The Washington Post’s Troubling Trend Towards Israel

Washington Post reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict has, in recent months, evidenced a tendency to treat the conflict as one of dueling narratives, as opposed to one of facts. Too often the paper’s Jerusalem bureau has omitted pertinent information, excused and obfuscated anti-Jewish violence, ignored Palestinian political developments and otherwise shown itself to be captive to a narrative that depicts Israel as the party responsible for the conflict’s perpetuation and Palestinians as hapless victims without independent agency or personal responsibility.
The Post’s six-page, multi-story May 28, 2017 Sunday edition purporting to detail Israel’s “military occupation” at “year 50” offers an example of the paper’s flawed coverage of the conflict. Complete with splashy photographs, The Post offered stories such as “A daily commute through Israel’s checkpoints” and “The lonely cancer journey of a Palestinian mother,” among others. These highly personalized reports largely focus on problems encountered by “everyman” Palestinian Arabs living in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and the Gaza Strip. They are also littered with misleading omissions and falsehoods.
The frontpage of the dispatch begins with a “timeline of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” The timeline begins at the year 1948, stating, “Israel declares independence. Mass exodus of Palestinians.” The timeline omits that Arab armies—including so-called Arab irregulars from British Mandate Palestine—refused the U.N. partition plan that Israel had accepted and attacked the fledgling Jewish state. The exodus of Palestinian Arabs was a byproduct of that Arab-initiated conflict. Further, choosing to start the timelineat 1948 ignores the history of Arab anti-Jewish violence that occurred in pre-state Israel, such as the 1929 Hebron massacre of 67 Jews instigated by the future Nazi collaborator and Palestinian leader, Haj Amin al-Husseini (“Anti-Jewish violence in Pre-State Palestine/1929 Massacres,” CAMERA, Aug. 23, 2009).

It’s downhill from there. Detailing the difficulties encountered by a Palestinian worker who passes checkpoints in order to work in Israel, the paper reported, “Israel is closed to Palestinians without travel or work permits, except for residents of East Jerusalem, who have a special status…All Palestinians living in Gaza need special permission.” The article fails to explain that these checkpoints are security measures resulting from Palestinian terror attacks and smuggling.

A curious omission

In fact, as recently as April 19, 2017 two Gazan women—one of whom was suffering from cancer—were caught smuggling explosives on behalf of Hamas while traveling to Israel for cancer treatment. Although The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post covered the story when it broke, The Washington Post did not. Nor did The Post mention this recent event in its 3,000-plus-word story on a Palestinian cancer patient and Israeli checkpoints—an astonishing omission given its timing and subject (“A cancer patient’s best shot at hope requires making a painful choice,” May 28, 2017). That same story also noted that “ambulances are not allowed to pass freely” between the Gaza Strip and Israel, but failed to inform readers that Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip, has previously used ambulances to smuggle weapons and terrorists.

Unable or unwilling to report these relevant details, The Post failed at reporting the big picture as well. The Post does not discuss how the life of average, everyday Palestinians in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would be better if their leaders invested more of the generous amounts of foreign aid that they receive in infrastructure and development rather than squandering it through corruption or diverting funds to support terrorists. Instead, Palestinians expend their limited resources on launching rockets and digging tunnels to launch terrorist attacks and promoting anti-Jewish violence in their media and schools—much of it unreported by The Post.

In a May 30, 2017 Tablet magazine article, Yosef Kuperwaser, a former Israeli military intelligence research chief, reported that the PA has, over the course of just four years spent over $1.12 billion

To terrorists and the families of terrorists who were killed while carrying out terror attacks. Anyone who has sat in prison for more than 30 years gets NIS 12,000 ($3,360) per month, nearly 10 times the average salary the PA pays employees. The Palestinians’ own budgetary documents clearly state that these payments to the Terrorists are salaries and not welfare payments. When terrorists are released, they get a grant and are promised a job at the Palestinian Authority. They also receive a military rank that’s determined according to the number of years they’ve served in jail (“Breaking: Palestinian Authority Paid Out Over $1 Billion for Terror Over the Past Four Years”).”
Creating countries and occupations

The Post also uses inaccurate terminology that rewrites the history of the conflict. The paper’s Jerusalem bureau chief William Booth claimed that, “The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip began 50 years ago in June (“A daily commute through Israel’s checkpoints,” May 29).” Yet, as CAMERA has pointed out to Post staff on numerous occasions, the status of these territories is disputed, not “Palestinian,” as no prior Palestinian state has ever existed. To claim that the territories are “Palestinian” is to prejudge an outcome and make moot the point behind the countless negotiations that The Post repeatedly covers. The Post itself has acknowledged this fact in a CAMERA-prompted correction to a Sept. 5, 2014 story. The Post’s correction stated, “The Israeli-occupied territories are disputed lands that Palestinians want as a future state.” Nonetheless, the paper has continued to periodically push the falsehood that it previously corrected (“When is a Correction in Error? When The Washington Post Says So,” CAMERA, Jan. 9, 2015). And Post Jerusalem bureau chief William Booth seems committed to reinforcing the error.

Similarly, the paper’s thinly veiled derision is evident when it claimed that some Israelis “say there is really no occupation, because all the Land of Israel was awarded to the Jews by God. Other Israelis argue that Gaza is no longer occupied, because Israel unilaterally withdrew from the coastal strip a decade ago.” Yet, a legal basis exists for such claims. As CAMERA has frequently reminded The Post, the League of Nations 1922 Palestine Mandate, Article 6 encourages “close settlement by Jews on the land” west of the Jordan River. That covered not only what became Israel in 1948 but also the West Bank (and Gaza Strip, though Israel chose to withdraw from that area in 2005).

As CAMERA has pointed out: Both the U.S. Congress (1922), the U.K. (1924 Anglo-American Convention) and the United Nations 1945 Charter XII, have reaffirmed the League of Nations 1922 Palestine Mandate. Yet, The Post treats such claims as purely ideological, ignoring their legal basis. Claims to all of the land of Israel are routinely made by both West Bank and Gazan Palestinians based on religion and ideology—a fact that The Post fails to report (“About Israeli settlements, Washington Post Keeps Newsworthy ‘Secret,’” CAMERA, April 18, 2016). On May 15, 2017, for example, a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official named Muhammad Alyan exhorted “we will not relinquish one grain of sand from Jaffa, Haifa, Lod or Ramle”—all of which are Israeli cities. Aylan’s commentswere broadcast on official Palestinian media and were noted by Palestinian Media Watch, a non-profit organization that monitors Arab media in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

The Post’s assertion that only Israelis claim Gaza to be unoccupied is a falsehood.

Eugene Kontorovich, a scholar of international law at Northwestern University pointed out—in a Nov. 13, 2014 Washington Post article (of all places):

An occupation is traditionally defined as a power exercising ‘effective control’ over the territory in a way that displaces the prior government. … As the ICJ has put it, occupation requires a territory to be ‘actually placed under the authority of the hostile army.’ There has never been a finding of such a ‘remote’ occupation, lasting nine years after the end of physical occupation and in the presence of a distinct and hostile local government [as is the case in Gaza].”

Senior Hamas member Mahmoud al-Zahar stated in 2012: “Popular resistance is inappropriate for the Gaza Strip,” al-Zahar sai
d. “Against whom exactly would be rally? Such resistance would be fitting
if Gaza was occupied [emphasis added].’”

The Washington Post itself has recently noted that Israel doesn’t occupy Gaza in CAMERA-prompted changes to a March 3, 2017 online report. Claims that Israel occupies the Gaza Strip often cite Israeli security blockades as proof. However, Egypt also engages in such blockades—yet, curiously, The Post doesn’t entertain claims that Egypt occupies the Gaza Strip. As if often the case with The Post’s coverage of Israel, truth is made subservient in order to convey a narrative.

Embracing narratives, disregarding facts

That narrative, embraced with seemingly greater frequency by The Post, is one in which Palestinian Arabs have no independent agency or personal responsibility. Their existence is only worth reporting about through the lens of the “occupation.” And that’s precisely how The Posthas taken to its reporting about Palestinians.

As CAMERA highlighted in an April 26, 2017 Washington Jewish Week Op-Ed (“The Washington Post’s Jewish Home Fixation”) the paper routinely ignores internal Palestinian political developments. For example, the paper barely covered the 2016 conference for Fatah the movement which dominates the PA, despite it being the first such conference held in seven years. The Post also ignored the Feb. 15, 2017 appointment of a convicted and unrepentant terrorist, Mahmoud al-Aloul, as deputy to Fatah and PA head Mahmoud Abbas—despite it being the first such appointment in Fatah’s nearly 60-year history.

The Post also failed to cover PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s March 16, 2016 admission that torture happens in Palestinian prisons, despite its frequent reporting on Palestinians in Israeli prisons. Similarly, massive teacher strikes and protests over electricity cuts, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strips, received little to no coverage. Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are fleeing in the thousands from the conditions which Hamas has created since the Palestinians chose to elect the terror group in 2006, thousands of them to Greece according to a recent Ha’aretz report (“Fleeing Hamas’ harsh rule in Gaza, Thousands of Palestinians Seek Refuge in Greece,” May 30, 2017). This exodus by Palestinians from Palestinian terror went unreported by the paper.

Covering the Palestinians through an Israel-fixated lens

Indeed, precisely how Hamas came to power and the consequences of its rule aren’t topics that The Post seems interested in reporting; both are omitted in the paper’s anniversary coverage. Among other recent events, Hamas’ May 26, 2017 ISIS-style public execution of three Palestinians, its imprisonment of Palestinian journalists and citizens for affronts like critical Facebook comments, and the group’s May 2017 decision to ban Palestinians from walking their dogs, all went unreported. The dog-walking ban, a Palestinian named Yasmin Shath told The Telegraph, was because Hamas doesn’t want “people to get busy with dogs, they want them to think only about politics, about resistance, to always be on and never to relax.” The paper’s Israel-fixated manner of covering Palestinians would, no doubt, help as well.

The Post has a documented tendency to ignore Palestinian internal developments and internecine violence—unless Israel’s involvement can somehow be conjured. For example, the paper can run a 1,000-word article on Palestinians driving used Israeli cars (“How Junkyard Cars from Israel Became Deadly Palestinian Treasures,” March 29), but routinely fail to note the decisions of Palestinian leaders responsible for the living conditions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In two recent incidents unreported by The Post but noted elsewhere, a Palestinian terrorist was elected mayor of the city of Hebron and a Palestinian judge banned both public eating and divorce during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

In order to promote the theme of powerless Palestinians suffering under the whims of Israeli rule, The Post relies on two tactics. The first is the repeated omission of the numerous instances in which Palestinian leaders have rejected U.S. and Israeli offers for statehood in exchange for peace with and recognition of the Jewish state, in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference, among other instances. As CAMERA pointed out in the Washington Jewish Week, The Post—in dozens of reports in 2016-17 on the “peace process”—failed to note the PA’s decision to refuse these opportunities for a Palestinian state. Similarly, the paper’s coverage of the 50thanniversary of the 1967 Six Day War failed—in three reports and more than 10,000 words—to inform readers about this important history.

The second tactic employed by The Post to imply that there are only competing Jewish and Arab narratives as opposed to one of unequivocal facts. For example, The Post’s dispatches on the 50thanniversary shrugged it shoulders when it came to the responsibility for the lack of a Palestinian state. The paper simply noted that “shelves of books have been written about who is to blame for not making peace.” It failed to note that nearly all accounts and the Palestinian leaders themselves, in more candid moments, have acknowledged that they rejected opportunities for statehood. Indeed, in a November 2015 interview on Israel’s Channel 10, PA President Abbas acknowledged that he rejected the 2008 offer for a Palestinian state “out of hand.” The Post failed at the time and since, to report Abbas’ admission.

Terrorists as ‘political prisoners’

Viewing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the lens of Palestinian victimhood and aggrievement has a distorting effect on the paper’s reporting. For example, The Post offered a glowing profile of Khalida Jarrar an “elected Palestinian parliamentarian, a lawyer, a wife and a mother,” who the paper claimed was leading efforts to fight for the rights of Palestinian prisoners. Reporter Ruth Eglash briefly stated “In April 2015, an Israeli military court convicted her of incitement and membership in an illegal terrorist organization, among other things—charges she still denies.” The Post omitted that this “activist” was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a U.S. designated terrorist group that has murdered Israelis and Americans, among others. Jarrar has encouraged the abduction of Israeli soldiers, as The Times of Israel reported (“Palestinian lawmaker given 15 months for inciting terror,” Dec. 7, 2015). Nor did the paper explain that the phrase “Palestinian parliamentarian” means little given that the PLC is a rubber stamp under Abbas’ autocratic rule.

More recently, Post Jerusalem bureau chief William Booth used the phrase “political prisoners” to describe imprisoned Palestinian terrorists (“Washington Post Bureau Chief Justifies Paying Palestinian Terrorists,” Algemeiner, May 4, 2017). Would the paper use similar language to describe terrorists imprisoned by the U.S. or Great Britain? The Post’s announcement of the death in a U.S. prison of Omar Abdel Rahmn, convicted for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, used no such language (“Omar Abdel Rahman, imprisoned blind sheikh linked to terrorist efforts, dies at 78,” Feb. 18, 2017).

As George Orwell, the British dystopian novelist, famously said, “Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

The Post’s willingness to adopt the Palestinian narrative, to omit pertinent facts, and to disregard Palestinian responsibility for their actions has had a debilitating effect on the quality of the paper’s reporting. The reporting from the Jerusalem bureau evidences troubling trends. Post  readers are not getting the full story, and in many instances the story that they are getting falls under the category of Orwellian fiction.

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