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Middle East Issues





The Washington Post Evicts Context on Palestinian Village Without Electricity


The Washington Post's Stranded in the past, 20 minutes from modern Jerusalem,” in the paper's October 23 edition, omitted key context while relying—almost exclusively—on anti-Israel sources.

The article by contributor Anne-Marie O'Connor, while ostensibly about electricity problems in an Arab village called Jubbet Adh Dhib in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), failed to provide readers with essential background information.

The Post acted as a stenographer for the anti-Israel organizations B'Tselem, Peace Now and Settlement Watch. The talking points proffered by those groups were supplemented by a spokesperson for the Palestinian Prime Minister's office, Jamal Dajani, and a former Palestinian Authority official, Mustafa Barghouti. In contrast, a single, unnamed spokesperson for the Israeli military is only partially quoted—in a single sentence in a 1,176-word article.

The Post, contravening standard journalistic practice, failed to properly identify the sources the paper relied on.
 
Questionable sources

B'Tselem, for example, is identified only as an “Israeli human rights group,” and The Post treats its comments as fact. However, as CAMERA has pointed out, B'Tselem employees have been caught staging scenes and misrepresenting statistics of Palestinian civilian deaths in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, among other actions that reflect a lack of impartiality and, perhaps, a consistent desire to portray Israel in a negative light.

In 2014, B'Tselem was forced to admit—after initial denials—that it was employing a Holocaust denier (“Israeli rights group admits employee denied Holocaust,” The Times of Israel, Oct. 7, 2014).

Peace Now—identified by The Post as merely “an Israeli nongovernmental group” has also had its biases exposed. As CAMERA has noted, Peace Now published a controversial report, Breaking the Law—One Violation Leads to Another, which claimed that “a large proportion of the settlements built on the West Bank are built on privately owned Palestinian land,” including 86.4% of Ma'ale Adumim's land and 35.1% of Ariel's. The report claimed that “Palestinians privately own nearly 40% of the land on which settlements have been built.” Peace Now eventually admitted that no more than .54% of Ma'ale Adumim's land was privately owned by Palestinians—an error of “almost 16,000 percent,” as CAMERA's Alex Safian highlighted in a Dec. 23, 2008 article (“Israeli Court: Peace Now Lied, Must Pay Now,” CAMERA).

Indeed, Peace Now and its staffers were convicted in an Israeli court of libel after refusing to correct another similarly false claim.

Additionally, Peace Now has published maps about “Israeli settlements” that are “based solely on Palestinian claims”—many of which had been investigated and rejected.

The Post also treated a former Palestinian Authority minister, Mustafa Barghouti, as a credible source. However, as a CAMERA Op-Ed in The Hill pointed out, Barghouti has a track record of spreading numerous falsehoods and absurdities, including that Jesus Christ was a “tortured” Palestinian Arab (“Palestinian Minister of Disinformation,” Aug. 20, 2015).

While The Post repeated uncritically the claims of anti-Israel organizations and dishonest Palestinian officials, it failed to remind readers that Palestinian Arabs could have already had a “future Palestinian state,” had their leaders chosen to accept peace with and recognition of the Jewish state. PA officials refused U.S. and Israeli proposals intended to lead to a West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem “Palestine” in exchange for peace with Israel in 2000, 2001, 2008, as well as U.S. offers, in 2014 and 2016, to restart negotiations.

The paper failed to mention this Palestinian rejectionism. Some of those opportunities, specifically the 2008 offer by then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, might have led to the village of Jubbet Adh Dhib falling under the jurisdiction of the PA.

In the article's 20th paragraph, we learn the population of the village—165 people—and a little bit later, that it was founded in the 1920s. In other words, this is a tiny village that likely existed without electricity at the time it came under Israeli administration after the Arab-initiated 1967 Six-Day War. In fact, in 1967, only 20.5% of Arabs living in the West Bank had electricity 24 hours a day.

The Post omitted any discussion of Israeli-initiated efforts to extend infrastructure and services into the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) since 1967. For example, as noted in Seth Siegel's book Let There Be Water, “In June 1967, only four of the West Bank's 708 cities and towns had running water” and “scarcely ten percent of the West Bank population ... were connected to a modern plumbing system.” Now, 96% of Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank have “running water piped to their homes.”

Similarly, the vast majority of institutions of higher education were constructed since—not before—Israel took over administration of the West Bank.
 
Facts Now

The article also didn't clarify for readers that 95% of West Bank Arabs are living in areas administered by the Palestinian Authority in Areas A, B and B+ (“The Palestinian Authority: The Next Failed State?” The National Interest, May 16, 2016).

The Post report implied that Israeli settlements are expanding. However, as a report by the Australia Israel and Jewish Affairs Council noted, since taking office in 2009, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has built fewer homes in West Bank settlements than all of the previous prime ministers in the last 25 years. The vast majority of the settlement growth that is taking place is the result of natural, internal population growth, not from expansion outwards.

Indeed, Peace Now, the left-wing anti-settlements organization that The Post quoted, inadvertently noted as much in a June 2016 Op-Ed in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz: “In 2015, as in the preceding five years, almost 90 percent of the 15,523 individuals who joined the population of Judea and Samaria were the result of natural population growth [i.e. high birth rates, and not newcomers from other parts of Israel]."

The Post treated claims that settlements are an “obstacle to peace” with an uncritical eye while ignoring Palestinian incitement and rejection of statehood and peace.

Jewish ties to the land of Israel are minimized and, if implicitly, treated with undue skepticism by The Post. For example, the paper claimed that the village of Jubbet Adh Dhib “sits below a volcano-shaped peak with ancient ruins that some Israeli archaeologists think were the biblical palace of King Herod [emphasis added].” This is risible. It's not only “Israeli archaeologists” who think it to be the biblical palace of King Herod. In fact, it's widely accepted to be Herod's palace as numerous historians and archaeologists of various nationalities have noted. Kathryn Gleason, an associate professor at Cornell University in New York who has studied Herod since the 1970s, is but one of many experts to have reached this conclusion. Gleason worked with Hebrew University Professor Ehud Netzer, who, among other things found Herod's tomb.

The Post's decision to present a historic Jewish connection to the land as merely a claim by Israeli archaeologists reflects the article's ready adoption of the Palestinian narrative that presents Israel as a colonialist implant lacking legitimacy.
 
An ‘ideology-driven' article

Similarly, The Post used other language that editorializes and distorts, instead of properly reporting the news. For example, the paper claimed that “Israeli soldiers have demolished Palestinian homes and European-funded schools, latrines and solar installations for Palestinians in Area C, where ideology-driven Israeli settlers oppose new ‘acts on the ground' they views as supporting aims of a future Palestinian state [emphasis added].”

What is an “ideology-driven Israeli settler”? The Post doesn't elaborate for its readers. Nor did the paper point out that home demolitions are often the result of unauthorized building without a permit or, in some instances, an action taken against Palestinian terrorists and those who support them in order to deter further acts of anti-Jewish violence. The report, failing to offer specifics, similarly omitted that many European-funded Palestinian schools praise terrorist attacks, disseminate anti-Semitic propaganda and encourage their pupils to refuse to recognize Israel. (See, for example, “What the EU Does with Your Money," Gatestone Institute, Jan. 14, 2014.)

The Post chose to publish, in the paper's print edition, another “settlement story”—in this case, a lengthy article that is ostensibly about a village of 165 people. However, the paper's “Palestinians who attended Jewish settlement event arrested by their own police” (October 21), which noted that the PA had arrested Palestinians merely for attending a holiday gathering with Jews, was only available online. Similarly, coverage of the Palestinian Authority canceling elections that were scheduled for Oct. 8 was only detailed in online articles. The Post seems to prioritize one type of news story over others, with those that cast Palestinian leadership in a negative light being disseminated less widely.

By relying on questionable sources and omitting essential background The Post's dispatch leaves truth stranded.


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