The Washington Post Uses Polls and Pundits to Push an Anti-Israel Narrative

The Washington Post has outdone itself. In a mere twenty-four hours the newspaper published two stories littered with omissions and anti-Israel bias. Like many other mainstream news outlets, the Post pretends to—as its own guidelines stipulate—“tell ALL the truth, so far as it can learn it.” But, in a single day, the Post proved that standards, like facts, can be disregarded.

A March 22, 2021 report, “Jewish leaders protest Israel critic’s VCU speech,” offers a case in point. The dispatch, by freelance writer Abby Seitz, aimed to inform readers about mainstream Jewish organizations protesting the appearance of pundit and author Peter Beinart at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Unfortunately, the article omitted relevant details about Beinart and his record.

Beinart, the Post told readers, is “critical of Israeli policy” and “was previously known for his strong support for the two-state solution,” only to make “international headlines in July 2020 when he revealed through pieces in Jewish Currents and the New York Times that he no longer believes a two-state solution is possible and instead supports a single, equal democratic state for both people.” This, the Post stated, “is considered a ‘red line’ among many Jewish groups which often interpret a one-state solution as a threat to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.”

There is a lot to unpack here.

Annihilation isn’t ‘criticism’

First, Beinart is not merely “critical of Israeli policy.” Rather, as the newspaper glosses over, he doesn’t believe that the Jewish state should exist. Opposing the right of Jewish people to have self-determination in their ancestral homeland goes beyond simply being a “critic.” Indeed, within the Jewish community itself it is way outside of the mainstream.

A 2019 Ruderman Family Foundation survey of American Jews found that “eight of ten respondents identified as pro-Israel,” as the Times of Israel noted in February 2020. Curiously, the Post’s report cited the Ruderman poll, but chose to put a different spin on it, writing that “only 23 percent” of respondents “said they were pro-Israel and supportive of Israel’s government, while 57 percent identified as pro-Israel with ‘certain’ or ‘heavy’ criticism of the Israeli government.”

Beinart has even minimized anti-Jewish violence—and he did so in a televised interview a full year before the July 2020 op-ed. In an August 2019 CNN appearance, Beinart defended Miftah, a Palestinian NGO that has praised suicide bombers and claimed that Jews consume Christian blood. Beinart said that it was Israel’s fault that some Palestinian organizations support terrorism. The blame, Beinart asserted, rested with Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank (known for much of its history as Judea and Samaria). This not only deprives Palestinians of independent agency—a bigoted view—but it implicitly condones violence.

The Post, like Beinart, also glosses over another key fact: Palestinian leaders have rejected numerous offers for a Palestinian state if it meant living in peace next to a Jewish one. In recent years, Palestinians rejected U.S. and Israeli proposals for a “two-state solution” in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference. These offers to establish something that has never existed—a Palestinian Arab state—were, like previous offers going back to the 1930s, rejected out of hand by Palestinian leadership. If Palestinian leaders object to an “occupation” of the West Bank—land to which Jews, originating from Judea, are native—they could have ended it a number of times.

Put simply, it is disingenuous for Beinart to claim that he now supports a “one-state solution” because a “two-state solution has failed” and not highlight the reason for that failure: Palestinian rejectionism. And it is equally disingenuous for the Post to deprive readers of that salient fact.

Elsewhere, the Post cited the University of Maryland’s Critical Issues Poll which found that “63 percent of respondents said that if the two-state solution was no longer possible, they would support a single democratic state where Arabs and Jews are equal.” The Post, however, did not note that the poll in question omitted the relevant history of Palestinian rejectionism and was conducted under the auspices of University of Maryland professor Shibley Telhami, who, as recent articles attest, has a history of pushing questionable polls and has previously blamed Israel for the Palestinian Authority’s policy of paying salaries to terrorists.

Indeed, this fact—that Palestinian leaders have long incentivized murdering Jews—is omitted by the Post and the UMD push poll. Perhaps not coincidentally it runs counter to Beinart’s utopian fantasy of a “single, equal democratic state for both people.” In fact, Palestinian anti-Jewish violence predates Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and even predates Israel’s 1948 recreation.

The origins of Palestinian terrorism

As CAMERA has extensively documented, Jews were slaughtered en masse on several occasions during the period of the British Mandate. Indeed, some Palestinian Arab perpetrators of the 1920 massacre, in which five Jews were murdered and more than two hundred injured, sought to join Faisal’s short-lived Syrian kingdom. The violence, then, wasn’t in the name of a “Palestinian state.” Riot organizer Amin al-Husseini, later hailed as a “pioneer” by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, was content to be ruled from Damascus, in present-day Syria, and by a man from present-day Saudi Arabia. The violence was rather predicated on opposition to social and political equality with Jews.

And, as CAMERA noted in July 16, 2019 Times of Israel article, Palestinian terrorist groups like al-Fidiya (the sacrifice) and the Green Hand existed in the 1920s and 1930s—again, long before Israel’s recreation, much less “occupation” of the West Bank. In fact, Jews, Christians, and other non-Arab, non-Muslim minorities faced violence and subjugation under the rule of the Ottoman Empire which preceded the Mandate. Indeed, they continue to face such violence to this very day, with areas under Palestinian-control being Judenrein. This fact is also glossed over by Beinart, as well as the Post and the polls that it pushes in favor of a narrative for a one-state solution.

The only place that Jews have had social and political equality in the Middle East has been in Israel. That is an inescapable truth—irrespective of whether the press or anti-Israel pundits like Beinart will acknowledge it.

Among other things…

The Post’s report also omitted key facts about the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which reporter Seitz describes as “an international campaign to inflict economic pain on Israel until it ends its occupation of the West Bank, among other things.”

“Among other things” is quite the catch-all phrase. In fact, as CAMERA has documented, the BDS movement—per its own leaders’ statements—seeks the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel. Sworn Congressional testimony has linked pro-BDS organizations to U.S.-designated terrorist groups and Hamas itself has stated “we salute and support the influential BDS movement.” And as JNS, among others, reported on March 9, 2021, designated terrorists took part in a pro-BDS event a mere two months ago, in January 2021.

Further, the BDS movement didn’t grow out of the “occupation” of the West Bank, as the Post and BDS supporters like to pretend. In fact, Palestinian Arab leaders were refusing to participate in elections for legislative councils in the 1920s and calling to boycott Jews as early as 1909—nearly a decade before the Balfour Declaration—and nearly half a century before Israel’s recreation.

The Post report also uncritically repeated Beinart’s claim of “efforts by Jewish communal leaders to restrain open academic inquiry.” Elsewhere, the newspaper quoted Barry Trachtenberg, a professor at Wake Forest University, who asserts “If I was in the field of Russian Studies, there would be no expectation that all of the speakers would speak about how Vladimir Putin is this great Democrat…I would bring scholars to speak on the status of queer Russians and their plight…or the ways that Putin is stumbling into autocracy.”

“We don’t give these talks because we are pro or anti a certain position,” he adds.

This again is an attempt to muddy the waters.

Anti-Israel activists are fond of claiming that they’re being silenced. Yet, the Post’s decision to publish—both in print and online—a half-page, above-the-spread story about an anti-Israel, New York Times-published, CNN-appearing pundit speaking at a medium-sized university in Richmond destroys that argument. Indeed, as has been assiduously documented, college campuses and newsrooms are rife with anti-Israel arguments and BDS supporters. The claim that “powerful pro-Israel forces” control popular discourse also reeks of long-standing antisemitic tropes that Jews exert undue influence.

Trachtenberg himself has, despite the evidence detailed above, described BDS as “non-violent” and been published in Electronic Intifada, an outlet whose founders have engaged in genocide denial and whose writers have called the kidnapping of Jews by Palestinian terrorists “wonderful news.” Also worth noting regarding Trachtenberg’s faux comparison to Russian Studies: no credible debate would host people seeking the outright destruction of a state. There is no major movement among Russian Studies scholars or pundits to destroy Russia. That this is only the case with the Jewish state is, once again, evidence of antisemitism.

When narrative replaces facts

Regrettably, Seitz’s report wasn’t the only Post story that omitted crucial details and facts about Israel. A March 23, 2021 World Views analysis entitled “As Israel Votes, Palestinians Still Wait Their Turn,” misled by omissions. Columnist Ishaan Tharoor asserted that Israel’s elections are a “moot point” for Palestinians. Tharoor said that Palestinians are “long accustomed to having their rights subject to the imperatives of Israel’s military occupation.”

Tharoor has a long-documented history of superficial, narrative-driven “analysis” when it comes to Israel. The columnist lets his narrative—in which Israel is the oppressor and Palestinians are without independent agency—drive his reporting. And it shows.

As CAMERA has documented, he has authored dozens of articles on the lack of a “two-state solution” yet not once has he mentioned the history of Palestinians rejecting peace offers. Nor has he addressed the Palestinian Authority’s policy of paying of terrorists. He has even promoted anti-Israel activist Issa Amro as a “nonviolent dissident” and a “Palestinian Gandhi.” But as the late writer Petra Marquardt-Bigman 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 noted, both Amro and his group, Youth Against Settlements, have used social media to incite anti-Jewish violence. This tendency to whitewash anti-Jewish violence was on full display in his March 23rd analysis where he called Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group that praises Hitler, merely an “Islamist political faction.”

Tharoor’s penchant for depicting the Jewish state as bigoted and “apartheid” has led to some cartoonishly bad takes. For example, 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 forty-eight hours after it was published.

True to form, his March 23rd analysis was no exception. Palestinians, Tharoor lamented, can’t vote in the Israeli elections. They should, he argued, because Israel “rules over virtually every aspect of their lives” as Israel “fully governs” over 60 percent of the West Bank. In fact, the overwhelming majority of Palestinians live under the rule of Hamas in the Gaza Strip or the Fatah controlled-Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Indeed, 90 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank live in either Area A or Area B—both of which are completely controlled by the PA.

Tharoor’s expressed concern for Palestinian human rights rings hollow.

Israeli Arabs have voted in four national elections in the last two years alone. By contrast, the PA hasn’t held elections in nearly fifteen years. Nor has Hamas. The PA recently announced that it will be holding elections in the summer of 2021. But they can hardly be considered “free and fair,” in recent months the PA has been cracking down on its critics and expelling and threatening political rivals of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, an octogenarian autocrat currently in the fifteenth year of what was supposed to be a single elected four-year term.

Tharoor, however, hasn’t expended a single word about the crackdown. Nor, until this March 23rd article, has he bothered to address the failure of Palestinian entities to hold elections.

Indeed, when Palestinians took to the streets in March 2019 to protest Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip, Tharoor ignored the protests (“Palestinian Lives Don’t Matter,” The New York Times, March 21, 2019). As CAMERA noted in JNS, Hamas shot and tortured Palestinians, including journalists, but the Post itself largely failed to cover what was termed the “Hunger Revolution.”

At the Washington Post, anti-Israel narrative comes first. Relevant history and facts are, at best, a distant second.