A 3-month-old baby girl was killed Wednesday when a car driven by a Palestinian man slammed into a group of bystanders at a Jerusalem light rail station, but the early headline of an Associated Press story on the incident drew criticism from pro-Israel media watchdogs who called it a perfect example of media bias against the Jewish state.
“Israeli police shoot man in east Jerusalem” was the initial headline of the AP story that ran on Yahoo and elsewhere, wording that ignored the killing of the baby, the Israeli police assessment that the attack was motivated by terrorism, and glossed over why police shot the man in the first place.
The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, a pro-Israel media watchdog, captured a screenshot of the headline, which was later edited. However, some Middle Eastern websites, including Lebanon’s Daily Star and Turkey’s Daily Sabah kept the original headline that obscured the context behind what really happened.
Israeli police said eight other people were injured when the suspect rammed into the rail station crowd. He tried to flee the scene on foot before police shot him. Israel Army Radio reported Thursday morning that he died of his wounds.
An Israeli government spokesman identified the suspect as Abed Abdelrahman Shaludeh and said he was a member of Hamas who had served time in Israeli prison for terrorism.
“[T]here were clearly enough details available at the time, even with the news still in the hazy ‘breaking’ stage, that the inappropriate and misleading headline should never have appeared on the story,” CAMERA observed. “Nearly an hour after AP’s first report, it published a second one, containing virtually no new information, with the more appropriate headline, ‘Car slams into east Jerusalem train station.’”
But the second headline also drew criticism, because it made no mention of the driver, the apparent terrorism connection and the slain infant.
“You’ll notice that this, too, is repellant behavior by the AP,” Seth Mandel of the conservative Commentary magazine wrote. “To say getting the truth from the AP on Israel is like pulling teeth would be an understatement.”
“The media’s reaction to the murder was stomach turning–and, unfortunately, not atypical,” Mandel added, calling the coverage “bias on steroids.”
The AP changed the headline again, where it currently reads: “Palestinian kills baby at Jerusalem station.”
Paul Colford, director of media relations for the Associated Press, declined to respond directly to criticism of the headline, but said it was written when confirmed facts were still scarce.
“The headline in question was short-lived, written when confirmed details of what happened were scarce,” Colford said in an email to TheBlaze. “The headline was replaced in just over a half-hour as AP continued to publish updates about the incident, the driver and the victim. The final version of the story, and its headline, made clear what had happened.”
Nevertheless, the original first sentence of the AP story read: “Israeli police say they have shot a man whose car slammed into a crowded stop in east Jerusalem, in what they suspect was an intentional attack.” It also included information attributed to a police spokeswoman that “nine people were wounded, some seriously.”
A headline from the BBC was also disparaged on social media for glossing over key details.
— Gidon Shaviv (@GidonShaviv) October 22, 2014
“Later in the day, after executives at the BBC located a shred of integrity hidden somewhere in the sofa cushions, that was changed as well,” Mandel wrote. “It now reads: ‘Jerusalem car “attack” kills baby at rail station.’ I say ‘a shred of integrity’ because the BBC still saw fit to wrap ‘attack’ in scare quotes. What are the options, here? Was it a car ‘love tap’? It was a terrorist attack, perpetrated by a member of a terrorist organization.” The new BBC headline can be seen here.
Israeli media reported that the baby killed, Chaya Zissel Braun, was an American citizen.
Her grandfather, Shimshon Halperin, told reporters outside the Jerusalem hospital where she was transported that the impact of the vehicle threw her from her stroller, sending her more than 10 yards in the air before she landed headfirst on the sidewalk, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Halperin said her parents had tried unsuccessfully for years to have a baby until Chaya was born.
“They had just returned from the Kotel [Western Wall]. It was the first time in her life that the girl was at the Kotel. They [her parents] took pictures, they held her up to face the Temple Mount, and they told her this is the holy place, this is the Temple Mount,” Halperin said.
“We express our deepest condolences to the family of the baby, reportedly an American citizen, who was killed in this despicable attack,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. “We urge all sides to maintain calm and avoid escalating tensions in the wake of this incident.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comment from the Associated Press.