The Washington Post Goes Dim on Illegal Arab Construction

A July 7, 2017 Washington Post article,“This Palestinian village had solar power—until Israeli soldiers took it away,” continues the paper’s well-worn habit of infantilizing Palestinians and omitting important context.

In her reporting on the removal of an illegally constructed solar project in Area C in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), Post correspondent Ann Marie O’Connor does her best to treat Palestinians as victims without any independent agency or motivation.

O’Connor briefly notes that “Israeli officials called the construction illegal,” but then goes on to say, “but the builders contested the charge, saying that they are providing desperately needed humanitarian aid that is required under international law.” Yet, the construction is illegal. As The Post report acknowledges a few paragraphs down, “A spokesman for COGAT [Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, an Israeli government agency] said in an email that the solar and electric panels were installed without the necessary permits.” In other words, they were built illegally, lacking the required permits. The Post’s description that “Israeli officials called the construction illegal,” while accurate, is written in such a fashion as to minimize a fact into merely an Israeli claim.

Important— and—omitted facts

Nor does The Post provide readers with the essential details about where they were built, simply stating that the illegal construction took place in “Area C, about 60 percent of the West Bank [is] under full Israeli control.” This fails to note that Area C was created as part of the 1990s Oslo process, in which Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed that Areas A and B—in which an estimated 95% of Palestinians live—would be ruled by the Palestinian Authority, with administration for Area B being split between the PA and Israel (“NBC’s Cal Perry and Ayman Mohyeldin Flub Settlements Story, Jan. 5, 2017, CAMERA). By contrast, Palestinian negotiators agreed that Area C would be under Israeli control—an important, and an omitted, fact.

Another important, and omitted, fact: The village that O’Connor details, Juddet Adh Dhib, has only 165 people.

As CAMERA pointed out in a November 2016 alert addressing another of O’Connor’s articles on the same topic, this tiny village likely existed without electricity at the time it came under Israeli administration after the Arab-initiated 1967 Six-Day War. In fact, in 1967, when much of the area was ruled by Jordan, only 20.5% of Arabs living in the West Bank had electricity 24 hours a day.

Yet, similar to her other report on the village, O’Connor omitted any discussion of Israeli-initiated efforts to extend infrastructure and services into the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) since 1967. For example, as noted in Seth Siegel’s book Let There Be Water, “In June 1967, only four of the West Bank’s 708 cities and towns had running water” and “scarcely ten percent of the West Bank population … were connected to a modern plumbing system.” Now, 96% of Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank have “running water piped to their homes.”

Further, no doubt that the builders and the “European donors”—who are left unidentified by O’Connor—would “protest” the removal of the illegally constructed solar equipment; it’s manifestly in their financial interest to do so, an obvious fact that deserves underscoring.

In addition to minimizing Palestinian responsibility for failing to apply for permits in areas that Palestinian negotiators agreed would be under Israeli control, the report omits the numerous offers for a Palestinian state that Palestinian leaders have rejected on numerous occasions, including 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference. Had any of these offers been accepted, it is conceivable that issues such as illegal construction in disputed territories would be moot.

What’s not being reported

Yet, The Post repeatedly omits these instances of Palestinian rejectionism. Indeed, as CAMERA noted in a June 22, 2017 Algemeiner Op-Ed, the paper has failed to report recent revelations that the PA rejected—and Israel accepted—U.S. proposed guidelines in 2014 to restart peace negotiations (“For Palestinians, It’s Lights Out at The Washington Post). It’s better, it seems, to file the same stories twice, while ignoring others that just don’t fit the narrative of Palestinians without independent agency.

Leaving out pertinent information, The Post report instead relies on questionable sources. B’Tselem and Peace Now, both organizations with a documented history of singling out Israel for opprobrium and fudging facts (see here and here for examples), are quoted extensively and uncritically.

As CAMERA has pointed out, B’Tselem employees have been caught staging scenes and misrepresenting statistics of Palestinian civilian deaths in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, among other actions that reflect a lack of impartiality and, perhaps, a consistent desire to portray Israel in a negative light. In 2014, B’Tselem was forced to admit—after initial denials—that it was employing a Holocaust denier (“Israeli rights group admits employee denied Holocaust,” The Times of Israel, Oct. 7, 2014). Peace Now has even been convicted in an Israeli court of libel after refusing to correct a false story.

The Post has previously published problematic dispatches by O’Connor, who is seemingly a contributor and not a member of The Post’s staff (see, for example “The Washington Post Evicts Context on Palestinian Village Without Electricity,” Nov. 2, 2016 and “About Israeli settlements, Washington Post Keeps Newsworthy Secret,” April 18, 2016). Her omissions and failure to identify
questionable sources were evidenced in an October 23, 2016 story, which, like the July 7, 2017 report, was also about electricity issues in Juddet Adh Dhib. Indeed, O’Connor seems to be largely a one-note song as far as her “reporting” on the Arab-Israeli conflict is concerned; virtually all of which depict Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria as an “obstacle to peace,” whereas illegal construction by Palestinians is somehow Israel’s fault.

While The Washington Post relies on contributors to write the same stories and make the same mistakes, it increasingly relies on other outlets to report on stories whose likely outcomes involve more than 165 villagers. For example, Hamas’ decision to embrace a former operative of rival Fatah, Mohammad Dahlan, welcoming him to the Gaza Strip, is a story with potentially vast implications for Palestinians and Israelis.

Dahlan’s likely return, after an exile imposed in 2011 by Fatah and PA head Mahmoud Abbas, has been reported by The Jerusalem Post and The Times of Israel, both of which highlighted Dahlan’s hopes—and those of Hamas as well—to compete with, and possibly succeed, Abbas, an autocratic octogenarian and a major recipient of U.S. and international aid. The Washington Post, however, simply republished an AP brief on the one-time Fatah operative’s return—neglecting, as of this writing, to do any original reporting on the event.

Similarly, it was up to the AP to cover the Jan. 12, 2017 story of major Palestinian protests about energy shortages in Gaza—protests in which journalists were assaulted and an estimated 10,000 Palestinians protested. Here too The Post just republished an AP report, although the incident seems to have presaged the current energy crisis and increased Hamas-Fatah tensions. When Israel’s involvement cannot be conjured, The Post seems curiously uninterested in conducting original reporting on Palestinians.

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