israeli commandos were found to have discharged their weapons in self defense. A few paragraphs later it noted that:

Eiland said his inquiry found evidence that activists on the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara opened fire on Israeli commandos.

"We found that there are at least four incidents in which the people who were on the ship shot at our soldiers, either by using the weapons that were stolen from the soldiers or a weapon that they had," he said.

"We do have evidence that there was at least one weapon on this ship before we arrived and there is good reason to believe that the first shooting that occurred was when our soldier, the second soldier that arrived on the deck from the very first helicopter was shot by somebody," he added.

The Washington Post's Janine Zacharia also made reference to Eiland's findings about the crew and/or passengers of the Turkish ship firing on the Israeli commandos and noted that "[t]he inquiry also found that passengers had cut off banisters from the ship to use as weapons against the soldiers."

By contrast, although Ian Deitch hacked out 25 paragraphs for his story, the AP writer found no room to elaborate on the findings other than this brief reference in the second paragraph:

The report, however, praised the commandos who took part in the operation, saying they were justified in opening fire and killing nine after being confronted by violent pro-Palestinian activists on board one of the ships.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters