Two recent reports by The Washington Post neatly encompass everything that is wrong with both the newspaper’s coverage of the Israel-Islamist conflict and the paper’s journalism itself. Both dispatches appeared on the same day, May 10, and both were filed by the newspaper’s Jerusalem bureau.
In a news report on an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) counter-terrorist operation, the Post treated a terrorist-linked entity as a credible source. While ostensibly about IDF strikes aimed at taking out leaders of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a Gaza-based terror group, the article uncritically quoted casualty claims by “Palestinian health officials.”
Later, the Post noted that “four women and four children were among those killed in the morning strikes, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.”
Yet, notwithstanding its innocuous sounding name, the “Palestinian Health Ministry” is run by Hamas, a US-designated terrorist group. And it has a long history of lying to journalists, who — for some inexplicable reason — are more than willing to parrot its claims.
In a July 7, 2021, report for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, entitled “The Media in the 2021 Gaza War,” Middle East analyst Lenny Ben-David noted that a “Hamas government body, the Health Ministry, was a primary source for international media outlets on the number of Gaza’s dead and wounded” in that conflict. However, the statistics supplied by the Ministry were “unreliable.”
Ben-David pointed out: “A study on Gazan casualties in the 2014 war published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs uncovered a Health Ministry official, Ashraf al-Kidra, who served as the ‘keeper of the statistics.’ Al-Kidra used a very broad definition of civilians, saying the term applied to ‘anyone who had not been claimed by one of the armed groups as a member.’”
It makes perfect sense that a terrorist group would lie and manipulate casualty statistics for propaganda purposes. Indeed, that’s part and parcel of what terrorist groups do across the world.
Hamas itself has acknowledged as much. For example, in a 2018 interview, Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar admitted to Al-Jazeera that the group believed in “deceiving the public” for propaganda purposes.
And Hamas, which runs the Health Ministry, encourages civilian casualties.
Hamas has always targeted Israeli civilians and employed Palestinian human shields — a double war crime. The group has used schools to hide its weaponry, equipment, and fighters, and, as recently as the 2014 conflict, used ambulances as “transport vehicles” and hospitals as “command centers.” During the 2021 war, the group was infamously caught using the building that housed Associated Press offices for operations — a war crime that was obfuscated by news outlets like The Washington Post.
In short: Hamas runs the Health Ministry. And it is in their interest both to encourage civilian deaths and to lie about them.
Why the Post’s Jerusalem bureau seems to think it’s in their readers’ interest to treat Hamas-run entities as credible is a question that warrants asking.
As Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington D.C.-based think, noted: “If you are a journalist citing ‘ministry of health’ statistics out of Gaza, you might want to take some time off and reconsider your professional standards for sources.”
Regrettably, the Post isn’t interested in taking time off from misleading readers. The newspaper’s story on the counter-terrorist operation came complete with a pull quote from Ismail Haniyeh, a top Hamas operative, which called terrorism “resistance.”
Worse still, the Post continued its own well-worn habit of supplying misleading casualty stats, claiming that “this year has been one of the deadliest in recent memory for Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank.”
The paper asserted that “since January, at least 95 casualties have been killed by Israeli security forces or settlers” whereas only “17 Israelis and one foreign national have been killed by Palestinians.”
But the overwhelming majority of Palestinians killed have been terrorists — a fact that was documented by nonpartisan think tanks like the FDD, among others, long before the Post’s May 10 report.
Indeed, as the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center has highlighted, many of the slain Palestinians have been claimed by the terrorist groups themselves. By contrast, all of the Israelis were murdered by terrorists — and all, except one, were civilians.
It is abhorrent to conflate the victims of terrorists with slain terrorists when listing casualties.
Additionally, the Post’s claim that “violence has intensified this year between Israel and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza under Netanyahu’s new government” is misleading. As FDD’s Jonathan Schanzer and Joe Truzman detailed in a Feb. 24, 2023, Washington Examiner op-ed, the uptick in violence can be traced back to 2021 — before the current Netanyahu government.
Indeed, as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) pointed out in a Nov. 18, 2021, op-ed, the violence has more to do with internal Palestinian upheavals than Israel’s latest coalition. Current Palestinian Authority President (PA) Mahmoud Abbas reigns but barely rules; the PA-controlled West Bank is increasingly fragmented and Iranian-proxies like Hamas sense an opportunity to make inroads in the areas controlled by Fatah, their erstwhile rival.
This attitude, and the Post’s brazen contempt for basic journalistic standards, were evidenced in the Jerusalem bureau’s other May 10 report.
That dispatch, entitled “A year after journalist’s fatal shooting, report finds pattern of Israel inaction,” regurgitated claims made by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that since 2001, the IDF has been responsible for the deaths of 20 reporters.
Yet, according to CAMERA’s Arabic department, no fewer than eight of those “reporters” have been linked to US-designated terrorist groups, serving their propaganda and media arms. Their levels of affiliation vary. As CPJ’s own report notes, some worked for media outlets associated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and others for Hamas.
One, Muhammad al-Bishawi, was killed inside the “Palestinian Center for Studies and Media” in Nablus, which even CPJ calls “a Hamas information office,” during the assassination of Hamas official Jamal Mansour. According to his biography for the Hamas-affiliated students movement, of which he was a member, Bishawi was working at the center, and Mansour was his boss. Another “journalist,” Khaled Riyadh Hamad, was an operative of Hamas’s al-Qassam brigades (Hamas itself refers to him as a “martyred Jihad warrior of al-Qassam”) — and was buried wrapped in the movement’s flag.
Sameh al-Aryan, Mahmoud al-Kumi, Ahmed Abu-Hussein, Yousef Abu-Hussein, and Hussam Salama, all worked for media outlets associated with the PFLP or Hamas.
CPJ itself notes as much. But The Washington Post failed to mention this salient fact.
Those who work for the media arms of terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda’s Inspire Magazine or the Islamic State’s Dabiq are certainly not considered “journalists” — even by the Post. Curiously this standard is dropped when the terrorist groups in question have Israel as their primary target.
The PFLP and Hamas and their propaganda entities routinely celebrate the murders of Israeli civilians. That they’re considered “reporters” by the CPJ is disqualifying.
The Post omits other relevant information, notably the fact that CPJ’s report covers multiple wars and at least two Intifadas (one of which lasted nearly five years and cost more than 1,000 Israelis their lives). Reporting from combat zones is inherently dangerous, particularly when terrorist groups use human shields — or when they disguise themselves as journalists.
Indeed, although the newspaper doesn’t mention it, there have been several instances of terrorist group’s donning garb and pretending to be journalists. In 2018, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, published an open-source report entitled “Palestinians use indications of media affiliation to protect themselves during anti-Israel military activities and terrorist attacks,” which documented this phenomenon. And as recently as the summer of 2022, a Palestinian journalist named Ghufran Hamed Warasneh attempted to stab IDF troops.
All of this seems relevant to the Post’s report. But The Washington Post seems incapable of telling the difference between terrorists and journalists, or terrorists and credible sources. And that is a fact worth noting.
(Note: A slightly different version of this article appeared as an Op-Ed in the Algemeiner on May 12, 2023)