Washington Post Flotilla II Coverage Lost at Sea

The Washington Post’s “Israel ramps up its campaign to prevent Gaza aid flotilla; Officials concerned about potential impact of effort” (June 29) could be the “incorrect” example on how to cover a news story in a Journalism 101 textbook. Incomplete and misleading examples, evasive wording and large errors of omission — “Israel ramps up its campaign to prevent Gaza aid flotilla” has them all.
 
Where were the editors?
 
* Post Jerusalem Bureau Chief Joel Greenberg writes that “Israeli commandos who boarded a Turkish ship in a similar flotilla 13 months ago encountered resistance [emphasis added] and killed nine people ….” This was the second consecutive day (“Israel drops threat against journalists; Those boarding Gaza protest flotilla faced 10-year banishment,” June 28) that Greenberg employed such evasive wording: “An Israeli naval commando raid on a Turkish ship in a similar flotilla 13 months ago met resistance from activists on board and nine were killed.”
 
“Encountered resistance?” “Met resistance?” “From activists?” They were attacked with knives and iron bars and lost at least one firearm to — judging from statements made prior to and during the voyage — would-be jihadists. Several Israel Defense Forces soldiers were wounded before colleagues opened fire. The IDF released video confirming the nature of the attack shortly afterwards. “Resistance” is what civil rights “activists” did at segregated lunch counters.
 
* The Post reported that “Israeli officials say the naval blockade of Gaza is meant to prevent the smuggling of weapons into the territory, which is controlled by the militant [emphases added] Islamic group Hamas.” Greenberg’s articles tell readers that Israel’s raid on the first flotilla last year “drew international condemnation and led Israel to ease its land blockade of Gaza” (June 28) or that it provoked “international condemnation that forced Israel to ease its land blockade of Gaza” (June 29).
 
Neither article mentions numerous Israeli and other interceptions of seaborne weapons shipments to the Strip (including on the Victoria, Karine-A and Santorini) or use of Gaza as a launching pad by Palestinian terrorists for thousands of mortars and rockets aimed at Israel.
 
* The headline, “Gaza aid flotilla” itself is erroneous. The Gaza Strip needs no material aid from seaborne “activists.” Goods are plentiful, the economy improving and, as The New York Times reported June 25, two luxury hotels and a second shopping mall were scheduled to open. No mention that U.N. Secretary-General Ban ki-moon has urged that “aid” be delivered legally to Egypt or Israel for shipment overland to Gaza.
 
Where were the rest of the biographies?
 
* “Israel ramps up its campaign to prevent Gaza aid flotilla” reports that flotilla passengers are expected to include “a group from the United States with the prominent American author Alice Walker ….” “Prominent author” is one way to describe Walker. Anti-Israeli, anti-Jewish, anti-American bigot is another. Walker says that Israel and the United States are “the world’s biggest terrorists,” that “Jesus, a Palestinian, is still being crucified,” and has compared Israeli measures against Palestinian Arabs to genocides in Rwanda and Congo.
 
* The article notes that one flotilla ship has been named “for Juliano Mer-Khamis, an Israeli Arab actor and activist who was shot to death in the West Bank ….” Who shot Mer-Khamis? The Post doesn’t say. Readers are left to infer that it might have been Israel.
 
Evasive wording and omissions of important information crippled The Post’s own coverage of the murder, April 5 and 6 articles by Greenberg, but did suggest that Palestinian Islamic extremists had a motive. The nature of Mer-Khamis’ activism — members of a Palestinian theater troupe he founded opposed a “two-state solution” and supported of Israel’s disappearance into a single Palestinian-dominated Arab-Jewish country, goes unmentioned.
 
* The Post quotes “Dror Feiler, an Israeli-born activist from Sweden” regarding the purported non-violent nature of the flotilla. But a paper on the venture (see below) for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs calls him an “anarchist ex-Israeli.” The Post paraphrases “Scandinavian organizers” about possible sabotage to one ship, but fails to dig into who organized the second flotilla attempt.
 
According to “Who Is Behind the Second Gaza Flotilla?”, written by Ehud Rosen, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and posted June 29, “the second flotilla is coordinated by Muhammad Sawalha, a senior UK-based Muslim Brotherhood figure connected to Hamas. Many of the participating organizations can be directly linked with the Union of Good, a coalition of European charities affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which in 2008 was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. Treasury for transferring funds to Hamas. The UoG was initiated by Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood on a global scale, shortly after the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000.”
 
Never mind reportorial digging that might expose the flotilla as a manifestation of an international effort led by Islamic extremists to delegitimize the Jewish state. The Post devotes the last five paragraphs of the 17-paragraph article to an apparent anti-flotilla hoax posted from a Twitter account of an intern in Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office.
 
Years of declining advertising revenue and decreasing circulation have led to repeated staff reductions at many newspapers, including The Post. Nevertheless, if the paper means to continue foreign coverage, it must do better than “Israel ramps up its campaign to prevent Gaza aid flotilla” and “Israel drops threat against journalists.” Much better.

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