The Washington Post’s Selective Coverage of Palestinian Deaths

“All I know,” the late American humorist Will Rogers once said, “is what I read in the papers.” But if Rogers were alive today and looking to the Washington Post for information about the Israel-Islamist conflict, he might come up short. As recent news reports indicate, the newspaper’s coverage is often selective at best, and misleading at worst.

Take, for example, a Jan. 14, 2022 article by reporter Miriam Berger and Jerusalem bureau chief Steve Hendrix (“Palestinian American who died after Israeli detention was unresponsive when released, witnesses say”). The dispatch highlighted the case of Omar Abdalmajeed As’ad, a seventy-eight-year-old Palestinian-American man “who was found dead early Wednesday after being detained by Israeli soldiers in a late-night encounter.”

The Israeli military told the Post that As’ad “was detained by soldier for only a short time and was alive when he was released.” The Mayor of Jiljilya, the town where As’ad’s body was found, told the Times of Israel that As’ad “suffered from diabetes and other chronic conditions” and “apparently had suffered a heart attack.”

The Israeli military, the Post noted, is conducting an investigation into As’ad’s death. The Palestinian-American was apparently detained after resisting “a check” when IDF soldiers were conducting an investigation into terrorist activity in the area.

The story itself is certainly newsworthy—both on its own merits and, particularly from the perspective of a U.S.-based news outlet, because As’ad was also a Palestinian-American. Further, both the U.S. State Department and several members of Congress have expressed concern and called for an investigation. And, indeed, an investigation is currently underway.

What is both odd and illustrative, however, is the treatment that the Washington Post and others have given to As’ad’s death when compared to the deaths and injuries of other Palestinian-Americans in the area.

The Washington Post’s report on As’ad’s death ran 1238 words and was given top billing in the “World” section of the newspaper’s January 15th print edition.

Yet, as CAMERA has documented, major U.S. news outlets have a long and sordid history of ignoring when Palestinians, and Palestinian-Americans, are tortured and/or murdered by their own leaders. As CAMERA noted in a June 29, 2018 Daily Caller Op-Ed entitled “The Media Is Not Pro-Palestinian, Just Anti-Israel,” many in the media — and the policymakers and pundits that they influence — ignore internal Palestinian issues when Israel can’t be blamed.

In 2018, for example, Laith Abu Zayed, a Palestinian who works for the anti-Israel NGO Amnesty International was arbitrarily detained and, per a press release, “severely beaten” by the Palestinian Authority (PA), the entity that rules the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate condemned the assault. Yet, major U.S. news outlets like the Post largely ignored Zayed’s allegations against the PA—although many in the foreign press had previously published his anti-Israel allegations.

Similarly, on June 11, 2018, the Arab-Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh noted that the PA commander for the city of Hebron had been “dismissed from his job for beating a Palestinian judge” — possibly with assistance from six PA policeman.

Indeed, in both 2018 and 2019, Palestinians were murdered and maimed while protesting in the West Bank and Gaza, respectively.

The March 2019 protests against Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip, was almost completely ignored by the Washington Post (“Palestinian Lives Don’t Matter,” The New York Times, March 21, 2019). Hamas shot and tortured Palestinians, including journalists, but the Post failed to cover what was later termed the “Hunger Revolution.” Only belatedly—more than a week after the protests began—did The Post note the events in a few throwaway sentences in March 15 report on an Israeli strike against Gazan terrorists who shot a rocket at Tel Aviv (“Israel says it struck 100 targets in Gaza after two rockets were fired at Tel Aviv”).

Indeed, as CAMERA has highlighted, The Washington Post’s own job description for its Jerusalem bureau chief makes clear that covering Palestinians is not a priority for the newspaper (for details seeThe Washington Post, Palestinians and the Super Bowl,” CAMERA, March 8, 2019).

More recently, as CAMERA documented in op-eds in The National Interest and the Washington Examiner, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and the ruling clique of his Fatah movement have been arresting, imprisoning and torturing critics and dissidents. As the reporter Khaled Abu Toameh has highlighted, Palestinian journalists, such as Fayhaa Khanfar, have even been summoned—and reportedly beaten—by the PA’s intelligence services. The Authority has even attacked protesters as far away as Beirut, Lebanon—all with little fanfare from the Post.

When Fadi Elsalameen, a Palestinian-American who holds U.S. citizenship, was threatened by Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in 2021, the Washington Post was silent. Other news media, including the Jerusalem Post, which has a fraction of the Washington Post’s budget and staff, provided coverage. It should be newsworthy when a U.S.-backed entity—the PA receives both U.S. and Western aid and support—threatens a U.S. citizen.

Issa Amro, another Palestinian critic of Abbas, was also seized during the Authority’s 2021 crackdown—and the Post was, yet again, silent.

As the Times of Israel noted in a June 22, 2021 report, Amro was arrested and “held in jail over a Facebook post that accused the Palestinian Authority leadership of corruption.” Amro, Times of Israel reporter Aaron Boxerman detailed in 2021, “said [that] he was detained under the PA’s controversial 2018 cybercrimes law, which allows individuals to be arrested for ‘slandering’ government institutions online. Human rights groups argue the PA has abused the practice to arbitrarily arrest its political opponents.” Amro, who had previously been arrested in 2017 for his criticisms of Abbas, was eventually released.

Several news outlets, including the Associated Press, provided reports about Amro’s detention. But the Washington Post, which has cited and quoted Amro and even done full-length profiles on him, initially failed to report his detention.

In 2018, a Palestinian-American named Issam Aqel was detained, arrested and tortured by the Palestinian Authority for selling land to Jews. As Shoshana Keats-Jaskoll noted in a Dec. 31, 2018 op-ed for the Forward:

“The use of torture is not unusual in the PA. Another man who I will call Ali to protect his identity testified about it before the Knesset. He said he was taken from his family. He was kept in a cage for weeks at a time. His captors threw hot and cold water, threw garbage and rotten food on top of him. They forced him to sit on broken bottles and hung him upside down for days on end.”

Despite being Palestinian-American, Aqel’s torture by the PA went unreported by the Post and most major U.S. news outlets. And in the end it was a Zionist organization that came to his aid. As Keats-Jaskoll ruefully observed, the man’s plight was met with “silence from the international media.”

Importantly, the evidence of the culpability of the PA and Hamas for these crimes against Palestinians and Palestinian-Americans is vastly greater in scope and quality than any of the allegations, as they now stand, involving the death of Mr. As’ad. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas are systemic, if underreported, human rights abusers.

And they are criminally overlooked. Lengthy, full court press reports are only convened when Israel can be condemned. If you’re a Palestinian, or a Palestinian-American, and Palestinian rulers abuse you, don’t expect the Washington Post to provide coverage. The newspaper’s history indicates that you’ll likely be out of luck.