Colonialism, Washington Post columnist Ishaan Tharoor told readers in 2016, “isn’t something to celebrate.” Yet the Post fully embraces colonialism when it is in the service of an anti-Israel narrative. The newspaper’s recent reporting and commentary provide ample proof.
A mere fraction of Arab citizens of Israel prefers to exclusively be called “Palestinians.” A 2020 survey by Tel Aviv University found that nearly a quarter (23 percent) of Israeli minorities define themselves as “Israeli,” and half (51 percent) self-identify as “Israeli Arab.” By contrast, only seven percent choose to call themselves “Palestinians.” But this hasn’t stopped foreign reporters, from a foreign newspaper, from telling Israeli Arabs what they should be called.
With growing frequency, many news organizations are now referring to Israeli Arabs as “Palestinians.” The Washington Post is foremost among them.
An Oct. 31, 2022, dispatch by reporter Claire Parker, for example, was headlined “Palestinian Israelis are divided and disillusioned as election nears.” An Oct. 28, 2022, article by Jerusalem bureau chief Steve Hendrix and reporter Shira Rubin, similarly referred to Israeli Arabs as “Palestinians.” Ditto for a November 2nd column by Tharoor himself.
As CAMERA has documented, Tharoor’s Israel obsession—in the year of COVID-19 he wrote almost as many columns about Israel as he did on China—has been mocked by other journalists. He has authored puff pieces on antisemites like Issa Amro, even comparing him to Gandhi. Amro has a long history of associating with supporters of Hamas and of antisemitic blood libels. When Amro was later detained and reportedly tortured by the Palestinian Authority, his chief booster in the Washington Post was silent for months. Apparently, if he couldn’t blame it on the Jewish state, it wasn’t worth writing about.
Tharoor has also consistently failed to mention the numerous instances of Palestinian Arab leaders rejecting statehood if it meant living in peace next to a Jewish state. His latest tirade is no different.
Palestinian Arab leaders have rejected offers for statehood since 1937. In more recent years they’ve refused U.S. and Israeli proposals in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference. The latter offer included more than 93% of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), with land swaps for the remaining percentages and a capital in eastern Jerusalem. It was rejected out-of-hand by Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas. Subsequent proposals in 2014 and 2016 were based on this offer. But they too were rejected.
Yet in dozens of articles decrying the lack of a Palestinian state, Tharoor has never mentioned this long history. Instead, he prefers to call the PA, which rules over most Palestinian Arabs, a “helpless bystander.” Like the colonialists that he abhors, Tharoor deprives Palestinians of independent agency, preferring to cast them as perennial victims.
This mindset is also evident in Tharoor’s decision to quote the October 31st report by Parker, which asserts that “So far, 2022 has been the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank in 16 years, according to the United Nations. The situation,” Parker asserted, “is fueling a sense that Lapid’s [Yair Lapid, Israel’s current Prime Minister] ‘change government’ has brought more of the same.” This is disingenuous in the extreme.
Most Palestinians live under the rule of the Palestinian Authority, not the Israeli government. The kleptocratic Abbas, who chooses to continue paying tax-deductible salaries to terrorists instead of investing in his own people, is chiefly responsible for their welfare. The PA uses financial incentives, school textbooks and state media to encourage Palestinians to murder and maim Jews. Those who do are celebrated as martyrs and their families receive special status and monetary rewards. Importantly, Washington Post reporting on the PA’s “pay to slay” program has been slanted, and Tharoor himself has opposed U.S. efforts to curtail this murderous policy which contributes to the fatalities that he now bemoans.
On a similar note, Israeli Arab communities have themselves experienced a crime wave. As CAMERA has documented, this surging violence is due, in part, to Iran smuggling weapons into Israel, hoping to sow civil strife and discord. Yet, the Post has not only neglected this aspect it has editorially supported a deal with the Islamic Republic, which would leave Tehran flush with funds and better able to continue its track record as the leading state sponsor of terrorism. Tharoor himself has supported such a deal, its costs to Israeli Arabs and other Middle Eastern peoples be damned.
These are easy positions to take, particularly when one is seated in comfort far from Israel’s shores.
The decision to refer to Israel’s Arab citizens as “Palestinians” reflects a similar mindset. The Post’s language is noteworthy—and intentional. Despite ample evidence showing that this is not the terminology preferred by the people themselves, it has slowly creeped into usage. Indeed, such language doesn’t even reflect the vast and broad category of Arab citizens residing in Israel, some of whom have no ancestral or ethnic connection whatsoever to Palestinian Arabs living in Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip or the PA-dominated West Bank. Further, polls have consistently shown that many Israeli Arabs wouldn’t want to be part of a Palestinian state should one be created—a fact that the Post has never highlighted.
As recently as eighteen months ago the Post almost exclusively used the term “Israeli Arabs” to refer to Arab citizens of Israel. But that has changed in recent weeks and months, with the newspaper joining a growing number of outlets using the term “Palestinian.” Why?
As noted, the term doesn’t accurately convey the composition of Israel’s Arab communities. It is not the nomenclature that they prefer. So why use it? The only possible answer is to depict Israel as an “apartheid state,” with journalists becoming activists—a trend line that CAMERA has documented and which many “journalists” have openly embraced. At its very core, the terminology embraces a “one-state solution,” seeking to erase both the Jewish state and Israeli Arabs who embrace their identity. It is colonialism reborn. And it is not only shameful and stupid, but it also lends itself to superficiality.
Indeed, Tharoor’s penchant for depicting the Jewish state as bigoted and “apartheid” has led to some cartoonishly bad takes. For example, in a Sept. 17, 2019 column, the Washington Post columnist warned of a “shadow of apartheid” in Israel’s upcoming elections. Instead, that election witnessed record turnout from Israeli Arabs—disproving Tharoor’s entire thesis less than forty-eight hours after it was published.
More recent political developments have been treated with similar superficiality. There is, for example, no mention of a trendline showing increased Israeli Arab support for Likud, the movement led by former and future prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Indeed, despite the handwringing by the Post’s editorial board about Israeli democracy, the Jewish state has had five elections in less than four years; it can’t honestly be said that it suffers from a lack of democracy. Indeed, the Post cheered the last elections, which ushered in a diverse coalition, whose members included political parties dominated by Israeli Arabs. Are we to believe that Israeli democracy is suddenly in danger, a year after it was heralded? Or is democracy only in danger when Washington Post employees don’t like certain electoral outcomes?
That question answers itself. But thankfully for Israel, the Washington Post doesn’t get a vote. Its “journalists” don’t get to decide what to call Israel’s Arab citizens, just as they don’t get to pick the nation’s democratically elected leaders.