Wednesday, November 13, 2013


  • News report critical of visitation rights for families of Palestinian prisoners
  • Story focuses on family of Abdullah Barghouti, Hamas bomb-maker
  • No information provided about Barghouti’s involvement in terrorism

The ZF today condemned an Al Jazeera story as a ‘failure of basic journalistic integrity.’ “Children visit jailed Palestinian relatives” focuses on the experience of the family of one Abdullah Barghouti, serving time in an Israeli jail. The audience is encouraged to sympathise with the young girls who make the hours-long journey from Ramallah to visit their father, with the programme noting how exhausting these ‘special occasions’ are. The news story uses the girls as an example of Palestinian families whose children have to travel alone because their adult relatives are denied access into Israel. Faeda al Barghouti, the wife of Abdullah, complains that she herself is banned from visiting her husband, and has only seen him twice in the last decade. She describes how she has been ‘refused security clearance’, but that no reason has been given for this. Since the only information the audience receives about Abdullah Barghouti is that he is serving 67 life sentences, the inference from the report is that Israel deliberately and arbitrarily denies family visits, feeding into the standard narrative of unjust treatment of Palestinians.

Abdullah Barghouti is in fact one of the most senior Hamas figures held by Israel. He was sentenced due to his role in constructing the bombs used in multiple suicide attacks on civilian targets, responsible for the deaths of 66 Israelis and the wounding of over 500. The victims of these attacks, such as the Sbarro massacre at a Jerusalem restaurant, included children and pregnant women; nonetheless, Barghouti remains unrepentant to this day, and has stated that if released he would continue to be actively involved in such acts of terrorism. None of this is mentioned in the report.
Paul Charney, ZF chairman, commented:

“Al Jazeera’s story on the family of Abdullah Barghouti represents a failure of basic journalistic integrity. Surely any discussion of the security concerns surrounding a prisoner must explain what they have been imprisoned for? Instead, Al Jazeera deliberately omitted any information about Barghouti except for his prison sentence – perhaps in order to imply that Israel simply hands out lengthy imprisonments for no good reason to Palestinians.  This omission suggests two points. Firstly, that Al Jazeera recognised that to mention Barghouti’s history would undermine the entire point of their piece – indeed, many viewers might be surprised by how many rights even an unrepentant murderer of civilians gets. And secondly, this means that Al Jazeera were more interested in producing a cheap smear of Israel than actually reporting on the situation.”