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Media Analyses





Washington Post Retweets 16-Year Old’s Antics as News


A 16-year old New Jersey teenage girl named Bethany Koval was the focus of a Washington Post online story (“A New Jersey teen who tweeted ‘Israel is a terrorist force' was called to the principal's office for ‘bullying',” Jan. 8, 2016). The reason? Koval took a trip to her principal's office after allegations of harassment relating to her anti-Israel social media postings.

Readers may be perplexed why The Post—a paper whose Watergate investigative journalism played a role in the resignation of a President Richard Nixon—would devote 1,174 words to a story that, at best, belongs on the 10 p.m. local news.

The report begins, perhaps appropriately enough, by noting that Koval has “7,584 Twitter followers and counting. Recently, these followers were reminded that Koval is a 16-year-old high school student—one who can be called to the principal's office.”
 
From the principal's office to the newsroom—via Twitter 

The Post says that Koval was made to answer for her expletive-filled anti-Israel tweets that mentioned, as the girl herself noted, a “pro-Israel girl from my school.” As the paper observes, Koval's school, Fair Lawn High School, is “home to some of the country's toughest anti-bullying laws thanks to the suicide of a Rutgers University Freshman in 2010.” Since that incident, The Post says, “greater vigilance surrounding cyber-bullying has been widely applauded, especially in New Jersey.”

Koval was asked by the school's assistant principal to write a statement describing events. Koval later claimed the statement to the school official was coerced. The 16-year-old was told she could rescind her statement and write a new one.

Koval, who acknowledged sending the name of the pro-Israel schoolmate she tweeted about in a private message to an anti-Israel supporter, denied bullying. Instead, she claimed the school was “using ‘bullying' as a guise to cover their pro-Israel, pro-censorship agenda.”

Why the antics of a 16-year-old girl are treated as newsworthy raises questions about the role that social media plays in generating media focus on stories of questionable value. Worse in this case The Washington Post omits relevant facts regarding the non-story it treats as news.

The Times of Israel, which ran a Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) article on Koval, notes a Dec. 23, 2015 tweet The Post failed to mention (“ ‘Anti-Israel' tweets land NJ Jewish teen with Israel roots in hot water,” Jan. 8, 2016). In it, she claimed, “Hamas is not extreme: Hamas is just painted that way [.] Hateful rhetoric against Hamas is what allowed Gaza bombing [.]”

Koval's Twitter account is now private. Perhaps a first step toward the Talmudic wisdom of saying little and doing much, beginning with study.
 
Back to school

In fact, Hamas (the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement) is a U.S.-listed terror group that rules the Gaza Strip. By its own admission the group uses Gaza Arabs as human shields, murders civilians and runs terrorist training camps for adolescents, apparently violating international law against child soldiers. The group's charter calls for the elimination of Israel and genocide of the Jews. As CAMERA has noted, Hamas also has been accused of torturing Palestinian Arabs, including journalists (“Hamas Cracks Down—on Palestinian Journalists,” Jan. 13, 2016). Its terrorist activities, including construction of “terror tunnels” to infiltrate Israel to facilitate kidnapping and murder of Israelis, forced Israel to target Hamas in the Gaza Strip in the summer 2014 war. So did the more than 4,500 mortars and rockets fired indiscriminately at Israel, each launch a war crime.

If Koval thinks these activities do not make Hamas “extreme,” she might want to revisit a dictionary during her next study hall. In any case, her misguided claims and accusations hardly qualify as news and barely as gossip.

This Post online article illustrates more confusion about what constitutes “news”: The paper describes the website Mondoweiss, which heralds Koval, as a “news site about debates surrounding Israel and Palestinians.” Mondoweiss is many things, but a “news site” is not one of them. It offers only indictments, usually unfounded of Israel, not “debates.”

An online commentary in The Washington Post by George Mason University law professor David Bernstein, which details the antisemitic tropes Mondoweiss traffics in, called it a “one-stop shopping for anti-Israel news. Anything bad that goes on in Israel will be publicized and exaggerated.” Bernstein provides examples of the website's founder, Phillip Weiss—who, like Koval, is also Jewish—claiming that Jews exert secret, but vast economic and political power.

The title of that Post commentary? “‘Mondoweiss' is a hate site (May 4, 2015).”

“Hate” and “news” are not synonyms, though hate-filled actions often make news. Also not news: A teenage girl's uninformed, erroneous tweets “outing” a supporter of Israel that result in a talk with her high school assistant principal.


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