The Washington Post’s Jerusalem bureau has become increasingly prone to editorializing. Regrettably, a recent dispatch (“Netanyahu assured the U.S. he’d curb the far right. Has he already lost control,” Jan. 19, 2023) is no exception.
Ostensibly, the Post seeks to examine fissures in the new governing coalition in Israel. But the newspaper is incapable—or perhaps unwilling—to offer straightforward reporting. Instead the article is replete with value judgments and questionable sourcing.
The bias is evident from the very start. Reporter Shira Rubin writes, “…critics say [that] Netanyahu’s far-right coalition has already begun to veer off course — swiftly advancing measures that seek to weaken Israel’s judiciary system and eliminate any remaining prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Yet, uncritically repeating the claim that proposed judicial reforms would “weaken Israel’s judiciary system” is editorializing. And the assertion that the new coalition would “eliminate any remaining prospects for a two-state solution” is as disingenuous as it is dumb.
The Palestinian Authority (PA), the entity that controls the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and rules over the majority of Palestinians, has refused numerous U.S. and Israeli offers for a two-state solution in exchange for peace with Israel, including in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference. All of these refusals have been well documented. Indeed, PA apparatchiks and official media have proudly hailed them—just as they’ve celebrated their insistence on paying tax-deductible salaries to those who murder and maim Jews. Surely, rejecting offers for statehood while financing terror should count as “eliminating any remaining prospects for a two-state solution,” as the report puts it.
The Post, however, is nonplussed. The newspaper’s refusal to even acknowledge the numerous documented instances of the PA rejecting peace and financing terror is, at this point, part of the Post’s brand. As CAMERA has documented, the Post has steadfastly refused to report this long history of rejecting peace. Despite numerous reports about the “death of the two-state solution,” it has been more than half a decade since the Post has acknowledged Palestinian culpability—or, for that matter, independent agency. Few omissions mislead more than writing about the “lack of two-state solution” while failing to note that one party has consistently—over the course of decades—rejected it.
The newspaper’s article is further colored by its one-sided sourcing for quotes. Many of Rubin’s sources are longtime political opponents and critics of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That, of course, is fine. Yet, their previous histories are not divulged in the report, which relies—overwhelmingly—on quotes from Netanyahu opponents and critics. This contravenes standard practice in journalism, in which reporters are supposed to not only fully identify their sources, but also ensure that reporting is balanced and not leaning to one side or viewpoint.
For example, the newspaper quotes Alon Pinkas, who is identified as merely a “former Israeli consul in New York.” Pinkas tells the Post “Netanyahu’s partners know he’s the weakest he’s ever been, so they’re holding him hostage.” Rubin then states that Pinkas “has fielded calls from U.S. senators and representatives struggling to find strategies for dealing with the new government, the most far-right and religiously conservative in Israeli history.” More value judgments cast as reporting.
Pinkas is more than a “former Israeli consul in New York.” Rather, he is a longtime critic of Netanyahu and his Likud party. Indeed, he served in government and has long been associated with Netanyahu’s political opponents. He has several ties with far left organizations that are implacably hostile to Netanyahu and Likud. Outspoken, he doesn’t hide his views—nor should he. But the Post’s presentation of him as merely a “former consul” is disingenuous. Pinkas worked for not one, but two, of Netanyahu’s opponents for the premiership.
Next, the Post quotes Yoav Fromer, the head of Tel Aviv University’s Center for the Study of the United States. In 2014, Fromer argued that Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, not Palestinian intransigence, is responsible for preventing peace. Not enough Jews were dying or being injured, the argument went, for peace to occur between Israelis and Palestinians. Naturally, the Washington Post published it. And unsurprisingly, Fromer also takes an anti-Netanyahu line in the report.
Tom Nides, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel and another Netanyahu critic, is also uncritically quoted. Ditto for Chuck Freilich, a thoughtful former Israeli deputy national security adviser, who has served in governments manned by Netanyahu opponents.
Quoting these individuals makes sense; each of them has relevant expertise and related interests. But failing to note their partisan leanings contravenes standard practice in journalism. Worse still, every single source is a Netanyahu critic; not a single opposing viewpoint is presented as a source or interviewed. That’s revealing—and unethical.
Similarly, the Post’s report is replete with editorializing—an increasingly common problem with the newspaper’s Jerusalem bureau. The Post has taken an editorial line against Netanyahu. That’s their prerogative. Indeed, that is what editorials and the opinion section are for. But the reporting side of the house is supposed to be different.
For example, the Post writes: “Netanyahu’s far-right ministers are staunch ideologues with fervent constituencies, including many Messianic Jews who believe that peace in Israel can only be achieved through all-out war.” That sentence is more befitting an op-ed than what is supposed to be straight laced reporting.
The lack of standards comes through in other places, as well. For example, the report calls the West Bank “disputed territory.” This is in keeping with several corrections from the Post and other news outlets. However, later in the same article, Rubin contradicts herself, calling the West Bank “Palestinian territory.” As CAMERA has pointed out frequently to the Post and other news outlets, this appellation is historically and legally false. Indeed, the Post has noted as much in its own corrections.
But at the Washington Post, standards are in increasingly short supply.