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Media Analyses





WASHINGTON POST WATCH: Bias by Omission


The Washington Post’s "Activists Break Blockade of Gaza" (August 24) belongs in journalism texts as a classic example of bias by omission. Written by National Public Radio’s long-time Israel correspondent Linda Gradstein, the dispatch repeatedly drops or disguises facts necessary for readers to understand the events being reported. Griff Witte, the Post's Jerusalem bureau chief, is on leave and Ms. Gradstein – whose NPR coverage often has been criticized by CAMERA – continues to substitute.

Half-truths lead to falsifications

The Post lead claims that "dozens of human rights activists reached the Gaza Strip ... after the Israeli navy decided to not hinder the challenge to Israel’s blockade of the Palestinian enclave." The article provides no support for the description "human rights activists."

* The first activist quoted, and the Post’s main source for the Free Gaza group, is "Jeff Halper, head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, the only Israeli Jew on board." The Post does not identify him further.

Readers ought to be informed that Halper is an anti-Zionist American-Israeli who opposes the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, advocating a "bi-national solution." CAMERA previously noted that Halper’s European Union-funded Committee Against House Demolitions is "a virulently anti-Israel activist organization" that falsely interprets the Fourth Geneva Convention to portray Israeli demolition of terrorists’ homes as illegal ("Jeff Halper Distorts International Law")

* The second named Free Gaza source, to whom the Post gives the concluding, high-minded quote — "we do not have to stay silent in the face of injustice. Reaching Gaza today, there is such a sense of hope, and hope is what mobilizes people everywhere" — is Huwaida Arraf. The newspaper identifies her only as "a Palestinian American."

Arraf is co-founder, with her husband, Adam Shapiro, of the anti-Israel International Solidarity Movement ("Whitewashing ISM"). In a January 2002 article for Palestine Journal, they supported "armed resistance" and suicide attacks, writing:

We accept that the Palestinians have a right to resist with arms ... Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics — both nonviolent and violent ....

Palestinian Arabs killed in nonviolent protests,, they wrote, will have died in a manner "no less noble than carrying out a suicide operation. And we are certain that if these men were killed during such an action, they would be considered shaheed [martyrs for] Allah…"

In 2002, Shapiro acted as a "human shield" for Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat when Israeli forces kept him confined to his Ramallah headquarters. While other reporters pressed Shapiro to back up his claims that Israelis were oppressing Arabs the way Nazis had Jews — he could not— Ms. Gradstein reported of him and Arraf that "amid the violence in Israel and in the West Bank, an American Jew and a Palestinian-American Christian have fallen in love and decided to marry."

ISM members have conceded they’ve worked with representatives of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, although they disavow knowledge of specific terrorist plans.

* The Post mentions the Free Gaza movement three times in its article about "human rights activists"without describing the movement in its own words.

The mission statement at www.freegaza.org reads like standard, pre-Oslo, PLO boiler-plate rhetoric. Nothing about a two-state solution, Israel and Palestine, side-by-side, democratic and at peace, as in President George W. Bush’s 2002 "vision." Rather, it’s historical revisionism about the 1948 "nakba" (Arabic for "catastrophe") of Israel’s creation, allegations of further "ethnic cleansing" in the 1967 Six-Day War, and the so-called Palestinian "right of return" that was not a part of any of the late 1940s and early ‘50s U.N. resolutions on the subject of refugees. Nothing about the terrorist crimes against Israel by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and similar groups, nothing about Hamas’ oppression and immiseration of the population of the Gaza Strip.

Though the Post does not disclose this fundamental information to readers, the Free Gaza movement is not about human rights, for Palestinian Arabs, Israeli Jews or anyone else. It’s a support group for Palestinian rejectionists.

* The day after the Post’s coverage of the "human rights activists’"arrival in Gaza City, Lebanon’s English-language Daily Star carried an Agence France Presse dispatch on the event. AFP noted that "the group also met Ismail Haniyeh, who has led the Hamas-run government in Gaza since he was dismissed as prime minister by President Mahmoud Abbas, whose forces were routed by Hamas in a week of bloody clashes last year. Haniyeh gave the activists honorary Palestinian citizenship and passports to Palestine. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, and the European Union."

Spinning the news

On August 24, the day the Post published "Activists Break Blockade of Gaza," The Washington Times headlined an Associated Press dispatch on the subject as follows:

Pro-Palestinian activists allowed to sail to Gaza; Blockade protesters welcomed

The article itself referred to "international activists" and simply "activists," not "humanitarian activists." The headline correctly said "pro-Palestinian."

The day before, on August 23, Ynetnews.com, the English language Web site of Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s largest daily, reported that "the [Israeli] foreign ministry slammed the leftists and said that they did not deserve to be referred to as ‘peace activists," branding them as a "handful of provocateurs seeking a public relations stunt who initiated a political protest aimed at boosting Hamas' regime of horrors in Gaza."

"How does such a delusional journey promote peace?’ the foreign ministry added. ‘What kind of contribution does this journey make to the promotion of ideas of reconciliation and compromise? None."

Israeli officials noted that genuine humanitarian groups can provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinian population through existing land crossings, branding the leftist activists as ‘propagandists.’

The delivery of "token humanitarian aid" including "200 hearing aids" and "balloons" screamed "photo-op." Ynet’s report that hundreds of Arabs left the beach in disappointment after realizing the publicity stunt nature of the undertaking, supported that conclusion. By half-truths and omissions, The Post did not just report a publicity stunt, it participated in one.


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