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Media Analyses





Washington Post Strains Murder through Palestinian Filter


The Washington Post covered the early April murder of Juliano Mer Khamis, a Jewish-Arab actor and director of a drama school for Palestinian Arabs, with detailed articles and photographs on two consecutive days.

By contrast, the newspaper virtually ignored the murder of five members of an Israeli family, presumably by Palestinian terrorists, a few weeks earlier.

And in reporting on Mer Khamis’ killing, The Post air brushed his anti-Jewish politics. At least one Israeli, writing in Hebrew (Kalman Liebeskind, "I did not cry about Juliano," Ma’ariv, April 11), reported that Mer Khamis once termed Zionism one of the greatest crimes in history and found "armed resistance" (anti-Israeli terrorism) acceptable.

Compare:

* On April 5, The Post published "Israeli actor fatally shot in Jenin camp," by special correspondent Joel Greenberg. (Greenberg, a former New York Times correspondent, often fills in when Jerusalem bureau chief Janine Zacharia handles events elsewhere.) "Israeli actor fatally shot" ran 402 words and included a color, thumbnail head shot with the cutline "Juliano Mer Khamis was attacked outside the youth theater he founded in the West bank town of Jenin."

Greenberg writes that "a prominent Israeli actor and director who mentored young Palestinians … was fatally shot Monday in the community’s refugee camp." Mer Khamis, "born to a Jewish mother and a Christian Arab father, personified the complexities of the conflict dividing his country …. Following in the footsteps of his mother, who ran a youth theater in Jenin in the 1980s, Mer Khamis founded the Freedom Theater in the town’s refugee camp in 2006 with Zakaria Zubeidi, a former Palestinian militant leader."

More detail follows on the actor-director’s assassination, attacks on his theater and his professional accomplishments. As for "militant Zubeidi" and Mer Khamis’ and Freedom Theater’s staff views on peace and violence, more below.

* On April 6, the paper played its second-day coverage of the murder as the lead story on its "The World" pages, ahead of other international news including Japan’s continuing nuclear reactor crisis. Headlined "For young Palestinians, a mentor lost; Slaying of Israeli actor-director who bridged the chasm between societies leaves many in Jenin refugee camp bereft," this 764-word news feature was illustrated by a huge four-column color photo. The cutline read "Palestinian actors in Jenin mourn their teacher, pictured on two posters. The Arab text reads: ‘The martyr of freedom and culture, genius Juliano Khamis.’"

The second article, also by Greenberg, included new details about Mer Khamis. It said most of his mother’s family "had died in a Nazi concentration camp and that most of his father’s relatives became refugees in Lebanon after Israel’s creation." The Post cited an associate of Mer Khamis that the point of his work "was to promote ‘cultural resistance, with words and pictures,’" to what the newspaper termed "years of Israeli-imposed movement restrictions that isolated Jenin ...."

The murders of five members of the Fogel family, including a baby -- the parents stabbed to death, the children’s throats slit -- as they slept on a Shabbat evening in their home at Itamar, a Jewish community in Samaria, did not merit anything resembling similar treatment by The Post.

Murdered Jews mere statistics

Four articles mentioned the killings, but three only in passing. The victims were named in only one story. The Post published no individual, group or crime scene photographs and virtually no details about family members or the murders appeared.

1) "Israel hunts for killers of five Jewish settlers," a 430-word dispatch by Zacharia, appeared on March 13. It mentioned "… five family members stabbed to death in a Jewish settlement …."

2) "Israel to expand settlements in wake of killings," a 585-word article by Greenberg, ran on March 14. This is the only article of the four to report the names and ages of the murdered family members or give any sense of the crime’s impact on Israelis. It mentions the funeral but not that as many as 20,000 people attended or that Israeli television carried it live. The story’s focus is not on the crime or its victims but rather that "the Israeli government said Sunday that it had approved the construction of hundreds of new homes in West Bank settlements after a couple and three of their children were stabbed to death in their home in a Jewish settlement Friday night …." While a probable terrorist connection to the killings is not mentioned, settlers who retaliated by destroying Arab property are termed "militants" — usually employed in Post Arab-Israeli coverage as a euphemism for anti-Israeli terrorists.

3) "Abbas: Settler family killing ‘inhuman’" was a four-paragraph news brief by Greenberg on March 15. It noted that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned "the fatal stabbing of five members of a family in a Jewish settlement …."

4) A subsequent anti-Israel terrorist attack brought the faceless settler family into The Post once more. "Blast fractures Jerusalem calm," an 808-word news article by Zacharia on March 24 covered a bus bombing that killed "a 59-year-old woman [again, no other details provided about the murder victim, who turned out to be a visiting Christian Bible teacher], injuring 38." The dispatch alluded to "the killing of five members of an Israeli family living in a West Bank settlement on March 11."

The apparent lack of curiosity about the Fogel family and the circumstances of their death -- believed to be at the hands of Palestinian terrorists -- details of the investigation and related news is a serious defect in Post coverage. And it is compounded by the writing and editing of the two Mer Khamis murder stories to conform to the historical revisionism of "the Palestinian narrative."

Examples of the distorting Palestinian filter in "Israeli actor fatally shot in Jenin camp" included:

* The reference to "Zakaria Zubeidi" as co-founder of Freedom Theater and "a former Palestinian militant leader" with no other context. Zubeidi (then spelled Zbeida), was the subject of a fawning Post profile "Refuge is prison for hunted Palestinian; De facto sheriff is wanted by Israelis," on Aug. 23, 2004. The 2,271-word article did acknowledge that Zubeidi led the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade -- a terrorist arm of the Fatah movement, the main element of the Palestinian Authority -- in the Jenin refugee camp and that an Israeli source described him as "extensively involved in terrorist activities." This included a 2002 attack on an Israeli polling station in which six Israelis were murdered, not mentioned by The Post.

In 2006, the year Zubeidi and Mer Khamis founded their drama school, Israeli security thwarted an attempted suicide bombing planned by Zubeidi’s Tanzim (another terrorist arm of Fatah) group in Jenin. That year Zubeidi publicly admitted getting assistance from Hezbollah. In 2007, he participated in an Israeli-Fatah amnesty and the next year told The Jerusalem Post he stopped terrorist activities "in part because of the conflict between Fatah and Hamas."

* Describing the second intifada as "an uprising against Israeli occupation." Palestinian sources confirm that then-PA leader Yasser Arafat launched the 2000 – 2004 terror war in support of his July 2000 rejection of an Israeli-American offer of a two-state solution in exchange for peace with Israel. So the uprising was against peace with Israel, not, as The Post described it, against "Israeli occupation."

* Referring to opponents of the theater -- who twice set fire to it -- as "religious conservatives" rather than Islamic fanatics.

* Using the euphemism "armed resistance" in place of anti-Israeli terrorism.

Examples of such tendentious language in "For young Palestinians, a mentor lost," include:

* "Palestinian families pushed out of what is now Israel when the Jewish state was created in 1948" and "most of his [Mer Khamis’] father’s relatives became refugees in Lebanon after Israel’s creation." Most Arab refugees from what became Israel fled the war launched against the new Jewish state – in rejection of the U.N. partition plan for British Mandatory Palestine – by five Arab countries, including Lebanon, and Palestinian "irregulars." But for the Arab war, there would have been no Arab refugees.

* "… the Jenin camp had been a battleground for local militants confronting Israeli troops." As Zubeidi’s own history, unreported by Greenberg, indicates, the Jenin camp became a battleground when Israeli counter-terrorism strikes confronted local terrorists planning attacks inside Israel.

* "…years of Israeli-imposed movement restrictions that isolated Jenin …." The phrase is attributed to Mer Khamis’ associates by The Post. Without context it amounts to anti-Israeli innuendo. Israel restricted movement in and out of Jenin to reduce Palestinian bombings inside Israel. Doing so helped decrease dramatically deaths among Israeli non-combatants after 2002.

* "Zakaria Zubeidi, a former militant leader in the camp …." The Post continues its long-standing white-wash of this particular terrorist, or ex-terrorist, source. Even more, the paper never mentions that, according to the New York Times ("Building a Stage for Mideast Peace Before the Final Curtain," April 6), Mer Khamis opposed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, favoring a bi-national state instead and that core staff and supporters of the theater "say they do not oppose armed struggle [terrorism] and that the Palestinians may resist the Israeli occupation by all means." The Post doesn’t report at all on these views from Freedom Theater or its director. Kalman Liebeskind, in Ma’ariv, indicated that Mer Khamis did not favor a bi-national state but a single Palestinian Arab country between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea.

Yet again, The Washington Post drains its Arab-Israeli news coverage through the fact-filter known as "the Palestinian narrative." The result, "advocacy journalism" -- public relations -- for Palestinians, an Orwellian "memory hole" for Israelis.

 


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