A Palestinian journalist routinely bashes Israel during the question and answer period at U.S. State Department briefings, and State Department spokespersons rarely correct the record. By allowing anti-Israel bias to penetrate the briefing room unchallenged, the State Department is inviting questions as to whether it shares the same views.
On Dec. 6, State Department spokesman Ned Price failed to push back on the accusation by reporter Said Arikat, the Washington Bureau chief for the Jerusalem-based newspaper Al-Quds, that Israel was perpetrating war crimes against the Palestinians.
“I mean, what we have seen in the past couple weeks is really an uptick of Israeli aggression against the Palestinians. We see war crimes being committed on—in front of everybody,” Arikat stated during the daily press briefing.
Price also failed to correct the reporter’s assertion that an Israeli policeman had shot “at point blank an unarmed Palestinian,” when in fact the officer had fired on a terrorist in the process of attacking him.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz had praised the Border Police member who neutralized Palestinian terrorist Ammar Mifleh, saying, “I fully condemn the attempts to present the incident in a false and manipulative manner.…All IDF and Border Police combat personnel have full backing to continue to act against terrorism and to preserve the security of Israeli citizens.”
A widely circulated video showed Milfeh trying to steal the officer’s weapon after having already stabbed another Israeli in the face.
“If no one complains, why should they [State Department representatives] bother? They are focused on answering questions and if you have followed Said for the past few years like me, they know he is bs-ing but most of the time it serves their interests,” Yisrael Medad, the former director of Israel’s Media Watch, told JNS.
“And then there is ‘Do not interfere with free speech,’ especially from a journo,” he added.
Medad emphasized that he was working to obtain credentials for Jewish media journalists to join the press briefings, a relatively difficult process.
The U.S. State Department did not respond to JNS’s request for comment.
Parenthetically, Arikat’s Twitter account was suspended earlier this month, a development he blamed on “hasbara” or “pro-Israel” hackers.
However, a cursory review of Arikat’s Facebook page shows that on Dec. 9, the 35th anniversary of the outbreak of the First Intifada, or Palestinian terror war, he praised “Palestinian children who continue the struggle for freedom with their bare hands against Israeli tanks.”
In another post this month, Arikat described Israel as an “apartheid state” and slammed the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and several peace-seeking Arab nations.
Meanwhile, Israeli President Isaac Herzog declared on Thursday that comparing the Jewish state’s policies towards the Palestinians to South African apartheid constitutes a “blood libel.”
“The comparison between the State of Israel and the apartheid regime is not a legitimate criticism—it is a blood libel,” Herzog said in a video address to the World Zionist Organization’s annual conference in Tel Aviv.
The comparison is “dangerous and intensifying terrorism since the legitimacy of the State of Israel and the justification of its existence is directly related to its ability to protect itself and hence they are trying to undermine this ability,” he added.
Brig. Gen. (res.) Amir Avivi, founder and CEO of the 16,000-member Israel Defense and Security Forum, explained to JNS that the Jewish state’s ability to defend itself militarily is in part predicated on countering malicious narratives that permeate the diplomatic battlefield.
“In the international arena, efforts to delegitimize Israel are spearheaded mainly by the Palestinians, with organizations pushing the false claim that Israel is an oppressor and does not have a right to exist, which is of course a very big lie but influences people,” said Avivi.
“There needs to be an initiative to identify leading figures, including in the media, who are damaging Israel in this way, and to call them out. There is a whole ecosystem that has been created to tarnish Israel with propaganda and this is having a very bad impact on public opinion, and eventually leads to antisemitism and Jews being hurt,” he added.
In the past 10 days, two other notable questions, including at least one by Arikat, were posed to Price and his deputy Vedant Patel, respectively, neither of whom contested the language employed in describing Israel or its actions.
“QUESTION: Today a young Palestinian girl, 16 years old, was shot and killed on the roof of her house by another notorious [Israeli security services] group. They’re the ones—they’re called Mista’arvim. They dress like local Arabs and so on, and they go about hunting [emphasis added] the Palestinians. I wonder if you have any comments on this?” [Monday, Dec, 12]
The “question” concerned Jana Zakarneh, who, according to the initial findings of an Israeli military investigation, was likely accidentally shot and killed by a Border Police officer while she was standing next to a gunman on a rooftop during a battle in Jenin. Israeli media noted that Palestinian terrorists often fire from rooftops and also film Israeli movements from on high, later posting the videos to social media networks.
The IDF said in a statement that the military regrets all harm to noncombatants, “including those who are in a combat environment during exchanges of fire, in close proximity to armed terrorists.” Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid expressed condolences to Zarkaneh’s family while stressing that security forces would continue to carry out counterterrorism operations wherever necessary.
“QUESTION: Okay. Today marked the 35th anniversary of the Palestinian Intifada, and in the last 35 years hardly a day went by without the Israeli army, an occupation army, killing Palestinians….Obviously, the Israeli occupation army is intent on continuing killing Palestinians day after day. Would the United States take the novel idea of providing international protection for the Palestinian people, craft some sort of a formula? Because obviously, no one is protecting the Palestinians.” [Friday, Dec. 9]
In 2016, the United States officially adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, which includes the targeting of Israel by “making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective [i.e. the Jewish state].”
Last month, Price reiterated that “The United States unequivocally condemns antisemitism and views the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism as integral to the fight to eliminate this scourge.”
At a Monday night gathering at the White House, U.S. President Joe Biden denounced the pervasiveness and destructiveness of Jew-hatred across the globe.
“This year’s Hanukkah arrival—arrives in the midst of rising emboldenment of antisemitism at home and, quite frankly, around the world. I recognize your fear, your hurt, your worry that this vile and venom is becoming too normal,” said Biden.
“As your president,” he continued, “I want to make this clear—as my dad would say, and many of you have said: Silence is complicity. We must not remain silent. And I made no bones about it from the very beginning: I will not be silent. America will not be silent. I mean it.”