If ever there was a cause for complaint to The Washington Post about Arab-Israeli miscoverage, the newspaper’s January 6 article, “In Gaza, a childhood shadowed by conflict; For those growing up under Israel’s isolation strategy, military strikes are routine—as is distrust of their neighbors” was it.
Correspondent Abigail Hauslohner relayed Palestinian psycho-jargon, inverting when not erasing cause-and-effect. The feature avoids the primary responsibility adults in the Gaza Strip bear for their children’s trauma and deprivation because it never mentions the 10,000-plus mortars and rockets fired at Israelis since 2000. Had there been no terrorism by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and others, there would have been no counter-terrorist strikes or suffering as a consequence.
The Post uncritically reports that “health professionals here [the Gaza Strip] argue that there are few places in the region that contain a population so traumatized, a youth so obsessed with conflict.” Except perhaps across the border in southern Israel, where 40 percent of children exposed to years of warning sirens, shelter dwelling and attacks reportedly display signs of post-traumatic stress syndrome, compared to 20 percent in Gaza.
The newspaper, its “Palestinian-centric” filter in place, writes that “psychologists say that few in Gaza would qualify as ‘normal.’ … Nearly everyone in Gaza knows someone who has died a violent death.”
Psychologists in Israel might well say the same. It’s the rare Israeli who does not have a family member, friend or acquaintance who was killed or wounded by Arab violence or does not know someone who does. And that’s not to mention the country’s uniquely large population of Holocaust survivors and their children. One looks forward to a similar feature on the “normality” of war-related psychological problems in Israel. The Jewish state, after all, is the only country that routinely issues gas masks to civilians and, for infants in their cribs, gas “tents.”
But among the article’s 1,202 words The Post allows just 13 for a clarifying parenthetical note from the Israelis: “(Israel says its warplanes carry out precision strikes on carefully identified terrorist targets.)”
It would have required only one paragraph to confirm that Israel doesn’t just “say” its strikes are precise, but rather that while U.S. and allied attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan reportedly have killed three to four non-combatants for each combatant, Israeli attacks in Gaza have killed approximately one combatant for every civilian.
And one more paragraph could have reminded Post readers that it is Hamas strategy to use non-combatants as human shields.
But those paragraphs did not appear. Neither did other fundamentals, including:
* Palestinian attacks—war crimes under international law—intensified after Israel’s complete evacuation of the Gaza Strip in 2005;
* One reason Palestinian children feel, psychologically and physically, exposed to Israeli counterstrikes is that Palestinian leaders, unlike Israeli officials, built neither warning systems nor shelters for them even while conducting aggression the terrorists knew would precipitate reprisals; and
* The “Israeli-enforced blockade that has strictly limited the flow of goods and people since the militant group Hamas won an election here in 2006” actually was strictly imposed after Hamas ousted its Fatah coalition partners in a five-day civil war in 2007. Before and after seizing power the Islamic fundamentalist group insisted on belligerency, calling for Israel’s destruction and refusing to endorse previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
The article says its Arab residents “cast Gaza as a prison—both physical and psychological, where Israeli bombardment comes every so often and there is little to do but bear it.”
If Gaza’s an Israeli-made prison, it’s an unusual one in that it possesses an international crossing with Egypt. Restrictions there, even under Cairo’s new Hamas-friendly rulers, are an inter-Arab matter. They are also unreported by The Post.
Before the first and second Palestinian intifadas, tens of thousands of Gazans crossed into Israel daily for work. Thousands more are still permitted to seek medical care in the Jewish state, though correspondent H
auslohner is silent on both subjects.
The article includes the virtually obligatory Post reference to the Strip as “the cramped territory”—as if population density explains anything or automatically should engender sympathy for Gazans. Many places are as cramped or more so than the Gaza Strip, including Manhattan, Monaco, Singapore and Manila, and probably greater Tel Aviv. The Post never comes to grips with the fact that Gaza is what the Palestinian Arabs and their leaders have made it.
The feature spends many paragraphs on the fact that younger Gazans, having had little direct contact with Israelis as individuals, see them as remote, hostile, “almost mythological villains.” Again, no reporting here that this might be the fault of Palestinian Arabs in Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades of Fatah and other such non-mythological villains.
The bias in “In Gaza” is every bit as distorting, although not as dramatic, as The Post’s infamous Nov. 15, 2012 page one photograph of a grieving Palestinian father holding the body of his 11-month-old son, reportedly killed in an Israeli counter-terror strike. If that photo, similarly inverting cause-and-effect, was worth a thousand words, here they are in “In Gaza, a childhood shadowed by conflict.” They do not so much report as confuse.
(A slightly shorter version of this Backgrounder appeared as an Op-Ed in the Jan. 10, 2013 edition of the Washington Jewish Week.)