Lopsided coverage of the Israeli elections by ‘The Washington Post’

In contrast to its numerous reports on the Israeli elections, the newspaper has continued to neglect Palestinian politics.

“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.

For a newspaper that expends considerable column space on Israel, The Washington Post shows little understanding of the Jewish state’s politics—and even less comprehension of that of the Palestinians. Recent coverage of Israeli and Palestinian political developments proves it.

After months of anticipation, Israel held elections on April 9. Several hours after polls closed, it was announced that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had retained enough seats to continue in his premiership.

The Post devoted inordinate coverage to the elections. The newspaper published no fewer than 20 reports and op-eds on the event, as well as an editorial.

Ishaan Tharoor, The Post’s World Views columnist, was perhaps the worst. In his column of April 10, Tharoor wrote,”Israel’s politics lurched definitively to the right under Netanyahu’s watch, as he presided over the slow-motion collapse of the peace process with the Palestinians.” In another analysis, penned the day before the election, Tharoor claimed Netanyahu had a “long history of sabotaging the two-state solution.”

In fact, as The Post‘s editorial board noted on Dec. 29, 2016, in 2009 Netanyahu “imposed a temporary construction freeze” in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) in order to advance peace talks (“On Israel, we’re right back where Obama started”). However, this was to no avail; Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas refused to sit down and negotiate—a violation of the Oslo Accords that created the P.A. in the first place, and which remain the basis for its support.

Additionally, in his first premiership, Netanyahu signed the Wye River Accords and initiated withdrawals from Hebron among other places. He did so despite the fact that the Palestinian leadership, then under Yasser Arafat, continued to promote violence and terrorism against Israelis throughout the 1990s’ Oslo “peace process.” Indeed, as CAMERA has highlighted, Arafat admitted—in several recorded statements—that he still coveted all of Israel as “Palestine” and viewed Oslo as part of a deception. As Arafat stated in a 1996 speech in Stockholm: “We plan to eliminate the State of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian state. We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and population explosion. … We Palestinians will take over everything, including all of Jerusalem.” (“The Oslo Diaries and Yasser Arafat’s Trunk,” JNS, Sept. 20, 2018)

Other Post reports, such as the April 10 article “Netanyahu win would complicate prognosis for peace plan, analysts say,” echoed Tharoor’s line. So did an April 10 Post op-ed by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA), which charged Netanyahu with violating Palestinian human rights and obstructing a two-state solution (“Congress cannot afford to ignore Netanyahu’s embrace of the far right”). Like Tharoor, both representatives also claim that Netanyahu has expanded Israeli settlements — Jewish communities in the West Bank—a claim that, as CAMERA detailed in an Oct. 18, 2017, Algemeiner op-ed, is not only false but contradicted by The Post’s own reporting (see, for example “Does The Washington Post Even Read The Washington Post?”).

Similarly, an April 14 column by Post editorial writer Jackson Diehl warned that Netanyahu’s election might “foreclose the possibility of a deal on Palestinian statehood” (“Netanyahu was a cautious leader—until Trump came along”).

All of these commentaries have one thing in common: they completely omit the role and responsibility of Palestinian leadership, which has rejected offers for peace in exchange for statehood in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference (“Missed Opportunity: Olmert, Abbas and Media Bias,” Tablet Magazine, Nov. 23, 2015). The P.A. also refused U.S. and Israeli proposals to restart negotiations in 2014 and 2016 (“Abbas said ‘no’ to Obama on 3 core peace process issues,” Times of Israel, March 22, 2014). Indeed, on Feb. 15, 2016, P.A. Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki exhorted that he would never directly negotiate with Israel — remarks that The Post, among others, failed to report.

By contrast, Israeli governments of various political stripes, including Netanyahu’s, accepted and/or made these offers.

Yet in what can only be described as a concerted campaign of ignorance, The Washington Post—in more than four years worth of reporting—has failed to detail these offers, all of which were not only rejected, but rejected without so much as a counter-offer. The Post‘s failure to report this Palestinian rejectionism, and the paper’s commensurate insistence on blaming the Israeli government, raises questions about its bias.

Not only has the P.A. refused statehood in exchange for peace, it has continued to incite anti-Jewish violence—a fact that is a matter of public record, but which The Post omits. Indeed, as CAMERA highlighted in a March 2, 2019, Washington Examiner op-ed, the P.A. has continued to pay Palestinians to commit terrorist attacks (“The Palestinian Authority has chosen terrorism over U.S. foreign aid”). The Trump administration warned the P.A. that it would lose U.S. aid if it continued its so-called “pay to slay” program. P.A. leaders, however, chose to prioritize terrorism and, as a result, have lost that financial assistance (“Abbas vows to continue stipends to terrorists even with PA’s last penny,” Times of Israel, July 24, 2018).

Instead of ruminating on what this might say about the priorities of Palestinian leadership, The Post whitewashed the P.A.’s decision. Tharoor simply said that Trump cut “vital aid” to Palestinian programs, and Sen. Van Hollen and Rep. Connolly claimed that “humanitarian assistance” to Palestinians was ended as “part of a strategy to force Palestinians to abandon their aspirations for their future.” That the aid was cut because it made terrorism fungible was a detail that The Post declined to mention.

In contrast to its numerous reports on the Israeli elections, the newspaper has continued to neglect Palestinian politics. Indeed, when the P.A. announced in March 2019 that it would be appointing a new prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, The Post failed to provide any original reporting or commentaries on the appointment. Instead, it merely reprinted an AP dispatch.

Shtayyeh’s appointment is significant; P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas is an ailing and deeply unpopular octogenarian who is currently in the fifteenth year of a single four-year term. The P.A. itself hasn’t held elections since 2006. Abbas and the Fatah leadership that dominates the P.A. unilaterally created the new government. Shtayyeh took office on April 15—an occurrence that The Post, yet again, failed to report (“Mohammad Shtayyeh sworn in as new P.A. prime minister,” JNS, April 15, 2019).

Similarly, when Palestinians took to the streets this March 2019 to protest Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip, The Washington Post largely ignored the protests (“Palestinian Lives Don’t Matter,” The New York Times, March 21, 2019). Hamas shot and tortured Palestinians, including journalists, but The Post failed to cover what was termed the “Hunger Revolution.” Only belatedly—more than a week after the protests began—did The Post note the events in a few throwaway sentences in March 15 report on an Israeli strike against Gazan terrorists who shot a rocket at Tel Aviv (“Israel says it struck 100 targets in Gaza after two rockets were fired at Tel Aviv”). The latter is but further proof that The Washington Post is entirely unwilling to report about Palestinians unless Israel is involved.

Indeed, as CAMERA has highlighted, The Washington Post‘s own job description for its Jerusalem bureau chief makes clear that covering Palestinians is not a priority for the newspaper (for details see “The Washington Post, Palestinians and the Super Bowl,” CAMERA, March 8, 2019). Nor, for all of their professed concern about Palestinian human rights, did Sen. Van Hollen and Rep. Connolly make any statements or issue any press releases about Hamas’s brutal repression in Gaza—a fact that CAMERA confirmed in phone calls to their offices.

The press plays a key role in the policy-making process. And when it comes to the Israel-Islamist conflict, The Washington Post is misinforming policymakers and readers alike by propagating a narrative that blames Israelis and infantilizes Palestinians—a narrative that, among other things, offers complicit silence for the crimes of Palestinian autocracy and sneering condemnation for Israeli democracy.

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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