‘The Washington Post’ isn’t about to let facts get in its way

Consistently omitting crucial context, the newspaper casts Israeli concerns as overblown and the Arabs as victims.

“The Washington Post’s” old building. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
“The Washington Post’s” old building. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
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.

The overwhelming majority of American Jewry has a positive view of Israel. Yet, the overwhelming majority of opinion pieces and reporting from major U.S. news outlets doesn’t reflect this reality. Instead, the media promotes a small and unrepresentative minority. The Washington Post offers a case in point.

Ninety-five percent of American Jews have a “strongly positive” view of Israel, according to an August 2019 Gallup poll. The pollster noted that this was “significantly more pro-Israel than the overall national averages of 71% favorable views of Israel and 21% favorable views of the Palestinian Authority.”

Similarly, a 2013 Pew survey observed: “76% of Jews (identified by religion) said they were at least somewhat emotionally attached to Israel. In addition, almost half said that caring about Israel is an essential part of being Jewish (with most of the rest saying it is important although not essential) and nearly half reported that they had personally traveled to Israel.”

In short: American Jewry is, except for a minuscule minority, pro-Israel. Yet, the American media often chooses to give a megaphone to Jews that actively oppose, or are hypercritical of, the Jewish state.

The Washington Post, for example, gives inordinate column space to the tiny fraction of Jews, American and otherwise, who are against the right of Jewish self-determination. In a Sept. 20, 2019 tweet, Mairav Zonszein of +972 magazine cheered that her publication was “all up in The Washington Post opinion pages today,” with two pieces from the same organization appearing on the same day. Zonszein proudly noted that editors of “mainstream outlets” were no longer editing out or tweaking her use of the term “apartheid.”

As NGO Monitor has documented, “972’s articles promote a marginal agenda from the fringes of Israeli discourse, thus presenting a distorted sense of the debate in Israel.” The blog-based magazine “promotes the Durban strategy to demonize and delegitimize Israel” and its writers and contributors have accused the Jewish state of “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing” and “racism.” Indeed, the magazine’s content is completely self-discrediting and its donors are largely foreign and anti-Israel.

A previous editor-in-chief, Noam Sheila, referred to his critics as “the Jewish KKK” and in May 2012, +972 published a cartoon that depicted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raping U.S. President Barack Obama and eating his limbs. In May 2019, they published an article titled “By going vegan, Israelis can avoid talking about human rights.”

Elsewhere, the Post has published opinion pieces by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), described by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as “a radical anti-Israel activist group that advocates for a complete economic, cultural and academic boycott of the state of Israel.” JVP, ADL’s report on the group notes, has celebrated Palestinian terrorists like Rasmea Odeh and Marwan Barghouti.

As ADL highlighted: “According to a Pew research report from 2017, a majority of American Jews state that they are ‘attached to Israel and that caring about Israel is either “essential” or “important” to what being Jewish means to them.’ JVP’s rhetorical drumbeat promoting the view that Zionism and supporting Israel is of a piece with white supremacy, racism, ethnic cleansing and genocide, has the effect of demonizing this constituency of U.S. Jews.”

The Post, nonetheless, has given a platform to JVP members, particularly in its Outlook section. The newspaper has published Rebecca Vilkomerson, the group’s then-executive director, and Post columnists like Ishaan Tharoor and Eugene Scott have cited the group as representative of “progressive American Jews”—overlooking that most American Jews are both left-leaning and supportive of Israel. JVP is fringe.

But that’s not how The Washington Post sees it. The newspaper wants to believe, facts to the contrary, that many Jews are disdainful of the Jewish state. Why? Because the Post believes that they should be. In its worldview, Israel is largely responsible for the lack of peace. And Arabs, the Post’s coverage implies, are without agency or responsibility.

On Sept. 25, 2019, Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, announced that he would soon set a date for elections. Abbas’s announcement is newsworthy; the P.A. hasn’t held elections since 2006 and Abbas himself is in the fourteenth year of a four-year term. Several leading news outlets covered his remarks, including Times of Israel, Ha’aretz, and The Jerusalem Post. The Washington Post, however, did not.

Instead, the newspaper published a 1,000-word “report” about how “Palestinian artists in the locked-down Gaza Strip are inspired by works they may never get to see.”

Indeed, when the newspaper isn’t busy painting either Israeli Arabs or Palestinian Arabs as victims, it’s omitting key facts.

Take, for example, the newspaper’s Sept. 25, 2019 report “Are Arab Israelis having their moment.” The dispatch, by correspondent Ruth Eglash and Jerusalem bureau chief Steve Hendrix, noted that a “surge of Arab voters proved decisive in denying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the parliamentary seats he needed” in Israel’s September 2019 elections.

Arab citizens of Israel enjoy equal political rights and are equally represented in leading industries and government, including the Knesset, where the Arab-led Joint List is the third largest party. In fact, for the second time in six months, more Arabs voted in the Jewish state than in neighboring Arab countries. Nonetheless, the Post uncritically quoted the leader of the Joint List, Ayman Odeh, who claimed: “No one will give us the equality that we deserve, so we are going to take it for ourselves.”

The newspaper also noted that some in Israel have concerns with the Joint List—but the Post didn’t offer any details as to why this might be the case.

As Tablet Magazine documented in a Sept. 23, 2019 report, “The Joint List, sadly, remains a vehemently anti-Zionist party whose members have often expressed their support for convicted terrorists.” Reporter Liel Liebovitz noted that Joint List member Haba Yazbak has praised convicted terrorists on Facebook and supported an Israeli-Arab citizen who was indicted for spying on behalf of Hezbollah, the Iranian-controlled Lebanese terrorist group.

The party’s co-leader, Mtanes Shehadah, “started 2019 by posting a photo of himself hugging Samir Sarsawi, a terrorist who had spent 30 years in jail for throwing hand grenades on Jewish pedestrians in Haifa. Shehadah called Sarsawi ‘a political prisoner.’ He was introduced to voters at an event earlier this year that began with attendees singing the Palestinian national anthem and offering greetings to Azmi Bishara, the former Israeli-Arab MK who fled the country after being accused of spying for Hezbollah, and Bassel Ghattas, another Israeli-Arab MK who has served a prison sentence for smuggling cellphones to a convicted Palestinian terrorist.”

Another top Joint List member, Ahmed Tibi, was previously an adviser to arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat. Tibi has consorted with genocidal dictators that seek Israel’s destruction, like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. And in 2012, the Knesset’s Ethics Committee reproached Tibi for “cheering on terrorism and violence” after he gave a speech in Ramallah that referred to Israelis as “occupiers” and slain terrorists as “martyrs.”

Yet, the Post consistently omits this crucial context, preferring instead to cast Israeli concerns as overblown and the Arabs as victims. The newspaper isn’t about to let facts get in the way of its narrative.

Sean Durns is a senior research analyst for CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

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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