Missing Something at WaPo’s Jerusalem Bureau

What have readers of news and information outlets other than The Washington Post been reading about Israel and the Palestinian Arabs lately? Here’s a sample:

*TIME magazine’s “The Next War Between Israel and Hamas May Be Fought Underground (Feb. 22, 2016) examined the U.S.-designated terrorist organization’s extensive tunnel-digging from its Gaza Strip base into Israel. It reported, among other things, that two-thirds of Gazans oppose a fourth war with Israel in eight years, but one-third supports the possibility.

TIME also said Hamas (the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement) diverts aid material meant for reconstruction in the Strip to its preparations for war. And it put Gaza’s population at 1.2 million, not the nearly 1.9 million The CIA World Factbook uses.

*Ynetnews.com, the English-language Web site of Israel’s Yediot Aharanot Hebrew daily, said society in Gaza is collapsing. This disintegration rather than a decision on timing by Hamas, may spark the next war. Beyond an infrastructure crisis—electricity and water shortages, broken sewage systems—there’s worse.

Based on comments by Gazans who have left and spoken to Israelis, columnist Alex Fishman said, “The number of suicides has reached unprecedented levels. The number of instances of murder within the family has grown: for instance, there is a phenomenon whereby women are stabbing their unemployed husbands. Every third person is on anti-depressants. There has been an increase in drug use and the overall scope of crime has increased, mainly prostitution, as well as the phenomenon of teenagers marrying much older men who are able to support them as a second or third wife.”

Meanwhile, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority on the West Bank “is not transferring funds for health or education in an organization fashion” and many Gazans “are mad that Hamas has built for themselves what amount to underground cities, while they are left without bomb shelters.” (“No hope for Gazans,” February 23). Sounds like a story The Post might want to cover.

*A recent Jerusalem Post commentary rejected allegations of Israeli “apartheid” in dealing with Palestinian Arabs similar to separation and subordination policies South Africa’s previous white minority regime imposed on the black majority. Lesiba Bapela, All Faculty Council chairperson of the University of Witwatersrand Student Representative Council, wrote, “I went to Israel expecting to witness an apartheid state, but I immediately understood that I had been mislead.”

Palestinian apartheid

Ms. Bapela found, for example, that Israeli universities “are products of diversity and unity, yielding an environment full of tolerance.” However, in the West Bank she discovered “many people there do not practice what they preach in the media.” Not only do they support Hamas’ anti-Jewish violence, “they openly expressed to us … that the country should have Palestinians as first-class citizens and Israelis as second-class citizens” (“Stop using apartheid for your own agenda,” Jerusalem Post, February 21). Uncritical repetitions of Palestinian charges of Israeli “apartheid” appear periodically in The Washington Post.

*Israel is much more than the conflict imposed on it by Hamas, Fatah (Movement for the National Liberation of Palestine), Hezbollah, Iran and other regimes Washington Post readers could not live under. For example, Israeli immunologist Zelig Esshar reported a cure rate of 94 percent in a recent treatment trial for leukemia, in particular Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, the most common and once most deadly childhood cancer. The Herzliya Medical Center has claimed up to 91 percent success in stable remissions for Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, a disease once virtually a death sentence.  Are these trials and treatments newsworthy? Not lately in The Post.

What the newspaper’s Jerusalem bureau, staffed by chief William Booth and correspondent Ruth Eglash, have reported recently, in chronological order:

*“Martyrs? Desperate? Crazy? Palestinians wrestle with labels for attackers in the wave of violence against Israelis” (Feb. 22, 2016). The Post featured this 1,350-word article—a short magazine piece—as its lead for “The World” pages. Among other things, it said “the aging, unpopular leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization are careful to neither openly support nor oppose the attacks [of the past six months], adding to the aimless narrative of the current violence.”

That’s not so. The article itself quotes Jibril Rajoub, a former head of Palestinian security forces and current president of the Palestinian Football [soccer] Association, saying on Palestinian Authority TV that the attacks were “‘heroic’ or ‘courageous,’ to be celebrated with waving flags and mass funerals.” No mention of Rajoub’s 1970 life sentence (he served 15 years, then was exchanged with 1,149 other Palestinian terrorist for three Israelis) for throwing a grenade at an Israeli army truck. The Post committed the same omission last year (CAMERA, “Washington Post Holds Up Palestinian Soccer Red Card,” May 20, 2015).

“Martyrs? Crazy? Desperate?” transcribed remarks by Palestinian officials that “they believe at least some of the attackers have ‘snapped’ from the pressure of living stunted lives under occupation.” “Occupation,” like “apartheid,” is a hammer in the Palestinian propaganda tool kit. Repeating the “occupation” hammer without context—pending successful negotiations, Israel remains the obligatory military occupational authority in the West Bank as the result of defensive wars in 1967 and 1973—amounts to pounding with it.

If Israel’s West Bank security presence—the PA administers daily affairs for virtually all West Bank Arabs—“stunts” lives, responsibility falls on Palestinian leadership. It has rejected “two-state solutions” that would end occupation in 2000, 2001 and 2008. For balance, shouldn’t The Post mention this?

Incitement from the top

PLO leaders “careful to neither openly support nor oppose” attempted and actual murder of Jews? On Sept. 13, 2015, organized anti-Jewish violence erupted on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, which is Judaism’s holiest site. Three days later, PLO leader and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared, “We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem…blood spilled for Allah…Every Martyr will reach Paradise, and everyone wounded will be rewarded by Allah.” Regarding Islam’s third-holiest shrine, al-Aqsa mosque on Temple Mount, he added—repeating a false claim of Israeli threats—“the Al-Aqsa is ours…. a
nd they [Jews] have no right to defile it with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem.”

In many respects “Martyrs? Desperate? Crazy?” rehashes “Outbursts without clear origin; Are Palestinian attacks against Jews fueled by disillusionment, religion or revenge? Depends on whom you ask” (Oct. 21, 2015, by Booth and Eglash). It too was a long piece avoiding evidence of official and semi-official Palestinian incitement to anti-Israeli, anti-Jewish violence. It too invoked “occupation,” “frustration,” and so on. CAMERA’s “Washington Post Obscures the Obvious—Palestinian Hatred of Jews,” October 21, with its numerous examples and supporting links deconstructed “Outbursts without clear origin.” Unfortunately for Post readers, “Martyrs? Desperate? Crazy?” replowed old ground.

*Journalist detained by Israel has not eaten for three months; ‘He is dying,’ says wife of Palestinian being held without charges” (Feb. 20, 2016). This report presented the views of hunger-striker’s Mohammed al-Qeq’s family—“they’ve kidnapped my husband,” his wife said, and “he is dying.” It also gave the official Israel side—Al-Qeq, who reports for Saudi Almajd TV, is a repeatedly imprisoned Hamas member.

But it tilted nevertheless. The dispatch said Almajd “is viewed as mainstream conservative in the Arab world” broadcasting news, religion and entertainment shows. It did not say who viewed it that way or note “mainstream conservative” Arab news media often traffic in antisemitism.

The conclusion stressed “Israeli and international human rights groups have condemned Qeq’s incarceration.” It quoted the spokeswoman for one of them, Israel’s B’Tselem. The Post described the group as a “human rights organization,” but it was more accurately an anti-government movement and one of dubious credibility. (See, for example, CAMERA’s “B’Tselem Photographer Stages Scene,” May 19, 2011).

Four days before the Post’s hunger-striker article appeared, an estimated 20,000 Palestinian Arabs participated in a protest in Ramallah supporting striking teachers. The turnout was said to larger than that of any anti-Israeli gathering on the West Bank in recent years. The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported demonstrators opposed corruption, waste, cronyism and excessive funding of security forces by the PA. A week later police blocked the area to prevent a second such gathering. All apparently a non-story for The Post.

*“Fear and frustration at the gate; This ancient entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City is at the heart of the latest wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence” (Feb. 18, 2016) was another lead feature for The World section. It said the Damascus Gate to Jerusalem’s Old City stood as a portal to “the holiest places for Jews, Christians and Muslims.” In fact, Temple Mount and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, in the Old City, are Judaism’s and Christianity’s holiest physical sites, respectively. The Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia is Islam’s holiest place. The Old City’s al-Aqsa mosque is considered third most sacred. Equating its status in Islam to that of Temple Mount in Judaism and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for Christians misleads, and does so in favor of Muslim Palestinians.

Failing to dig deeper

A cutline said Damascus Gate “has been the site of at least 14 recent Palestinian attacks on Israelis.” The text itself only hinted at why:

“Because this is where the police harass and humiliate the girls and the boys,” says a Palestinian teenager. The article gave the conclusion to an Arab shopkeeper just inside the gate. “All the insults, humiliations, searches. All here. It is a terrifying atmosphere, I promise you. Damascus Gate is our gate,” he said. “The more the Israelis pull, the tighter we hold on.”

So Israelis “pulling” caused Palestinian Arabs to attack them? In 2012, after 20 years as a criminologist specializing in suicide terrorists, Anat Berko wrote The Smarter Bomb: Women and Children as Suicide Bombers. Now a Likud Party member of Knesset, she told the Times of Israel last fall that “unlike suicide bombers, the current attackers ‘don’t necessarily think they won’t get out alive. They think they might not get out alive. It’s not the same.’

“Berko says the attackers are committing these acts for the sake of ‘glory,’ both on social media and in Palestinian society, and like all teenagers, they compete over who can be the biggest hero (“A portrait of the terrorist as a young man, or woman,” Dec. 6, 2015). The terrorists do not think death is the end, but fully believe they will enter paradise’,” which will feature things forbidden on earth, including for males alcohol and sex with the proverbial 72 virgins, for females the right to marry a handsome man for love. “Many of the terrorists Berko interviewed did not come from poor families, but did suffer from violence at home. … Indeed, says Berko, there is a normalization of violence in Palestinian society, with children’s television praising martyrs while al-Qaeda and Islamic State have upped the ante for brutality among would-be terrorists.” CAMERA sent The Post the link to this interview shortly after it appeared.

*In “This Year’s Oscar Swag Bag Includes a $55,000 Trip to Israel” (Feb. 11, 2016 online) also treated a tainted Palestinian source as credible, implied the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement had been more successful than was the case, and treated Israel differently than other countries doing the same thing.

Where does all this leave readers of Washington Post Arab-Israeli coverage? Missing a few things, among them depth and balance.

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