On Jerusalem Day and Diplomacy, Too Many Washington Post Omissions

The Washington Post’s “Diplomats call for international conference on Mideast peace by end of year” (June 4, 2016, online June 3) and “Israelis parade through Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter” (June 6, online June 5) reminded readers how errors of omission undermine reporting.

“Diplomats call for international conference,” by Post State Department correspondent Carol Morello, said diplomats from the European Union, Arab League, Russia and the United States gathered in Paris on June 3 to affirm support “for a just, lasting and enduring peace, with two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.” Factually correct, as far as it went, which wasn’t far enough.

The Post failed to remind readers that in 2002, President George W. Bush said he envisioned “two states, living side by side in peace and security.” Omitting Bush’s “vision,” the newspaper did not have to report why 14 years later it had yet to be realized.

Instead, it stated “Negotiations have been moribund since 2008, and a nine-month effort by [U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry to restart the talks collapsed with mutual recriminations.” Again, not factually incorrect, but factually insufficient. What happened in 2008? Why did Kerry’s 2014 effort collapse?

In 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a country on the Gaza Strip, virtually all of the West Bank with compensating land swaps for Israeli retention of settlement blocs, and eastern Jerusalem as its capital. In exchange, the Palestinian side would end the conflict by making peace with Israel as the Jewish state. Abbas walked away from the proposal. He did not respond with one of his own.

Kerry’s efforts in 2014 did end in mutual recriminations. But again, The Post went silent over why.

Letting Palestinian leaders off the hook

As CAMERA has noted, and pointed out to Post staffers when they’ve used the same vague formula before—boilerplate that might imply responsibility lay with both sides—U.S. diplomacy collapsed because Abbas and the rest of the PA leadership on the West Bank were not prepared to reach a comprise peace with Israel. (See, as one example of several, “Washington Post Word Choice Tilted ‘Balance’ to Palestinian Self-Justifications,” CAMERA, May 18, 2016. This critique includes a link to Amb. Dennis Ross’ Jan. 4, 2015 New York Times Op-Ed, “Stop Giving the Palestinians a Pass”.)

Palestinian leadership in the Gaza Strip, that is Hamas, ignored U.S. mediation such as Kerry’s, unambiguously committed as it has remained to the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people.

The Post’s assertion that “the Palestinians want to establish a state on land that Israel captured after the Six-Day War of 1967” fell into Ross’ “giving the Palestinians a pass” category. If that was what they wanted, why did Abbas reject Olmert’s 2008 proposal that the Palestinians do just that? Why did Abbas’ predecessor, Yasser Arafat, spurn Israeli leader Ehud Barak’s 2001 offer of the same, or Barak and U.S. President Bill Clinton’s 2000 deal for a West Bank and Gaza “Palestine” in exchange for peace with Israel?

Why did Arafat launch and sustain the terror war of the second intifada (2000 – 2005), in which more than 1,000 Israelis and 2,000 Palestinian Arabs died, instead of making peace? The Post told readers what it assumed Palestinian leaders wanted but failed to remind them that those leaders repeatedly rejected “a state on land Israel captured.”

The newspaper reported “international pressure has been building since the U.N. General Assembly recognized a state of Palestine in 2012, though one does not exist in reality without a negotiated agreement with Israel.” Again, not wrong, but minus key details. Among them:

Filling in the blanks

*The U.N. Charter, Articles 3 and 4, say membership is open to “peace-loving states” able to carry out Charter obligations, admission to be granted by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council. “Palestine”—Gaza Strip and/or West Bank—has not demonstrated a “peace-loving nature.” Neither have many current U.N. members, but they’re already part of the club. And though the General Assembly granted the Palestinian Authority “non-member state” status in 2012, the Security Council has not recommended admission.

*Under the 1934 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, a country must possess, among other attributes, a permanent population, defined territory, government and ability to enter into relations with other states. Divided between West Bank and Gaza, between Abbas’ Fatah movement and Hamas, its territory yet to be allocated in negotiations according to U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Accords, “Palestine” does not register as a sovereign country. (See “Where’s the Coverage? ‘Palestine’ Doesn’t Qualify as a State,” CAMERA, Nov. 29, 2012.)
The Post reported that Palestinian leaders “embraced” the Paris diplomatic gathering since they “have sought to internationalize negotiations in part because they don’t trust the United States to act as a neutral mediator and consider the Europeans more sympathetic to their aspirations.” In part, that too was accurate. But once more, only in part.

Omitted is the fact that, as Ross and many others, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have pointed out, “internationalization” enables the Palestinian side to avoid the direct talks and necessary compromises with Israel that the relevant Security Council resolutions and the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo process obligates them to. So if “diplomats have been warning that the window for a two-state solution is closing,” Palestinian rejectionism might have something to do with it. Not that Post readers could tell from “Diplomats call for international conference on Mideast peace by end of year.”

Two days later, the newspaper let omissions undermine “Israelis parade through Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter.” The lead paragraph said “thousands of Israelis” marched through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem Old City, “the ancient walled metropolis” Israel captured “in the 1967 war against Arab armies.” Later the article, by Post Jerusalem Bureau Chief William Booth, referred to “an estimated 10,000 marchers” in “the Jerusalem Flag Parade.”

What was that holiday again?

The Post failed to note that what was being celebrated was Jerusalem Day, a national holid
ay marking reunification of Judaism’s holiest city (referred to hundreds of times in the Torah). Its “estimated 10,000 marchers” was one-third of the 30,000 projected by The Washington Times (“Middle East: A ‘different’ Jerusalem Day pushes tolerance, not nationalism,” June 6 print edition), “mostly Israeli teenagers from Zionist youth movements and religious schools—[who] sang and danced their way through the streets of the capital city waving Israeli flags.”
The Post’s attitude toward the march, if not Jerusalem Day, might have been indicated by the article’s online headline, “Israeli revelers give Palestinians the finger in march through Jerusalem’s Muslim quarter.” The article said “hundreds of marchers could be seen wearing T-shirts that showed the destruction of the al-Aqsa Mosque and the imagined rebuilding of the Third Jewish Temple ….” But it conceded “although the march featured some pushing and shoving, there were few arrests and no serious violence.” Unlike the violence of the Palestinian “stabbing intifada,” which began in Jerusalem’s Old City last October and, as The Washington Times report noted, 30 Israelis and four foreigners have been murdered and in which more than “200 Palestinians were killed either carrying out attacks or in violent confrontations with Israeli forces.”

According to The Post, “Israel’s High Court of Justice turned down a last-minute appeal and ruled that the annual parade could take place on its schedule route through the Muslim Quarter to the Western Wall, a site of Jewish prayer and devotion.” “A site of Jewish prayer and devotion”? Really, that’s it?

As the newspaper well knows, including as a result of corrections its published at CAMERA’s request, the Western Wall is the holiest site at which Jews, by rabbinic tradition, are permitted to pray. (See, for example, “Washington Post Corrects: Temple Mount is Judaism’s Holiest Site,” Jan. 27, 2013. The Wall’s sacred status derives from proximity to Temple Mount, site of the First and Second Temples, for which it served as a retaining wall.

A toss-off Post reference to the Grand Mosque in Mecca with its Kaaba as “a site of Muslim prayer and devotion” rather than a precise description as Islam’s biggest mosque and most revered locale would never happen. But Booth’s description of Temple Mount as “holy to both religions” (Judaism and Islam) diminishes the sanctity of the place in Jewish eyes and implies an equivalence that does not exist.

Hiding the ball from readers

As for that last-minute appeal against the parade route through the Old City’s Muslim quarter, who sought it? The Post says it was “the Israeli human rights group Ir Amim,” no background provided.

NGO-Monitor (“Ir Amim,” May 18, 2016) said Ir Amim, largely funded by European governments and non-profits, “frequently accus[es] Israel of attempting to ‘Judaize’ Jerusalem and promotes the Palestinian narrative on the city….” CAMERA has criticized Ir Amim several times, describing it as a “partisan fabricator guilty of repeatedly leveling false charges against Israel” (see, for example, “Diaa Hadid, Recycling Old Stories about the Old City,” Jan. 15, 2016).

The Post article concluded with statistics, but they were not placed in meaningful context. “The city’s population has reached 870,000, with two-thirds Jews and one-third Arab,” it reported. Unless readers knew beforehand that the city’s inhabitants numbered 269,000 at reunification in 1967, three-fourths Jewish, one-fourth Arab, those relying only on The Post’s report would get no sense of the city’s unprecedented expansion under Israeli control or its Arab population boom.

“The number of Christians in Jerusalem has dwindled over the years, from 20 percent of the population in 1946 to less than 2 percent today.” Curious. Why 1946 rather than the 1967 date in the story’s lead?

In other words, in 1946—near the end of Great Britain’s Palestine Mandate—and even before Jordan’s 19-year occupation (1948-1967), Christian Arabs were leaving the central Old City and Jerusalem’s eastern neighborhoods. If anything, this exodus accelerated in reaction to increasing Islamic fundamentalist influence after establishment of the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank in 1993. Again, The Post did not err. Rather, it omitted key facts.

In The Post, the Jerusalem Day march appeared negatively. In The Washington Times, in a little more balance: “While the Jerusalem Day Flag march is at once a joyous event, celebrating Israel’s access to the Western Wall, Judaism’s most holy site [sic.], for Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents, the day is a provocation.”

For Washington Post readers left wondering how Jerusalem’s reunification occurred—not in an Israeli “war against Arab armies” but in the Jewish state’s fight for survival—and what “Jerusalem Day 1967” had been like, Michelle Mazel’s “Jerusalem Day: A personal recollection” (The Jerusalem Post, June 5) was a better place to start.

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