WASHINGTON POST-WATCH: Coverage of Palestinian Infighting Muted

Shooting between Hamas and Fatah members left at least 12 Palestinian Arabs dead and approximately 100 wounded in early October. Some sources in the Gaza Strip and West Bank were said to fear that the oft-anticipated Palestinian civil war was at hand.

The New York Times gave these developments two news articles and one brief through October 4. The Washington Times published two front-page articles and one full report inside. The Washington Post offered readers one article on the first day’s violence, but only a news brief and three paragraphs in a separate article on its expansion.

The Big Picture

CAMERA has criticized the Washington Post for featuring Palestinian Arabs almost exclusively through the latter’s own chosen filter — that of virtually powerless victims of Israeli domination, an oppressed people not responsible for its own actions or fate. Palestinian self-victimization and the intransigence and rejectionism behind it, too often goes unreported or under-reported. It did so again in early October. Observations that, as some commentators have claimed, “Palestine” might be a failed state even before its establishment, are plentiful — but not in the Washington Post.

The Washington Post

The Post did cover Palestinian Arab infighting in Jerusalem bureau chief Scott Wilson’s extensive October 2 report, “At Least 6 Die As Palestinian Movements Clash in Gaza; Hamas Security Forces Move on Fatah Protest.” But then it essentially dropped the ball — the New York Times and Washington Times published additional articles on subsequent events in the next two days; the Post did not.

Wilson reported that “The Palestinian security service controlled by Hamas moved forcefully in the Gaza Strip on Sunday to disperse demonstrators loyal to the rival Fatah movement who were demanding months of back pay from a nearly bankrupt government.

“At least six people were killed, including two teenage boys, and more than 100 were injured in day-long clashes that marked the most severe partisan violence between the two sides in months.”

The internecine Palestinian fighting continued, with fatalities at least doubling. But the Post offered readers only a one-sentence item in its October 3 “World in Brief” round-up. The Post‘s October 4 edition included three paragraphs that referred in passing to the “internal fighting that has killed a dozen people recently and threatened to unravel the troubled Palestinian Authority” in an article reporting on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s Middle East trip. But there was no stand-alone article following up the Palestinian Arab violence.

The New York Times

The New York Times covered intra-Arab fighting in a detailed October 3 article by correspondent Greg Myre headlined “2 Killed as Palestinian Factions Clash for 2nd Day.” Myre noted, among other things, that:

• “Hamas and Fatah, the two main Palestinian factions, on Monday [October 2]  traded gunfire and recriminations for a second day in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, leaving 2 people dead and about 20 wounded”;

• “In the southern Gaza town of Rafah, Fatah supporters held a large demonstration on Monday evening and clashed with members of the Executive Force, a security body established earlier this year by the Hamas government. A policeman and a demonstrator were killed, and more than a dozen people were wounded. In an effort to reduce tensions, the Executive Force pulled back from the main streets in Gaza City, where on Sunday it battled other security units and gunmen aligned with Fatah. In both Gaza and the West Bank, many shops, schools and government offices were closed.”;

• “Sunday’s fighting, which left seven people dead and dozens wounded in Gaza, came at a time when Hamas, a militant Islamic group, and Fatah, a secular nationalist movement, were struggling to form a national unity government ….

• “In the West Bank city of Nablus, Fatah gunmen shot and wounded two bodyguards of Nasser al-Shaer, the deputy prime minister, who was not present. In Jericho, a shopkeeper who refused to take part in a general strike called by Fatah militants was shot and seriously wounded, Palestinians said..” [The shopkeeper later died.]

The New York Times followed up on October 4 in an article headlined “Rice Urges 2 Palestinian Groups to Halt Violence.” Correspondent Philip Shenon, reporting from Cairo, with material from Myre in Jerusalem, led that “Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Tuesday for an end to the new wave of bloodshed between Palestinian factions as she prepared to travel to the West Bank to support the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas …. In fighting on Sunday and Monday, at least 10 Palestinians were killed and more than 100 were wounded in some of the worst fighting in recent years between Hamas and Fatah, the two main Palestinian factions.

“Gunmen linked to [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas’s secular Fatah movement suggested Tuesday that there would be more violence and threatened to kill three senior leaders of Hamas, the militant Islamic group that won the Palestinian elections in January.”

The Washington Times

The Washington Times put the Hamas-Fatah violence on its front page on October 2nd and 4th.  The first article, from the Associated Press and headlined “Hamas-Fatah gun battles cover Gaza; Infighting is worst since government took power,” told readers that:

• “Gun battles broke out across the Gaza Strip when heavily armed Hamas militiamen tried to break up anti-government protests yesterday, killing seven persons and injuring dozens in the worst internal Palestinian violence since Hamas took power”;

• “Militants from the opposition Fatah group retaliated by torching the Palestinian Cabinet building in the West Bank. The violence comes amid growing frustration over the parties’ failure to form a national-unity government that could end crippling economic sanctions”; and

• “The fighting continued throughout the day and sent schoolchildren and other civilians in downtown Gaza City fleeing for cover.”

The October 3 edition of the Washington Times carried a Reuters dispatch, “Factional strife unabated; Abbas eyes emergency move to end crisis.” It reported that “gunmen from rival Palestinian factions killed one person and wounded 10 others in the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank yesterday.

The Washington Times placed the story back on page one in its October 4 edition. “Palestinian rivals on brink of civil war, Abbas aide says; 12 killed as Hamas, Fatah fighters clash,” was written by the paper’s own correspondent, Joshua Mitnick. It told readers that “armed Palestinian factions are just ‘centimeters’ away from civil war,” according to a top aide to President Mahmoud Abbas. It also reported that the internecine violence was “the worst since the West Bank and Gaza Strip won autonomy 12 years ago.”

Mitnick quoted Nabi l Amr, a communications adviser to Mr. Abbas, as acknowledging that “Gaza isn’t just a chaos. It’s a big storehouse of weapons. Each family [clan] has its own militia and its own organization [emphasis added].” In addition, Washington Times readers learned that “the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a Fatah militia, threatened to kill Hamas Interior Minister Saeed Seyam and Damascus-based Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal.”

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