Press review: an explosion in East Jerusalem

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 1 December 2004



Levinson, J. (2004), "Press review: an explosion in East Jerusalem", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 13 No. 5.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Press review: an explosion in East Jerusalem

Press review: an explosion in East Jerusalem

Shortly after 22.30 on 8 May 2004 the internet editions of Israeli newspapers carried a breaking story of an explosion near Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, a central location in the Arab section of the city. Although even a rudimentary analysis cast strong doubt that this was a terrorist action, all three Israeli internet newspapers held out such as a strong possibility. If not terrorism, then it was criminal or terrorist-related – the premature explosion of a bomb destined for a terrorist action. About an hour into the incident, the cause of the explosion was learnt. Terrorism was absolutely not involved. The explosion was caused by a gas leak and subsequent gas accumulation.

All three newspapers, Ha’aretz, Ma’ariv and the Jerusalem Post, initially showed a decided lack of knowledge about the Eastern section of the city. They described the blast as near the central bus station in the vicinity of the Damascus Gate. In fact, that was a misleading description, since there are two such stations – an older station, essentially closed, and a newer one. As it turns out, the reference was to neither station, but rather an area on a street where many buses begin their routes.

In the wrap-up article filed at 22.47, the Jerusalem Post took a step towards geographic accuracy, but it retained use of imprecise language, locating the blast opposite the Damascus Gate (not near either of the bus stations). First the newspaper wrote that the explosion was in a “kiosk”, then said that the “store” was destroyed. Opposite the Damascus Gate there are both stores and kiosks.

The Jerusalem Post cited ZAKA (Disaster Victim Identification) in describing the condition of the six people injured in the incident. ZAKA is a readily available source, eager to give news. One wonders, however, why the newspaper did not use hospital sources, which have a better record for news accuracy.

Ma’ariv took a different tack. It listed the hospitals to which the injured had been evacuated. No mention was made of ZAKA.

The Jerusalem Post carried a middle-of-the-night summary that best describes the entire incident: “Police concluded it was not a terror related ‘work accident’, as previously assumed”. “Assumed” – that was what initially turned a gas leak into a perceived terrorist incident.

Jay Levinson

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