The Washington Post’s failure to use precise language continues when it comes to reporting accurately Israeli-Arab news. Two April 10 articles, “Two Israelis, Seven Palestinians Killed; Gaza Fighters Attack Fuel Depot Inside Israel,” and “Former President Carter to Meet With Hamas Chief,” illustrate the problem.
“Gaza Fighters Attack Fuel Depot,” by Jerusalem bureau chief Griff Witte of The Post’s foreign desk, begins this way:
“Palestinian gunmen raided a fuel terminal on the Israeli side of the border with Gaza on Wednesday, killing two Israeli civilians and sparking reprisal attacks that left at least seven Palestinians [emphases added] dead.”
But if the attacks killed civilians, then the Palestinian Arab perpetrators were more than neutral “gunmen,” they were terrorists. That’s the key definition of terrorists — those who threaten or use violence against non-combatants to influence larger audiences in pursuit of political, religious, economic or other goals.
The second paragraph, referring to the terrorists now with the positive “fighters,” says “the day’s violence also ended a period of relative calm since early March, when Hamas rocket fire prompted a large-scale Israeli operation in the territory that resulted in the deaths of more than 120 Palestinians [emphases added].”
“Relative calm?” Relative to what? The Post does not quantify the early March rocket fire (sometimes dozens per day into Israel) or the “relative calm” (only a few daily salvos). Americans instantly would find intolerable such “relative calm” if it emanated from Mexico or Canada.
“More than 120 Palestinians” dead in “a large-scale Israeli operation.” The Post does not distinguish between dead Palestinian gunmen/fighters/terrorists — the Israeli military said at least 65 — and non-combatants, among whom the Arab combatants operated, a violation of international law The Post does not mention.
But wait, there’s more
Paragraph five states that “Israeli forces killed two of the fighters [emphasis added] while they were still in Israel.” Those “fighters,” of course, are among the terrorists who murdered the two Israeli civilians mentioned in the first paragraph.
Paragraph six notes that “Palestinian hospital officials [emphasis added] said that of the five Palestinians killed during those [Israeli] attacks, one appeared to be a gunmen and the rest civilians.” What “Palestinian hospital officials”? The Post does not say if they were officials of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip government, medical workers under Hamas, Islamic Jihad or other terrorist intimidation, or health staffers both well-informed and free to speak. Readers have no way to evaluate the credibility of The Post’s “he said, she said” Israeli and Palestinian sources, which the newspaper presents as equivalent.
Paragraph 10 describes Hamas as “the armed Islamist group,” an accurate, if generic designation, but then adds that it “failed to maintain [emphasis added] a power sharing arrangement with the rival Fatah movement ….” That peculiar minimization hides reality: Hamas drove Fatah from the Gaza Strip in a bloody five-day war last June.
Paragraph 15, the last, states that “Gaza has been under a tight economic blockade since June” and “fuel has been in especially short supply. The territory’s 1.5 million people have to wait in lines that last 24 hours or more to fill up their gas tanks, thousands of business have had to shut their doors, and hospitals report that the shortages are putting their patients at risk. United Nations and E.U. officials have called on Israel to lift the siege, saying it unfairly punishes Palestinian civilians.” Here is double bias-by-omission:
The U.N. always calls on Israel to make concessions to the Palestinian Arabs, virtually regardless of provocation. It virtually never calls on the Palestinian side to cease its aggression against Israelis, the “unfair punishment” of Israelis by the more than 4,000 rockets fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip since Israel evacuated the territory in September, 2005. Since it does not, The Post — despite its oft-reiterated skepticism of official sources and insistence on independent investigation and verification — repeats the Palestinian-U.N. line at face value, concluding the article with the onus, once again, squarely on Israel. And there’s no mention of the basic fact that, absent Palestinian aggression, there would be no “tight blockade” with its resultant “shortages.”
Compare and contrast
The companion dispatch, “Former President Carter to Meet With Hamas Chief,” by Glenn Kessler, a diplomatic reporter on the national desk, provides more examples of Post inconsistency and superficiality in Arab-Israeli coverage:
This article describes Hamas not as an “armed Islamist group” but as “the Palestinian militant group [emphasis added] ….” For The Post, does “armed Islamist” equal “militant”? The paper’s editors often claim to shun misleading or meaningless “labels,” but in the Arab-Israeli context, “militant” epitomizes such labels.
The Post reports that Carter “attracted controversy last year because a book he wrote included tough criticism [emphasis added] of Israel’s policies.” Not at all. Carter’s Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, “attracted controversy” — including the resignation in protest of a number of former Carter supporters and aides from The Carter Center in Atlanta — for its dozens of major errors, including willful distortions of the historical and diplomatic record, as exposed in CAMERA’s book Bearing False Witness: Jimmy Carter’s Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. These errors and falsifications all served to blacken Israel and make a dishonest case for the Palestinian Arabs. The book was not “tough criticism” but an anti-Israel, even anti-Jewish screed.
Unlike “Gaza Fighters Attack Fuel Depot,” the article “Former President Carter to Meet With Hamas Chief” does report that the U.S. State Department lists Hamas “as a terrorist group” and that Hamas “forcibly seized the Gaza Strip last June ….” This continues a pattern in which The Post’s national desk tends to be, if not more accurate, at least less imprecise, than the foreign desk in Arab-Israeli coverage.