I’d imagine that the Guardian receives thousands of letters submitted by their readers for publication, of which only a few are likely published.
Their Letters page notes that the paper reserves the right to edit each submission, which prompted me to wonder whether the following letter, one of many about Syria published on Aug. 28, was even minimally fact checked:
• Just to get a bit of balance on the excessive coverage of the children who were perhaps killed by a chemical attack by either Assad’s forces or the rebels. On 15 January 2009, Israel attacked Gaza and 210 to 300 children were killed in the raids; 700 adults were also killed. The list of names was published by al-Jazeera on 15 January 2009. Children have been killed throughout the Middle East, but the west only focuses on certain cases that help its political interests.
First, whilst the prose is quite confusing, Ms. Salmon’s letter could easily be understood as (falsely) asserting that, just as Syrian children were (“perhaps”!) killed by chemical weapons (“by either Assad’s forces or the rebels”), Israel perpetrated a similar crime in January of 2009. Of course, the writer doesn’t say this explicitly but, based on the wording, that is how it could easily be interpreted by an average reader.
Second, in reading the letter you’d be forgiven for assuming that on January 15, 2009 Israel launched an attack on Gaza, resulting in the death of a thousand Palestinians, including 300 children, on that one day alone. Of course, however, Israel’s war against Hamas terrorists in Gaza (Operation Cast Lead) lasted a little over three weeks – commencing on Dec. 27, 2008 and ending on Jan 18, 2009. And, whilst claims regarding the total death toll varied, the casualty figures cited in Salmon’s letter did not occur on that one January day, but over the course of the entire 23 day war.
All of this information could easily have been revealed by a simple Google search, a fact-checking task which doesn’t seem too arduous for a team of professional Guardian editors.