It would be hard to invent a better example of what’s wrong with Washington Post coverage of Arab-Israeli news than the paper’s July 19, 2004 front-page story. The headline is “In Jenin, Seven Shattered Dreams; Boyhood Hopes Forged on Theater Stage Dissolve in Reality of Intifada.” Post correspondent Molly Moore presents Arab murderers as youths who lost their way amidst destruction and death precipitated primarily by Israelis. The only Israelis presented with any of the human touches Moore lavishes on Palestinian subjects are an utterly unrepresentative mother-son pair, one of whom justifies Arab terrorism.
By its subject matter, its dominance of the front page, prominent color photographs and full-page continuation, “In Jenin, Seven Shattered Dreams” typifies the factual inversion and psychological bias that distorts much Post Arab-Israeli reporting. Again, a major dispatch, of dubious news value, portrays Palestinian Arabs as victims, Israeli Jews in general as aggressors.
Moore reports on “seven neighborhood boys who bonded on the stage of an experimental theater group” in the glow of the 1993 Israeli-Palestine Liberation Organization accords. But in 1995 its Israeli backer died and the project failed. Simultaneously, says Moore “the hopes stirred by the Oslo peace agreement collapsed into disappointment throughout the Palestinian territories. Mounting frustration gave birth to the current intifada in September 2000.” The boys, in Moore’s lachrymose style, took “the tortuous journey from childhood ambitions acted out on a stage of dreams to manhood in a secret society of Palestinian suicide attackers and armed fighters.”
Now, four are dead — terrorists killed by Israel, though Moore never accurately describes them — one jailed, one unemployed and the last, Mahmoud Kaneri, a stonemason. Moore’s focal point, Kaneri is “a towering man with limpid eyes the color of rich toffee.” Romance novel descriptions like that of Kaneri have become a cliché in Moore’s Palestinian features. More important is her assertion that “creating headstones for the fallen is his therapy.” It illuminates The Post’s non-journalistic, social worker approach to Palestinian Arabs, an approach that treats dead terrorists as “the fallen.”
Moore claims that Palestinian “hopes collapsed into disappointment.” In reality, Palestinian violation of the Oslo Accords and related agreements destroyed an almost euphoric Israeli belief that peace was at hand. Yasser Arafat’s PLO and Palestinian Authority refused to eliminate terrorist organizations like those which Kaneri’s boyhood pals joined. Palestinians refused to end anti-Israeli incitement in schools, mosques and in PA television, radio and newspapers. They failed to demilitarize the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Instead, the PLO and PA collaborated with terrorists, intensified incitement, and connived in the proliferation of weapons.
Terrorist attacks including suicide bombings rocked Israel within months of Oslo, not only after September 2000. The “mounting frustration” Moore cites as a cause for the last four years of violence is psycho-babble; Arafat’s rejection of a state on 97% of the West Bank and Gaza, including eastern Jerusalem in exchange for peace with Israel sparked the current terror war against the Jewish state.
Moore’s dispatch follows two days of Post coverage of anti-Arafat turmoil in the Gaza Strip, reportedly led by younger members of Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement), Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade of Arafat’s own Fatah group. Even that coverage minimized or ignored criticism by representatives of the United Nations and European Union of the Palestinian leadership for corruption and lack of interest in peace-making. Moore’s desolate coming-of-age narrative of a Palestinian band of brothers lets The Post change the subject altogether, avoiding news in favor of the paper’s psychologically rigid view of Arab-Israeli matters in which peace-loving Palestinians are battered into being reluctant terrorists through Israeli brutality. Hence the final quotation praising terrorism, or what this most unrepresentative Israeli calls “fight[ing] for their rights,” from the son whose mother launched the Palestinian experimental theater:
“From my perspective, it’s a success that people stood up and fought for their rights,” said Mer Khamis, who said he recently lost his contract to work in Israeli theaters because of his pro-Palestinian sympathies. “Arna [his mother] told them to fight for their rights.”