The Washington Post Puts Anti-Israel Narrative Before COVID-19 Vaccine Facts

The Washington Post’s self-declared principles, the newspaper told readers in a Jan. 1, 2016 article, “are displayed in brass linotype letters in an entrance to the newsroom.” It stands to reason, therefore, that the Post’s WorldViews columnist, Ishaan Tharoor, has seen them. But judging by his Jan. 12, 2021 article, “Israel’s vaccine success can’t hide a deeper divide,” one has doubts.

The report—the World Views column is part of the Post’s foreign desk and not its editorial side—professes to examine the COVID-19 vaccination situation among Israelis and Palestinians. But while the Post’s brass linotype letters promise to “tell ALL the truth so far as it can learn it, concerning the important affairs of America and the world,” the World Views column fails to live up to the newsrooms own standards.

Indeed, Tharoor uses Israel’s success at distributing a COVID-19 vaccine to engineer what columnist Jonathan Tobin has called a “blood libel” against the Jewish state. And the Washington Post employee’s phrasing indicates that it’s not an accident.

Tharoor notes that Israel’s “small size and the efficiency of its public health system have made it an ideal place to carry out a program of mass inoculation.” However, describing the Palestinians, he points out that “around a third of the 14 million people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea are not included in this campaign.”

“Israel,” Tharoor enjoins, “has distributed vaccines to Jewish settlers in the West Bank, but not Palestinians there or in the crammed, impoverished Gaza Strip.” This is risible and inaccurately implies discrimination on Israel’s part.

In fact, the Palestinian Authority (PA), which rules the West Bank, and Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip, are responsible for vaccinating those Palestinians.

Article 17 of the Oslo II agreement explicitly states: “powers and responsibilities in the sphere of Health in the West Bank and Gaza Strip will be transferred to the Palestinian side.” Further, the Oslo Accords specify that “the Palestinian side shall continue to apply the present standard of vaccination of Palestinians and shall improve them according to internationally accepted standards in the field, taking into account WHO recommendations.”

As CAMERA noted in a Jan. 5, 2021 Algemeiner op-ed: “It doesn’t get clearer than that.”

For nearly three decades, this international agreement—signed under U.S. auspices—has been in force. For nearly three decades, the PA has, in keeping with Article 17 of the Oslo II agreement, carried out other vaccination efforts.

However, Tharoor acknowledges it in the most disingenuous way possible. The columnist writes, “Israeli officials contend that these Palestinians don’t fall under their jurisdiction of the Oslo Accords, and it is the job of the Palestinian Authority to procure and distribute vaccines in the occupied territories.”

Yet, the Oslo Accords explicitly note that “powers and responsibilities in the sphere of Health in the West Bank and Gaza Strip”—to include vaccinations—belong to “the Palestinian side.” It is not merely something that “Israeli officials contend.” It is a fact, per a signed, and readily available, international agreement. Indeed, Tharoor could very well have provided a link to that document. Basic journalistic practice stipulates doing so, particularly to primary source documents. Yet he doesn’t.

Tharoor’s journalistic sleight-of-hand shows that his real agenda is libeling Israel—it is decidedly not “telling ALL the truth,” as Post guidelines claim.

The World Views column omits other key facts, as well.

Israel is vaccinating all of its citizens, regardless of their ethnicity or religion. Indeed, as the Jerusalem Post reported, “Israel’s vaccine operation has run in predominately Arab areas in Israel from day one. Further, as the Jerusalem Post’s Seth Frantzman noted on Jan. 4, 2021, “Israel is vaccinating more Palestinians than any country on earth.”

Writing in the Jewish Chronicle, Frantzman points out: “Israel is providing vaccines to everyone in its health network, including Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem who have Israeli health care.” These are not Israeli citizens, but rather residents whose healthcare is under Israel’s purview per the Oslo Accords. Those who are 60 years or older, or who have chronic conditions, can be vaccinated. Further, Palestinians who are imprisoned in Israel will also be receiving the vaccine.

Tharoor also fails to tell Washington Post readers that the PA didn’t even request the vaccine. As the Jerusalem Post reported on Dec. 21, 2020: “The PA has not asked Israel to supply Palestinians with the vaccine.” As a member of the PA’s Health Ministry told the paper, “We are working on our own to obtain the vaccine from a number of sources. We are not a department in the Israeli Defense Ministry. We have our own government and Ministry of Health, and they are making huge efforts to get the vaccine.”

For their part, an Israeli official told the Jerusalem Post in late December 2020 “we are still waiting for the Palestinian Authority to engage us on this matter.”

As Lahav Harkov, the Jerusalem Post’s diplomatic correspondent, observed: “the Palestinian leadership refused to even talk to Israel when the latter was ordering vaccine doses, let alone coordinate a complex rollout operation.”

Indeed, as Harkov reported on Jan. 7, 2021, “a Palestinian official confirmed that they [the PA] did in fact take a small amount of vaccine doses from Israel.” Harkov added that she believed that some PA leaders then used these doses. This was confirmed on Jan. 12, 2021—the same day that Tharoor’s column appeared.

Indeed, all of the other information, including the PA’s denials that they requested vaccines and that Israel is “vaccinating more Palestinians than any other country,” was in the public sphere for days and even weeks before Tharoor’s “analysis.” He either chose not to include it or failed to practice basic journalistic due diligence.

Instead, he quotes anti-Israel organizations like Amnesty International, which assert, “Israeli lives are valued above Palestinian ones.” Tharoor fails to note that when it comes to “valuing lives,” it is the PA that comes up short. While Israel is vaccinating Palestinians and has supplied both the PA and Gaza with COVID-19 testing kits, training, and medical supplies, the PA continues to pay salaries to terrorists who attack and murder Jews. In the first five months of 2019 alone, the PA increased these terror payments by 12% — giving $66 million US dollars to imprisoned terrorists.

Tharoor’s failures are unsurprising. 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 48 hours after it was published. Tharoor has also promoted Issa Amaro as a “Palestinian Gandhi.” But as the writer Petra Marquardt-Bigman has documented, Amro “is on friendly terms” with “individuals known for their antisemitism and their open support for Hamas,” including Miko Peled, who compares Israelis to Nazis, and members of the Tamimi clan, who have assaulted IDF soldiers and trafficked in antisemitic blood libels. And, as Marquardt-Bigman notes, both Amro and his group, Youth Against Settlements, have used social media to incite anti-Jewish violence.

Finally, it is worth noting that Tharoor has authored dozens of reports on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But in not a single one has he noted that Palestinian leaders have rejected numerous U.S. and Israeli offers for statehood, including in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference.

As his latest effort shows, Tharoor’s approach consists of leaving out inconvenient facts that would detract from his animus against the Jewish state. Whatever that may be, it is not journalism.