The Washington Post: scary before Halloween

The Washington Post’s Sunday Outlook section features a short “Worst Week in Washington” item. It bestows a “worst week” award to a politician or celebrity embarrassed by unsought headlines the previous seven days.

For a trio of self-inflicted failures in covering Israel, European Jewry, and American Muslims The Post itself should have been the undisputed winner at the end of October.

There he goes again

“Impasse in the Mideast; Israel’s settlements render a Palestinian state impossible” (October 29), a commentary by Saeb Erakat, the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator. Erakat basically recycled erroneous, tendentious arguments made in recent Post Op-Eds by George Bisharat, Daoud Kuttab, and Robert Malley and Hussein Agha (see CAMERA’s critique “September Days: The Washington Post’s Peculiar Israeli-Palestinian Commentary,” September 17 here ).

Erakat has little credibility. When Palestinian Arabs alleged an Israeli “massacre” of civilians in the West Bank town of Jenin in 2002, Erakat infamously insisted to CNN that Israel’s forces had killed more than 500 people. In fact, Palestinian fatalities in house-to-house fighting totaled 53, nearly all combatants. Twenty-three Israeli soldiers also died.

Erakat’s trail of anti-Israel exaggerations and fabrications is long and public. Nevertheless, The Post gave him space for more, including:

a) Construction of Israeli West Bank settlements involves “the large-scale theft of Palestinian land and water” and these Jewish communities “stand at the heart of an apartheid system whose network of segregated roads, barbed-wire fences, concrete walls, permits and checkpoints reinforce the systemic discrimination and institutionalized violence that Palestinians face under occupation.” Nearly every word is a falsification.

Virtually all Jewish villages and towns in Judea and Samaria since Israel seized the territory from Jordan’s illegal occupation in the 1967 Six-Day War (Jordan had renamed the area the West Bank) have been built on ground designated as state lands under Ottoman, British, Jordanian and Israeli rule. Altogether, they compromise about two percent of the territories. More water is available to Arab West Bankers as a result of Israeli development than before. Major aquifers straddle the 1949 armistice line separating Israel proper and the West Bank and Israel has well-established rights to the water.

What Erakat terms “segregated roads for settler use” are open to all Israelis, Arabs as well as Jews. Since the roads in question were built as by-passes in response to Palestinian terrorism, access by West Bank Arabs typically is denied. The security barrier — with its numerous transit gates for those on legitimate business — and the by-pass roads are reactions to anti-Israeli terrorism, not elements of “systemic discrimination.” Likewise the permits and checkpoints. Erakat never mentions the reduction in number of checkpoints following improved cooperation by Palestinian security forces with Israeli counterparts. He also is silent on the rapidly expanding West Bank economy. These would not have happened under “systemic discrimination.”

As for “an apartheid system,” that, apparently, is what Palestinian Authority leaders, including “moderate” President Mahmoud Abbas, have in mind for a future “Palestine,” which they declare must be free of Jewish communities. Post editors didn’t require that Erakat compare the Palestinian apartheid demand with Israel and its 20 percent Arab minority that enjoys full civil rights. And there is no “institutionalized” anti-Arab violence by Israel; the occasional violence West Bank Arabs face from private Israelis is markedly lower than the sporadic lethal attacks on Jews by Palestinian terrorists.

b) Erakat’s biggest howler is his claim that “Palestinians have repeatedly tried to engage the Israeli government in serious negotiations on permanent-status issues” but “Israel continues to evade these issues ….”

In reality, Palestinian leadership rejected Israeli and Israeli-U.S. offers of a West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem state in exchange for peace with Israel as a Jewish state at Camp David in 2000, Taba in 2001 and in 2008 following the Annapolis summit. They did so the first two times with the large-scale bloodshed of the second intifada and all three times without making a counter offer.

Erakat’s allegation that “in Gaza, Israel maintains its occupation by siege, waging an indiscriminate war against innocent civilians and caus[es] untold human suffering” inverts reality. It comes much closer to describing the results of rule by Hamas, the Iranian-backed Islamic fundamentalist terror movement, over the Gaza Strip. If anything, Erakat is guilty of anti-Israeli incitement banned by Israeli-Palestinian agreements of the Oslo “peace process.”

Post editors illustrated Erakat’s polemic with a photograph. The accompanying cutline read: “A Palestinian boy mourns his father, who was killed this month by Israeli border police.” In reality, the boy’s father was killed by a private security guard who was protecting Jewish residents of eastern Jerusalem and himself from Arab violence.

Minority versus minority not news

“Anti-Muslim feelings propel right wing; Political Rise Across Europe; Even in liberal Sweden, resentments grow,” a lead “The World” section article for October 26. This newsworthy report noted that “the Swedish Democrats made it into the Rikstag by tapping into a surge of anti-immigrant and ant-Muslim sentiment sweeping across many nations in Western Europe, propelling right-wing and nationalist parties to their biggest gains in years.” Twice The Post refers to events in Malmo, Sweden’s second-largest city, where “authorities warned ‘dark-skinned’ residents … that one or more snipers are targeting immigrants, killing one and wounding eight in 15 separate shootings this year.”

Malmo’s been in the news for another, related reason, but The Post does not say so. “Jews leave Swedish city after sharp rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes,” blared a headline in a February edition of The Telegraph (U.K.). “In 2009, a chapel serving [Malmo’s] 700-strong Jewish community was set ablaze. Jewish cemeteries were repeatedly desecrated, worshippers were abused on their way home from prayer, and ‘Hitler’ was mockingly chanted in the streets by masked men.

“‘I never thought I would see this hatred again in my lifetime, not in Sweden anyway,’” said Judith Popinski, a Holocaust survivor. “Malmo’s Jews, however, do not just point the finger at bigoted Muslims and their fellow racists in the country’s neo-Nazi fringe. They also accuse Ilmar Reepalu, the left-wing mayor who has been in power for 15 years, of failing to protect them. Mr. Reepalu, who is blamed for lax policing, is at the center of a growing controversy for saying that what the Jews perceive as naked anti-Semitism is in fact just a sad, but understandable consequence of Israeli policy in the Middle East ….”

The Post CAIRs deeply

“Sting underscores Muslims’ complex relationship with FBI,” The Post headlined an October 29 article reporting that “increasingly, Muslims think that even as they work with the FBI to combat terrorism, they are being spied on by authorities.”

a) To comment on what the newspaper describes vaguely as “the complicated and often fraught relationship between law enforcement and American Muslims — “fraught” with what, anxiety, danger, tension, intimacy, joy? — The Post turns to “Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations, a group the FBI stopped working with last year on outreach efforts.”

Why did the FBI stop working with CAIR? The Post doesn’t tell readers. And since the bureau did break ties with the council, why does the newspaper present it as an otherwise credible source?

CAMERA repeatedly has alerted Post reporters and editors to the pitfall of relying on CAIR and echoing its self-description as a Muslim American civil rights group. The Post knows, and previously reported, that CAIR was an unindicted co-conspirator in the biggest U.S. terrorism funding trial to date, the 2009 Holy Land Relief and Development Fund retrial. Ghassan Elashi, a founder of CAIR’s Texas chapter, received a 65-year prison term. At least four other individuals with ties to CAIR have been arrested, jailed or deported on terrorism or firearms charges. One, Mousa Abu Marzook, now is a senior Hamas leader in Syria. In an out-of-court settlement with the Web site, CAIR did not contest assertions that it was founded by Hamas members, founded by Islamic terrorists and was funded by Hamas supporters.

As for Mr. Hooper, he was once quoted as saying he “wouldn’t want to create the impression that I wouldn’t like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future.” And when it comes to working with the FBI, some Muslims in Minneapolis reportedly protested against CAIR for allegedly discouraging cooperation. The bureau was investigating the disappearance of young Somali-American men from Minnesota and their subsequent involvement with terrorists in Somalia.

This and more, highlighted in CAMERA’s Special Report, “The Council on American Islamic Relations: Civil Rights or Extremism?” , has been pointed out to The Post. Yet “Sting underscores Muslims’ complex relationship with FBI” was just one of many examples of the newspaper presenting an Islamist front group to readers as if it were a mainstream organization.

The article also quotes Imam Johari Abdul-Malik of the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in suburban Falls Church, Va. The Post avoids mention of the mosque’s location, but its jaw-dropping omission is the failure to note, even in passing, that before he allegedly became a “spiritual” and operational leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Yemen), New Mexico-born Imam Anwar al-Aulaqi preached for a time at Dar al-Hijrah and that three of the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackers attended briefly. Such an omission by The Post in coverage of news that included American-born Christian or Jewish fundamentalists wanted on charges of involvement in terrorist murders and who officiated or worshiped at a local church or synagogue, even for a short time, is unimaginable.

Exception to the rule

The Post’s late October embarrassments were relieved in part by “Can the U.N. create a Palestinian state?” an October 27 commentary by Jackson Diehl, deputy editorial page editor. Though mistaken about “Israeli unilateralism” when it comes to actual construction of new housing in the settlements — a virtual moratorium in effect since late in former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s term essentially has carried into Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s tenure — Diehl hits the bull’s-eye:

“Seeking a U.N. declaration of statehood would have one big advantage for [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas: It could give him an excuse to avoid further talks with Netanyahu indefinitely.” This is, the writer notes, what Abbas has desired. One reason may be lack of trust in Netanyahu. The other — more likely, given Palestinian behavior including incessant anti-Israel incitement and delegitimization — “could be that the aging Palestinian leader is unwilling to consider any realistic terms for peace, since those would involve major — and dangerous, compromises.” Exactly.

“Can the U.N. create a Palestinian state” notwithstanding, “Worst Week in Washington” prize for the seven days ending with Halloween belongs to The Washington Post. Too many tricks, too few treats.




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