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Media Analyses





WASHINGTON POST-WATCH: A Tale of Two Papers


Above the fold, on the front page of the Aug. 12 Washington Times, readers found a report headlined “Palestinian panel puts blame on Authority.” Written by the Times’ Jerusalem correspondent Abraham Rabinovich, it covered “a scathing report by a Palestinian legislative committee,” which “lays the blame for the anarchy and drift within Palestinian society squarely on the Palestinian Authority and by implication on the man who heads it, Yasser Arafat.”

Times’ readers learn that, after hearing dozens of witnesses, a Palestinian Legislative Council panel has:

* Called for a halt to terrorist rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip;

* Accepted Palestinian responsibility for the failure of Palestinian society to build national institutions and control extremists like Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) rather than blaming Israeli exclusively;

* Said failure of Palestinian security forces to restore law and order in the West Bank and Gaza Strip stems from “total lack of a clear political decision [to do so]”;

* Blamed Arafat for simultaneous orders to security chiefs that no one carries out;

* Said failure of the Palestinian Authority to control anti-Israel terrorists blocks a political process that could lead to establishment of a Palestinian state; and

* Recommended the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and his cabinet, to be followed by new elections.

The Washington Times’ article was based on an even more detailed report in the Aug. 10 edition of the Israeli daily Ha’aretz. The British Broadcasting Corp., using material posted on the Palestinian Information Centre Web site reported the story on Aug. 12.

Unlike the Washington Times, the Washington Post did not cover the PLC report.

One of the Post’s two Jerusalem correspondents, Molly Moore, did file a report for the Aug. 12 edition. Headlined “Bomb Kills Two Palestinians Near West Bank Checkpoint,” it told of a terrorist attack claimed by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade of Arafat’s Fatah organization. In addition to the two murder victims, 16 other people–six Israeli border police and 12 Arabs–were wounded.

Unlike Moore’s typical coverage of Israeli counter-terrorism operations–in which sympathetic details are supplied about dead and wounded Palestinians, combatants as well as non-combatants, this story is sparse to the point of inadequacy. Only one of the dead Arabs is identified, and no other details are supplied about a six-year-old Palestinian boy left in coma by the blast. Palestinian criticism of the attack, reported by other news outlets, also is not mentioned. In its abbreviation, the article more closely resembles Post coverage of Palestinian attacks against Israelis.

In that sense, the absence of a story on the Palestinian legislators’ report and an incomplete, virtually colorless dispatch on the checkpoint bombing, bookend the Post’s approach: Palestinian responsibility for their own circumstances is not news. If Palestinian action causes immediate injury and death to other Palestinians, let alone to Jews, it’s barely news. But if Israeli responsibility for Palestinian trauma can be stated or implied–as in Moore’s July 19 attempted tear-jerker, “In Jenin, Seven Shattered Dreams; Boyhood Hopes Forged on Theater Stage Dissolved in Reality of Intifada”–it’s big news, indeed.

Action item:

Write to Ombudsman Michael Getler at ombudsman@washpost.com. Point out that Post failure to cover news of Palestinian Arabs “warts and all” is both paternalistic and a violation of basic journalistic standards of comprehensiveness. It’s also the glaring opposite of Post coverage of Israel.

  Copy CAMERA at cameraletters@aol.com.


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