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Middle East Issues





Washington Post Misreports BDS, Gaza War Casualty Debate


The Washington Post scored a “two-fer” in its June 13 print edition: Two detailed articles on the same page that—even with quotes from authoritative Israeli sources—failed to put the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and last summer's war against Hamas and its allies into context. By that failure, both reports contributed, implicitly when not explicitly, to the false “Palestinian narrative” of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The Post's “In Israel, concerns rising over boycott movement; Netanyahu: Nation in struggle against effort to ‘blacken its name'” and “Israel: No charges in deaths of four children on Gaza beach” each presented a partially accurate picture of BDS and a tragic incident during the 2014 war in the Gaza Strip. But half-right can be wholly misleading. For example:

“In Israel, concerns rising over boycott movement” claims the BDS movement opposes “Israel for its treatment of Palestinians, who are approaching their 50th year of living under Israeli military occupation.” BDS organizers, of course, oppose the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinian Arabs, of course, remain under Israeli military supervision on the West Bank (Israel left Gaza in 2005) because their leaders repeatedly refuse offers of a “two-state solution” if it means peace with Israel as a Jewish country.

“Israel: No charges in deaths of four children on Gaza beach” again cites “a group of active and retired Israeli soldiers called ‘Breaking the Silence'” as a credible source for the allegation “that permissive rules of engagement for Israeli forces were partly responsible for the high civilian death toll.” CAMERA showed last month in rebutting a Post coverage of the same material that “Breaking the Silence” lacked credibility and that the civilian Arab death toll during the 50-day Gaza war turned out to be comparatively low, not high. Nevertheless, the newspaper reflexively repeated its errors.

And each dispatch contained other fundamental flaws.

BDS founding organizations included Hamas and al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade of Fatah, both U.S.-government designated terrorist organizations—a fact not mentioned by Post Jerusalem Bureau Chief William Booth and bureau correspondent Ruth Eglash—Syrian extremists and others masquerading as “Palestinian civil society” groups. They remain intent on the murder of Jews and destruction of Israel, not concerns about “Israeli treatment of Palestinians.” BDS leader Omar Barghouti, a graduate of Tel Aviv University, which he demands all others boycott, calls for replacement of the one Jewish-majority state by the 23rd Arab majority country.

And how does Israel treat Palestinian Arabs? As CAMERA has noted, better than many Arab states treat their own citizens, as even the United Nations has acknowledged.
 
Putting lipstick on the oinking BDS
 
But The Post allows that “BDS advocates deny [charges of antisemitism] and say boycotts are a legitimate, nonviolent and accepted means of winning their goal of justice for Palestinians.” Not only does the paper repeat its sanitized description of BDS goals, it ignores the coincidence of BDS tactics with former Soviet refusenik, now Jewish Agency for Israel head Natan Sharansky's “3-D” test for anti-Jewish bigotry: “double standards, demonization, and delegitimization.”

So West Bank Arabs “are approaching their 50th year of living under Israeli military occupation”? Approximately 29,000 U.S. troops remain in South Korea, 63 years after an armistice ended the Korean War. There's a reason they're still there—North Korean threats against the South. Israeli forces, at times working with security agencies of the Palestinian Authority against Hamas and other terrorist threats, remain in the West Bank since PA leaders have refused U.S. and Israeli proposals for or intended to lead to a West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem “Palestine” in exchange for peace with Israel in 2000, 2001, 2008 and 2014. (On the first three refusals, see “Palestinians Rejected Statehood Three Times, Claim Frustration—With Israel,” CAMERA, Sept. 22, 2011.)

But The Post fails to remind readers of that fact. Instead, it passes off Palestinian rejection of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's 2014 two-state “framework” nine months of “fruitless talks.”

Not only does The Post misrepresent BDS, it likewise airbrushes deceptions by Palestinian leaders. The paper reports “Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has said that the Palestinians, having been frustrated in their attempts to establish a sovereign state through U.S.-brokered talks, are now seeking to ‘internationalize' the conflict and have their demands met by isolating and angering Israel.” Hard to imagine one sentence being more misleading.

There's nothing new about Arab efforts to “‘internationalize' the conflict.” They long pre-date Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat's 1974 appearance before the U.N. General Assembly and the assembly's approval the following year of the Soviet-inspired, Arab League adopted “Zionism-is-racism” resolution (revoked in 1991 but still the poisoned core of BDS mentality).

“Palestinian frustration” at failure to achieve a West Bank and Gaza Strip “Palestine” has been self-induced, repeatedly (as noted above), then marketed through compliant news media reports as Israel's fault.

Erekat has said many things over the years, including insisting falsely on “the Jenin massacre” myth, denying Hamas is a terrorist organization, and claiming Palestinian Arabs descend from the ancient (non-Arab) Canaanites and therefore they, not the Jews with their more than 3,000-year-old roots, hold the earlier title to the Holy Land. Anything he says ought to be accompanied by credibility advisory.

Partial amnesia's bad enough
 
Other flaws include: Contrasting today's BDS alarm with “yesterday's threat” of Hamas terror tunnels into Israel. They're both current dangers, it's just that Post coverage of Hamas' resumption of preparations for more terror and a new round of fighting has been anemic at best;

Failure to point out that boycotts, from those of the Nazis against German Jewry, through that of the Arab League from Israel's founding, to the contemporary BDS movement are not new and have portended existential dangers—rising Israeli concerns are not hypochondria; and

Reporting on a troubling “resolution that may soon be offered by the French before the U.N. Security Council that would set parameters and deadlines for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” without adding that such resolutions already exist. These are Resolutions 242 and 338, which call for ending the Arab-Israeli, not just the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, without deadlines but through direct negotiations that would, among other things, finally provide Israel with secure borders.

In “Israel: No charges in deaths of four children on Gaza beach,” Booth reports that “the Israel Defense Forces said its personnel believed they were targeting militants from the Hamas navy,” not four boys playing soccer. “Israel called the misidentification of the target an ‘error' but said that ‘the tragic outcome of the incident does not affect the legality of the attack. The decision not to pursue criminal charges comes as Israel braces for a new U.N. human rights report on last summer's war between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist militant movement that controls the Gaza Strip.”

Except for the “Islamist militant” evasion in reference to Hamas when “terrorist” is called for, that language is balanced.

But references to Amnesty International as a “human rights group” without noting its long, unjustifiably one-sided anti-Israel positions; repeating yet again U.N. casualty figures on last summer's war claiming a majority of civilian deaths without noting Israel's name-by-name list showing nearly half were combatants, another 20 percent likely to have been so; and reiterating “Breaking the Silence's” bogus allegation of “permissive rules of engagement” being “partly responsible for the high civilian death toll” all mislead readers.

The Post highlighted “Breaking the Silence's” claims last month. CAMERA pointed out that the group relies on foreign funding dependent on anti-Israel “reports” and, contrary to “high rates of civilian fatalities” or “permissive rules of engagement,” Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip compare favorably with U.S. and other coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said as much. And the day before The Post's story on the Gaza beach deaths, a group of former top generals and other senior officers from Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia, the United Kingdom and elsewhere reported that Israel's war against Hamas had been just and demonstrated “unprecedented” restraint, sometimes at the cost of Israeli lives (“Key findings of the high level international group on the Gaza conflict,” U.N. Watch, June 12, 2015).

The Post partially redeemed “Israel: No charges in deaths” with “Israel defends actions in Gaza war” (June 15), also by Booth. This report goes into considerable detail regarding why Israel suspects U.N. investigations, provides the IDF breakdown of Palestinian Arab deaths in last summer's fighting, and notes the extent, both in mortar and rocket fire and Hamas tunnels, among other critical information. But it too repeats the claim that BDS-backers “from Palestinians and their supporters in Europe and America … want to isolate, embarrass and press Israel. Their goal is to force an end to the 48-year military occupation of the West Bank and allow for the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state.”

No, it's not. It's to end the sovereign Jewish country of Israel and render the Jewish people once again stateless and without the capability of self-defense. A venerable Post marketing slogan remains “if you don't get it, you don't get it.” Until The Post gets it that BDS and its supporters, and many Palestinian Arabs, work for Israel's destruction, its news coverage repeatedly won't get it.


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