WASHINGTON POST-WATCH: Breaking News Goes Unreported

On November 14, 2003, the Washington Post did not report that a top Israeli official accused Yasir Arafat of authorizing intensified attacks on Israelis early in 2001.

The Washington Times did.

“Arafat OK’d suicide bombings, official charges” by Times State Department correspondent David R. Sands led the paper’s November 14 World news section. Sands reported that in an interview with the Times, Israel Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said “Arafat in a February, 2001 meeting ‘gave the green light’ to terrorist groups and Palestinian security forces to unleash a new wave of suicide bombings against Israel.”

According to Sands:

Mr. Mofaz, former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, recalled being shown a package of intelligence reports when he arrived at his office Feb. 11, 2001. Violent Palestinian resistance to Israeli forces had flared again four months earlier …. At one point in the meeting, Arafat asked those around the table why there were not more Israeli casualties from the violence. Mr. Mofaz said. “You know what to do,” Mr. Arafat reportedly said. Added Mr. Mofaz, “And from this moment, the wave of suicide bomb attacks started in Israel.” Mr. Mofaz said the intelligence was “undeniable,” but declined to reveal how the information had been obtained by the Israelis.

On November 16, in his column “World review,” Washington Times reporter David W. Jones discussed the interview between Sands, himself, Times Pentagon correspondent Rowan Scarborough, and photographer Bert Goulait. Jones said that as far as the three reporters knew the information about the Feb. 11, 2001 meeting and Arafat’s role “had never before been reported.”

Mofaz also told the Washington Times that Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network maintains a major terrorist training base in Lebanon. Mofaz said that some infiltrators entering Iraq to attack American forces come from that al Qaeda camp.

The Post gave Mofaz’s visit a one-sentence retrospective mention on November 19, in “Israel Urged to Aid Palestinians; Ways to Push Peace Process Forward Discussed With U.S.” The Glenn Kessler story, including the Mofaz reference, dealt with U.S. concern about Palestinian “humanitarian” issues. It did not follow up Mofaz’s disclosure about Arafat.

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