Amid Rocket Barrage, The Washington Post Cites Terrorists and Warns of ‘Settler Violence’

While hundreds of rockets were being launched from Gaza at Israelis, several Washington Post dispatches showcased what is wrong with the newspaper’s reporting on the Jewish state. The Post uncritically quoted one terrorist group, Hamas, while ignoring the expressed motivations of another, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). And while missiles rained down on Israel, the Post filed a story warning about “vandalism and violence” by “Israeli settlers.”

On Nov. 12, 2019, the Israeli military conducted a surgical strike against Baha Abu Al-Ata, a top operative of PIJ, an Iranian-backed U.S.-designated terrorist group. PIJ is a sometime competitor, sometime collaborator with Hamas, the terror organization that rules the Gaza Strip where both are based. As Times of Israel reporter Judah Ari Gross noted, Abu al-Ata was responsible for most of the rocket attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip over the past year.

Israeli military officials told Gross that Abu al-Ata “was also in the midst of planning a fresh terror attack along the Gaza border to be carried out in the coming days, which would combine sniper fire or an improvised explosive device attack on the border with rocket fire, making him a ‘ticking bomb.’”

After the Israeli Defense Forces successfully eliminated the terror leader, PIJ responded by launching hundreds of rockets into Israeli communities. The barrage shut down schools and forced thousands of Israelis to seek shelter in bomb shelters.

Citing Hamas

As terrorists tried to murder Israelis, The Washington Post treated another terrorist group as a credible source. Several Post reports uncritically cited “the Palestinian Health Ministry” for casualty statistics. Yet, as CAMERA has noted, the Ministry is in fact an arm of Hamas (“Hamas and the Terror Group Double Standard,” JNS, May 1, 2019). It is controlled by Hamas, beholden to Hamas, and employs operatives of the organization.

Unsurprisingly, the Ministry exists to bolster Hamas propaganda and has a history of providing false figures. As recently as May 2019, the Ministry incorrectly reported that a pregnant mother, Falestin Abu Arar, and her 4-month-old daughter were killed in an Israeli strike, and it confiscated rocket fragments from the scene. But PIJ itself admitted that that one of their “rockets of resistance exploded inside the family’s home due to a technical failure, and prematurely exploded. There is a claim that the technical failure was caused by low-grade explosives in the rocket…There is no doubt that the baby’s death has nothing to do with the enemy’s (Israel’s) planes…”

In another infamous May 2018 incident, the Ministry claimed that eight-month-old Laila Anwar al-Ghandour was killed via tear gas that Israel had deployed to prevent terrorists from entering the country. Numerous media outlets repeated the Ministry’s assertion. It was later revealed that a pre-existing heart condition was responsible for the child’s death and that Palestinian officials had paid the family 8000 shekels to blame her death on Israeli tear gas (for more examples of the Ministry’s manipulations see CAMERA’s 2019 Backgrounder “The World Health Organization—Another Biased U.N. Body”).

Despite its terror connections and sordid history, the Post—among other news outlets—have continued to treat the Ministry as credible. A Nov. 13, 2019 report, for example, omitted this important information while simultaneously—and correctly—noting that a Syrian news report on the rocket attacks was “state media.” Terrorist apparatuses should be similarly identified for readers.

To the newspaper’s credit, it did highlight that Abu al-Ata “had a habit of surrounding himself with human shields,” as IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Cornicus said. And unlike some other news outlets, such as The New York Times, the Post detailed, “Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad are designated terrorist organizations by international bodies.” However, while “terrorist” was used to describe the groups, the terminology most used to describe PIJ was the more neutral “militant.”

Biased NGOs make for poor sources

By contrast, in an Nov. 15, 2019 report, the Post used the term “agricultural terror” to describe “Israeli settlers” who are allegedly “escalating annual attacks on Palestinian olive harvesters and their liberal Jewish volunteers.” The 1,232-word dispatch initially appeared online on November 12, with four accompanying images. But oddly, the newspaper decided to publish it in print several days later—while rockets were still being fired by PIJ.

The dispatch, by Jerusalem bureau chief Steve Hendrix, relies on claims by sources with a documented history of bias and spreading falsehoods. For example, Yesh Din billed by the Post as an “Israeli legal advocacy” organization is in fact a largely foreign-funded group with a troubling history. As NGO Monitor has detailed, Yesh Din has published statistics and findings that are “misleading and misrepresentative when taken in context.”

Yesh Din has received thousands of dollars from organizations and nations that are hostile to Israel. And the organization’s primary legal counsel, Michael Sfard, has acted as an expert witness on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), an entity that pays salaries to terrorists. One Yesh Din employee, Murad Jadallah, has even tweeted praise for the terrorists Sameer Kuntar, Yahya Ayyash and Hassan Nasrallah, and also shared a photo of himself posing with Salah Hamouri, a member of the terror group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

The article also quoted Saeb Erekat, who claimed that Israeli homes in the Jordan Valley are the “the biggest colonial enterprise anyone can imagine.” Erekat, a longtime PLO apparatchik, has a long history of peddling exaggerations and falsehoods, as CAMERA has documented (“Saeb Erekat’s Fabrication Exposes ‘Palestinian Narrative,’” Feb. 19, 2014). Most infamously, he repeatedly claimed that Israel massacred 500 Palestinians in Jenin in 2002. In fact, 52 Palestinians were killed—the majority of them combatants that died during intense fighting at the height of a five-year-long terrorist campaign against Israel, commonly known as the Second Intifada (2000-05).

The Post’s report states:

“Settlers say the ‘agricultural terror’ goes both ways. Each week, Yitzhar resident Ezri Tubi, 49, publishes a record of purported Palestinian violence against settlers collected from seven regional settler councils throughout the West Bank. In the last two weeks of October, his tally included three physical attacks, 18 firebombs, two arson attacks and dozens of rock throwing incidents.”

But this fact is buried in the middle of a lengthy article that contrasts sharply in tone and focus with many of the newspaper’s reports on Palestinian terrorism.

Indeed, by calling settlers “zealous,” the Post offers stronger words for Israelis living in Jewish communities in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) than for PIJ “militants” who, in remarks that the newspaper ignored, explicitly state that they consider all of Israel to be a “settlement.” Nor did the newspaper cover massive demonstrations on Nov. 14, 2019 in Jabalia and Khan Younis in Gaza, in which Palestinians protested a ceasefire with Israel and demanded strikes on Tel Aviv.

PIJ has been remarkably clear about its objectives. The group is deeply antisemitic. As the journalist Pierre Rehov documented in 2018, the Iranian-backed terrorist organization promised that even if Jews “go to the end of the world, we shall chase them and kill them.” They advised “their fighting brothers to continue killing the Jews”—they do not say ‘Israelis’—“to the last one.”

Finally, the Post has continued to devote vastly more column space personalizing the experiences of Palestinians than they do with Israelis. Several of the newspaper’s recent dispatches on Gaza, in addition to their report on “settler violence,” provide readers with both interviews and first-hand accounts from Palestinians—allowing readers to see the conflict through their eyes. By contrast, the Post rarely does the same for Israelis.

The Post would do well to spend more time covering what the terrorists clearly state to be their reasons for attacking Israel, and less time uncritically quoting both their propaganda networks and foreign-funded NGOs with questionable histories.