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Media Analyses





WASHINGTON POST WATCH: Post Sees Israel's Birth Through Arab Eyes


The Washington Post ostensibly showcased Israel's 60th birthday with a top-center, page one article ("Born at the Dawn of a New State; Two Men's Lives Reflect Divergent Fortunes of Jewish, Palestinian Peoples," May 8). The article actually showcased a chronic distortion in Post Arab-Israeli coverage: filtering the Jewish state through the fun house mirror of Palestinian Arab beliefs.

The Real Israel at 60

What is Israel on its 60th birthday? It is not just "a military and economic powerhouse" and "high-tech innovator," in the Post's passing phrases. Israel is, simply and extraordinarily, the most successful of all the 80 or more post-World War II, post-colonial, post-Soviet countries.

Proof? Israel:

* Is a Western-style democracy featuring free, fair elections; free press; an independent judiciary and the rule of law; military subordination to civilian leadership; and equal rights for women and minorities - the only such country from Morocco to Pakistan;

* Without significant natural resources, in an area roughly equal to that of New Jersey and with a population of 7.2 million (5.5 million Jews) developed an economy larger than that of its four immediate neighbors - Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon - combined;

* Has the highest proportion in the world of university graduates per capita;

* Is home to six of the world's top universities - The Technion, Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, Bar-Ilan, Ben-Gurion and Haifa (compared to none in the 21 members of the Arab League);

* Has more companies listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange than any other country except the United States;

* Leads all countries in Asia, Africa, South America and the Pacific, including Australia and New Zealand, in patent applications, trailing only the United States, Canada and Europe (key cell phone and instant messaging technology, the micro-miniature video camera that gives doctors a non-evasive look at their patients from the inside, water-conserving drip irrigation, hybrid tomatoes with longer shelf-life for export worldwide, remotely piloted vehicle [drone] technology adapted by U.S. and other Western militaries etc., all come from Israel); and

* Has seen its population increase by a factor of nine, with the immigration of millions of Jews from Europe, the Arab world, North and South America, Africa and elsewhere, representing scores of countries and speaking dozens of languages, and assimilated them - with difficulty but overall success - into a single Jewish state.

It has done all this and more while under constant siege (including chronic terrorism and six major wars). It has fought against unceasing psychological warfare aimed at denying its legitimacy. It has not only survived but thrived.

And that's "just" the material side, the demographic, economic, social, cultural, scientific, and military side. There also the spiritual side, the story unique in history, of a people that endured nearly 2,000 years of exile to return to and redeem its promised land, reviving its national language and itself in the process - a process reflecting biblical prophecy.

That's the news of Israel at 60. But that was not the article on page one of the Washington Post.

The Old Astigmatism

As CAMERA has pointed out repeatedly, the Post can't seem to free itself from seeing Israel through Palestinian eyes, though it rarely if ever reports on Palestinian Arabs through Israeli Jewish eyes. In "Born at the Dawn of a New State," half the space goes to the Palestinian "narrative."

Jerusalem Bureau Chief Griff Witte looks at two 60-year-old men, Dror Gurel and Nabil Zaharan, one Jewish, one Arab, born the week of Israel's re-establishment and in close proximity. Gurel is a successful contracting engineer, Zaharan a life-long "refugee," living in a "camp" in Nablus. The comparison makes for an interesting human interest feature. But it does not detail Israel's birth and isn't really about the Jewish state at 60.

* The article doesn't say that Zaharan became a refugee after the Palestinian Arab leadership and the Arab states rejected the 1947 U.N. partition plan to turn British Mandatory Palestine into two new states, one Jewish and one Arab state.

* The article does not say that he and the many like him remained in "camps" (many long since grown into permanent, if poor, neighborhoods of adjacent towns and cities) due to Arab refusal to assimilate them as Israel assimilated nearly 600,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands.

* The article does not report that this Arab-to-Arab cruelty was meant to maintain resentment of Israel and provide a pool of terrorist recruits. Instead, it implies, perhaps inadvertently, a false comparison, between Israeli surroundings of "shopping centers and high-rises that have become symbols of affluence" and Palestinian life endured in a "squalid refugee camp in the city of Nablus."

The Old Confusion

The Post claims that "the question of why conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been allowed to fester for six decades is one that seems particularly haunting for both sides." No, it doesn't. Benny Morris, one of Israel's "new historians" and no uncritical cheerleader, writes in his new book: 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli Wars, "the 1948 war, from the Arabs' perspective, was a war of religion as much as, if not more than a nationalist war over territory. Put another way, the territory was sacred; its violation by infidels was sufficient grounds for launching a holy war and its conquest or reconquest, a divinely ordained necessity .... The evidence is abundant and clear that many, if not most, in the Arab world, viewed the war essentially as a holy war."

"Allowed to fester?" Such wording implies that Israel, as well as Palestinian Arabs and other Arab and Islamic parties, have chosen, implicitly if not explicitly, to prolong the conflict. Hardly. Jeffrey Goldberg, in his May Atlantic Monthly essay, "Is Israel Finished?" quotes a Gazan imam, Ibrahim Mudeiris, this way:

"It does not matter what the Jews do. We will not let them have peace." Further, "they can be nice to us or they can kill us, it doesn't matter. If we have a cease-fire with the Jews, it is only so that we can prepare ourselves for the final battle."

A large majority of Palestinian Arabs told pollsters that they approved of the March terrorist massacre in Jerusalem. Mudeiris' view is not an isolated one but rather articulates the ideology that "has allowed the conflict to fester."

The Post writes that Nablus is "under Israeli military siege." Beirut in the summer of 1982 was "under Israeli military siege." Nablus is under tight anti-terrorism restrictions. The difference is important, militarily, politically, journalistically.

The newspaper likewise notes "nightly Israeli army incursions" that threaten Zaharan's family's safety — but not the Palestinian terrorism that makes them necessary.

Compare and Contrast

The same day the Post published "Born at the Dawn of a New State," The Baltimore Sun ran "Israel's psyche at 60," an Op-Ed by Walter Reich, George Washington University's Yitzhak Rabin memorial professor of international affairs, ethics and human behavior. Though commentary, it gives a much better sense of the news of Israel on its birthday —  a "remarkable," perhaps "miraculous" country that "bustles with energy, commerce, science and the arts" while "in a condition of existential siege" —  than the Post's page one news feature.

 


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