Two Washington Post reports covering Israels Operation
Rainbow the mid-May effort by Israel Defense Forces to uncover
smuggling tunnels along the Egyptian-Gaza Strip border and strike terrorist
groups operating there deserve praise. Israelis Kill 19 In Gaza
Raids; Rafah Hospital Overflows During Major Offense, page A-1, May 19,
and New Rift in Mideasts Great Divide; Israelis, Palestinians Cling
to Separate Accounts of Assault on March, page A-18, May 23, both by
Post Foreign Service correspondent Glenn Frankel, rest on
While the May 19 report substituted the paraphrase militant for terrorist,
in typical Post practice, the reader begins with a generally
Israeli troops backed by helicopter
gunships, tanks and bulldozers went street by street and house by house in one
of the most densely populated neighborhoods of this city [Rafah] and adjacent
refugee camp Tuesday, seeking to root out Palestinian fighters and weapons.
Local hospital officials said 19 Palestinians were killed and dozens were
The fourth paragraph adds that:
By nightfall, officials at Najar
Hospital, the main medical center in Rafah, reported receiving the bodies of 19
dead Palestinians, including a young brother and sister, along with 62 injured,
25 of them seriously. The Israeli army reported no casualties among its troops
and said that 17 of the 19 dead Palestinians were militants.
The Arabs side description of casualties is followed by the Israeli
Army report noting that all but two of the fatalities were combatants. While
the report substituted the paraphrase militant for terrorist, in
typical Post practice, the reader begins with a generally well-rounded
A Palestinian Arab quoted as promising retaliation is aptly identified
as a commander of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Gaza, a Palestinian
group responsible for many suicide bombings inside Israel.
Frankel notes United Nations and European Union criticism of Operation
Rainbow and associated home demolitions. He also includes Israeli
officials who said international criticism was based on the misconception
that the army was on a mission to demolish the homes of innocent
civilians. Government spokesman Avi Pazner is cited, pointing out that
we have no policy of destroying houses .... You have in Rafah now an
industry of terror. We want to stop that for our good and also for the good of
the population of Rafah who are being terrorized.
In addition, Frankel quotes an Israeli cabinet minister who mentions the
hundreds of Iraqi civilian casualties caused by U.S. and British troops in
Iraq, and adds, I guess we are at least as careful as those who are
trying to tell us how we should protect our people.
Continuing to let both sides speak, Frankel includes contradictory accounts
of Israeli forces stopping Palestinian ambulances. An Arab paramedic, lamenting
delays and searches before his ambulance could enter the area of fighting to
rescue casualties, was followed by an IDF spokesman who said all
ambulances are subjected to security checks because gunmen have used them to
launch attacks and smuggle arms.
The article ends with a paraphrase of Israeli Army Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen.
Moshe Yaalon, who said that three houses concealing tunnels used for weapons
smuggling had been demolished overnight and that the operation might take
several more days.
New Rift in Mideasts Great Divide, on May 23, shows
similar balance. Frankels second and third paragraphs give each
sides version of violence at a protest march:
Each side has its own detailed
account of how it happened that an Israeli helicopter gunship and a tank opened
fire as a procession of Palestinian demonstrators passed through here Wednesday
afternoon, killing eight people and wounding dozens more.
Two senior Israeli commanders contend that
soldiers were in danger of being cut off from the main force and surrounded by
a Palestinian mob sprinkled with armed militants. Soldiers fired a series of
warning shots and flares that were ignored by the demonstrators, then four
tanks shells, also meant as warnings, one or more of which may have ricocheted
and inadvertently killed protesters, the said.
But a Palestinian leader who helped inspire and
plan the march insisted that all of the participants were unarmed civilians who
hoped to call world attention to the plight of their beleaguered neighbors in
Tel Sultan and were deliberately cut down by soldiers.
This is followed by IDF charges that Palestinians use Rafah as a base for
weapons smuggling, invade civilian homes and use them as snipers
The militants use women and
children as human shields and booby-trap roads and houses, the Israelis
contend, then wage propaganda war against Israel when it seeks to root out the
The Palestinian leader alleging an Israeli massacre of civilians is
identified as a member of Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement).
Throughout the story about two sides conflict accounts, Frankel makes
sure both sides speak for themselves to the points at issue. In this way he
provides context so readers can begin to understand the news.
Why Mention It?
Since Frankel in both stories was doing what reporters are supposed to do,
why highlight his performance? Because in making sure that his dispatches were
as comprehensive as possible, given the pressures of daily news from a combat
zone, in making sure Israelis and Palestinian Arabs speak in context and not
simply reiterating the latters allegations, Frankel has illuminated a
chronic flaw in the stories of The Posts resident Jerusalem
correspondents, Molly Moore and John Ward Anderson.
Write to Foreign Editor David Hoffman at email@example.com and Assistant
Managing Editor for Foreign News Philip Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org and
commend this balanced, factual coverage. Copy Ombudsman Michael Getler at
email@example.com. Question why this approach is often lacking in Moore
and Andersons stories.