CAMERA Op-Ed: The Misleading Omissions Driving Washington Post Coverage of Israel’s Jenin Raid

“One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present,” the Israeli prime minister Golda Meir purportedly said. But the Washington Post, which fancies itself an arbitrator of truth, is trying to do just that. Like the terrorists that it effectively defends, the Post’s coverage of Israel’s latest counterterrorist operation is prone to misfires.

The Post begins, appropriately enough, by trying to offer a “timeline on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Despite setting three reporters to the task, the newspaper fails. Indeed, the Post largely implies that the conflict began in 1948 with Israel declaring independence. This is false.

In fact, what is more accurately called the Israel-Islamist conflict began decades before. As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) has highlighted, Arab leaders in British-ruled Mandate Palestine began to oppose any semblance of Jewish self-determination in the Jewish people’s ancestral homeland as early as 1920.

Arab leaders like Amin al-Husseini, among others, incited anti-Jewish riots throughout the land, including pogroms in Jerusalem in 1920 and 1921. Importantly, Husseini initially did so while agitating for the Arab population of the area to join the short-lived Syrian kingdom of Faisal; he didn’t advocate for a distinct Palestinian Arab state. Rather, he advocated for a state in which Jews would continue to lack social and political equality.

This violence reached its zenith in the 1929 massacres in Hebron and elsewhere, in which “more than 60 Jews—including many women and children—were murdered and more than 50 were wounded,” as a subsequent investigatory commission would note.

That violence, historian Anita Shapira would observe, marked a “turning point” in the emerging conflict. Yet, the Post ignores it entirely, failing to note that Arab leaders like Amin al-Husseini would spend the 1930s and early 1940s allying themselves with the fascist powers of Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany—even securing arms from both.

Terrorist groups like the Green Hand were formed in the 1930s, attacking Jews, rival Arab groups open to compromise, and ruling British authorities. Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, a fiery Islamist from what is today Syria, would launch his own terrorist organization that perpetrated scores of attacks before British police cornered and killed him in 1935.

Today, Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip, names the rockets that it fires at Israeli civilians in his honor. This, of course, is a testimony to the period’s relevancy. But the Post omits it. Indeed, by starting the timeline in 1948, the Post misses at least three pivotal decades—decades that feature prominently in the works of historians as varied as Shapira, Benny Morris, and Bruce Hoffmann. A new book by the analyst Oren Kessler, entitled Palestine 1936, argues for the importance of the period.

Further, belying its lack of seriousness, the Post’s timeline omits numerous instances of Palestinian Arab leaders being offered the chance for something that hasn’t ever existed: a Palestinian Arab state. Such proposals were made more than a decade before 1948, as well as in 1947, 1967, 2000, 2001, 2008, 2014, and 2016 among other instances. All these proposals are a matter of record. All were rejected by Palestinian Arab leaders. Yet not even one appears on the Post’s timeline. That’s pathetic.

Equally pathetic—and revealing—is the fact that in-depth historical studies of these instances have been conducted by small but mighty nonprofit organizations like CAMERA. That one of the world’s largest newspapers, with a larger budget and staff, can’t do likewise isn’t exactly a vote of confidence in the Post’s capabilities.

Not content with these glaring failures, the Post’s recent coverage misleads in other respects.

Israel’s counterterrorist operation in Jenin was the result of two factors: the Palestinian Authority’s complicity and the Islamic Republic of Iran’s ambitions.

The PA was created because of the Oslo Accords, which provided Palestinians with the opportunity for limited self-rule in exchange for renunciations of terrorism and commitments to resolve outstanding issues in bilateral negotiations. As a result, the Authority received considerable support from the West, notably the United States.

Yet, the PA has failed to live up to its promises. Instead, it has paid tax deductible salaries to those who carry out terrorist attacks. And its media and educational arms have incited anti-Jewish violence. Just as bad, the Palestinian Authority Security Forces (PASF), which are trained and armed by the U.S. and others to thwart terrorism, have a long history of carrying out terror attacks.

The PA is also deeply repressive—a fact that the Post frequently glosses over. The PA has failed to hold elections, and its head, Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Fatah movement, is currently in the eighteenth year of his four-year-term in office. The Palestine Legislative Council, the PA’s equivalent of Congress, hasn’t even met since 2006. The unpopularity of Abbas, Fatah, and the PA have given Iran and its proxies room to operate.

Tehran is committed to Israel’s destruction. Its proxies’ rule in Gaza and neighboring Lebanon, while enjoying an expanded reach in Iraq, Yemen, and Syria. Iranian-backed entities like Hamas, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad—all U.S.-designated terrorist groups—are gaining in popularity in areas of the so-called “West Bank” that the PA is tasked with ruling. The PA Security Forces who are tasked with maintaining order have declined to do so. Indeed, Abbas’s Fatah movement has openly sided with the terrorists in towns like Jenin, and Fatah operatives have taken part in the violence.

However, this crucial context is glossed over in most of the Post’s coverage of the Jenin operation—including by veteran columnists who should know better. Worse still, the Post attempts to blame the Jewish state, with some reports insinuating that the increase in violence is the result of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, taking power in December 2022. This too is false—and it’s a sign of how politicized, and narrative driven, the Washington Post’s coverage of Israel has become.

In fact, as organizations like the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), a nonpartisan think tank, have documented, the increase in violence dates back nearly two years. FDD has long had helpful graphs charting the increase—all open source and readily available.

For its part, CAMERA has highlighted the deteriorating security situation for nearly two years, authoring op-eds like “Palestinian political chaos prevents the potential for peace” (July 5, 2021), “The Palestinian Authority is on the precipice” (Nov. 18, 2021), and “Will Iran Soon Control the West Bank” (Sept. 18, 2022), among others. Yet in report after report, the Washington Post either barely mentions, or omits entirely, the role of both the PA and Iran.

Worse still, the newspaper frequently refers to U.S.-designated terrorist groups as “armed resistance.” As CAMERA told Post staff, this is but a euphemism for terrorism; what these groups are “resisting” is the existence of the Jewish state and its people. Unfortunately, the Post seems to enjoy using this euphemism as much as the terrorist groups whose rhetoric it echoes.

Elsewhere, the Washington Post continues its well-worn habit of treating the “Palestinian Health Ministry” as a credible source—overlooking the fact that it is run by Hamas. And the Post continues to provide casualty statistics that omit that most Palestinians killed in what the newspaper colloquially refers to as “clashes” or “cycles of violence” have been linked to terrorist groups. For good measure, the Post, which claims to lament the rise of disinformation, even repeated these errors on its Instagram page.

But at the Washington Post who needs facts when narratives, amnesia, and ahistoricism reign supreme?

Comments are closed.