WASHINGTON POST-WATCH: Post’s Selective Cuts

The Washington Post’s Jan. 26 edition carried a news brief headlined “Hamas Leader Suggests Truce In Exchange for Israeli Withdrawal.” The Post item read:

A top official of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, said Sunday it could declare a 10-year truce with Israel if the Jewish state withdrew from territory occupied since 1967.

Abdel Aziz Rantisi said: We accept a state in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. We propose a 10-year truce in return for [Israeli] withdrawal and the establishment of a state.” He spoke in a telephone interview from hiding in the Gaza Strip.

His comments appeared to strengthen signs of a political shift by a group sworn to destroy Israel. Israeli officials have dismissed any talk of Hamas moderation as a smoke screen, and have said if would be impossible to return to the pre-1967 borders.

The Post’s brief was based on a Reuters news service dispatch headlined “Israel scorns Hamas proposal of 10-year truce.” The second paragraph of the Reuters item read:

Top Hamas official Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi told Reuters late on Sunday Hamas had come to the conclusion that it was “difficult to liberate all our land at this stage, so we accept a phased liberation.”

Other elements of the original dispatch omitted by the Post included the following:

“Rantissi said it would not mean that Hamas recognized Israel or spell the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“Rantissi said the truce could last 10 years, though ‘not more than 10 years.’”

“Hamas has led a suicide bombing campaign that has killed hundreds of Israelis during more than three years of violence.”

and “Israel dismisses any hint that Hamas might be softening its stance, particularly after a suicide bombing killed four Israelis at a border crossing on January 14.”

CAMERA member and co-chair of the Washington, D.C.-based EyeOnThePost, Inc., Robert Samet, first caught the differences between the full Reuters report and the Post brief. In a letter to Post Chairman Donald Graham, Mr. Samet pointed out that the paper “was virtually alone among media outlets in dropping these important qualifying statements.” The cuts, Samet observed, slant the news “to make Hamas appear to be more moderate than it is. When you then follow it up in the same article by reporting that Israel ‘dismissed any talk of Hamas moderation as a smoke screen,’ your readers are misled into believing Israel is being obstinate.”

The Orlando Sentinel, for example, reduced the Reuters story to a one-paragraph brief but managed to include both Rantissi’s truce offer and his quote that it was made because it was “difficult to liberate all our land at this stage, so we accept a phased liberation.”

The Independent [London], added in its own reporting that Rantisi’s “words are seen by observers as an indication of how weakened Hamas has become following an onslaught of Israeli assassination attempts against its leaders” and stem from “Palestinian fears” that Israeli construction of a West Bank security barrier and threats of unilateral withdrawal have undermined their position.

In cutting reports for length, the essence of the news must be retained. Otherwise, the result — as is apparent in this case — is partisan by omission.

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