WASHINGTON POST-WATCH: Big News–But Only For the Post

Alone among large U.S. dailies, the Washington Post‘s October 19 edition gave prominent play to a report from Human Rights Watch. The New York City-based organization alleged that home demolitions by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip during the four years of the “al-Aksa intifada” far exceeded military requirements.

“Israeli Demolitions Deemed Excessive; Gaza Tactic Violated Law, Report Asserts,” a 632- word article by Washington Post correspondent Molly Moore, covers all six columns atop a World News section. It includes a large, color photograph of a newly-homeless Arab man, standing in front of demolished buildings.

A Nexis search showed the Duluth News-Tribune covering the Human Rights Watch report in a four sentence brief and the Record (Bergen County, N.J.) as a six sentence brief.

Almost all other American newspapers ignored the HRW study. The October 19 New York Times, for example, did not run a story on it, but did publish a background feature headlined “Jerusalem Journal: Home of 3 Faiths, Rubbing One Another the Wrong Way,” by foreign correspondent Steven Erlanger. Perhaps one reason the HRW report didn’t strike Times‘ reporters and editors as important news might have been that the organization’s knee-jerk criticism of Israel – and virtual silence on chronic Palestinian Arab violation of international law and Israeli human rights – is predictable.

Predictable and tainted: the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs’ NGO Monitor (www.ngo-monitor.org) said HRW’s report lacks credibility and reflects other organizational “publications related to Israeli security actions … consisting of political and ideological clailms, unsupported ‘military assessments,’and denunciations that downplay the context of terrorism.”

Of overseas English-language newspapers, only England’s Guardian and Independent – and the Belfast Telegraph, reprinting The Independent‘s story – gave HRW’s charges much play. Not surprising, since the Independent and Guardian‘s Arab-Israeli coverage often depicts Israelis in the worst possible light, Palestinian Arabs in the best.

The Washington Post article does include rebuttal from Israeli foreign ministry and military spokesmen. But, filled with statistics from HRW and the U.N.’s Relief and Works Agency – whose director recently said he had no doubt that members of Hamas (the terrorist Islamic Resistance Movement) worked for UNRWA – it avoids the fundamental point:

Had the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian Arabs themselves accepted peace and the “two-state solution” offered them by Israel and the United States in 2000 rather than launching their war of terrorism, there would have been no Israeli home demolitions in the Gaza Strip.

The Post needs to do better than echo unreliable sources and practicing pack journalism with The Independent and The Guardian. A news brief – like those in The Duluth News-Tribune and Bergen County Record – would have been an improvement.

For the Record: The “T” Word Again

In its October 4 news story, “Alleged Leader of ETA Is Captured in France,” the Washington Post reported the capture of a suspected leader of “the armed Basque separatist group.” That description in the lead paragraph of an article by special correspondent Pamela Rolfe, is supplemented by this final paragraph:

“ETA is classified as a terrorist group by the Spanish Government, the European Union, and the U.S. State Department.”

But in “10 More Palestinians Killed in Gaza Blitz; Assault Targets Missile Attacks, Israeli Officials Say,” on October 2, “Israeli Attacks Kill 11 Palestinian Fighters; Army Attempts to Carve Out Buffer Zone in Gaza Strip Halt to Rocket Strikes” on October 3 and “Sharon Vows to Stay in Gaza Until Threat to Israel Is Ended” on October 4, the Post continued its practice of withholding from readers the fact that Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – all mentioned in the articles – are listed by Israel and by the United States as terrorist organizations.

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