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Media Analyses





Location, Location, Location: The Washington Post sees terrorist attacks in London but rarely in Israel


In the two weeks following the four July 7 bombings in London that killed 55 people, The Washington Post published more than 40 news and feature articles on the subject. Post writers in sections of the paper including news, metro, sports, and financial frequently labeled the perpetrators as "terrorists" and the explosions themselves as "terrorist attacks."

For example:

  • "…killing at least 37 people and injuring about 700 others in the deadliest terrorist attack carried out on British soil." (July 8, News, Glenn Frankel, Washington Post Foreign Service).
  • "Emergency workers and investigators pored over charred and twisted wreckage at four bomb sites, searching for victims and clues to the identity of the terrorists." (July 9, News, Section, Glenn Frankel, Washington Post Foreign Service).
  • "As European markets rose on the day after the terrorist bombings in London …." (July 9, Financial, Associated Press item).
  • "… lessons from last week's terrorist bombings in London .... "(July 14, Metro, Eric M. Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer).
  • "…in the worst terrorist attack in British history ...." (July 15, News, Craig Whitlock, Washington Post Foreign Service).
  • "Almost as astounding as his 6-under 66, good for a one-shot lead over Australian Mark Hensby, was Woods's revelation after the round that his mother, Kultida, had been on vacation in London during last week's terrorist bombings." (July 15, Sports, Leonard Shapiro, Washington Post Staff Writer).

However, The Post only once during this period in its own words described attacks by Palestinian Arabs against Israeli non-combatants – such as the suicide bombing outside a shopping mall in Netanya that killed 5 people and injured 90, or the frequent firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip at Israeli towns across the boundary – as "terrorism" or the perpetrators as "terrorists."

And this description was general and indirect.

The newspaper did let a Palestinian source label an attack by groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade as an act of terrorism:

Israel announced a complete closure of the West Bank and military officials said they would respond harshly in the coming days against Islamic Jihad, a militant group that asserted responsibility for the [Netanya] attack. Palestinian leaders condemned the bombing as a terrorist attack, but Israeli officials said it was evidence of the Palestinian Authority's unwillingness to fight the various armed groups opposed to Israel. (July 13, News, Scott Wilson, Washington Post Foreign Service).

The Post, as is often the case, did not note that Palestinian Islamic Jihad is listed by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization. It neither quoted Israeli officials to that effect, substituting "militant" and "armed groups" when terrorist would have been more accurate, nor described the attack as "terrorism" or its authors as "terrorists" in its own text. But use of the term "terrorist attack" by Palestinian leaders was considered newsworthy.

Almost daily rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza drew little Post coverage. The strike that murdered 22-year-old Dana Glakovitz while she was sitting on her front porch in a Negev Desert town was reported by Wilson in a news brief that did not label the incident as "terrorism" and did not name the victim or provide any details about her other than her age and sex. The brief focused instead on Israel's military response to the rockets. That is, Palestinian action and responsibility was subsumed by Israeli reaction.

During this period Wilson does write of Palestinian terrorism against Israel. The lead of the page one Sunday July 17 Post article "Suicide Bombs Potent Tools of Terrorists; Deadly Attacks Have Been Increasing and Spreading Since Sept. 11, 2001," co-authored with Post staff writer Dan Eggen, reads:

Unheard of only a few decades ago, suicide bombings have rapidly evolved into perhaps the most common method of terrorism in the world, moving west from the civil war in Sri Lanka in the 1980s to the Palestinian intifada of recent years to Iraq today.

However, in the long vignette focusing on the Palestinian teenager who murdered five Israelis while blowing himself up outside a mall at Netanya, The Post refers repeatedly to suicide bombers but never to terrorists.

The Post's general failure to accurately describe Palestinian Arab terrorism and terrorists against Israel goes back at least to the early 1980s. Then the paper's coverage often attempted to disassociate Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat from the anti-Israel, anti-Jewish, anti-Western attacks carried out at his direction by the PLO and its constituent groups. Such a practice amounts to policy, not occasional journalistic lapses. It causing the news to be obscured rather than reported accurately. It makes the paper if not a de facto advocate for one side – and that side the aggressor – at least an apologist. Such a practice should be, at long last, an embarrassment to The Washington Post. It certainly is a disservice to readers.


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