Reporting the Story of an Alleged Israeli-Arab Serial Killer
The arrest Thursday of an Israeli-Arab, Elias Abuelazam, accused of murdering five people in the U.S. was occasion to observe whether news organizations that habitually tilt their Middle East news coverage against Israel would also skew this non-political story.
Granted it's a sensitive issue how or whether to convey accurately the ethnic background of the alleged perpetrator -- a member of the Arab minority in a Jewish majority nation. Indeed, Abuelazam is a minority within the Arab community as well, reportedly being a Christian and not part of the larger Israeli Arab Muslim population.
Although one could reasonably argue that the alleged perpetrator's ethnicity is not relevant to the story, when media sources with a record of biased coverage of Israel omitted mention of the suspect's Arab background and headlined his Israeli citizenship, the result was misinformed and bigoted commentary by readers. The assumption for many news consumers was, on the basis of such reporting, that the killer is Jewish. The reality and prevalence of this misperception was quickly apparent in a deluge of virulent anti-Israel and anti-Jewish talk-backs on blogs and news sites.
Generally speaking, responsible media outlets need to weigh what they write and say to avoid fueling bigotry and convey the facts of the story as fully and fairly as possible.
The BBC online, known for slanting its coverage against Israel, titled its story "Israeli man held in airport over US serial stabbings." The story that followed describes the suspect as an "Israeli citizen" without mentioning that he is Arab.
MSNBC's online report, "Israeli held in investigation of serial stabbings" mentioned his Israeli connection four times in the article, but never indicated that he was Arab-Israeli.
NPR mentioned his Israeli connection in the body of its report, though not in its headline. It omitted his Arab ethnicity.
In contrast, ABC News identified the suspect as an Israeli-Arab in its first sentence. More often there was a lack of precision. CNN and Fox merely informed readers that he was attempting to fly to Israel.
The Huffington Post, a strictly internet-based news and entertainment site, is known as a popular forum for anti-Israel and anti-Jewish commenters. It posted a news report titled, "Serial Stabber Elias Abuelazam ARRESTED At Atlanta Airport As He Tried To Flee To Israel ." The article confirmed that he was an Israeli citizen, but did not specify anything more about him. The story was treated to the usual deluge from the anti-Israel crowd attracted to this internet news site. [More]
posted by: jrtelegraph