Swiss Cheese-Style Coverage of Hebron; Rare Washington Times Stumble

Washington Times reporting of Israeli-Palestinian news, while not as extensive as that of The Washington Post, is usually not as problematic. The bigger Post, even with a Jerusalem bureau The Times lacks, too often mistakes “the Palestinian narrative” for the facts. But The Washington Times’ page one “Violence rises in West Bank city where Israelis, Palestinians live; Hamas-based Hebron at center of ‘Al-Aqsa Intifada’” (Jan. 12, 2016 print edition, January 11 online) contained more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese.

Reporters Asma’ Jawabreh in Hebron, and Jacob Wirtschafter from Cairo, writing as special correspondents for The Times, presented eight significant errors of commission and omission in their 1,131-word dispatch. The article said, among other things, that:

*Al-Aqsa mosque is “the third-holiest site in Islam,” but failed to tell readers that Temple Mount, to which the report also referred, is the holiest site in Judaism;

*“In November, Israeli forces disguised as Palestinian civilians — including one impersonating a pregnant woman in a wheelchair — entered the Al-Ahly hospital in Hebron, shooting dead Azzam Shalaldeh, a suspect in a stabbing attack.” In fact, Israeli forces captured the suspect; they killed one of his relatives;

*“A 1997 accord gives Israel direct control of about 20 percent of the city’s confines, increasing the number of military checkpoints and blocking off parts of the city’s oldest neighborhoods to Palestinian residents.” The accord gave Israel control of about 20 percent of Hebron but the increased number of checkpoints and blocking parts of the city to Palestinian Arabs were reactions to subsequent attacks against Jews;

*The 2014 Israel-Hamas war “resulted in more than 2,000 Palestinian deaths, 66 Israeli casualties and the destruction of thousands of homes and businesses in the tiny territory on the Mediterranean.” The number of Israelis killed was 72 (including one Thai worker); 66 was the number of soldiers only. An “apples-to-apples” comparison would have been “more than 2,000 Palestinian deaths, of whom more than half were males either identified as members of terrorist groups or of combat age, and 72 Israeli fatalities (including one foreign worker), of whom 66 were soldiers.” (See, for example, “Examination of Palestinians Killed In Operation Protective Edge, Part Ten,” by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Feb. 23, 2015 .);

False chronology shifts blame

*“The violence that broke out in October when Israel curtailed access to the Al-Aqsa mosque…” Such erroneous chronology shifts blame from Arabs to Israelis. In fact, the latest surge of violence, that is, Palestinian Arab attacks on Israeli Jews and Israeli reactions to the attacks, broke out in September. This after approximately six weeks of Palestinian incitement regarding the mosque, including an August 1 speech by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The incitement falsely alleged Israeli plans to “endanger” al-Aqsa by changing the post-1967 status quo on Temple Mount. Israel curtailed access in response to the early attacks. (See, for example, “Incitement over Temple Mount Leads to Palestinian Violence, Again,” CAMERA, September 16 .);

*The article said Hebron was “the only place in the West Bank where Israeli settlers have moved into a Palestinian city.” It did not mention that Hebron was home to a Jewish community for centuries until the infamous massacre of 1929 by Palestinian Arabs. Post-1967 Jewish residents of Hebron were returning to neighborhoods where many generations of Jews had lived. The article also failed to note that Hebron is one of Judaism’s four holy cities in eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel, the other three being Jerusalem, of course, Tzfat (Safed) and Tiberias;

*“Those killings [of three Israeli teenagers] ignited the rise of tensions between Hamas and the Israelis that lead to the 2014 Israeli-Gaza conflict….” The kidnapping of the three, and discovery some weeks later that they had been murdered, came as tensions already were increasing. Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups progressively had been violating the de facto 2012 ceasefire with Israel that had ended “Operation Pillar of Defense”fighting in November of that year. Palestinian mortar and rocket attacks had been escalating when, to disrupt Israel’s search for the missing teens, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other groups intensified their barrages. Israel’s discovery of Hamas infiltration tunnels to facilitate mass kidnappings and murders meant that a land incursion would be added to aerial bombardments to suppress the mortar and rocket fire. These developments were independent of or following the kidnap-murders.

*And the report stated that the Gaza Strip, “controlled by Hamas, has long been the epicenter of the Palestinian resistance [emphasis added].” This language, commonly used by Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization whose full name is the (Palestinian) Islamic Resistance Movement, is euphemistic. “Resistance” to what? Israel withdrew all civilians and military personnel from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Its partial blockade of the Strip, in conjunction with Egypt, has been a reaction to Hamas-led terrorism. What Hamas “resists” is the existence of Israel in any borders; its charter calls for an Islamic theocracy over Gaza, the West Bank and Israel proper, and genocide of the Jews.

The numerous factual errors and omissions, including erroneous chronology, undermined readers’ ability to understand current Israeli-Palestinian, and enduring Jewish-Muslim conflicts, including over Hebron.CAMERA requested corrections of The Washington Times. So long as the report stands uncorrected online or in print, it also harms Times’ credibility.

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