WASHINGTON POST-WATCH: Omissions Mar Reporting

On Tuesday, September 2, the Washington Post, as well as the other major dailies in or adjoining the Post‘s circulation area – the Washington Times, Baltimore Sun and Richmond Times-Dispatch – all covered the Orr Commission report in page one stories. The Orr Commission, after nearly three years of investigation, released a two-volume study of police action that resulted in the deaths of 12 Israeli Arabs and one Palestinian Arab after riots in support of the “al-Aksa intifada” in October, 2000.

The Washington Post‘s article, “Israeli Panel Faults Police In Killings; Arab Citizens Were Treated as Enemies’,” was written by     Jerusalem correspondent Molly Moore. Like the other accounts, it noted the commission’s strong criticism of the police, and of the government of then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak, for their handling of the violence, lack of preparation for dealing with civil disorders, “second class status” of Israeli Arabs, and covering up by police.

But in contrast with reporting by Joshua Mitnick for the Washington Times, Peter Hermann for the Baltimore Sun, and the wire service account used by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Moore omitted the following:

A Jewish motorist was stoned to death during the riots, which included not only rock-throwing but also hurling of Molotov cocktails, blocking roads, burning stores, and other, non-fatal attacks on Israeli Jewish motorists;

The turmoil lasted for eight days, spreading from Arab towns to major cities including Haifa and Tel Aviv;

The Orr Commission concluded that two Arab members of Knesset (the Israeli parliament) had incited violence, prolonging and intensifying it; and,

That the violence by Israeli Arabs in support of Palestinian Arab attacks shocked Israeli Jews, crystallizing fears that the large (20 percent) and growing Israeli Arab minority might represent a dangerous fifth column, fears reinforced by subsequent cases of Israeli Arab assistance to Palestinian Arab terrorists.

All the reports suffered from omission of a precursor to the riots of October, 2000 — violence between Israeli Arabs and police in April and September, 1998 that caused some Israelis to warn of the growing “Palestinianization” of the country’s Arab minority. But Moore’s account in particular, flawed by the gaps noted above, does not provide balanced coverage of the Orr Commission’s work or subject matter.

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