Sunday, June 22, 2008

CAMERA on Washington Post

Camera Alert

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Shalom CAMERA E-Mail Team:

The Washington Post's June 20 article, "In Gaza and Israel, a Wary Quiet; As First Day of Cease-Fire Passes, Hamas Faces Questions About Intentions," is by no means an exceptional example of Arab-Israeli mis-coverage. Rather, it demands responses because of its "normality," its repetition of chronic Post mistakes. These exemplify a rigid, superficial, pro-Palestinian tilt.
Errors of commission and omission
* The Post's Jerusalem Bureau Chief, Griff Witte, writes that with the truce, "Hamas faced a new challenge in having to explain why, after two decades of battling the Israeli occupation [emphasis added], the group is suddenly ready to lay down its arms, however temporarily."
Hamas has NOT spent "two decades battling the Israeli occupation." Its rocket and mortar attacks on Israel and attempted infiltrations (including the raid that murdered two soldiers and captured a third, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, in 2006) escalated dramatically after Israel withdrew completely from the Gaza Strip in September 2005. Shortly after the start of the 1993 Oslo "peace process" between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, Hamas began blowing up buses and staging other mass murders inside Israel proper, not in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The "occupation" Hamas battles, as its charter and its leaders make clear, is Israel's existence.
* The Post notes that Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement) "was founded in the mid-1980s as an armed Islamist movement dedicated to the destruction of Israel" and that "unlike the rival Fatah party, it has never been willing to recognize the Jewish state or participate in peace talks." But after quoting a Palestinian political scientist on Hamas' alleged moderation since taking power, the paper states "Israeli leaders doubt the sincerity of Hamas' conversion [emphasis added]."
What conversion? By this glaringly wrong choice of a single word, The Post implies something for which there is no evidence. Has Hamas revised its anti-Zionist, antisemitic charter? No. Has it committed, like Fatah has in word if not deed, to meet the 2003 diplomatic "road map" requirements of recognizing Israel, ceasing terrorism, and upholding previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements? No.
One day after publication of The Post's article, Reuters news service reported that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said his organization would not stop weapons smuggling into the Strip, or impose the cease-fire on other "militant groups," both required by the cease-fire. Using the word "conversion" in a context meant to imply "conversion to moderation" when accuracy would call for "commitment to the cease-fire" instead is misleading, something between wishful thinking and editorializing in a news article.
* The Post refers to "daily rocket strikes against Israelis" and, a sentence later, "frequent Israeli attacks [emphasis added]."
Accuracy would require that the Israeli actions be described as "counter-attacks." They are responses to, not equivalents of, the "daily rocket strikes." A June 20 Associated Press dispatch refers to Israeli counter-terrorist attacks as "reprisals." Here The Post implies that Israeli responses against combatants and their infrastructure are equivalent to Palestinian provocations, which mostly target Israeli civilians.
* The paper reports that "there is a widespread assumption in Israel that the [Palestinian terrorist] groups are simply using the truce as an opportunity to rearm and prepare for the next battle. The suspicious are mutual [emphases added]." It then cites top Hamas spokesman Ahmed Yousef - previously quoted describing Hamas as "pragmatic ... not al-Qaeda" - as saying "I have no confidence at all that the Israelis will keep their word."
Israelis - no senior officials are directly quoted - "assume" the Palestinian Arab leadership won't keep the cease-fire but instead rearm and prepare for more terrorism (a good assumption, given Haniyeh's public statement 24 hours later). Yet The Post - which has failed to cover the Iranian-funded Hamas build-up in the Gaza Strip except occasionally and in passing - implies, without relevant distinguishing detail, that Hamas' assumptions of Israeli unreliability regarding the cease-fire are equally valid.
* Two photographs accompany the hardcopy article (online version may be different). The larger, 3 columns by 4 3/4 inches, tops not only the story but also the lead World news page, on which it appears. It shows Palestinian fishermen taking advantage of the cease-fire. The second, about half the size of the other, shows Israeli children riding bikes, a rare activity during the past 33 months of rocket fire.
The size and placement of photos is one more example of The Post's Palestinian-centric perspective of the conflict. Israelis, their rights, grievances, and concerns are virtually always subordinated to "the Palestinian narrative," newsworthiness or the unsubstantiated nature of much that narrative notwithstanding.
* The article continues Post practice of referring to Hamas' "military wing," as if it were a) military and not essentially terrorist in nature and b) describes Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terrorist groups as "armed Islamist," "militant organization" or "armed groups."
The words terrorist and terrorism never appear, although that is how these groups are designated by Israel, the United States, and other countries, and despite the fact that threatening and using force against non-combatants to influence larger audiences in pursuit of political, economic, religious and other goals is the definition of terrorism and the most accurate description that can be employed. And it is employed properly by The Post frequently when describing terrorism or terrorist threats against Americans.

Action item
Write to Copy Jerusalem Bureau Chief Griff Witte at, Foreign Editor Scott Wilson at , Assistant Managing Editor for Foreign News David Hoffman,, Ombudsman Deborah Howell at and Publisher Kathrine Weymouth at Point out some or all of the above mistakes. Note that this is but the latest example of a chronic flaw in Post Arab-Israeli coverage. Accurate, objective reporting, from word choice and illustrations to substance --- including the "Israeli narrative" in context and balance --- is long overdue.
Please send CAMERA a blind copy of your letter(s):
With thanks,
Eric Rozenman
Washington Director

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