Almost two weeks after The Independent published a baseless smear about Gazan babies dying alone in Israel – a claim swiftly exposed by HonestReporting – The Guardian’s Oliver Holmes and Hazem Balousha have now repeated the smear.
On June 7, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP, a member of the British Labour party, claimed that a Gazan mother was told by doctors over the phone that two of her prematurely-born babies died. In an op-ed published in The Independent, Allin-Khan alleged that the “mother had to return to Gaza days after giving birth,” and therefore was not present when two of the triplets died. It was only months later, wrote Allin-Khan, that the “mother was issued a permit and was able to collect her and take her [remaining daughter] home.
As HonestReporting responded at the time:
According to multiple news sources, the mother was with the boys when they died. Rather than being far away in Gaza, the reports clearly indicated that the mother was actually with her children in Israel until their final moments, and only then returned to Gaza in order to bury them.
Anyone looking into the story online would easily have been able to find these articles – from the Israeli media and the Palestinian media alike – all stating the same thing; that the babies’ mother was actually with them when two of them died, and only returned to Gaza afterwards. Similarly, a quick Google search would have yielded HonestReporting’s response.
Despite the mass of contradictory evidence available online, the Guardian has now re-run this same story in an article entitled, “A Jerusalem hospital where Palestinian babies die alone.” In the Guardian article, a more detailed version of the claim appears:
In one case, a 24-year-old mother from Gaza was permitted to travel to Jerusalem to give birth to gravely ill triplets two months early. Two weighed less than a bag of sugar.
But Hiba Swailam’s permit expired and she had to return to Gaza. She was not there when her first child died at nine days old, or two weeks later when her second baby also died. She was informed by phone.
This is the exact same story. The only major difference, beyond the inclusion of the names of the family members, is the identity of the writer. This time the story is from a journalist, rather than a politician. Surely journalists are supposed to check their sources? What kind of journalist writes a story months after the event itself occurred, and almost two weeks after another newspaper publishes an article on it? And as if all that wasn’t enough, what kind of journalist disregards the fact that gaping holes have already been punched through the story?
The Guardian report correctly describes the “vicious political rivalry between the Palestinian political factions in the West Bank and Gaza” that has “deepened a health crisis.” In pointing out that the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) “has been accused of cutting medical aid to Gaza to press Hamas to cede control of the strip,” The Guardian mentions an important fact. However, the writers could, and should, have gone further. Not only has the PA cut medical aid to Gaza, it also deliberately drags its feet in processing exit permit requests for the people of Gaza, thus denying them vital medical care.
Indeed, a report in Hebrew published on Israel’s Channel 13 website on May 31 said that:
The hospital repeatedly asked the Palestinian Authority to request a permit from the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories for Shahd’s mother or father to come back to Israel and reunite with their daughter. ‘We tried over and over, but they refused.’
Israeli media also reported that a single permit request was made, which was faulty and therefore denied. Despite the refusal of the Palestinian Authority to re-apply for a permit for the infant’s mother to return to Israel, she was issued a special permit by COGAT following the intervention of the Israeli television channel. None of this was mentioned in The Guardian story.
Beyond the facts of this story, the wider context which is notably absent from The Guardian report. The fact that Gazans with medical permits have been caught providing information for terror attacks and smuggling explosives into Israel underscores the need for vetting. In one case, two sisters from Gaza smuggled explosives disguised inside medicine containers into Israel as they were headed for cancer treatment at a Jerusalem hospital. In another, a Gazan woman with a travel permit to accompany her sister, a cancer patient who received medical treatment in Israel, exploited the opportunity to pass on a phone and instructions to a Palestinian from the West Bank. The recipient then used the phone and instructions to start preparing bombs.
While journalists have every right to document the suffering of individuals in Gaza, circulating concocted and already discredited stories, and neglecting to contextualize the facts by mentioning Israel’s legitimate security concerns, is an insult to journalism.
Please send your considered complaints to The Guardian readers’ editor – [email protected]
Source material can be found at this site.