“Facts,” Mark Twain once observed, “are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.” When it comes to the Israel-Islamist conflict, the Washington Post’s global opinion page ignores the facts. And the newspaper consistently treats its own standards and ethics as pliable.
A July 31, 2020 op-ed entitled “The 2020 Democratic platform betrays Palestinians and again gives Israel a pass” offers a case in point. Writers Huwaida Arraf, Zeina Ashrawi Hutchison, and Sam Hindi, all delegates for the Democratic National Convention (DNC), use the Post to slander the Jewish state. They write that “as Palestinian-Americans and delegates to the Democratic National Convention, we are deeply dismayed that the language on Israel-Palestine once again ignores reality and basic Palestinian rights.” Yet, their argument rests on lies and omissions, all of which the Post could have—and should have—fact checked.
The delegates claim that “Israeli settlements are Jewish-only colonies built on stolen Palestinian land” in the “West Bank.” This is false. In fact, no sovereign Palestinian Arab state has ever existed. Indeed, as The Wall Street Journal noted in a May 16, 2020 correction that was prompted by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA): “Under the Oslo accords, sovereignty over the West Bank is disputed, pending a final peace settlement.”
And the Jewish claim to the land is based on both history and international law.
Arabs are from Arabia and Jews are from their “historic homeland,” Judea and Samaria — or, as it has sometimes been called for the last half century, the “West Bank.” The term “Palestine” comes from the word “Palaestina” which the Roman conquerors coined after expelling many, but not all, Jews from Judea in the second century AD. Arabs, including the forebears of today’s Palestinians, didn’t arrive in the land until the Islamic conquests of the seventh century. By contrast, Jews are indigenous to the land and have maintained a continual presence that goes back thousands of years.
Contrary to what the writers claim, Jewish communities in the West Bank do not “violate international law.” In fact, the opposite is true. The League of Nations Palestine Mandate, adopted later by the United Nations, calls for “close Jewish settlement on the land” west of the Jordan River in Article 6. The U.N. Charter, Chapter XII, Article 80, upholds the Mandate’s provisions. The 1920 San Remo Resolution and the 1924 Anglo-American Convention also enshrined Jewish territorial claims into international law.
Indeed, the phrase “West Bank” has only been commonly used since 1948, when the kingdom of Transjordan (today’s Jordan) seized the land during Israel’s War of Independence. Jordan ruled over the land until it decided to join Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon in their war against the Jewish state in June 1967. Israel gained those lands in that defensive war. Yet, Jordan maintained a claim on the West Bank until July 31, 1988. In the years since, Israel has offered Palestinian leaders the chance to create a state out of the majority of the West Bank on several occasions, including 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference. Yet, Palestinian leaders declined offers for statehood if it meant living in peace next to Israel.
Nor is the land “stolen” as Hindi, Ashwari, and Arraf claim. Indeed, in a salient fact that goes unmentioned by the Postop-ed writers, many leading Palestinian Arab families sold land to Jews, including the Husseinis, Khalidis, and others.
And this is far from the only omission. The writers claim that “roadblocks and trigger-happy Israeli soldiers” control “the movements of all Palestinians, making it impossible to lead a normal life.” They charge the Jewish state with rendering water “off-limits to Palestinians” and with creating “disconnected ghettos.”
Readers of the op-ed would have no clue that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians live under the rule of the Palestinian Authority (PA), the entity that rules the West Bank, or Hamas, the designated terror group that controls the Gaza Strip. If there is poverty and misery in the areas that they rule—and there is—this can be chalked up to these notorious kleptocracies that pilfer public funds and fund terrorism. And in contrast to the authors’ claims, Israel supplies both water and energy, among other sources, to the PA and Hamas—even though both seek the Jewish state’s destruction. As far as “roadblocks,” those are security measures that became necessary when Palestinian leaders launched a wave of suicide bombings and terror attacks during the 1990s and early 2000s.
Ironically, the writers link their claim about Israeli soldiers being “trigger-happy” to the June 2020 shooting of Ahamd Erekat, a Palestinian man who was shot at a checkpoint after he tried to run over Israeli police officers. Video of the incident, provided in the link, clearly shows Erekat attempting to commit vehicular homicide. In keeping with PA law, any Palestinian who commits an act of terror receives money, as does his or her family. The writer’s unfounded slander seems to be little more than projection.
More slanders and lies follow.
The authors claim that the DNC must affirm that Israel’s “annexation” of “East Jerusalem” is “illegal”—although, as noted above, it is anything but. Worse still, they claim that the DNC must affirm that Israel is “a state for all of its citizens rather than an ethnically exclusive ‘Jewish state’ which is an endorsement of institutionalized racism.” Yet, this too is a projection.
Twenty percent of Israel’s citizens are non-Jews. They serve on Israel’s Supreme Court, and in the military, run hospitals and large corporations, and enjoy both greater political freedoms and a higher standard of living than the Arabs living under the rule of the PA or Hamas. Indeed, Israeli Arabs have voted in three democratic elections in Israel in the last three years alone. By contrast, Arabs residing under the rule of the PA or Hamas haven’t been able to vote for more than a decade. Further, when it comes to institutionalized racism, Jews are forbidden by law from owning or renting land under the PA or Hamas—actual apartheid. Both entities state that their official religion is Islam, another salient fact that the writers ignore. And unlike Israel, both entities rule over a population that is almost entirely Arab Muslim, with Arab Christians having fled in large numbers in recent years.
Elsewhere, the writers claim, without any documentation or sourcing, that Israel “cages Palestinian children,” and imprisons them, and shoots unarmed protesters. This is little more than a modern-day blood libel, reappearing in the pages of a U.S. newspaper.
The Post’s decision to publish the piece violates its own standards and guidelines which claim that the newspaper is “committed to fairness.” The newspaper elaborates: “Fairness results from a few simple practices: No story is fair if it omits facts of major importance or significance. Fairness includes completeness.”
Further, the Post claims to be “committed to disclosing to its readers the sources of the information in its stories to the maximum possible extent.” The Washington Post is not living up to its own guidelines and standards. Its opinion pages—meant to be a place for honest debate—are increasingly a forum for falsehoods—and worse.
And, not for the first time, the newspaper is, if unintentionally, promoting reworked antisemitic canards. “Antisemitism,” the writer Yossi Klein Halevi noted in 2018, “turns the Jews into the symbol of whatever is that a given civilization defines as its worst qualities…now we live in a civilization where the most loathsome qualities are racism, colonialism and apartheid and lo and behold the greatest offender in the world today is the Jewish state…it is a classic continuity of thousands of years of symbolizing the Jew.” And, increasingly, it can be found in the global opinion pages of the Washington Post.
(Note: A slightly different version of this article appeared as an op-ed in The Times of Israel on Aug. 6, 2020)