Jan
01
1991

'Arabs Stone Jewish Worshippers'...or Did They?

"Stones fell on Jews who...were simply praying peacefully at the Western Wall," reported Dean Reynolds on Nightline (10/9/90). His version coincided with nearly all accounts of the Oct. 8 killing of some 17 Palestinians outside the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. CBS Evening News showed stones, thrown by Palestinians, flying over the Wailing Wall. What they failed to show, and what few journalists reported, is that the plaza below was virtually empty.

Investigative reporter Michael Emery (Village Voice, (11/13/90) analyzed three separate videotapes of the massacre to show that Israeli forces fired into the crowd before any rocks were thrown over the wall, and that, when rocks were thrown, it was at armed police, not worshippers. CBS's 60 Minutes (12/2/90), in an important follow-up to the Emery piece, could not find any injured Jewish worshippers.

Except for CBS, few of the media outlets that got the story wrong have retracted their accounts. Although New York Times reporters Joel Brinkley and Sabra Chartrand viewed the tapes with Emery on Oct. 24, neither has written about how the footage disproved their earlier reporting.

Instead of correcting the record, some media figures reacted to the new taped evidence with instant hostility. At a small New York dinner party, ABC's Barbara Walters and U.S. News & World Report owner/editor Mort Zuckerman criticized 60 Minutes executive producer Don Hewitt so vehemently that Hewitt walked out of the party (Newsweek, 12/17/90). Afterwards, Zuckerman explained that he felt no need to be objective about Israel, because "I write editorials, which by definition are opinion."