‘The Washington Post’ colonizes Israel’s Arab citizens

Israeli Arabs don't want to be called “Palestinians,” but the “Post” does it anyway.

Headquarters of “The Washington Post.” Credit: DCStockPhotography/Shutterstock.
Headquarters of “The Washington Post.” Credit: DCStockPhotography/Shutterstock.
Sean Durns
Sean Durns
Sean Durns is a senior research analyst for CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

Colonialism, Washington Post columnist Ishaan Tharoor told readers in 2016, “isn’t something to celebrate.” Yet the Post fully embraces colonialism when it is in the service of an anti-Israel narrative. The newspaper’s recent reporting and commentary provide ample proof.

A mere fraction of Arab citizens of Israel prefer to be called “Palestinian.” A 2020 survey by Tel Aviv University found that nearly a quarter (23%) of Israeli minorities define themselves as “Israeli,” and half (51%) self-identify as “Israeli Arab.” By contrast, only 7% choose to call themselves “Palestinians.” But this hasn’t stopped foreign reporters from telling Israeli Arabs what they should be called.

With growing frequency, many news organizations are now referring to Israeli Arabs as “Palestinians.” The Washington Post is foremost among them.

An Oct. 31, 2022 dispatch by reporter Claire Parker, for example, was headlined “Palestinian Israelis are divided and disillusioned as election nears.” An Oct. 28, 2022 article by Jerusalem bureau chief Steve Hendrix and reporter Shira Rubin similarly referred to Israeli Arabs as “Palestinians.” Ditto for a Nov. 2 column by Tharoor himself.

Entitled “After Israel’s election, it’s the Palestinians who need to vote,” Tharoor’s commentary is replete with his trademark misleading omissions and distortions.

As CAMERA has documented, Tharoor’s Israel obsession—during the COVID-19 pandemic he wrote almost as many columns about Israel as he did on China—has been mocked by other journalists. He has authored puff pieces on anti-Semites like Issa Amro, even comparing him to Gandhi. Amro has a long history of associating with supporters of Hamas and of anti-Semitic blood libels. When Amro was later detained and reportedly tortured by the Palestinian Authority, his chief booster at the Post was silent for months. Apparently, if Tharoor couldn’t blame it on the Jewish state, it wasn’t worth writing about.

This mindset is evident in Tharoor’s decision to quote an Oct. 31 report by Parker that asserts, “So far, 2022 has been the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank in 16 years, according to the United Nations. The situation is fueling a sense that [caretaker Prime Minister Yair] Lapid’s ‘change government’ has brought more of the same.” This is disingenuous in the extreme.

The P.A.’s kleptocratic chief Mahmoud Abbas, who chooses to continue paying tax-deductible salaries to terrorists instead of investing in his own people, is chiefly responsible for the Palestinians’ welfare. The P.A. uses financial incentives, school textbooks and state media to encourage Palestinians to murder and maim Jews. Those who do are celebrated as martyrs and their families receive special status and monetary rewards. Importantly, Washington Post reporting on the P.A.’s “pay to slay” program has been slanted, and Tharoor himself has opposed U.S. efforts to curtail this murderous policy, which contributes to the fatalities he now bemoans.

On a similar note, Israeli Arab communities have themselves experienced a crime wave. As CAMERA has documented, this surging violence is due, in part, to Iran smuggling weapons into Israel, hoping to sow civil strife and discord. Yet the Post has not only neglected this fact, it has editorially supported a nuclear deal with the Islamic republic, which would leave Tehran flush with funds and better able to continue its track record as the leading state sponsor of terrorism. Tharoor himself has supported such a deal, its costs to Israeli Arabs and other Middle Eastern peoples be damned.

These are easy positions to take, particularly when one is seated in comfort far from Israel’s shores.

The decision to refer to Israel’s Arab citizens as “Palestinians” reflects a similar mindset. The Post’s language is noteworthy—and intentional. Despite ample evidence showing that this is not the terminology preferred by the people themselves, it has slowly creeped into usage. Indeed, such language doesn’t even reflect the vast and broad category of Arab citizens residing in Israel, some of whom have no ancestral or ethnic connection whatsoever to Palestinian Arabs living in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip or the P.A.-dominated West Bank. Furthermore, polls have consistently shown that many Israeli Arabs wouldn’t want to be part of a Palestinian state should one be created—a fact that the Post has never highlighted.

As recently as 18 months ago, the Post almost exclusively used the term “Israeli Arabs” to refer to Arab citizens of Israel. But that has changed in recent weeks and months, with the newspaper joining a growing number of outlets using the term “Palestinian.” Why?

As noted, the term doesn’t accurately convey the composition of Israel’s Arab communities. It is not the nomenclature that they prefer. So why use it? The only possible answer is to depict Israel as an “apartheid state,” with journalists becoming activists—a trend line that CAMERA has documented and which many “journalists” have openly embraced. At its very core, the terminology embraces a “one-state solution,” seeking to erase both the Jewish state and Israeli Arabs who embrace their identity. It is colonialism reborn. And it is not only shameful and stupid, but it also lends itself to superficiality.

Indeed, Tharoor’s penchant for depicting the Jewish state as bigoted and “apartheid” has led to some cartoonishly bad takes. For example, in a Sept. 17, 2019 column, the columnist warned of a “shadow of apartheid” in Israel’s upcoming elections. Instead, that election witnessed record turnout from Israeli Arabs—disproving Tharoor’s entire thesis less than 48 hours after it was published.

More recent political developments have been treated with similar superficiality. There is, for example, no mention of a trendline showing increased Israeli Arab support for the Likud Party, which is led by former and future Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Indeed, despite the handwringing by the Post’s editorial board about Israeli democracy, the Jewish state has had five elections in less than four years. It can’t honestly be said that it suffers from a lack of democracy. Indeed, the Post cheered the last elections, which ushered in a diverse coalition, whose members included a party dominated by Israeli Arabs. Are we to believe that Israeli democracy is suddenly in danger, a year after it was heralded? Or is democracy only in danger when Washington Post employees don’t like certain electoral outcomes?

That question answers itself. But thankfully for Israel, The Washington Post doesn’t get a vote. Its “journalists” don’t get to decide what to call Israel’s Arab citizens, just as they don’t get to pick the nation’s democratically-elected leaders.

Sean Durns is a senior research analyst for the Washington, D.C. office of CAMERA.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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