To the Washington Post, Palestinians Can Only Be Victims

Hamas is a U.S.-designated terrorist group that calls for the genocide of Jews and the destruction of the Jewish state. Yet readers of a recent Washington Post dispatch wouldn’t have a clue about the group’s objectives. Instead, the Hazem Balousha’s Sept. 14, 2020 Post article omitted key context and facts and deprived Palestinians of independent agency.

Balousha, a Gaza-based freelancer who often collaborates with the Post, wrote the report, “Coronavirus lockdown steals Gazans’ last vestiges of normal life,” in the first-person. The dispatch opens with Balousha describing how “Adam and Karam, my two little sons were asleep but the sound of the bombing was very loud as Israeli jets targeted military sites.” It is highly unusual for Washington Post articles on the Israel-Islamist conflict to be written in first-person narrative—which by its very nature make the story more personal.

In fact, CAMERA was unable to find a recent example of the Post publishing a news report written by an Israeli in the first-person narrative. It wouldn’t be hard for the newspaper to locate a journalist living in an Israeli community that endures frequent Hamas rocket and terror attacks and have them author a news article on their experiences. But the paper has refrained from doing so—part of a long-standing pattern of providing frequent coverage of the trials and tribulations of Palestinians while simultaneously minimizing the difficulties that many Israelis face.

Narrative aside, there are larger problems with the Post’s report. It engages in a false equivalency between the terror group, Hamas, which indiscriminately launches rockets into the Jewish state, and the Israeli military’s targeted response. There is, of course, no reasonable comparison between a terror group seeking to murder civilians and a nation-state seeking to deter and prevent such attacks. Contra the Post’s claim, it is not a “constant cycle of escalation.”

Indeed, although the Post’s dispatch runs nearly 1,000-words, it provides no detail about Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007. As CAMERA has detailed, Hamas is derived from the Muslim Brotherhood. In 1988 the group published its “Covenant” of 36 articles, which “details its aims and ideology precisely,” as the historian Jeffrey Herf observed in 2014. “Its philosophy,” Herf wrote in The American Interest, “is rooted in the totalitarianism and radical antisemitism that has undergirded Islamism since its rise in the 1930s and 1940s.” Among other things, the charter calls to “obliterate” Israel, rejects “peaceful solutions and international conferences” and asserts “there is no solution to the Palestine question except through jihad.” The Covenant is replete with antisemitic conspiracy theories and approvingly cites antisemitic hadiths.

In keeping with its stated objectives, Hamas has incessantly launched rockets and missiles into Israel and constructed so-called “terror tunnels” to kidnap Israelis and smuggle weapons and illicit materials into the Gaza Strip. Accordingly, Israel and Hamas have engaged in three brief wars since the terror group’s ascension more than thirteen years ago.

Hamas has consistently chosen terror instead of the wellbeing of its own people, many of whom the group uses as human shields. The group’s kleptocratic leadership live in luxury, often pocketing international aid or spending it on terrorism instead of the needs of average, everyday Gazans. Top leaders like Moussa Abu Marzouk and Khaled Mashaal are billionaires. Many maintain houses abroad in Turkey, Qatar, and elsewhere.

Rather it is interested in genocide. And its responsibility for the state of affairs in Gaza is undeniable. As New York Times columnist Bret Stephens observed in a May 16, 2018 editorial: “Gaza’s Miseries Have Palestinian Authors.”

As an October 14, 2013 USA Today report noted, materials sent to Gaza to build its infrastructure have instead been used to construct terror tunnels from which to launch attacks. These materials were meant to build schools, roads, clinics, hospitals, and housing units — but as photographic evidence showed, Hamas was using them with murderous intent. By some estimates, each tunnel takes $3-10 million to build.

The Post, however, omits this crucial context. Worse still, the newspaper’s dispatch is replete with omissions that could trick readers into thinking that Israel, instead of Hamas, is chiefly responsible for Gazans’ woes.

Indeed, nowhere does the report acknowledge that Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, leaving Palestinians to choose their own leadership. In 2006, they chose Hamas, which subsequently defeated its chief rival, the Fatah movement, in a brief and bloody civil war. And while the Post’s report discusses “Israel’s blockade of Gaza,” it fails to note that the blockade itself was initiated only after Hamas began firing rockets and is meant to prevent weaponry from reaching the terror group. Similarly, while the report laments “checkpoints” and permits needed to travel outside of Gaza, it omits that this too is a security measure enacted in response to Hamas’s actions and objectives.

It is indeed tragic that life is far from normal for many in Gaza. But it is hardly the fault of Israel, which is merely seeking to protect its citizens. Rather the sole responsibility rests with the terror group that controls Gaza and prioritizes genocide over the well being of its citizenry.

Unfortunately, the Post chose to put a narrative—that Palestinians are victims without independent agency—ahead of facts. And the September 14th report is not alone in this regard. A Sept. 25, 2020 report by the Post’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Steve Hendrix, claimed that “under Israeli occupation, there’s not enough water” near the town of Jericho, in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). The dispatch blames Israel for the end of the so-called “Jericho banana” and difficult agricultural conditions in the area.

Although Jericho falls under the rule of the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Post, via uncritically citing anti-Israel organizations, blames Israel for Jericho’s water woes. Media outlets frequently parrot the charge that Israel is stealing Palestinian water. Yet, it is baseless.

Indeed, the Post’s report omits key details about Israel, the PA, and water usage. Noting that “many media reports have portrayed Israel as a profligate user of water,” CAMERA’s Alex Safian has conducted extensive research on Israeli water issues debunking precisely the type of claims made in the newspaper’s article. Among other things, Safian noted:

“Under Oslo 2 (Interim Agreement, Sept. 1995), significant responsibility over water was transferred to the Palestinian Authority, including the right to drill wells at agreed sites. As part of the accords (Annex 3, Article 40), the two sides resolved that in the near-term Palestinians would receive an additional 28.6 MCM per year, of which the PA was obligated to supply 67 percent. While Israel has supplied its share of additional water to the Palestinians, the PA has largely failed to do its part.”

Further, the newspaper asserts that the “arrangement…was supposed to be updated after five years but has remained untouched over decades of stalemate.” The Post declines to inform readers about the reason for the “stalemate,” Palestinian rejectionism. Palestinian leaders have declined to engage in bilateral negotiations to resolve outstanding disputes—a requirement stipulated by the Oslo Accords, which created the PA in the first place.

Indeed, history disproves the Post’s claim that an Israeli “occupation” is responsible for the agricultural conditions in Jericho. The report itself notes that farming conditions in the 1970s in Jericho were good, yet Israel controlled the area from 1967 until the 1990s Oslo Accords.

The Post’s claim that “conflict and climate” dried up much of the water is similarly suspect. The region had considerable tumult before the last few decades, enduring multiple regional wars, in addition to two World Wars for which the Middle East—including the Jericho area—witnessed upheaval and combat. In a fifty-year period alone, the Ottoman Empire, the British and the Jordanians variously ruled Jericho.

In order to push the water libel, the Post relies on biased organizations like B’Tselem, which claimed that “control of water is central to the occupation.” But as CAMERA has documented, B’Tselem has misled about casualty claims, the number of Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley, and classified slain terrorists as “civilians,” among other distortions.

The Post also declines to note that the PA maintains several aquifers and wells for its exclusive use, including one in nearby Auja.

The newspaper does report that “David Elhayani, the leader of a settler umbrella group, disputed that Israeli residents want to drive Palestinian growers out of business, saying that a good farm economy makes life more peaceful for everyone in the contested region. He said Palestinians routinely poach from the Israeli water network and drill illegal wells. Israeli farmers have their own complaints about the stingy allocations of well permits, he said.” Yet, Elhayani’s comments were buried at the very end of the article.

Elhayani’s remarks raised several questions that were worth exploring. But that clearly wasn’t the story that the paper wanted to write. Instead, the conventional narrative of Palestinians as perennial victims and the Jewish state as a thieving aggressor triumphed.