Accuracy and comprehensiveness are traditional journalism standards, but The Washington Post's Outbursts without a clear origin; Are Palestinian attacks against Jews fueled by disillusionment, religion or revenge? Depends on whom you ask (October 21 print edition) failed to uphold them.
Post Jerusalem Bureau Chief William Booth and bureau Correspondent Ruth Eglash reported that after three weeks and dozens of assaults with screwdrivers, guns, meat cleavers and cars there was not any single reason for the growing number of Palestinian attacks against Israeli Jews. This was either simplistic or over-simplification. Lack of single causationcommon in human affairsdid not mean absence of an overriding cause. That cause clearly was long-standing and continuing anti-Jewish, anti-Israeli incitement by Arab politicians and Muslim religious leaders.
But instead of reporting abundant evidence to that effect, The Post belabored for more than 1,550 words a he said, she said inquiry that reflected the newspaper's default explanation for Palestinian rejectionism and aggression: the occupation, frustration, humiliation and so on. In doing so it even let a Palestinian representative flip the script and falsely charge a crazed, hostile Israeli government with anti-Arab incitement. All the while, repeated murderous anti-Jewish incitement got mentioned only in passing, without specific examples and direct quotes.
The Post, made significant by its investigative reporting of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate 40 years ago, and which holds itself out as one of American journalism's last bastions of dedicated foreign reporting, needs to do better when it comes to the Arab conflict with Israel. Much better. Flaws in this Post report included:
[T]here is a list of possible motivationspolitical, religious, personalby assailants who range from Hamas militants to a Palestinian telephone technician who used his car as a battering ram against an elderly Jew to a 13-year-old Palestinian who attacked an Israeli kid with a knife at a candy store. At least, that's what The Post said. But instead of trying to pin down those motivations, the article conveyed Palestinian self-justifications without, even when it cast doubt on them, examining how they came to be and why they' persist strongly.
One Palestinian Arab said his cousin attacked Israelis because of threats against the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
[H]e explained, the mosque is a symbol of Palestinian pride and Palestinians are outraged by provocative visits by Israeli ministers and right-wing members of parliament, who arrive surrounded by armed Israeli police and say the site should be shared with Jews who want to pray.
Who undermines the status quo?
CAMERA has noted repeatedly, and pointed out to The Post
directly, that there is no Israeli threat to al-Aqsa. Instead, there is an 86-year history of Palestinian Arab leaders, from Haj Amin al-Husseini in 1929, to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas this August and September, using the Jews are attacking al-Aqsa libel to incite violence and promote their own political-religious agendas. (See, for example, Incitement
over Temple Mount Leads to Palestinian Violence, Again, CAMERA, September 16). But the newspaper article never made this clear.
* Why should visits to the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site, have provoked Muslims? After all, the Jews weren't entering al-Aqsa.
Further, they weren't even praying on Temple Mount. In an unprecedented concession to Muslim sensitivities, Israel, after freeing eastern Jerusalem from Jordanian occupation in 1967 and reuniting the city, established a status quo by which non-Muslims could visit the Mount but only Muslims could pray there. The Israeli government repeatedly has insisted the status quo will remain unchanged. Nevertheless, Jewish visitors now must arrive under armed guardthis was not the case as late as the 1970s and '80s.
But, unremarked by The Post
, growing Islamic extremism coupled with Palestinian Arab rejectionism has undermined the status quo. Jewish visitors must arrive under armed guard partly because Palestinian rioters have used al-Aqsa as a base and to store weapons (see New Year, Same Old New York Times Bias
, CAMERA, September 16). This is not to mention large-scale excavation and construction the waqf
has conducted unilaterally beneath it. The waqf
is a Jordanian-Palestinian Islamic trust that oversees religious matters on the Mount, Israel retaining security responsibility. These actions did change the status quo and damaged or destroyed ancient Jewish and Christian relics in the process.
noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alternately blames the wave of violence on incitement by Hamas militants or
Abbas or the sheiks at the Islamic Movement in northern Israel. More accurately, Netanyahu has blamed all three: Hamas terrorists (not militants) and Abbas and the leaders of Israel's Muslim Brotherhood-related Islamic Movement. Because he may not have held them responsible all at once did not mean, as The Post's
wording could be read to imply, that the prime minister was casting about uncertainly for an instigator. All the newspaper had to do was check in with Palestinian Media Watch for the latest incitement
by representatives of Hamas and Abbas' Fatah movement to attack Jews or praise for those who did so. Abbas' advisor mocks terror victims following shooting murder and injuring of Israeli soldiers, Palestinian Media Watch, October 21 would have been a start.
But this sort of blatant, official incitement was something The Post
refrained from quoting directly at any length and in any way indicative of its ubiquity
. Labeling Hamas as militant rather than as the U.S. and Israeli-designated terrorist organization it is, not quoting Hamas and Islamic Movement-related incitement directly or even in paraphrase and referring to Abbas's repeated instigation with just two fragmentary quotes in one sentence all downplayed the hate-filled environment that produces Palestinian attackers.
The old 'root cause' shell game
* One thing Netanyahu never mentions is the 48-year military occupation of the West Bank and the growth of Jewish settlementsthe realities most often cited as a root cause of despair by Palestinians, The Post told readers. One thing the newspaper never mentioned in reporting Palestinian violence against Israelis and root causes like occupation and despair was this:
Palestinian rejection in 2000, 2001 and 2008 of offers to end the occupation by accepting a West Bank and Gaza Strip country with eastern Jerusalem as its capital, agreeing to coexistence with Israel as a Jewish state and ending the conflict. Palestinian refusal to resume direct talks with Israel in 2014 under a framework that might have led to a two-state solution also got erased whenever The Post
referred to failure of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's framework efforts. (See Stop
Giving Palestinians a Pass, by Amb. Dennis Ross, The New York Times, Jan. 4, 2015.)
* In surveys, a dwindling minority of Palestinians believe they will ever get a state, the paper added, sounding a little like the Palestinian Arabs' social worker. It could just as well have noted a parallel development on the Israeli side. Palestinian attacks since the start of the Oslo peace process in 1993, including but not limited to the first intifada (1987 1992), the second intifada (2000-2005) and the most recent outbreakin which more than 1,200 Israelis and visitors, mostly non-combatants, have been murderedhelp explain a dwindling minority of Israelis who believe Palestinian Arabs will accept a West Bank and Gaza Strip Palestine if it means having to coexist with Jews as sovereign equals.
What The Washington Post
continued to tie itself in knots to avoid reporting straight out Times of Israel
editor David Horovitz specified in an Op-Ed, Not an uprising against occupation. An uprising against Israel, October 20. The subhead makes it plain: In bloody, unmistakeable capital letters, the perpetrators of this new round of evil mayhem proclaim to Israelis: We don't want to live alongside you. We want to kill
What was wrong with The Post's article could be seen in a four-column by 4 ¼-inch color photo and read in the cutline. The picture showed, from the back, a keffiyeh-wearer with a long knife tucked between jeans and belt, and a left hand holding two rocks baseball-sized or larger. The cutline explained that A Palestinian demonstrator [emphasis added]
keeps weapons handy during clashes with Israeli troops near Ramallah. Demonstrator? More accurately, at the least, rioter, or even would-be attacker.
The Post's subhead wondered Are Palestinian attacks against Jews fueled by disillusionment, religion or revenge? Depends on whom you ask. Reminding readers that the paper's Pentagon Papers and Watergate precedents were long ago, the article beneath that subhead went to great lengths to avoiding the answer.