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‘Washington Post’ finally covers Palestinian human-rights abuses

Readers should welcome the newspaper’s sudden, if belated, attention to the draconian measures employed by Palestinian leaders against their own people.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 26. Credit: U.N. Photo/Amanda Voisard.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 26. Credit: U.N. Photo/Amanda Voisard.
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 Washington Post is finally covering the systematic violations of human rights by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

In an Oct. 23 dispatchPost reporters Ruth Eglash and Sufian Taha noted “the extreme lengths to which the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip go to curb dissenting voices.” The newspaper highlighted a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report that was released on Oct. 23 about “Palestinian leadership’s persecution of journalists and activists.”

The Post’s decision to note the repressive tactics of Palestinian officials should be commended; as CAMERA detailed in a June 29 op-ed, many Western media outlets fail to cover such abuses (“The Media Is Not Pro-Palestinian, Just Anti-Israel,” The Daily Caller).

The newspaper pointed out that HRW’s report listed more than 80 cases of torture and arbitrary arrests, “some for nothing more than writing a critical article or Facebook post.” Both Hamas and the P.A. downplayed the report as consisting largely “of isolated cases,” the Post said. However, this is false.

The P.A. and Hamas routinely commit human-rights violations. CAMERA documented several instances in an Oct. 7, 2017 Times of Israel op-ed titled “The Growing Autocracy of the Palestinian Authority.” For example, in September 2017, the P.A. arrested Mohamed Jabir, a former member of the terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Jabir was imprisoned for posting Facebook pictures of him visiting with a member of Israel’s Knesset.

Later that month, a former Hamas member turned peace advocate, Mosab Hassan Yousef, accused the P.A. itself of being “the greatest enemy of the Palestinian people,” in a Sept. 27, 2017 speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council. But as CAMERA noted at the time, many major U.S. media outlets, including the Post, failed to report both Yousef’s speech and Jabir’s arrest, just as they failed to report P.A. Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s March 16, 2016 admission that “torture happens” in P.A.-run prisons.

Indeed, CAMERA has highlighted several incidents of the P.A. and Hamas threatening and imprisoning Palestinians for expressing political opinions (see, for example, “Hamas Cracks Down on Palestinian Journalists,” Jan. 13, 2016).

In 2016, the Independent Commission for Human Rights, a Palestinian group that seeks to promote “inherent values of justice, equality and human rights,” reported a “surge” in complaints about torture in P.A. and Hamas prisons. Indeed, in December 2015, the Palestinian Center for Developments and Media Freedoms accused P.A. security forces of using “violent means” against journalists. ICHR’s director general, Dr. Ammar Dwaik, noted that a high percentage of the 782 complaints regarding torture involved journalists, some of who were “summoned for interrogation or briefly detained for posting controversial comments on social media, especially Facebook.”

The Post ignored this as well and, in the fall of 2017, declined to publish a CAMERA op-ed highlighting such abuses.

However, it raises the question: Why now and not earlier?

The Post noted that HRW’s “report comes as the issues of press freedom in the Middle East and the treatment of dissidents have been highlighted following the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul” on Oct. 2. But as an explanation, this doesn’t suffice; other organizations have been highlighting P.A. and Hamas abuses for years.

The answer, seemingly, is that the newspaper and other media outlets, including The New York Times, covered the abuses solely because Human Rights Watch, which itself has a history of overlooking such crimes, belatedly decided to detail them in a report. As noted above, numerous other organizations—many of them Palestinian—have been detailing allegations of mistreatment by the P.A. and Hamas. But this failed to spur the level of media attention that has occurred after HRW’s report.

As CAMERA has pointed out, HRW has a long history of anti-Israel bias. HRW has even used the criticism that it receives from “pro-Israel pressure groups” to get funds from wealthy Saudi donors (“Minority Report,” New Republic, April 27, 2010). HRW’s own founder, Robert Bernstein, repudiated the group in a Oct. 19, 2009 New York Times op-ed that noted the nonprofit organization was guilty of “helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.”

For its part, The Washington Post has frequently relied on HRW as a source—often uncritically quoting the organization on Israel, despite its documented bias against the Jewish state.

Further, the Post’s recent attempt to report on Palestinian human rights abuses was incomplete. The paper failed to detail Hamas’s use of human shields, a double war crime and terror tactic that HRW has often obfuscated on. Additionally, The Post has yet to cover the P.A.’s “escalation of actions those who sell land and property to Jews,” as documented in an Oct. 24 Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) report.

JCPA analyst Yoni Ben Menachem noted that “as part of this campaign, a Palestinian realtor with dual Israeli and U.S. citizenship was abducted to Ramallah were he is held in an interrogation cell.” P.A. forces imprisoned the realtor, whom, according to Arab-language media reports, is named Isam Jalal Akel, several days before the Post’s report (“For Palestinians, Selling Land to Jews is Punishable by Death,” Algemeiner, Oct. 22, 2018). Under P.A. law, it is illegal to sell or rent property to Jews.

Perhaps if the Post and other media outlets didn’t rely so heavily on anti-Israel organizations and had a greater diversity of sources, they could’ve reported the story of Palestinian human-rights abuses at an earlier date. Tragically, Palestinian leaders repressing their own people is nothing new. It is, however, newsworthy.

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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