OpinionBoycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)

‘The Washington Post’ soft-pedals BDS

The paper, it seems, has its narrative. And it isn’t going to let facts get in its way.

“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.

Washington Post coverage of the anti-Israel BDS movement is, with growing frequency, violating the newspaper’s own policies and standards. U.S.-designated terrorist groups support BDS, and its supporters openly call for the end of the Jewish state. Yet, these facts cannot be found in The Post’s pages.

Instead, the paper has decided to whitewash BDS.

Take, for example, a recent Washington Post op-ed by Stanford University Professor David Palumbo-Liu, a BDS advocate. Palumbo-Liu defended the decision of a University of Michigan professor and fellow BDS supporter, John Cheney-Lippold, to refuse to write a letter of recommendation for a student’s study-abroad program in Israel. On Oct. 3, the University of Michigan sent Cheney-Lippold a disciplinary letter, characterizing his actions as falling “far short of the University’s and College’s expectations,” and noting that the professor had “used the student’s request as a platform to express your own personal views.”

“A student’s academic merit should be the primary guide for determining whether to write a letter,” the University explained.

Palumbo-Liu defended Cheney-Lippold, but omitted key components of the university’s decision. In fact, as the university explained in its letter, Cheney-Lippold had previously written letters of recommendation for study in Israel for two other students, admitting that at the time, “I wrote letters for them because I did not have tenure.” Additionally, the professor used “class time for both courses” he teaches to discuss his “views on the BDS movement.”

Worse still, Palumbo-Liu defended BDS as merely seeking “the end of Israeli occupation of Arab territory, the full equality of Palestinian citizens of Israel and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.” Its supporters, he declared, “include Bishop Desmond Tutu and 2018 Nobel laureate George P. Smith.”

But that is an inaccurate and misleading description of BDS, which seeks to unfairly malign the world’s sole Jewish state, singling it out for opprobrium. And its advocates also include U.S.-designated terrorist groups like Hamas, whose charter calls for the genocide of Jews and Israel’s destruction. Bishop Desmond Tutu, meanwhile, has supported recognizing Hamas as a legitimate political entity and compared its leaders—who target civilians, use human shields and run a kleptocratic Islamist theocracy in Gaza—to Nelson Mandela, the South African anti-apartheid leader.

BDS activists and leaders are clear on their true objectives, even while The Post and Palumbo-Liu obfuscate. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti has openly called for the end of the Jewish nation of Israel. According to U.S. congressional testimony by a former U.S. Treasury Department terror analyst named Jonathan Schanzer, some BDS groups have links to terrorist organizations like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

No other country in the world faces a systematic campaign to boycott it—only the world’s sole Jewish state. But in Israel, Arabs sit on the Supreme Court, hold elected offices and enjoy a higher standard of living and greater political freedoms than anywhere else in the Middle East. By contrast, Palestinians living under the rule of Fatah in the West Bank or Hamas in the Gaza Strip do not have free and fair elections, and those who practice religions other than Islam face punishment or death.

Indeed, two days before Palumbo-Liu’s Oct. 13 op-ed in the Post, the Arab-Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh noted that a Palestinian man in Jericho was sentenced by a Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority court to “one year in prison for ‘insulting’ the prophets.” BDS supporters, however, were silent—just as they were when the P.A.’s prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, admitted on March 16, 2016 that torture “happens” in P.A.-run prisons. Their concern for Palestinians is feigned. But their obsession with and hatred of Israel is very real.

Yet the Post perennially misleads about the nature of BDS. An Oct. 8 report described BDS activities as merely ranging from “discouraging the purchase of goods produced in Israeli settlements to pressuring international companies not to conduct business in Israel and urging celebrities not to visit or perform in the Jewish state.” Two other recent Post articles, both on the University of Michigan controversy, also omitted key details about BDS.

As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) has detailed, one Oct. 9 dispatch falsely claimed that BDS supporters “distinguish” between the Israeli government and Jews. However, a mere five days before that article was published, BDS activists “disrupted the presentation of an Israeli Holocaust film in Berlin,” noted The Jerusalem Post.

CAMERA has, on several occasions, sent Post staff congressional testimony highlighting the movement’s ties to terrorist-linked entities, as well as statements by BDS activists like Anna Waltzer, who exhorted: “We need to wipe out Israel.”

The Post, it seems, has its narrative. And the paper isn’t going to let facts get in its way.

The Washington Post’s own policies and standards, listed on its website, state that the “first mission of a newspaper is to tell the truth as nearly as the truth may be ascertained.” Further, “the newspaper shall tell ALL the truth so far as it can learn it, concerning the important affairs of America and the world.”

The English philosopher and writer Aldous Huxley purportedly said: “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Nor do they cease to exist because The Washington Post, which fancies itself a purveyor of truth, refuses to print them.

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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