The Washington Post’s “DIY guns popping up in towns across West Bank” (Oct. 16, 2016 print edition) offers a case study of how to turn a report on an Israeli counterterror raid into an article that unfairly casts the Jewish state in a negative light.
The dispatch, by Post Jerusalem bureau chief William Booth, detailed Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) operations in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) to seize and prevent the making and distribution of illegal machine guns that are used by Palestinian terrorists.
Although the article included important information about Palestinian weapons manufacturing and trade, it implied that Israel is to blame for much of the Palestinian violence and terror that is committed against the Jewish state and its citizens.
How The Post managed to do this—in a story ostensibly about seizing Palestinian weapons used to assault and murder Jews, among others—is worth noting.
The Post’s report editorialized in a manner that excused and minimized Palestinian anti-Jewish violence by claiming that despair over the lack of a Palestinian state is a principal motivating factor behind terrorist attacks. Booth asserted:
“…The year-long wave of Palestinian violence against Israeli soldiers and civilians has been carried out mostly by teenagers armed with knives or adults who use their families’ cars to ram into pedestrians. Palestinians are frustrated by the almost 50-year military occupation and motivated by personal, religious and nationalist reasons to attack Israelis.”
As CAMERA’s BBC Watch affiliate has noted, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) encourages media to push the narrative that “despair” and “frustration” over the lack of a Palestinian state are the motivating factor behind terror attacks. (“Reviewing BBC compliance with PLO media guidance,” Dec. 8, 2015). The Post seems to follow these PLO-approved talking points. For example, the paper recently published another lengthy commentary-filled dispatch entitled “Attacks in Israel indicate loss of hope (Sept. 23, 2016).”
Some Palestinian leaders, however, have refuted The Post’s assertion that frustration over a “military occupation” is the motivating factor behind anti-Jewish violence. Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, declared in a speech at a rally on Jan. 19, 2016, at the very height of the so-called “stabbing intifada”:
“This intifada [violent uprising] is not the result of despair. This intifada is a jihad, a holy war…only a holy war will drive the occupier out of Palestine.”
Indeed, as Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) has noted, the daughter of terrorist Musabh Abu Sbeih, who murdered two people in an Oct. 9, 2016 terror attack, has said that her father was motivated by lies—spread by the Palestinian Authority (PA), among others—that Israel seeks to destroy the al-Aqsa mosque. This libel, which has been repeated by Arab leaders on numerous occasions, including 1929, 1996 and 2000, among other instances, frequently precedes Palestinian anti-Jewish violence. The Post, unsurprisingly, failed to note it—just as it failed last year to report Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’ employment of the libel in an Aug. 1, 2015 speech.
In his report, Booth exhibits a troubling, dismissive tone towards the threats that many Israelis face. The Jerusalem bureau chief writes, with thinly masked disdain:
“Israeli news media usually characterize all confiscated guns as potential ‘terror weapons.’
“But Israeli commanders acknowledge that many guns cached by Palestinians might be used for self-defense, in clan feuds or by criminals protecting turf.
In another instance, The Post said, “it is generally illegal for Palestinian civilians to own any type of firearm, including hunting rifles. Ownership can bring a prison sentence. In contrast, Jewish settlers in the West Bank are granted permits and carry weapons openly.” The paper fails to explain that those living in Jewish communities are often the subjects of terror attacks committed by “Palestinian civilians” and, as a result, may need to defend themselves.
Elsewhere, the paper’s editorializing was subtler.
The Post referred to the IDF counterterror raids as “an aggressive campaign.” Elsewhere, Israel’s largely successful efforts to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of Palestinian terrorists are chalked up to “relentless Israeli pressure.”
Here’s how the paper reported one such IDF operation:
“On Monday, Israeli soldiers burst into Naza Odey’s machine shop in Azzun, where they found what they suspected were gun barrels and bullets, but only half-finished. His drill presses and lathes were muscled out of the shop, dragged by a crane and hauled away by the Israeli army. The doors to the shop, which specialized in retooling brake drums were welded shut.”
Thus, Israel is depicted as a strong, aggressive—even pushy in their right to self-defense. Odey’s shop, of course, specialized in far more than “retooling brake drums.”
The Post described Odey with seeming sympathy as a “46-year-old father of five [who] was rousted from bed in his pajamas, interrogated in his living room and arrested.”
Omissions were littered throughout the article. For example, while the paper noted that Sbeih was a Hamas supporter, it failed to mention that the Fatah movement praised that attack. Instead, The Post credits the PA, which is controlled by Fatah, with assisting Israeli counterterror efforts.
According to PMW, a non-profit organization that monitors Arab media in eastern Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Fatah honored Sbeih in two separate Facebook posts.
Additionally, Booth referred to the raids as occurring in “the occupied West Bank.” Not for the first time, (see, for example “ ‘Occupied or ‘Disputed’ Depends on Israel’s Involvement,” CAMERA, April 10, 2012) The Washington Post failed to inform readers that Israel’s conquest of the West Bank occurred during the Arab-initiated 1967 Six-Day War.
The West Bank was widely known as Judea and Samaria until its illegal occupation by Jordan after Israel’s 1948-49 War of Independence. No state has exercised sovereignty over the area since the end of Ottoman rule. The final status of the West Bank—the vast majority of which is PA-ruled—is to be determined in negotiations with Israel. Yet, as CAMERA has noted, the PA often rejects such negotiations—or refuses to conduct them in good faith. Thus, the status of the territories is more precisely referred to as “disputed.”
In a story about IDF attempts to curb violence, The Washington Post could have stuck to reporting the facts. Instead, it provided an example of how to twist a story and color it with anti-Israel bias.