For centuries, Jews were deprived—at unimaginable cost—of that most basic right: self-defense. Today, the Jewish nation is subjected to impossible standards of self-defense by press and policymakers, as an Aug. 27, 2019 Washington Post editorial illustrates.
In the Post’s column “The hype over possible U.S.-Iran talks obscured something much more ominous,” the editorial board fretted over “another escalation in Iran-related tensions across the Middle East, this time driven by Israel.”
Citing recent Israeli strikes against Iranian proxies in the region, the newspaper conceded that “Israel has a right to defend itself against Iranian attacks” emanating from Syria. However, the Post faulted the Jewish state for targeting Iranian-backed militias in Iraq. It notes with alarm the “expansion of what has been a mostly measured and covert Israeli campaign” in a country where “some 5,000 U.S. troops are still based…and could be targets for Iranian reprisals.”
In other words: the Post blamed Israel for defending itself. The newspaper doesn’t blame the aggressor, Iran—long considered the preeminent state sponsor of terror by the U.S. State Department and others—for plotting attacks against the Jewish state. Nor does the editorial board bother to note that Iranian proxies and their allies in Iraq and Lebanon receive U.S. taxpayer support, as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) has documented.
Indeed, instead of focusing on Iran’s culpability or raising questions about whether the U.S. should continue to give aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), which have colluded with Hezbollah, or elements in the Iraqi government linked to Tehran, the Post blames Israel and calls for negotiations with a country that not only seeks Israel’s destruction but chants death to America.
Nor does the newspaper explain why proxies in Syria are somehow less of a threat to Israel than those in Iraq. Indeed, as CAMERA has noted, Iran has threatened both U.S. troops in the region as well as the U.S. itself for decades—long before Israeli strikes in August.
Israel, the Post says, has a right to self-defense—but only sometimes, when it fits the operational requirements of journalists in comfy offices in Washington D.C. A double standard is also evident: Iran and its regional proxies explicitly seek Israel’s destruction. No other nation would be expected to remain inactive while threats massed on its borders. As of last count, Hezbollah alone has an estimated 150,000 rockets—more than 10 times as many as it had in its last war against Israel in the summer of 2006. But instead of reporting on evidence of the U.S.-funded LAF’s cooperation with Hezbollah, the Post has published commentaries heralding aid for the Lebanese government.
The Post’s victim blaming is as illogical as it is absurd and offensive. And for the newspaper itself, it is also convenient.
Perhaps by blaming Israel for escalation, the Post’s editorial board seeks to avoid responsibility for the policies it has supported in the past. For example, the board supported the controversial 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more commonly known as the “Iran deal,” which several analysts warned would embolden Iran and increase its ability to finance and promote terror and regional unrest. The newspaper even declined to cover the June 10, 2015 congressional testimony by the then-head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, who warned that “Iran’s stated desire to destroy Israel is very real,” and listed the extensive means that Tehran has at its disposal.
That Iran has continued—including during periods of negotiation with the U.S.—to threaten the United States and its allies speaks volumes about Tehran’s ruling theocrats and their objectives. That The Washington Post has failed to imbibe the lesson says much about the newspaper’s regional and historical comprehension—or, more accurately, the lack thereof.
Indeed, the Post’s editorial stands in marked contrast to other reporting on the August strikes. In The Wall Street Journal’s “The Iran-Israel War is Here,” analyst Jonathan Spyer writes: “Israel and Iran are at war. Israeli strikes this week in southern Syria, western Iraq and eastern Lebanon—and possibly even Beirut—confirm it.”
Spyer observes that: “The regime in Tehran favors the destruction of the Jewish state, but this is a longstanding aim, dating to the 1979 Islamic Revolution and before it, in the minds of the revolutionaries. What’s brought it to the fore is that Iran has emerged in the past half decade as the prime beneficiary of the collapse of the Iraqi, Syrian and Lebanese states. This has substantially increased its capacity to menace Israel, which has noticed and responded.”
Spyer’s analysis has the information and depth which the Post’s lacks, noting that Iran proxies in these states form a “nexus” and enable Tehran to “treat this entire area as a single operational space, moving its assets around at will without excessive concern for the notional sovereignty of the governments in Baghdad, Beirut and Damascus. Lebanese Hezbollah trains PMU fighters in Iraq. Iraqi Shiite militias are deployed at crucial and sensitive points on the Iraqi-Syrian border, such as al-Qa’im and Mayadeen. Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah personnel operate in southwest Syria, close to the Golan Heights.”
The analyst’s key takeaway from the strikes is contra the Post’s: “Israeli attacks in recent days suggest that Israel, too, has begun to act according to these definitions and in response to them. If Iran will not restrict its actions to Syria, neither will Israel.” Iran’s involvement in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, he warns, is “deep, long-term and proactive.”
But this type of thoughtful and informative analysis is seemingly beyond the Post’s capabilities. It’s easier—and more escapist—to blame Israel. Indeed, when it comes to the Jewish state holding those who wish Jews harm accountable, it’s also a matter of habit for many in the press.
When Israeli agents captured wanted Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Argentina in 1960, The Washington Post “chastised Israel for wanting to ‘wreak vengeance,’ rather than seek justice,” as the historian Francine Klagsbrun documented.
Similarly, when Israeli fighter jets took out an Iraqi nuclear reactor on June 7, 1981, The New York Times editorial board called it “an act of inexcusable and short-sighted aggression”—never mind that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had called for Israel to be wiped off the map. The Times added that then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin “embraces…the code of terror” and “justifies aggression by his profound sense of victimhood.” In his 2016 book, Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn, the historian Daniel Gordis noted that The Los Angeles Times responded to the 1981 strike by comparing Israel to Palestinian terrorists.
In a 2006 interview with talk show host Bill Maher, Israeli politician Benjamin Netanyahu was asked why Israel was often subjected to unfair standards when it came to self-defense. The former and future Prime Minister observed: “For about 2,000 years, the Jew was the perfect victim. We had no land, no army, no government, and no way to defend ourselves. We were slaughtered with happy abandon…the world got used to the idea of the Jew as a victim…but now that we refuse to be a victim…now we’ve deviated from that ‘perfection of powerlessness’ and into power…now there’s a real historical adjustment that has to take place.” Indeed.
(Note: A slightly different version of this article appeared as an Op-Ed in The Times of Israel on Aug. 29, 2019)