Opinion

‘The Washington Post’ invests time and money in another blood libel

An 1,900-word “investigation” used four reporters and 3D imagery to examine a counterterrorist operation in Nablus by the Israel Defense Forces that doesn’t even explain why they were there in the first place.

Fatah terrorists march in the Balata camp on the outskirts of Nablus on March 4, 2023. Photo by Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90.
Fatah terrorists march in the Balata camp on the outskirts of Nablus on March 4, 2023. Photo by Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90.
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.

There are, it is often said, but two certainties in life: death and taxes. But there are other occurrences that one can fairly predict: Islamist terrorists will use human shields, ensconcing themselves among civilians while plotting and perpetrating attacks. And when their preeminent target is the Jewish state, the press will do its utmost to give them cover.

Take, for example, a March 10 Washington Post report on an Israeli counterterror raid in Nablus, a town in the Palestinian Authority-ruled West Bank (Judea and Samaria). The Post’s nearly 1,900-word “investigation” used four reporters and 3D imagery to examine the Feb. 22 counterterrorist operation. That is a great deal of time and resources for a newspaper to invest, particularly one enduring major budget cuts.

Yet the Post’s report was littered with misleading omissions, relying on anti-Israel sources whose long track record of biases it failed to mention.

Indeed, the paper largely glossed over why the raid was even taking place. For nearly a year, Israel has been experiencing a dramatic increase in terrorist attacks. The increase is the result of a deteriorating security situation in the West Bank, which is ruled by the Palestinian Authority.

Its leader, 87-year-old Mahmoud Abbas, is deeply unpopular, as is the Fatah movement he leads. Iran, the world’s top state sponsor of terror, has sensed an opportunity and has been steadily ratcheting up its presence in the parts of the West Bank that Abbas and his forces no longer control. The result has been a terrorist “free for all” with various groups competing for influence, as well as using the security vacuum to plot and launch attacks against the Jewish state.

In just the first three months of 2023, 14 Israelis—the proportional equivalent of more than 500 Americans—have been murdered in these attacks.

The Post, however, conflates terrorists with their victims, telling readers that according to the United Nations, “Israeli forces [have] killed 71 Palestinians in the West Bank, including 13 children, between Jan. 1 and March 7” of this year and “at least 14 Israelis have been killed in attacks by Palestinians so far this year.”

But this omits a key fact: Most Palestinians killed have been terrorists in the midst of planning or perpetrating attacks. These Palestinians have been identified as terrorists—their names and affiliations are detailed in reports by think tanks like the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, among others.

Indeed, many of those killed were claimed as “martyrs” by the terror groups, which frequently put out lists of their slain operatives. This information was readily available prior to the Post’s March 10 report.

Further, all the terrorist groups in question have a history of hiding in densely populated civilian areas and using humans as shields. There is ample evidence of this history, including video, photographic evidence and the admissions of several terrorist organizations. It is not uncommon for civilians to be caught in the crossfire during gun battles in urban environments. This is a problem that counterterrorist forces the world over encountered. Terrorist groups want civilians to die; it’s a propaganda victory for them. Although the Post prefers to single Israel out, the Jewish state is hardly immune to these realities—realities that stem from the decisions of Palestinian terrorist groups alone.

Yet in a detailed and lengthy report, the newspaper chose to omit these salient facts.

The Post’s dispatch relies on numerous sources with histories of anti-Israel bias and, in some cases, questionable claims. For example, the newspaper uncritically quotes Breaking the Silence, which is innocuously described as “a group of Israeli Army veterans who served in the Palestinian territories and oppose the occupation.”

But as NGO Monitor, an organization that seeks to hold nonprofits accountable, has noted: “Breaking the Silence is part of a network of NGOs that promote artificial and manufactured definitions of apartheid to extend the ongoing campaigns that seek to delegitimize and demonize Israel.” It relies on foreign funding, including from groups that are hypercritical of and deeply hostile to Israel, such as Open Society Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and others.

Indeed, although the newspaper presents the report as an impartial “investigation,” in fact, it relies on a constellation of groups—many of which are intertwined and receive similar funding—that have a track record that undoes any pretensions of impartiality. Breaking the Silence is but one.

Elsewhere, the Post uncritically quotes Amnesty International, a group that spuriously claimed that Israel is an “apartheid state.” Amnesty, NGO Monitor has documented, “disproportionately singles out Israel for condemnation, focusing solely on the conflict with the Palestinians, misrepresenting the complexity of the conflict, and ignoring more severe human rights violations in the region.” Indeed, as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) has highlighted, Amnesty literally changed its definition of “apartheid” to apply only to the Jewish state.

Another source that the Post’s report relies on is Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P). But DCI-P has a troubling history of its own. As CAMERA noted in a Washington Examiner op-ed on March 21, 2018, DCI-P has been tied to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a U.S.-designated terrorist group.

The one-time secretary of DCI-P’s board, Fatima Daana, is the widow of the commander of the PFLP’s Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades. A DCI-P employee, Hashem Abu Maria, was even celebrated as a “commander” of the terrorist group after his 2014 death. Indeed, NGO Monitor wrote an entire report documenting links between DCI-P and the PFLP. In 2021, the Israeli government designated DCI-P for its ties to the PFLP. DCI-P is also reliant on foreign funding, much of it from organizations explicitly hostile to Israel, including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The Post failed to note any of this important context.

Its “investigation” also cites several Palestinians who claim to be eyewitnesses. But the newspaper fails to note the obvious: Those living under terrorist rule are often subject to intimidation or worse. There is a long and documented history of terrorist groups, Palestinian and otherwise, using threats and violence to shape news coverage to their ends. As CAMERA has documented, the Post has been duped in the past.

The report also uses audio analysis from Lawrence Abu Hamdan whose “audio investigations have been used as evidence at the U.K. Asylum and Immigration Tribunal,” and Steven Beck, “an audio forensic expert who consulted for the FBI for more than a decade.” But the Post fails to note that Hamdan has been a research fellow with Forensic Architecture, another NGO that is reliant on foreign, anti-Israel donors, including the Open Society Foundation and Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

The real takeaway, however, is what the Washington Post prioritizes—and what it doesn’t.

On March 18, two German tourists were nearly lynched when they mistakenly entered Nablus in a car with an Israeli license plate. According to one of the tourists, Gerald Hetzel, P.A. forces “were powerless to stop the crowd,” some of whom were armed with knives and stones. Video footage of the attack circulated on social media and prompted condemnations from Germany’s Ambassador to Israel. The incident showcases the lawlessness that is rampant in the P.A.-ruled West Bank, as well as the degree of danger to those who are presumed to be Jewish who dare to enter. The Post, however, has yet to cover this particular story set in Nablus.

It is more than happy to launch lengthy “investigations,” and expend considerable time and resources to affix blame to the Jewish state. But curiously, the newspaper won’t report on the circumstances that necessitate the counterterrorist raids in the first place. When it comes to misleading coverage on this subject matter, the paper remains as reliable—and enjoyable—as death and taxes.

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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