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Journalists





Washington Post Synagogue Massacre Follow-Up Easy on Arabs


Given a quick skim, The Washington Post's front page “Synagogue attack stirs 'religious war' fears; Leaders from various faiths attend Jerusalem prayer meeting” (November 20) seems balanced. But closer reading of the report, by Post Jerusalem Bureau Chief William Booth and correspondent Ruth Eglash, shows a failure to convey accurately Jewish history and Israeli policy while glossing over Palestinian rejectionism, incitement and aggression.

Errors include:

* Describing the Palestinian conflict with Israel as traditionally a “struggle between two peoples fighting for their homelands;”

* Asserting that “for weeks, Jerusalem has been a center of clashes, protest and deadly attacks” when in fact it's been the scene of lethal “lone-wolf” Palestinian terror assaults preceded and followed by Palestinian protests and clashes with Israeli security;

* Telling readers that al-Aqsa mosque is the “third-holiest site in Islam” but not mentioning that Temple Mount is Judaism's most sacred place;

* Claiming that “in the past, Palestinian attackers often made clear that they wanted to end the Israeli occupation of what they considered their lands” without making clear that “what they considered their lands” usually included all of Israel; and

* Ascribing anticipatory blame to Israel for implicitly justified future “Palestinian outrage and possible backlash.”

By wording, such as positing a “traditional nationalist struggle between two peoples fighting for their homelands” where no such equivalence existed, and by omissions such as pointing out that al-Aqsa mosque is Islam's “third-holiest site” but failing to mention Temple Mount's status as Judaism's holiest place, The Post seriously misinformed readers.

Claims that Israeli responses to Palestinian murders seem “likely to provoke Palestinian outrage and possible backlash” implicitly accept Jews as objects of Arab aggression while discounting Arab responsibility for the consequences of their crimes. Israel exists as a Jewish state precisely to ensure the safety and equality of Jews as a people, on their own sovereign land. Palestinian Arab-Islamic rejection of Jewish equality and sovereignty leads to terrorism like the murders in the Har Nof synagogue. Israeli responses are not to blame, Palestinian intolerance, frequently incited, is. The Post failed to report this basic reality.

Five basic mistakes
 
* The Post writes that Israelis and Palestinian Arabs fear “their decades-old conflict was moving beyond the traditional nationalist struggle between two peoples fighting for their homelands and spiraling into a …far-reaching religious confrontation between Jews and Muslims.” Does anyone believe that if the overwhelming majority of Palestinian Arabs, or Arabs in general were Christian instead of Muslim that the conflict would have lasted as long and been as bitter as it has? If Palestinian Arabs have been “fighting for their homeland” then why didn't they accept a West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem state in exchange for peace with Israel when it was offered at Camp David in 2000, Taba in 2001 or by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in 2008? Haj Amin al-Husseini, Palestinian Arab leader during the British Mandate, incited Muslims as Muslims to massacre Jews in the 1920s, '30s and '40s. From wartime Berlin, where he had befriended Adolf Hitler, al-Husseini broadcast:

“Rise as one and fight for your sacred rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history and religion. This serves your honor. God is with you.” (Jeffrey Herf, Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World, page 213, Yale University Press, 2009)

He did so more to prevent establishment of a Jewish state than to win a new Arab country. By then Jordan (Transjordan at the time) already was an Arab state on more than three-fourths of the original Mandate lands. What al-Husseini, the British-appointed Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and his followers wanted was to block creation of a Jewish state in any portion of the Mandate. That's why Arabs rejected the 1947 U.N. partition plan and went to war in 1948.
 
Zionism, the Jewish national movement, essentially is a positive ideology. Its goal has been to create, secure and develop a Jewish state while ensuring equal rights for minorities. Palestinian nationalism, in contrast, has been a negative ideology. Its main objective has been to destroy the Jewish state, not build a second Arab country (after Jordan) on what was mandatory land.
 
Hence the failure of Yasser Arafat and Abbas' Fatah, Palestinian Liberation Organization and Palestinian Authority (essentially one organization, as Daniel Pipes has noted) to build workable state institutions and Hamas' unconcern with doing so. Although an acronym for Movement for the Liberation of Palestine (or Movement for the Total Liberation of Palestine), the organization's very name fatah is an Arabic word meaning “open,” in this context open for conquest by Muslims (see, for example “Sunni Political Islam: Engine of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” by Jonathan Spyer, Nov. 22, 2014, Middle East Forum).
 
* According to The Post, “for weeks, Jerusalem has been a center of clashes, protests and deadly attacks ….” This vagueness misleads. An accurate rendering would have read “for weeks, Muslims in Jerusalem, incited by repeated false broadcasts and statements from PA leaders and religious figures that Israel was going to change the status quo on Temple Mount and/or undermine al-Aqsa mosque, have protested against, clashed with and killed Jews.” A New York Daily News Op-Ed, for example, highlights official Fatah/PA incitement The Post ignored (“U.S. Should Cut Aid to Palestinians for Supporting Terrorism,” by David Pollock, November 19).
 
* The Post reports that Temple Mount, “also harbors the al-Aqsa mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.” Talk about putting your thumb on the scale: Temple Mount also is Judaism's holiest site. Failure to remind readers of this central fact when specifying al-Aqsa's status in Islam inadvertently or otherwise places the filter of the false “Palestinian narrative” (which excludes and denies historically and religiously-based Jewish claims) over current events.
 
* In The Post's telling, current lone-wolf terrorists who “don't belong to any organized group” differ from earlier “Palestinian attackers [who] often made clear that they wanted to end the Israeli occupation of what they consider[ed] their lands” … This fails to describe what Palestinian terrorist movements including the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades of Fatah, the Marxist-oriented Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Hamas (the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement) and Palestinian Islamic Jihad consider “their lands.” Not just the West Bank, Gaza and eastern Jerusalem, but also all of Israel proper. As Fatah Revolutionary Council member Bakr Abu Bakr wrote in the official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, “Israel is a Western colonial implant in the heart of the Arab world” (September 15).
 
Hamas' charter calls for the destruction of Israel, creation of a Sunni Muslim theocracy on all the land west of the Jordan River, and genocide of the Jewish people. Although PA President Abbas has spoken, in English, of a “two-state solution,” a West Bank and Gaza “Palestine” and Israel, he refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state or agree to drop the false “right of return” demand for Palestinian Arab refugees—return not to “Palestine” but to Israel. Fatah's charter still insists that Israel is illegitimate. When Hamas or Fatah (founded in the 1950s, before Israel gained the West Bank, Gaza Strip, eastern Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula in the 1967 Six-Day War) refer to “the occupation,” they mean Israel.
 
* According to The Post, Israel's revived tactic of demolishing terrorists' homes means “Israel appeared to be moving toward more aggressive actions, which seemed likely to provoke Palestinian outrage and possible backlash.” This implies a logical, even justified cause-and-effect: Israel increases the cost of Palestinian terrorism so it—not the terrorists or their supporters—will bear responsibility for future terrorism “caused” by Arab “outrage” and “backlash.” This contrasts with Jewish “outrage” and “backlash,” presented not so understandingly or sympathetically: “ ‘We condemn all acts of violence,' [Sheik Mohammed] Kiwan told them [Jews in Har Nof who accused him and all Muslims of inciting violence], remaining calm. ‘This is a house of worship. It is irrelevant if it was a Muslim or a Jew that was killed here.' ‘Did you come to apologize? You are raising savages,' one woman yelled from the balcony of her apartment across the street from the synagogue.”
 
One day after five Israelis are murdered in a synagogue and others wounded by two Jerusalem Arabs using meat cleavers, knives and a gun, neighborhood Jews shout and accuse. A visiting Muslim sheik remains calm and speaks of brotherhood. For this Post article, one doesn't need a program to tell the bad guys from the good. 

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