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Media Analyses





Washington Post Reports Palestinian Incitement, Still Misses Point


Why post a long critique of a short newspaper article, one that's appeared to date online but not in print? To spotlight once more a major news outlet's failure to deal comprehensively with Palestinian anti-Israel, antisemitic incitement, the effects of which help block Arab-Israeli peace and contribute to the spread of Jew-hatred worldwide.

The Washington Post's “Israel's Netanyahu blames children's shows for Palestinian terror” (WorldViews, online only, Jan. 25, 2016), is a journalistic example of “playing small.” The basketball equivalent of a boxer pulling his punches, “playing small” describes a tall athlete not using his or her physical advantage fully but rather playing like someone shorter.

“Israeli's Netanyahu blames children's shows,” by Post Jerusalem Bureau Chief William Booth, gingerly circles Palestinian anti-Israeli, anti-Jewish incitement rather than reporting it straight. In other words, it plays small.

This continues a trend in the newspaper's Israeli-Palestinian coverage. See, for example, “Washington Post Obscures the Obvious—Palestinian Hatred of Jews,” CAMERA, Oct. 21, 2015.

“Israel's Netanyahu blames children's shows” starts almost straight. Its first two sentences note “there's been a wave of Palestinian attacks against Israelis over the last four months, violence that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says is spurred by incitement from Palestinian officialdom. The Israeli leader and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan have been showing foreign diplomats a short video of clips taken from kiddie shows [emphasis added] alongside speeches and interviews by Palestinian leaders, that the Israelis say is evidence the Palestinian Authority is stoking ‘a culture of hate.'”

The Post's “kiddie shows” usage, which recurs later in the article, implicitly minimizes the propaganda they disseminate and so casts doubt on the Israeli charge Palestinian leaders foster “a culture of hate.” That's only one dismissive word, used twice. But much of the rest of the relatively short (14 paragraphs) report also pulls punches.

For example, the fourth paragraph reads “the two-minute video begins with a little girl on Palestinian Authority TV reciting a poem that includes the lines “my toys are the rock and the rifle,' though it does not include the later lines, ‘Ask not where my childhood is, for it lies buried beneath ruins and ashes.'”

Detective steps over clues

More damning lines from PA and Hamas children's programs abound. The Post could have found and spotlighted them before Netanyahu and Erdan introduced their two-minute video simply by checking the Palestinian Media Watch and MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) Web sites. CAMERA has suggested this more than once.

The same day The Post's reported on the Netanyahu-Erdan montage, Palestinian Media Watch featured a bulletin headlined “PA TV incited 15-year-old to murder, says Israeli Security Agency; ‘In the period of time preceding the terrorist attack,' the murderer had watched ‘PA television, which presented Israel as a state that ‘kills Palestinian youths.' … ‘Barbaric' Israel's goal is to kill kids—so don't walk alone! Israel is ‘killing people everywhere'”
 
Early in the current “stabbing intifada,” PA media highlighted the October 3 murder of Rabbi Nehemiah Lavi and Aharon Bennett by Muhannad Halabi in Jerusalem's Old City. Security officers shot and killed Halabi soon after his attacks. Within days the killer's parents turned up, praising their “martyred son” for “avenging” Muslims on Temple Mount “against the impure enemies” and repeating false Palestinian allegations about a Jewish invasion of al-Aqsa mosque. 

As PMW has detailed, “since the Palestinian Authority was established it has systematically indoctrinated young and old to hate Israelis and Jews. Using media, education, and cultural structures that it controls, the PA has actively promoted religious hatred, demonization, conspiracy libels, etc. These are packaged to present Israelis and Jews as endangering Palestinians, Arabs and all humanity.” Numerous examples from the past four months are provided under the headline “Demonization of Jews/Israelis”.

But The Post has chosen not to pursue them, except occasionally and fragmentarily. For “Israel's Netanyahu blames Palestinian children's show,” the newspaper finds its way to PMW primarily to question the source of one clip used in the Israeli video.

The poet T.S. Eliot famously observed “human kind cannot bear very much reality.” So too, apparently The Washington Post—hardly alone among other major news media—when it comes to Palestinian anti-Israeli, antisemitic incitement.

The Post tells its online viewers that the Netanyahu-Erdan presentation includes a clip from PA President Mahmoud Abbas' September 16 speech “seemingly praising the recent attacks.” There's no “seeming” about it. According to The Post itself Abbas affirmed “we welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem,” says the Palestinian leader to a group of activists. ‘This is pure blood, clean blood, blood on its way to Allah.'”

Skewing by omission

The newspaper omits from Abbas' “drop of blood” lines his pledge that “every Martyr will reach Paradise, and everyone wounded will be rewarded by Allah. … the Al-Aqsa [mosque] is ours…. and they [Jews] have no right to defile it with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem.”

CAMERA cited Abbas' peddling of the old, always inflammatory “the Jews are endangering al-Aqsa mosque” libel many times before this Washington Post recounting, including in “Rocks Attack Cars, ‘Violence Spikes' but Palestinian Arabs not Responsible,” Oct. 5, 2015. The information has not been hard to find.

Mitigating the “my toys are the rock and the rifle” children's poem, The Post adds, as if dispositive, the lines “ask not where my childhood is, for it lies buried beneath ruins and ashes.” Never mind that such ruins and ashes have been the consequences of, first, Palestinian rejection of repeated Israeli-U.S. offers of a “two-state solution” in exchange for Arab-Israeli peace—including at Camp David in 2000, Taba in 2001 and in 2008 after the Annapolis conference—and second, of Palestinian terrorism.

Why would Palestinian leaders spurn two-state proposals? “Israel's Netanyahu blames Palestinian children's shows” tells its online viewers. But it does so out of context: “In another bite, kiddie TV host Walaa Battat of the show ‘Children's Talk' asks a young lad what are the 1948 lands of Palestine? And he says Haifa, Jaffa, Acre and Nazareth — all cities that today are in the State of Israel. ‘The '48 lands are all ours and will return to us, right?' Battat prompts the boy.”

The Post later explains that “the Israeli government is working hard to keep the focus on alleged Palestinian incitement, while the Palestinian Authority wants the focus to remain on Israel's 49-year military occupation and the continued expansion of Jewish settlements on land the Palestinians want for a future state [emphasis added].” But the paper has just cited one of innumerable cases of Palestinian incitement: All Israel, “the 1948 lands” as well as “the 49-year military occupation” of the West Bank—Israel unilaterally evacuated the Gaza Strip in 2005—is “land the Palestinians want for a future state.”

In their own words, then, Palestinian Arabs see Israel conducting not just a “49-year occupation” but a 68-year one. However, for The Post, the former time period is virtually mandatory boilerplate. One of countless other examples appears in “Attack by Palestinians reach inside settlements; As mother of six is mourned, Israeli troops conduct manhunt” (January 19 print edition) by Booth and Jerusalem bureau reporter Ruth Eglash:

“Fearing more attacks, Israeli army commanders, who oversee the 49-year military occupation [emphasis added] of the West Bank, ordered all Palestinian workers out of the nearby Gush Eetzion settlement block.”
 
Israelis, right, center and increasingly left, according to Times of Israel Editor David Horowitz, recognize what The Washington Post has yet to report in any depth: This generation of Palestinian leadership, Abbas and his PA or Hamas in Gaza, is busy inciting the next generation of Palestinian Arabs to reject peace, reject Israel (“Stop the incitement, stop the killing,” January 26) occupation and settlements or no occupation and settlements. 
 
Not a dog whistle but a tuning fork

This tuning fork of Post Israeli-Palestinian reporting has a second prong. Complementing “49-year occupation” as recurring boilerplate is “the continued expansion of Jewish settlements.”

Given that context and comprehensiveness are among journalism's traditional standards—along with accuracy, objectivity, balance, prompt correction of mistakes and absence of conflicts of interest—The Post occasionally ought to add, but never does:

A—Israel's military occupation of the West Bank is legal and obligatory, the result of successful defensive wars in 1967 and '73, and remains so pending final agreements negotiated according to U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and related subsequent accords, and

B—There's been virtually no expansion of Jewish communities in the disputed West Bank (Judea and Samaria) for nearly a decade, either under Netanyahu or his immediate predecessor, Ehud Olmert. There has been new construction within existing settlements, but little expansion of the area encompassed by them. After “49 years of occupation,” “the continued expansion of settlements” still comprise roughly four percent of the West Bank.

Not that one would know from reading The Washington Post.

The paper also puts its finger on the scale by giving the last three paragraphs to Abbas, who “repeated earlier denials of incitement. … For their part, the Palestinian say the real inciter is Israel, which expropriates land, shoots protesters and demolishes homes [emphases added].”

Palestinian Arab spokesmen do say that. Some also say the Sept. 11, 2001 al-Qaeda attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. were inside jobs, organized by the United States, Israel or both to blacken the image of the Arab and Islamic worlds. Were The Post to do more than stenographically convey the claims of Palestinian leaders, it might write, more comprehensively:

*Israel has taken property that was state land under the Ottomans, British, Jordanians and now Israel, land specified in the League of Nations/United Nations Palestine Mandate for Jewish settlement;

*It shoots terrorists and sometimes rioters; and

*In less than 10 cases since the “stabbing intifada” began four months ago, demolished homes of terrorists.

The Post's salad, other media's meat and potatoes

A day after The Post's “Israel's Netanyahu blames Palestinian children's shows” appeared, Shlomit Krigman, 23, of the Jewish community of Shadmot Mehola in the West Bank, died after being stabbed in an attack by two terrorists. One reportedly was affiliated with Hamas (“Woman stabbed in terrorist attack in Beit Horon succumbs to her wounds,” Ynet News, January 26). Hamas, like the teacher on PA TV's “Children's Talk,” wants all the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Israel for a state, in Hamas' case, an Islamic theocracy.

The day before The Post's Web article, Israel's former defense minister and former ambassador to the United States, Moshe Arens, published an Op-Ed in Ha'aretz. Its headline and longer subhead read: “Israel's ‘Occupation' Keeps Palestinian Society Afloat; Palestinian leaders have failed generations of Palestinians. Israel can help improve their conditions, but as long as ISIS is their idyllic example, no change seems to be in the offing”. According to Arens, “Palestinian children knifing people while yelling ‘Allah Akbar' are a sign that Palestinian society is plumbing new depths…. Those who ascribe this to the Israeli ‘occupation' are offering lame excuses for a culture that glorifies death and killing, a culture that can bring no succor to its people.”

Why doesn't The Washington Post—and other major Western news media—deal both intensively and extensively with Palestinian incitement? Jerusalem Post Palestinian affairs reporter Khaled Abu Toameh suggested some answers in an article for Gatestone Institute, “Palestinians: Western Media's Ignorance and Bias,” (January 21):

“The binary good guy/bad guy designation tops the list. Someone has to be the good guy (the Palestinians are assigned that job) and someone has to be the bad guy (the Israelis get that one). And everything gets refracted through that prism.

“Yet the problem is deeper still. Many Western journalists covering the Middle East do not feel the need to conceal their hatred for Israel and for Jews. But when it comes to the Palestinians, these journalists see no evil. Foreign journalists based in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have for years refused to report on the financial corruption and human rights violations that are rife under the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas regimes. They possibly fear being considered ‘Zionist agents' or ‘propagandists' for Israel.

“Finally, there are the local journalists hired by Western reporters and media outlets to help the cover the conflict. These journalists may refuse to cooperate on any story that is deemed ‘anti-Palestinian.' Palestinian ‘suffering' and the ‘evil' of the Israeli ‘occupation' are the only admissible topics. Western journalists, for their part, are keen not to anger their Palestinian colleagues: they do not wish to be denied access to Palestinian sources.

“Thus, the international media's indifference in the face of the current wave of stabbings and car-rammings against Israelis should come as no surprise. One would be hard-pressed to find a Western journalist or a media organization referring to Palestinian assailants as ‘terrorists.' In fact, international headlines often show more sympathy toward Palestinian attackers who are killed in the line of aggression than toward the Israelis who were attacked in the first place.”
 
Why a long critique of a short article? Because The Washington Post, in print and online, remains influential. Because Jerusalem Bureau Chief William Booth is a veteran foreign correspondent, not one of the uninformed rookie journalists or “parachute” correspondents spotlighted by Abu Toameh who dropped into Israel to make a name or make a splash. Because Palestinian incitement not only helps block Arab-Israeli peace but also stimulates international demonization of Israel and the resurgence of antisemitism.

And because, for whatever reason, “Israel's Netanyahu blames children's shows for Palestinian terror” is but one more example of The Washington Post's inability or unwillingness to cover Palestinian anti-Israeli, anti-Jewish incitement substantively.

 


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