Nakba Day Killings: The Scoop the New York Times Didn’t Want?

Last week I passed on to the New York Times some obvious questions that could lead to a scoop and it seems that they missed the opportunity. After two Palestinian kids were killed on Nakba Day, the New York Times had erroneously reported their ages. I contacted the relevant folks covering and editing these stories at the Times about the error and to their credit they eventually made the correction.
A few days later, CNN released video that corroborated earlier video of the shootings but also showed the Israeli forces actually firing a kill shot. When I watched the video, something seemed odd to me. Why where the different Israeli forces assembled there in different uniforms? Why was the shooter approached from behind just before the shot by what appeared to be another member of the Israeli forces who was frustrated about something? Why did that seemingly frustrated figure try to take the gun away from the soldier before the shot, why did he ultimately take it away afterwards?
Something seemed fishy here. I decided to write a quick email to the sleuths at the Times, who are trained at uncovering the truth. There were two kids dead and now video evidence showing odd behavior at the moment a shot was fired was available. At minimum, more questions should be asked. I wanted them to look into it as quickly as possible and get the story right. If my hunch about something else going on here was right, the New York Times would break the story, or so I hoped. Below is the exact email I hastily sent to the same relevant journalists at the Times regarding the video (typos, misspellings and all).

From: Yousef Munayyer
Sent: Thursday, May 22, 2014 1:09 PM
Subject: RE: Nakba Day Killings



CNN has released footage it claims shows one of the kill shots

Please watch it and focus closely around 1:56 to 2:15. Several armed Israeli forces are filled[sic] on a roof top. One, in what seems to be a green helmet and perhaps from a different unit, is crouched down and aiming. His helmet is different from those around him. Just before the shot is fired, it appears the individual behind him in black fatigues and a black helmet and clear face shield realizes something is wrong. He moves toward the crouched shooter and seems to attempt to get his attention. It almost looks like he was trying to take the rifle from him before the shot and then the shot is fired at which point the man in black fatigues jumps back as if he was not expecting it to come at the moment when his hand was near. He then takes the rifle that fired the supposed kill shot away from the shooter in the green helmet.

I’m no expert on these matters, but this doesn’t pass the smell test. My hunch is that different units were involved here with different commands, perhaps there was a dispute over jurisdiction etc. This would explain why the investigation is taking time and isn’t clear. It seems someone wanted to use live fire and many someone else didn’t. For a couple of shots, the guy that wanted to use the live fire won the battle and two boys ended up dead.

If you listen to the shots about 10 seconds later from what seems to be the same mic in pretty much the same position they sound different. Perhaps the military policy[sic] unit or whoever those dressed in black were only fired rubber bullets but they may not have been the only ones firing.

This is at minimum something to look further into. I hope you will be able to now that this footage seems to raise new questions.


It is impossible from the footage to tell exactly what happened between those Israeli soldiers/police but it is clear something was out of the ordinary. I didn’t hear back from the journalists at the Times that I e-mailed though I often do. Six days later, today, Haaretz publishes this:

Last Thursday, a week after the incident occurred, the belated broadcast of footage taken by a CNN cameraman seemed to shed new light on what happened. That footage showed one member of a group of border policemen firing at the Palestinians. The camera then showed the Palestinians evacuating Nuwara, who was hit by a bullet in the chest and died of his wounds soon afterward. But it now turns out that the person seen shooting a rubber bullet in that footage was actually a soldier from the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit who had been sent to document the proceedings.

The CNN video shows a soldier wearing the green IDF uniform, a different shade than the Border Police uniform. His sleeves are rolled up in a way that cannot be done on Border Police uniforms, and his helmet lacks the plastic shield of Border Police helmets. The footage also shows the Border Police commander at the scene taking the rifle away from the soldier immediately after he fired the rubber bullet. The Border Police had been tasked with controlling the demonstration, with an IDF artillery unit present as back-up.

The belated revelation that this soldier opened fire during the incident reveals a problem that emerged during the second intifada (2000-05): Specialists from other units – from drivers to dog handlers, violated orders – who were attached to operational forces tasked with containing violent demonstrations or conducting arrests behaving inappropriately.  

The fact that the specialist was not fully subordinate to the operational chain of command in the field makes it harder for field commanders to supervise his activities. Yet he is also far from his regular unit commanders back at base, which means they cannot keep a close eye on him either.

Oh, one other relevant tidbit from Haaretz:

The details of the case are under a military court gag order.

Recently the New York Times Public Editor wrote about Israeli gag orders influencing coverage and how she found it  “troubling that The Times is in the position of waiting for government clearance before deciding to publish.”

Did something like that happen here? Or rather was this just a case where the journalists at the Times didn’t find the deaths of two Palestinian children a relevant enough story to follow up on, even though they were made privy to insight that should have led them to this story almost a week before Haaretz broke it? Maybe they did ask questions and were told the story is under gag order. If so, did they comply and keep what they knew under wraps?

As I’m writing this, the New York Times has just posted a Reuters story on the matter. But it is odd that a paper like the New York Times would use a wire service to cover a story in a country where they have a bureau and multiple reporters and had a lead 6 days before others got around to publishing it.

I just can’t figure out why the Times wouldn’t look further into this and would be playing catch up today when they could have been ahead of the pack in getting to the truth of what happened here.

Many questions still remain. The shot fired in the CNN video killed Nadeem Nuwara at 1:45pm. The rifle was the supposedly taken away from what Israel is now saying was an unauthorized shooter. But Mohamed Abu Thaher was shot later at 2:48pm. What happened then? Was the gun given back to him? Was it a different shooter? Why are children being shot with any type of projectile at a moment they pose no threat? Why does the official Israeli story on this continue to change every day?

These are the kinds of questions reporters should be asking about this incident now to get to the bottom of it and dig through what seems to be an Israeli cover up. If there are any reporters out there whowant to use this info to chase this story down please do, I’d send it along to the New York Times but, well, I’m not so sure they really want it.