If “democracy dies in darkness”—The Washington Post’s Trump-era slogan—then journalism dies in superficiality and bias by omission. The Post itself shows how.
“Republicans accuse Muslim lawmakers of anti-Semitism,” by reporters Mike DeBonis and Robert Costa in the Feb. 9 print edition, evaded dealing with the anti-Zionist, anti-Jewish statements and actions of two Democratic members of Congress in context.
Instead, The Post played criticism of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) as “part of a larger GOP effort to drive a partisan wedge into the traditionally nonpartisan relationship between the United States and Israel.” The Post’s op-ed pages—in a move that Seth Mandel, the executive editor for The Washington Examiner magazine, called “bonkers”—even defended Omar.
This journalistic “framing” avoided examining hostility to the Jewish state as a gateway to renewed hatred of the Jewish people. French President Emmanuel Macron got it right in 2017, stating, “anti-Zionism is the reinvented form of anti-Semitism.”
Contrary to The Post, Democrats didn’t need Republicans spotlighting Omar and Tlaib’s trafficking in, then at times back-tracking from before returning to anti-Jewish canards, including covert Israeli manipulation, dual loyalty by American Jews and Jewish money buying American political support for Israel to divide them. Not that the newspaper acknowledged it, but a growing intra-party split was visible at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
The platform committee had omitted the 2004 and 2008 declarations of Jerusalem as Israel’s “indivisible, eternal capital.” In the chair, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was compelled to overrule three negative voice votes to reinsert it. He was jeered from the floor for his effort.
No Republican machinations sparked the 2010 speech by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim elected to Congress, implying that American foreign policy pivoted on what was good for Israel. The Anti-Defamation League questioned whether Ellison—who had renounced his law school support of the Nation of Islam’s anti-Semitic leader Louis Farrakhan—“could faithfully represent the Democratic Party’s traditional support for a strong and secure Israel.”
During Israel 2014 war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Ellison opposed additional funding for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. He explained his vote, and called for Israel to stop blockading Gaza, though Hamas—a U.S.-designated terrorist organization—had rejected several Egyptian-brokered Israeli ceasefire proposals. Ellison went on to serve as Democratic Party deputy chair in 2017-18.
The Post again falsely described the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, telling readers it is “meant to apply pressure on Israel to change its policies toward the Palestinian population.” In fact, as BDS founder Omar Barghouti made plain, “most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.”
No mention by the Post of Tablet online magazine’s report last year that the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, which coordinates hundreds of anti-Israel boycott groups, helps fund the Palestinian BDS National Committee. The committee has ties to Hamas and other U.S.-labeled terrorist movements, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
“Republicans accuse Muslim lawmakers of anti-Semitism” notes GOP members who spotlighted a telephone call from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) to British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Ocasio-Cortez erroneously alleged last year that Israel “massacred” Palestinian rioters at the Gaza-Israel boundary fence. Corbyn, the Post said, “has come under intense criticism for tolerating anti-Semitism in his ranks.” That’s a cream-of-wheat way of putting it.
What Corbyn is criticized for, including by Jewish Labour Party members and rabbis in the United Kingdom, is enabling hostility within Labour towards the Jewish state and Jews. Corbyn himself hosted Hamas representatives to tea at Parliament and invited others from Iran’s Lebanese surrogate, Hezbollah, another American-designated terrorist group.
While the Post noted Ocasio-Cortez’s supportive call to Corbyn, it omitted Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) campaigning for the Labour Party chairman in 2017, one year after Sanders nearly won the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
The newspaper returned to the story after Democratic House leaders castigated Omar for using anti-Jewish stereotypes; she apologized and then reiterated the smears. Its Page 1, Feb. 12 article, “House leadership condemns freshman’s Israel comments” by DeBonis and Rachael Bade, again erroneously said that BDS “aims to apply economic pressure to change Israeli policy toward the Palestinian population.”
It also erected a strawman, charging “Republicans are seeking to use unequivocal support for Israel as a political litmus test.” Neither Republican nor Democratic support for Israel has been unequivocal, as numerous examples, including the Reagan administration’s condemnation of Israel’s 1981 bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak and the Obama White House’s 2015 Iran nuclear deal, over Israeli opposition, demonstrate.
If democracy dies in darkness, then three-dimensional journalism vanishes in two-dimensional reporting.
(Note: A slightly different version of this Op-Ed appeared in JNS on Feb. 26, 2019)