Washington Post’s One Error — Seeing U.N. Gaza Report as News

The U.N. Human Rights Council is an oxymoronically-named body that includes major human rights violators, fails to advance human rights around the globe and relentlessly attacks Israel. In its arbitrary unreality, it resembles a cross between Humpty Dumpty (“When I use a word, it means exactly what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less”) and Alice in Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts ( “Off with their heads!”). That renders it both ludicrous and  dangerous.

A majority of the UNHRC 100-plus resolutions adopted since it replaced the similarly biased U.N. Human Rights Commission in 2006 have targeted Israel, not human rights violators like Iran, North Korea, China, Syria, Sudan or Cuba. And “the Council’s fixation with Israel is not limited to resolutions. Israel is the only country listed on the Council’s permanent agenda (Item 7). Moreover, Israel is the only country subjected to an investigatory mandate that examines the actions of only one side, presumes those actions to be violations, and which is not subject to regular review.” (See “Anti-Israel Resolutions at the HRC,” UN Watch .)

Reporting on the council as if it were credible, especially regarding its actions concerning the Jewish state, requires the journalistic equivalent of Alice-like suspension of disbelief. Yet The Washington Post did just that in “U.N. report on Gaza: Possible war crimes on both sides; Israelis and Palestinians operate with impunity, commission says” (June 23, 2015).

Who started the 2014 Israel-Hamas war? Who used the Arabs of the Gaza Strip as human shields? Who prolonged the war by repeatedly refusing ceasefires? Whose founding document convicts the other side as a crime against a religion and its believers? The Post’s 1,130-word article by Jerusalem Bureau Chief William Booth and bureau correspondent Ruth Eglash omits such critical context.

In its 283-page report, the Human Rights Council’s “independent” commission of inquiry confessed, unbelievably, that it could not determine the purpose of the tunnels Hamas built into Israel to facilitate mass kidnappings and murders of Israelis. This admission of incompetence or pro-Palestinian pettifogging—either sufficient to disqualify the commission and its report from further coverage (“Shame on you, Mary McGowan Davis,” The Times of Israel, June 23)—did not appear in The Post’s article.

Instead, the newspaper took the U.N. inquiry seriously, splashing the story across the top half and more of “The World” section’s lead page. It chose as illustration a huge four-column by 5 ¾-inch black-and-white picture showing a kefiyeh-draped woman being led from a damaged Gaza City structure last July “after an Israeli airstrike flattened a building across the street.”

Kangaroo court’s bogus investigation draws big play
Washington Post Arab-Israel coverage cannot be confused with The New York Times’ consistently anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian accounts. The Post’s “Palestinians pressing the ICC to charge Israel; documents submitted to Hague court allege war crimes in Gaza,” June 26, also by Booth, was balanced and fairly detailed. Nevertheless, shortcomings in “UN report on Gaza” were numerous and major:

A) The Post quoted the commission as asserting “the onus remains on Israel to provide sufficient details on its targeting decisions to allow an independent assessment of the legality of the attacks conducted by the Israel Defense Forces.”

The newspaper did not report contradictory views by other independent assessors. As CAMERA has noted, U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last fall “I actually do think that Israel went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties. … In this kind of conflict, where you are held to a standard that your enemy is not held to, you’re going to be criticized for civilian casualties.” (“Where’s the Coverage? Joint Chiefs Chairman Declares ‘Israel Went to Extraordinary Lengths’ to Protect Civilians,” CAMERA, Nov. 13, 2014).
Another independent assessment by people with military experience—unlike the members of the U.N. panel—backed up Dempsey’s views. The recent report of the High Level International Military Group, including, among others, former chiefs of staff of the Germany, Italian and Spanish militaries, concludes:

“Our overall findings are that during ‘Operation Protective Edge’ last summer, in the air, on the ground and at sea, Israel not only met a reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, but in many cases significantly exceeded that standard. We saw clear evidence of this from the upper to the lower levels of command. A measure of the seriousness with which Israel took its moral duties and its responsibilities under the laws of armed conflict is that in some cases Israel’s scrupulous adherence to the laws of war cost Israeli soldiers’ and civilians’ lives.” (See “International Level Military Group commends Israel Defense Forces ‘Scrupulous Adherence to Laws’,” CAMERA, June 22, 2015.)

B) Post coverage repeated figures in the report: “2,251 Palestinians were killed during the hostilities, including 1,462 Palestinian civilians, of whom 299 were women and 551 children. Six Israeli civilians and 67 Israeli soldiers were killed.” The newspaper says, “the report acknowledged disparities in casualty counts by the United Nations, Israeli and Palestinian authorities, and human rights groups. But it pointed out that the ‘high incidence of loss of human life and injury … is heart-breaking.’”

‘Tragic’ not a synonym for big
What if the commission’s assumption of a “high incidence of loss of human life and injury” is mistaken? Hamas, Dempsey noted, “‘had become very nearly a subterranean society, burrowing underground and hiding among the civilian population” (“Washington sent ‘lessons learned’ team to model Operation Protective Edge; Chairman of joint chiefs of staff says US military learning from Israel’s ‘extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties’,” The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 9, 2014).

The Washington Post previously has reported Israel’s tally of Arab fatalities identifies 44 percent as combatants, with approximately 60 percent overall males of fighting age. Why not remind readers? Why not point out that 299 women a
bout of 2,251 Palestinian Arab fatalities amounts to less than 14 percent when adult women comprise approximately twice that percentage of the Strip’s population?

The United Nations itself has estimated noncombatant-to-combatant fatality rates in Afghanistan and Iraq, where U.S.-led coalitions have fought Islamic extremists and other insurgents, at 3:1 and 4:1, respectively. In Hamas-Israel fighting last summer, the ratio appears to have been close to 1:1. (“Ten Things The Huffington Post Got Wrong About Gaza (Actually Thirteen, but Who’s Counting?” CAMERA, Nov. 21, 2012.)

 The Washington Post should have said so, whether the Human Rights Commission’s inquiry did or not. Perhaps the Palestinian casualty rate last summer, especially among non-combatants, represented a comparatively “low incidence.”

C) The Post quotes Mary McGowan Davis, the investigating panel’s chair, claiming “the extent of the devastation and human suffering in Gaza was unprecedented and will impact generations to come.” Unprecedented? Compared to Syria’s civil wars, which since 2011 have resulted in more than 200,000 dead, millions displaced internally, millions more made refugees and much of the country in ruins? Compared to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which since the 1970s and ’80s have led to even greater casualty counts and refugee tallies as large or larger than Syria’s? McGowan Davis’ hyperbole suggests fixation, ignorance or both—which Post out-of-context coverage lets stand.

The paper describes McGowan Davis only as “head of the commission” and “former New York supreme Court justice.” The Post does not tell readers that she became head of the panel “investigating” Israel as well as Hamas for potential war crimes after her predecessor, William Schabas, a Canadian international law professor, resigned following disclosure of his work as a lawyer for the Palestine Liberation Organization in 2012. According to UN Watch, Schabas “is well known for his anti-Israel comments and had decided, “well in advance of any investigation that Israel’s leader [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] is to blame.”

Anti-Israel non-governmental organizations wage psychological war
McGowan Davis has been associated with the International Council of Jurists, which in 2008 accused Israel of “indiscriminate and unjustified disproportionate use of force in violation of international humanitarian law” in fighting Palestinian terrorism. In October 2009 and March 2010 at the [U.N.] Human Rights Council, the ICJ declared that the Israeli investigations into the Gaza conflict [December 2008-January 2009’s Operation Cast Lead] ‘failed to meet international standards of effectiveness and independence.’ The ICJ also claimed that the prosecution and punishment of Israeli ‘civilian leaders and military commanders’ for Goldstone’s list of crimes is ‘essential’ in order for Israel to conform to those standards.”
South African Judge Richard Goldstone, head of the U.N. inquiry into that fighting, later disavowed a key allegation that Israel had targeted civilians. According to NGO Monitor, ICJ is part of the post-2001 “Durban strategy” to isolate, delegitimize and destroy Israel primarily by non-military means (“Soft Powers Play Hardball: NGOs Wage War on Israel,” 2006).
D) Like other media, The Post reported without clarification the U.N. report’s blurring of the cause of last summer’s fighting: “The summer 2014 hostilities were triggered by a series of events including the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in early June by Hamas operatives and the subsequent murder of a Palestinian teenager on July 2 by Jewish extremists. The events in the West Bank were accompanied by a surge of Palestinian rocket fire toward Israel, the report said.”

Israel conducted a large-scale sweep of the West Bank, hoping to find the abducted teens. The trio had been seized there while hitchhiking home. In the process, Israel forces arrested many Hamas members. To disrupt the search, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups increased mortar and rocket fire into Israel. Fighting intensified with Israel’s discovery of more than two dozen Hamas “terror tunnels,” some penetrating kilometers into the Jewish state and intended for mass kidnapping and murder attacks. The killing of a Palestinian Arab boy near Jerusalem added little to a larger dynamic already underway.

E) According to The Post, the war left “wide swaths of the coastal enclave in ruins.” Left in ruins were some neighborhoods in about five percent of the Strip, most adjacent to the Israel-Gaza frontier, where Hamas located headquarters, tunnel entrances, weapons depots and fighting positions—often under hospitals and apartment buildings or in mosques and schools (“Where’s the Coverage? U.N. Report Shows Gaza Damage Limited,” CAMERA, Oct. 15, 2014).
The Post failed to report that much of the Human Rights Council’s information came from anti-Israel non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that Israeli critics insist lack credibility and do not employ professional fact-finding standards.
The newspaper parroted panel members’ charge “Israel must break with its lamentable track record in holding wrong doers accountable” without noting that “the Israeli military continues to review 190 cases of suspected violations of international law, and the military advocate general has ordered several criminal investigation as it continues to examine the rest” (“U.N. panels sees evidence of war crimes in Gaza; Israel and Hamas both criticized for actions last year,” The Baltimore Sun, June 23, Tribune Newspapers dispatch).
Turning Israeli self-defense into ‘war crimes’

The Post quoted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling the report “flawed and biased,” and paraphrased his recommendation the world ignore it. The paper also quoted Dore Gold, director general of Israel’s foreign ministry, asserting the U.N. review failed to distinguish between Hamas as aggressor and Israel exercising its right to self-defense.

But in saying an International Criminal Court investigation based in part on the Human Rights Council’s report “could place Hamas militia commanders and Israeli leaders beside notorious African warlords targeted by the international tribunal,” The Post did not tell readers that “Ron Prosor, Israeli’s ambassador to the United Nations … accus[ed] the investigators of serving ‘as the soldiers of the Palestinians and Hamas.’ Prosor called the long-awaited report the result of growing Palestinian efforts to use international institutions as a weapon against Israel. ‘The Palestinians have moved the battlefield to the United Nations,’ Prosor said. ‘The U.N. has been
taken hostage
by terrorist organizations’,” (“U.N. investigation biased, Israel says,” USA Today, June 23).

The Washington Post’s “U.N. report on Gaza: Possible war crimes on both sides” included considerable detail from the UNHRC report. It added a little background from the Israeli side. But in failing to detail the who, what and why of the Human Rights Council and its close connection to the Palestinian campaign to delegitimize Israel—in this case by criminalizing its highly-restrained use of self-defense—The Post gave the report itself undue play. The Washington Times cut an Associated Press dispatch on the topic to a three-paragraph news brief.

As it did by similarly treating a similarly flawed anti-Israel press release (“The Washington Post Falls for Breaking the Silence ‘Report,” CAMERA, May 5, 2015 ”) as newsworthy, The Post deprived readers of necessary context. Not only that, but it also failed to provide a journalistically necessary expose’ of another false-flag operation—the U.N. Human Rights Council’s commission of inquiry—dependent on slanting when not fabricating “news.”

Comments are closed.