- 1 Provisional list of Eleland
- 2 PR offers 10 important items missing
Provisional list of Eleland
My submission attempts to discuss broad issues with reference to specific narrow examples. As such, it is far from a definitive listing of specific clauses, sentences, or sections which have problems; I would have to list virtually everything in the article, and this submission is ridiculously long as-is.
Misuse of sources
Citations which do not verify the text
Repeatedly, I have noticed statements sourced to material which simply does not report them. For instance, we are told that "in Jenin, the IDF chose not to bomb the spots of resistance using aircraft in order to minimize civilian losses" which is sourced with incredible vagueness to the UN Report. It would appear to be referring to paragraph 50 of the main portion, which says that "According to Israeli sources, in their incursion into the camp IDF relied primarily on infantry rather than airpower and artillery in an effort to minimize civilian casualties, but other accounts of the battle suggest that as many as 60 tanks may have been used even in the first days". Here we are taking an attributed claim, exaggerating it ("relied primarily on infantry rather than airpower" -> "chose not to bomb"), discarding the attribution, and ignoring the doubt cast upon the claim in the very same sentence.
The statement continues, "although there was limited use of helicopters", sourced again vaguely to the UN Report, and to the TIME piece by Matt Rees. Rees uses the word "limited" just once, to describe previous Israeli incursions in February. He also uses the word "helicopter" just once, saying "Cobra attack helicopters began to pound rooftop Palestinian positions."
The UN report uses the word "limited" twice, describing the extent of access the Israelis allowed them into Jenin, and the "very limited findings of fact" they were able to make as a result. Their several references to helicopters never once describe their use as limited (or any words to that effect).
In other words, these footnotes are worse than none at all; they lend the appearance of credibility to statements which are not, in fact, verified, and probably not verifiable.
When I rewrote the lede some weeks ago, I decided to include direct quotes in my footnotes, specifically to avoid this problem. These quotes keep getting removed, and in some cases replaced by the vaguer versions. Since many of our sources like the UN Report, the HRW & Amnesty reports, the Azure piece and the Jafee Centre conference report, are so very long, we really need to be more exact. Limited quotation from sources would be one way to accomplish this, as would use of paragraph numbers.
There's also a practice here of making an editorial statement like "unconfirmed 'eyewitness' claims were spread" and following with a blizzard of citations a la  . None of the cited sources actually say "unconfirmed 'eyewitness' claims were spread"; instead they are purported examples of sources allegedly "spreading" such claims. This is an attempt to push POV language "in through the back door". There are in fact sources which say substantially the same thing; sources like the Israeli MFA, the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Times, the Anti-Defamation League, and scads of right-wing bloggers. What we should be saying is, "according to [X, Y and Z partisan sources] unconfirmed 'eyewitness' claims were spread", followed shortly by "however, [A, B and C media outlets] responded that they were always careful to attribute their claims and note that they could not be confirmed, etc".
Failure to properly attribute statements
It is very depressing to note that the allegations of "Palestinian and international sources" keep getting changed to "Palestinian and some international sources" or just "Palestinian sources", despite the extremely clear fact that the EU, HRW, Amnesty, some international journalists, etc etc all described Israeli actions as indiscriminate. Editors have objected that these reports used Palestinian testimony (although the EU seemed to say that their conclusion was based on physical survey of the site), pretending that they know better than the most competent and respected human rights groups in the world.
 Spain "had the honour to transmit the report drawn up by the European Union" but it was not "the Spanish submission" to the report as some have been insisting.
 Amnesty noted that "Indiscriminate attacks include those that fail to distinguish between civilians and those taking part in the hostilities and/or civilian objects and military objectives. They also include attacks, which although directed at a military target, are carried out without regard to the likely consequences for civilians ... Amnesty International’s examination of individual cases in Jenin and Nablus, however, suggests that the IDF failed to uphold these principles [of distinction and proportionality]. ... Amnesty International has documented cases in Jenin and Nablus where people were killed or injured in circumstances suggesting that they were unlawfully and deliberately targeted, or were killed as a result of disproportionate use of force or gross negligence in protecting those not or no longer involved in the fighting."
Conversely, we are told straight-up that "A popular video footage of a fake burial procession, shot by an aerial drone on April 28, showed Palestinian pallbearers carrying a green blanket-wrapped 'corpse'". In fact, everything said here is an IDF allegation; all CNN could confirm was that they got a grainy video with some people on it carrying another person and then dropping him. The "popular" part is just invention; there's nothing to support this claim. This is typical of how favourable Israeli claims are treated throughout; they are embellished and passed along as fact. Why?
Biased selection and weight of sources
And here's the fundamental problem. We do actually have policies and guidelines about which sources to use, but you wouldn't know it from reading this article.
- 'In general, the most reliable sources are peer-reviewed journals and books published in university presses; university-level textbooks; magazines, journals, and books published by respected publishing houses; and mainstream newspapers. As a rule of thumb, the greater the degree of scrutiny involved in checking facts, analyzing legal issues, and scrutinizing the evidence and arguments of a particular work, the more reliable it is.
- 'Academic and peer-reviewed publications are highly valued and usually the most reliable sources in areas where they are available, such as history, medicine and science. Material from reliable non-academic sources may also be used in these areas, particularly if they are respected mainstream publications. The appropriateness of any source always depends on the context. Where there is disagreement between sources, their views should be clearly attributed in the text.
Types of sources available
This case is somewhat unusual in that academic sources became available very soon after the event. One of the best is the summary of proceedings at a conference of the Jafee Centre for Strategic Studies, which focused on media coverage, media strategy, public relations and propaganda. It was attended by heavyweights from the IDF, Israeli, British, and French TV stations, Ze'ev Schiff of Ha'aretz, and one representative of B'Tselem. It contains a wealth of useful information about media coverage of Jenin, which has been one of the main focuses from the beginning. It is, of course, a highly POV source from involved partisans, but they are speaking freely in a "friendly" context. We're currently citing it only once, for an uncontentious widely reported point. We're totally ignoring or even contradicting one of the main points made: "The decision to declare the [Jenin camp] area a closed military zone fueled suspicions of what was happening." (Meir)
We also have two extensive reports from Amnesty and HRW; these are technically advocacy groups, but they meet a very high standard of respectability. When their findings are useful, they are frequently cited by the US State Department among others. When their findings are not useful, they are dismissed out of hand or called "unbalanced", but even their harshest opponents rarely if ever accuse them of factual inaccuracy. Their findings were, of course, based on Palestinian testimony. This testimony was cross-checked, corroborated, and compared with physical evidence. Clearly, much of the testimony was rejected, since both groups found no evidence of a deliberate mass execution, although Jenin residents made those allegations. Insofar as they have a POV bias, it is their view of events primarily from a civilian perspective; they do consider concepts of "military necessity" but not as much as some other sources. The two reports are probably the best sources we have for what actually happened inside the camp during and immediately after the fighting.
We do cite these sources to a degre. However, the current article carefully segregates their information from the main body. For example, HRW and Amnesty extensively documented the Israeli practice of frog-marching random bystanders through the heavily mined streets at gunpoint, which was also widely reported elsewhere (even in the TIME piece). But the sections "The Battle" and "Change in Israeli tactics" totally omit these findings, which are mentioned only fleetingly in a seperate "Human Rights Watch report" section. Elsewhere we treat contentious, unverifiable IDF claims as factual; here we treat proven, widely verified facts as contentious claims.
[ stops here - unfinished ]
PR offers 10 important items missing
The first two of these are indisputable and would (likely?) be prominent if the US or UK had carried out the operation. The next 4 are also from the Israeli or Israel-supporting media, so they have the highest possible reliable source value.
- Sharons words "Palestinians must be hit ... must cause them losses, victims, so that they feel a heavy price." - a month earlier and before the surge of suicide bombings.
- Sharons advisor telling the BBC of the UN special envoy: "Mr Larsen has no business whatsoever to tell us what is right or wrong".
- The one small massacre reported in detail, with soldiers identified and IDF confirmation of an incident, Amnesty and the Independent newspaper.
- Three refrigerated trailers in the camp while all observers were excluded - Israel told us about them.
- The Israeli report they would bury up to 200 bodies in a "special cemetry in the Jordan valley" (ie closed military zone).
- Clips from the interview given by the bulldozer driver to an Israeli newspaper.
- An account of the third "international observer/human rights" group that made a visit and presented a "Jenin Investigation", still finding complete bodies in August.
- Allegations from Jordan included in the UN report that the Israelis mined the refugee camp before they left.
- Reference to the Irish woman who returned to Jenin and was shot and badly injured by the IDF in Nov. Mention Ian Hook, killed about the same time.
- Mention of the earlier and later armed incursions and the killing of people even when long curfews were supposedly lifted (eg AI report).
- Of the many serious faults in the article, the most blatant is the total number of deaths. Nobody believes it was 52, no RS said it was 52 (most reports said "at least 52" - other than one or two who copied the IDF misquoting the UN report). Reports spoke of the stench and squashed bits of bodies all over the camp (and bodies found later). The real toll will never be known - it's most likely in the 100s (though likely not 500 as sometimes claimed at the time). PRtalk 16:18, 7 November 2007 (UTC)