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Eye On The PostARCHIVE JULY - OCT, 2006

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Disconnect Between the Washington Post's Anti-Israel, Pro-Arab News Reporting and Its Editorial Pages - Washington Post Editorials Provide News Its Reporters Are Unwilling to Report

In recent Alerts we've noted that the Post deliberately fails to report news that doesn't fit squarely within its anti-Israel, pro-Arab agenda. The most recent example was this past weekend when the Post failed to report a speech by Ismail Haniyeh, the elected Hamas leader of the Palestinian Authority, delivered at a huge Hamas rally on Friday, in which he again proclaimed that Hamas will never recognize Israel. We circulated an alert to many thousands of Post readers around the world pointing out that this news story was widely covered by other news sources, but the best effort of the Washington Post, with its vaunted news correspondents stationed in the world's trouble spots, was an article about the declining marriage rate among Palestinians caused by economic conditions in the West Bank and Gaza. The Post's own web site covered the Haniyeh story with an article from the wire services, but this article never made the print edition of the Post. (Haniyeh: Hamas Won't Recognize Israel, 10-8-06)

Today the Post published an excellent editorial that for the first time noted Haniyeh's speech and pointed out the absurdity of the world's leaders continuing to call for resumption of peace efforts when the Palestinian leadership continues to demonstrate it is not interested in peace. (Intransigent Hamas, It's easy to call for a Middle East peace. But what if Palestinian leaders don't want it?, 10-11-06, A18) It appears that someone at the Post is trying to bring its readers some balance. Too bad it's not coming from the news side of the operation. At a time of declining readership, management at the Post might consider whether the Post's news reporting from Israel and the disputed territories is living up to its reputation and its readers' expectations.


Saturday, October 7, 2006

Post Downplays Hamas's Continued Belligerence - Ignores Another Declaration That Hamas Will Never Recognize Israel's Right to Exist - And All The While The Post's Correspondent In Israel Busies Himself Preparing An Article About The Declining Marriage Rate Among Palestinian Men

How does the Washington Post's correspondent in Israel do his job? He ignores anything reflecting poorly on Hamas or suggesting that Palestinians may be responsible for their own misfortunes and broadcasts anything that can be used to arouse sympathy for Palestinians or place blame on Israel. In a speech Friday Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, declared once again that Hamas will never recognize Israel's right to exist. It was reported on the wire services and in all major newspapers in the region, yet the Post didn't even report it in its world news roundup section called "World In Brief." Instead, the Post's correspondent was busy preparing an article for Sunday's paper about the declining marriage rate among Palestinians caused by poor economic conditions resulting in part from the cut off of aid to the Hamas led government. (West Bank Weddings Losing Some of Their Bling, 10-8-06, A20) Ironically, on a day when Scott Wilson failed to report Hamas having once again reiterated its refusal to accede to Israeli and Quartet conditions for resumption of aid -- that it, among other things, recognize Israel and renounce violence -- Mr. Wilson, in describing the poor economic conditions among Palestinians giving rise to the declining number of weddings, completely fails to so much as mention the belligerence of the Hamas run government as one of the causes of those poor economic conditions:

"As the Palestinian government withers without foreign aid and Israeli tax payments, large clans are reasserting their authority as the enforcers of conservative rituals that have dictated life in towns like this one for generations."

This is one more example of the Post cleansing its pages of news and context that doesn't fit neatly within its agenda to propagandize the Palestinian cause as righteous.


Sunday, October 1, 2006

The Washington Post, As A Leader Among World's Media, Sets Poor Example By Deliberate Refusal To Report Continuing Incitement By Palestinian Leadership of Hatred and Violence in Mosques and Schools

The following analysis by Leo Rennert speaks for itself. While the Washington Post and other media editorialize for peace in the Middle East, and their correspondents infuse their reporting with expressions of dismay over the continuing violence, they deliberately refrain from reporting one element that makes real peace at this time impossible; the continuing Palestinian indoctrination of its masses to anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hatred and violence. The Post's leadership would be acting responsibly to instruct its reporters to focus attention on this aspect of one of the world's most troubled regions.


To: Washington Post Executives and Editors
From: Leo Rennert
Date: 9-28-06
Subject: Why There's No Reporting Of Vicious Anti-Semitic and Anti-Israel Incitement By Palestinians 

One of the most critical aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- vast, pervasive, vicious anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incitement by Palestinians and their Arab neighbors -- is regularly blanked out by the Washington Post and other media.

It's not as if the sulfurous manifestations of this phenomenon that often rises to genocidal preachings are not newsworthy. Evidence abounds. It's right there under the noses of Scott Wilson, the Post's Jerusalem correspondent, and many of his colleagues.

There are videos on Palestinian Authority TV instructing young children that a bright future and 72 virgins await them in Paradise if they become "martyrs." There are sermons in Palestinian mosques advocating the killing of Israelis as the Palestinians' highest calling. Fatwas enjoining Arabs to kill Jews wherever they can find them are commonplace. Hamas indoctrinates children from kindergarten on to regard Jews in the Middle East as people to be eradicated. Textbooks are similarly inciteful.

Scott Wilson repeatedly has rebuffed requests to report on the anti-Semitic diatribes in the Hamas charter. Ditto when his attention was called during the last Palestinian elections to a popular Hamas candidate, known as the "Mother of Martyrs," who ran on a platform of total delight for having sacrificed two of her sons already as blessed terrorists and praying that her remaining sons would meet similar fates. Not a word about any of that in the Washington Post.

Among Palestinians and their Arab neighbors, the notorious forgery, "the Protocols of the Elders of Zion" -- the mother of all modern anti-Semitic tracts -- is a best seller.

Yet, readers of the Post and audiences of most other U.S. newspapers and TV news programs are kept in the dark about such nefarious incitement and propaganda, which nurture new generations of Jew-and Israel-haters who have no interest in a genuine two-state solution, because they've been brought up to believe that it's their sacred calling to cleanse Israel and Jews from the Middle East. The U.S.-brokered road map requires, as an initial step, a halt to this incitement. But that also never merits any mention in press reports about the "peace process" or new "peace initiatives."

WHY?

The immediate, short answer, of course is that most of our media use a double standard -- rigorous, hard-edged scrutiny of Israel but gloves-on, politically correct, mild treatment of the Palestinian/Arab side.

But that's by no means the entire answer.

I would suggest that the underlying reason for this self-censorship is a widespread media paradigm that regards the ills and deprivations that have befallen the Palestinians as resulting mainly, even totally, from U.S.-backed Israeli policies and actions. It's the Palestinians as victims of Israel and the U.S. If our media were to behave responsibly and not sweep vicious Palestinian/Arab incitement under the rug, that would no longer allow Palestinians to always blame someone else, but instead point up that most of their misery is self-inflicted. Gone would be the convenient David-Goliath comparisons that give Palestinians a free pass on how they shaped their own culture into a bellicose, jihadist engine that repeatedly brings them more grief.

And this unrelenting Palestinian incitement -- with Jews regularly depicted as "pigs" and "apes" -- is not limited to attacks against Israel or the United States. (Palestinian Prime Minister Haniyeh regularly blasts George Bush) The target of this incitement brackets the West as well. In recent days, as the Muslim world has gone berserk about Pope Benedict's remarks, the most ferocious response, including attacks on Christian churches, has come from the Palestinian territories.

A Gaza imam went so far as to call Bendedict "a racist pope and puppet to George Bush." To appreciate the enormity of this slander, you have to remember that the Vatican, including this pope, time and again have gone to bat for the Palestinian cause, muffling concerns about Palestinian intimidation of Christians in the Holy Land, while not hesitating to criticize Israel.

Thus, while Israel gets the brunt of vicious Palestinian incitement, it has plenty of company. For Palestinians, their incitement is cost-free; the Washington Post and most other U.S. media let them get away with it completely unchallenged, completely unreported every day.

Leo Rennert
[Leo Rennert is a journalist and former White House correspondent]


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Post Provides Propagandistic Coverage of the War Damage in Lebanon - No Coverage of the War Damage in Israel - No Terrorists - No Cause And Effect - No Context

The imbalance in the Washington Post's anti-Israel, pro-Arab reporting on the aftermath of the Israel-Hezbollah War is patent. The Post's reporter in Lebanon, Anthony Shadid, writes one-sided, front page, sympathetic portrayals of Lebanese citizens living with the destruction in Southern Lebanon, while the Post's Israel reporter, Scott Wilson, sits in the comfort of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem cafes sipping coffee with Peace Now or other so-called "human rights" activists - in reality nothing more than anti-Israel activists - collecting propaganda to spread that will help them in their struggle against Israel. Were the Post to insist upon even a semblance of balance they'd send Wilson packing to the North of Israel to write articles about the destruction wrought upon Israelis by 4,000 Hezbollah missiles to be published hand in hand with Shadid's maudlin articles from Lebanon. 

Today's article by Anthony Shadid involves the unexploaded bomblets sprinkling the Southern Lebanese landscape. (In Lebanon, a War's Lethal Harvest, Threat of Unexploded Bombs Paralyzes the South, 9-26-06, A01) Little (one sentence) is mentioned about the 4,000 Hezbollah rockets (only daily figures are provided... not the total) that crashed down on Israel, and nothing at all is mentioned about the death and destruction they wrought on Israeli civilians. Buried deep within the article, well beyond the probable range of the average reader, was one lonely sentence conceding that Hezbollah fighters were even present in the areas where the bomblets are now being recovered: "Ali and some of his neighbors acknowledged that there were Hezbollah fighters in the town." 

Emotionally charged language condemning Israel is used throughout the article:

"dumbfounded by the intensity"

"scourge"

"'it just seems outrageous'"

"they violate international bans on indiscriminate attacks"

"'impossible for me to work out what the logic was'"
 
"'strikes on top of strikes on top of strikes on top of strikes'"

"'tantamount to shooting a dead body 20 times.'"

"wounding or killing three people a day"

"'contamination'"

"'most extensive contamination I've ever seen'"

"'Rubble and bombs'"

"hundreds of cluster bombs"
 
"thousands of bomblets" 

"As many as 1 million of the bomblets are unexploded"

"'watched a bulldozer claw at the wreckage of his house and business'"

"paralyzed life in parts of the south"

The following letter by Leo Rennert expands on the lopsided presentation given by the Post:


To: Washington Post Executives and Editors
From: Leo Rennert
Date: 9-26-06
Subject: Washington Post Cries For Lebanon - Not for Israel 

As a Washington Post subscriber, the first thing that struck me in reading Anthony Shadid's emotionally poignant article, "Unexplored Bombs Fired by Israel Paralyze Life in Southern Lebanon," is the conspicuous absence of a companion article about the post-war human suffering, residual scars, extensive damage and havoc from Hezbollah's deliberate missile attacks on civilian populations in northern Israel. Why cry only for one side?

That said, examined by itself, Shadid's piece unfortunately all too often veers away from any semblance of journalistic objectivity into sheer, undisguised anti-Israel propaganda.

From the start, Shadid pulls out all the emotional, heart-rending, heart-breaking depictions he can muster to portray the Lebanese as innocent victims harmed by indefensible, brutal Israeli military actions. Just one example of many as he writes about a Lebanese man afraid to go into his orchards because of unexploded ordinance: "His brow sweaty, he watched a bulldozer claw at the wreckage of his house and business. Gray dust billowed up; iron rods still crusted with concrete snapped forward. To the side were the contents of his garage -- mangled car parts and burned tires. 'Rubble and bombs,' he said."

By itself, this is very vivid, effective, up-close and personal writing, bound to evoke sympathy from readers. But that's not Shadid's only agenda. Immediately after this paragraph, he gets into his indictment of Israel for using cluster bombs. International law, he concedes (how could he do otherwise?) "does NOT prohibit the use of cluster bombs." Fine. But that doesn't satisfy Shadid, of course. So he immediately adds: "But because of their wide dispersal, human rights groups have condemned their use in CIVILIAN areas, saying they violate international bans on INDISCRIMINATE attacks."

So, one way or another, Israel is declared guilty right off the bat, in the 8th PARAGRAPH to be exact, in an article that gets major play on the front page and a big spread inside -- 31 PARAGRAPHS in all.

To reinforce Israel's alleged guilt, Shadid adds a couple of paragraphs (Nos. 9 and 10) of more criticism of Israel by U.N. officials. Shadid quotes the U.N. humanitarian coordinator as giving his own military assessment: "It's impossible for me to work out what the logic was. To me, it just seems outrageous that it would happen as it did."

Still, Shadid isn't satisfied. To pile more guilt on Israel, he cites U.N. figures purporting to show a "greater density of unexploded munitions" in Lebanon than after the Kosovo war and the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

But is that a fair, apples-and-apples comparison? If memory serves, in Kosovo, NATO bombings found clear Serbian military targets. Serbian forces operated more like traditional armies, so they could be more easily pinpointed. The same was true with Saddam's military in 2003. But in the Lebanon War, Hezbollah scattered its fighters and missile launchers amidst heavily populated areas. Hezbollah's basic strategy was one of firing at Israel behind human shields. Thus, if Israel was to flush out Hezbollah fighters, it had to contend with a far wider range of difficult-to-reach targets. Aware of this predicament, Israel gave ample advance warnings to civilians to get out of these battle zones and warned them again after the cease-fire not to return prematurely precisely because of the danger of unexploded cluster bomblets.

But Shadid doesn't want Post readers to know that part of the story. He doesn't get around to a brief acknowledgment of the thousands of missiles fired during the war by Hezbollah against populated Israeli areas until the 14th paragraph, and is absolutely silent on the multiple protections Israel took to minimize civilian casualties on the Lebanese side.

Instead, Shadid keeps piling on his emotional, human cameos, taking us to the "barren hills outside Majdel Selm, (where) several goats killed by the bomblets were piled up, the stench of their rotting carcasses carried by the breeze."

It's there that he interviews Hussein Ali, a municipal worker, and finally in the 26th PARAGRAPH provides a telling revelation: "ALI AND SOME OF HIS NEIGHBORS ACKNOWLEDGED THAT THERE WERE HEZBOLLAH FIGHTERS IN THE TOWN." 

Wow! How does that square with Shadid's suggestion in PARAGRAPH NO. 8 that Israel violated international laws on indiscriminate attacks by using cluster bombs in CIVILIAN areas?

If the Post and Shadid were engaged in fair, even-handed journalism, they would have paired in the same part of the story the charges that Israel indiscriminately attacked CIVILIAN areas with the acknowledgment of local residents that these WERE NOT CIVILIAN AREAS. But that would have neutered the Post's and Shadid's anti-Israel agenda. So the refutation is buried way toward the end of a lengthy article where most readers who might have started reading Shadid's piece have long since peeled off and gone on to other articles in the paper.

From my own reading of the Post's recent coverage, it's quite clear that Shadid, its Beirut correspondent, is imbued with great empathy for the Lebanese people. That's a plus, a distinct virtue that shouldn't be discounted -- UNLESS it gets in the way of objective reporting and turns him into an advocate and propagandist tossing aside his responsibilities as a professional journalist.

Of course, it goes without saying that Scott Wilson and his predecessors as the Post's Jersualem correspondents are not saddled with similar deeply felt empathy for Israelis. No way!

Leo Rennert
[Leo Rennert is a journalist and former White House correspondent]


Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Post Advances Its Agenda By Selectively Failing To Report Important News

What the Washington Post fails to report is often as telling about its agenda as what it does report. Today the Post published a lengthy front page story about Hezbollah's self-styled victory rally in Lebanon, while ignoring three other important stories that were widely reported elsewhere. 

On Thursday Mahomoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, in a speech at the United Nations, announced the formation of a unity government between Hamas and Fatah and said that it would recognize Israel and agree to abide by prior agreements with Israel. Yesterday, less than 24 hours after Abbas' announcement, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas announced that not only would Hamas not recognize Israel, but he would never lead a government that would recognize Israel. The Post did not report this story, but it was widely reported elsewhere. The importance of this story was highlighted when today Mahmoud Abbas announced that the agreement to form the unity government had collapsed.

Last Sunday gunmen shot at least 10 bullets into the main synagogue in Oslo, Norway, and yesterday Norwegian authorities arrested and charged 4 suspected terrorists with shooting up the synagogue, plotting to blow up the US and Israeli embassies and plotting to kidnap and cut off the head of the Israeli ambassador.

The last story the Post failed to mention involved Palestinians in the West Bank on Friday engaging in a twenty minute shooting attack on a Catholic church in Nablus, throwing pipe bombs at a church in Gaza and marching with Hamas flags against the Pope, calling him a coward and agent of the US. 

Each of these stories involves belligerent and violent behavior by Islamic extremists or Palestinians, a subject habitually downplayed by the Post.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Washington Post Airbrushes Syria's And Iran's Roles As The Powers Behind Hezbollah, Justifies Hezbollah's Refusal To Disarm, And Describes Hezbollah As A Legitimate Representative Party in Lebanese Politics

In an article in Sunday's paper analyzing (although not described as "analysis") demographic changes in Lebanon as they affect Lebanon's political future, Post correspondent Edward Cody, reporting from Lebanon, virtually ignores the role of Syria and Iran as meddling outside forces who created and support Hezbollah. (Lebanon Left to Face Most Basic of Issues, War Exposes Deep Conflicts About the Nation's Identity and Its Future, 9-10-06, A20) Cody argues that the dramatic increase in the Shiite population in Lebanon over the years explains and justifies Hezbollah's actions in assuming power, taking on an unofficial governing role, dragging the country into a destructive war with Israel and, in the war's aftermath, refusing to disarm.

On the justification for Hezbollah's refusal to disarm, Cody says: 

"But because Lebanon's political institutions do not reflect Hezbollah's wider support in the population, the militant Shiite Muslim movement has made it clear that greater changes will be needed before it lays down its arms." 

Cody sidesteps the chicken/egg question and suggests Hezbollah merely takes up the slack in imposing its leadership where the government has declined to do so:

"Hezbollah's emergence as a political party and armed militia was in large measure a response to that shift. In effect, the organization stepped in to represent Shiites because many of them felt the government did not, particularly in the southern hills along the border with Israel.

'We are not a replacement for the state,' Hasan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, said in a recent televised interview. 'But where the state is absent, we have to take up the slack.'"

Cody completely ignores that Hezbollah provoked a destructive war with Israel and tries to depict Hezbollah as sacrificing itself by fighting the Lebanese government's battles for it:

"Lebanon's official, Maronite-led army sat out the conflict, for instance, while Hezbollah's militia, which was better armed, did the fighting and dying."

According to Cody it was because of this sacrifice that Lebanon's leader, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, had to consult with Hezbollah's leader, Hasan Nasrallah, in making decisions:

"As a result, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a Sunni economist, spoke in the name of Lebanon and received foreign visitors such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for negotiations about the war. But he had to check with Nasrallah regarding important decisions, because Hezbollah was the seat of Lebanon's real power of war or peace."

Buried deep in the article opposing viewpoints of various Lebanese factions are provided, but it is far too little, too late. Mr. Cody's effort to convince readers that Hezbollah is a responsible political party, independent of Iran and Syria, representing the interests of its constituents in Lebanon, borders on the absurd. A much more realistic and balanced account of the current anti-Hezbollah tensions in Lebanon can be seen here: Lebanon: Internal Strife Erupts After War, YNet News, 9-10-06

Leo Rennert's letter below defines in greater detail Mr. Cody's distorted political analysis:


To: Washington Post Executives and Editors
From: Leo Rennert
Date: 9-10-06
Subject: Washington Post's Blinkered, Pro-Hezbollah View Of Lebanese Politics

In the Sunday, Sept. 10, edition of the Washington Post, a lengthy article by Edward Cody, the Post's Beirut correspondent, attempts to give readers an inside look at Lebanon's fractured politics and inter-communal tensions between Shiites, Sunnis and Maronite Christians -- a pattern Cody describes as having been exacerbated by the recent war between Hezbollah and Israel.

While Cody goes into great detail about the historic and contemporary facets of internal Lebanese divisions, his piece is badly flawed because of his portrayal of Hezbollah as merely a rising power reflecting Shiite discontent with the political status quo and because of his failure to do justice to Syria's deep and divisive involvement in Lebanese politics.

Cody's overarching theme is Lebanon's demographic shift -- a shrunken Maronite minority eclipsed by a fast-growing Shiite bloc. While this trend may be accurate, Cody leaves readers with the erroneous impression that this somehow is the primary or sole reason for the rise of Hezbollah. Or, as he puts it, "Hezbollah's emergence as a political party and armed militia was in large measure a response to that shift."

But there's far more to Hezbollah than its role as a Shiite political bloc, pushing for more power in Lebanon. Hezbollah also is an extension of Iran's agenda to become the dominant regional power and, in the process, to annihilate Israel. Thus, Hezbollah has a dual political personality -- an internal one in Lebanese politics but an external one that seeks to use Lebanon as a base to attack Israel, whether a majority of Lebanese endorse such an agenda or not. Unfortunately, Cody's article makes no mention of this basic dual aspect of Hezbollah. Cody even goes so far as to suggest -- against all available evidence -- that Hezbollah would lay down its arms if Shiites gained more political power. Given Hezbollah's declared intent to further Iran's aims to wipe out Israel, it defies belief that it would voluntarily demilitarize and morph into an exclusively political entity if it got a few more members in Parliament or the Cabinet.

Instead, Cody goes to great lengths to sanitize Hezbollah's real aims. He uncritically quotes Hezbollah leader Sheik Nasrallah as denying his militia's state-within-a-state presence in Lebanon: "We are not a replacement for the state. But where the state is absent, we have to take up the slack." Cody goes even further by suggesting that the Lebanese Army should have rushed to Hezbollah's side in the recent war -- never mind that Hezbollah flouted the authority of the central government with a free-lance, cross-border attack against Israel. But, as Cody puts it, "Lebanon's official, Maronite-led army sat out the conflict, while Hezbollah's militia, which was better armed, did the fighting and dying."

Thus, according to Cody, the Lebanese Army -- more so than Hezbollah -- contributed to exacerbation of internal political strains in Lebanon!

What Cody fails to mention -- and this is but a continuation of the Post's coverage of the Lebanese side of the war -- is that Hezbollah is not the unquestioned, political rising star in Lebanon he would have readers believe. For example, his article makes only the barest mention of Sunni, Maronite and Druse backlash against the vast destruction brought about by Hezbollah's reckless attack against Israel. Much of this backlash emerged soon after the start of the war, but the Post paid it little attention -- and continues to downplay its significance. Totally absent from Cody's article are the Lebanese Druse, a significant political force, and their leader Walid Jumblatt, the fiercest Hezbollah critic since the end of the war.

Another glaring flaw is the suggestion that only Hezbollah represents Lebanese Shiites. Not so. Even among Shiites, there are many who have blamed Hezbollah for the suffering they had to endure and who pursue their own separate political agendas and power.

Finally, there is the untold story of Syria's historic and continuing attempts to play a dominant role in Lebanese politics -- despite clear evidence that most Lebanese prefer to run their own affairs. It's beyond belief that an article purporting to delve into intra-Lebanese political tensions makes absolutely no mention of last year's Cedar Revolution -- when most Lebanese stood up to Syria, Hezbollah's patron and arms supplier, and finally forced President Assad to withdraw his occupation troops, while still leaving in place an unknown number of Syrian agents to stymie democratic forces. No mention that just in the last week or so, Assad made threatening noises against the Lebanese government if it dared to allow international observers on Lebanon's side of the border to help prevent continued smuggling of arms to Hezbollah. As if Syria's interference plays no role whatsoever in creating Lebanon's internal political strains.

Cody does mention the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, but inexplicably fails to point out that this was the trigger event for the Cedar Revolution or that pro-Syria Hezbollah was the most visible opponent of Lebanon's lunge toward independence and genuine sovereignty. Nor does Cody mention that U.N. investigators of Hariri's murder have fingered Damascus as the culprit, including several higher-ups in the Syrian security services, plus one or two and relatives of President Assad. In fact, a good argument can be made that Hezbollah's recent war against Israel was part of an Iranian-Syrian strategy to accomplish two things -- a rollback of the Cedar Revolution to open the way for Damascus to re-exert influence in Lebanon and to distract attention from international efforts to halt Iran's development of a nuclear-weapons capacity.

Cody's article falls way short because of a highly selective view of Lebanese politics and history that ignores Hezbollah's real objectives, Syria's real intentions and the depth and breadth of popular opposition to the Syrian-Hezbollah agenda.

Leo Rennert
[Leo Rennert is a journalist and former White House correspondent]


Monday, September 4, 2006

Post Reporter In Lebanon Says: How Dare Israel Violate Lebanon's Sovereignty By Insisting on The Cessation of Weapons Shipments to Hezbollah?!

Israel is being asked to lift its blockade of Lebanon before Lebanon or the UN has fulfilled its mandate to have personnel in place to effectively prevent the rearming of Hezbollah via shipments of weapons across the border. Post reporter Edward Cody makes it abundantly clear he doesn't like the Israeli blockade by injecting the following opinions into his article today (Lebanon Seeks to Reassert Sovereignty Over Borders, 9-5-06, A12):

"With its demand that foreign troops police the ports and border, Israel has prolonged a situation in which some of the most important government functions -- security and border controls -- are being assumed by others."

...and later in the same article:

"The blockade has generated resentment across the political landscape because it dramatizes Israel's continued violation of Lebanese sovereignty. In addition, Lebanon's battered economy needs foreign trade in order to start down the road to recovery. Beirut traditionally has been a hub for transshipment of imports and exports with nearby Arab countries such as Syria."

Mr. Cody apparently has no problem with Syria and Iran being able to rearm Hezbollah and the huge violation of Lebanese sovereignty that entails. He is already setting the stage for further tendentious news reports arguing in support of the free flow of goods (and implicitly weaponry) from Syria into Lebanon. Stay tuned.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Long Time Subscriber Cancels Subscription Over Front Page Propaganda Piece On Gaza

To: Washington Post Executives and Editors
From: Ronald Cohen
Date: August 30, 2006 

After subscribing for over 20 years, we canceled our subscription to the Washington Post Monday after reading the front page article on Gaza. [Israeli Siege Leaves Gaza Isolated and Desperate, 8-29-06, A01] It was a completely false and irresponsible opinion piece masquerading as news. Ironically, the same day the New York times featured an article saying that even Hamas admitted that the problems in Gaza were due to the Palestinians' actions. Your article made us realize that the Washington Post is no longer a reliable news source, and not worth our time or money.

Israel pulled completely out of Gaza, making it a Jew-free zone and giving the Palestinians complete autonomy. The Palestinians could have chosen peace and shown the world how they could govern a civil society. The whole world, including Israel, would have supported them. Gaza could then be not a prison but a beach-front resort zone and garden spot. Instead the Palestinians democratically chose war, and continue to uphold that choice. In fact, the restraint Israel has shown is completely unconscionable. The Palestinians daily shoot rockets at civilians in Israel, and try daily to infiltrate to kill innocent men, women, and children. Its governing body, Hamas, attacked Israel, killing soldiers and kidnapping one, Gilad Shalit, and they continue to violate international law by not even allowing the Red Cross access to Mr. Shalit. Israel, as a sovereign state has not only the right, but the obligation to do everything in its power to protect its citizens and territory against aggression. Many think that it is has not done enough. Yet the Post runs the worst ever "Palestinians as victims" sob story that could have been written by Hamas or Hezbolla news services.

Sincerely,

Ronald Cohen
Silver Spring, MD


Monday, August 28, 2006

Tricks, Sleight Of Hand And Outright Deception Continue At The Post - Headlines Are Skewed - Anti-Israel Propaganda Is Front Loaded Into Articles - History is Ignored and Rewritten


Headline Fabricates Internal Division Among Israelis Over Ethics Of Targeted Killings Of Terrorists

The front page of Sunday's Post featured an excellent article about the struggles of Israeli leaders over last minute decisions on whether to proceed with specific targeted killings of terrorists. (In Israel, a Divisive Struggle Over Targeted Killing, 8-27-06, A01) Unfortunately, the body of this article fell into the hands of an inattentive and/or biased headline writer seeking to advance the Post's long time campaign against targeted killings of terrorists (one was called a "Hamas activist" in this article) per se. The headline - "In Israel, A Divisive Struggle Over Targeted Killings" - was designed to depict Israel as divided over the morality of targeted killings, when in fact there is very little controversy and widespread acceptance among Israelis of the need for the same. In fact, the article itself recalls two leading figures (Avi Dichter and Moshe Yaalon) giving advice to Prime Minister Sharon on a proposed operation in 2003 to kill eight terrorist leaders attending a summit, and they are at odds with each other, not over whether the targeted killing itself is ethical or appropriate, but rather, over how much risk of collateral damage and the extent of collateral damage each is willing to accept. Neither of these individuals has any disagreement over the need to exterminate these killers. Nowhere in the article is there a discussion of any internal division in Israeli society itself over targeted killings. 

The amazing thing is that this institutional ADD seems to have infected the Post's Howard Kurtz, who erroneously says this "piece on Israel wrestling with the ethics of targeted killings of terrorist leaders" is the "best reporting I've ever seen on a very difficult subject."

We agree this was very good reporting on an interesting subject, but that subject certainly did not include an Israeli dilemma over the "ethics of targeted killings of terrorist leaders."


Article Misleads Readers Into Thinking There Was Significant Internal Dissent In The Israeli Military Over The Need To Go To War

Sunday's Post also featured an article whose headline and lead paragraphs were deliberately designed to leave readers with the mistaken impression that there was significant dissent in Israel's military over the need to go to war with Hezbollah. (In Israel, Protests by Soldiers Often Drive Political Change, 8-27-06, A16) The headline suggests as much by concealing that the protesters in Israel right now are not protesting the war itself, but rather, the failure of the government to press the war more aggressively. The article furthers this misleading impression by selecting one single Israeli soldier who opposed the war and refused to fight and elaborating on him at length in the first 3 paragraphs. He is offered as an example of Israel's protesting soldiers. A photograph of the solitary pacifist accompanied the article.  It goes on to note that many protesting Israeli soldiers did fight but came home from the war and went right into protest lines. It isn't until the 4th paragraph that the author tells us that these returning soldiers are protesting the government not fighting harder and longer. What do soldiers who refuse to fight and soldiers who fight and then demonstrate against their government's failure to pursue the war more aggressively have in common that would justify this author lumping them together in the headline and lead paragraphs of this article? Not much. It certainly shows a free and tolerant society, but we doubt that was the goal of this author. It appears to have been a smokescreen to mislead readers into thinking there was/is substantial dissent against the war. It is an example of journalism that misleads, obfuscates, and disguises the truth in pursuit of its own agenda.


Article Rewrites Gaza History - Eliminates Continuous Palestinian Rocketing of Israel Since Evacuation of Gaza - Buries June 25 Hamas Terrorist Killing and Kidnapping of Israeli Soldiers

Monday's Post featured a front page article condemning Israel for all the woes of Gaza residents, eliminating any mention of the steady and provocative stream of rocket attacks into Israeli cities that continued uninterrupted from the time of Israel's evacuation of Gaza a year ago right up to the unprovoked cross border attack by Hamas terrorists on June 25 in which two Israeli soldiers were killed and one Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, was kidnapped. (Israeli Siege Leaves Gaza Isolated and Desperate, 8-29-06, A01) The article is replete with the author's sympathetic portrayals of Palestinians and harsh portrayals of Israelis: 

"....trapped inside the Gaza Strip by a blockade."

"'....We are imprisoned here.'"

"...military and economic siege of the Gaza Strip that is deepening the poverty and desperation...."

"....Gaza Strip's economy has been strangled."

"'Gaza is heading down the tubes...'" 

"'Under this siege, I feel like I am in a big prison ...'" 

"'Gaza lives in the darkness like something in ancient times.' "

"Gaza has been under pressure at least since the 1967 war, when the Israeli army seized the area from Egypt."

"'It's about having 1.4 million people who have no job, no money, no prospects and an acute sense of imprisonment. You have children growing up in a violent and uncivilized society, without the things most countries would take for granted as a normal existence.'"

In recounting the events leading up to the current standoff in Gaza, the author completely skips over the history of continuous rocketing of Israeli towns that preceded the June 25th terrorist attack. He notes only the current rocketing, since June 25th. He describes the current rocketing as follows: 

"The Palestinians launch an average of about six crude Qassam rockets a week into Israel, causing minimal damage, no fatalities and about a dozen injuries since June 28..." 

There is no mention of rocketing before June 28. It has since been dramatically reduced by Israel's military intervention, but the author conceals this fact, because it doesn't fit neatly into his depiction of Israeli conduct as unjustified.  It isn't until the 15th paragraph that there is any mention of the June 25th cross border terrorist attack, and even then it is only one brief sentence that fails to note that the attack was perpetrated by Hamas terrorists. The author calls the attackers "Palestinian gunmen." The author's conspicuous omission of the fact that Hamas perpetrated the June 25 terrorist killings and kidnapping is glaring in light of the article's heavy criticism of Israel and the West for their cutoff of funding to Hamas.

Judge Grossman's letter below shows the depth of the Post's distorted coverage of Palestinian provocations leading up to and continuing in the current military confrontation in Gaza:


To: The Editor, The Washington Post
From: Herbert Grossman
Date: August 28, 2006 

It is bad enough that your lengthy front page article "Israeli Siege Leaves Gaza Isolated and Desperate" (Aug. 28) is a one-sided, tear-jerking propaganda piece about hardships faced by Palestinians in Gaza. But it also leaves unchallenged the fallacious statements of a Hamas representative that the Palestinian rocket attacks into Israeli territory are protective measures, that Israel's response to them and the kidnapping of its soldier are disproportionate, and that the Palestinians have no options but to wait until the siege is over.

All that Hamas and the Palestinians have to do to end the siege, immediately and permanently, is release the kidnapped soldier, stop firing rockets into Israel, and cease their terror operations and preparations, including the importations of weapons with which to carry them out. Had the Palestinians not embarked on any of their so-called "protective" actions to begin with, there would be no siege and Israel would have continued its cooperation in building up Gaza's economy and trade, begun when it withdrew from Gaza but abandoned soon after in response to the Palestinians' hostile actions.

Israel's response to Gaza terror, obviously, is not only not disproportionate, but is not harsh enough, because, while it has severely reduced the rocket attacks and other terror operations by directly targeting the perpetrators and terror apparatus, it has not yet persuaded the Palestinians to end them.

Sincerely, 

Judge Herbert Grossman
[Herbert Grossman, author of the book "J'Accuse the N.Y. Times and Washington Post: Biased Reporting from the Middle East," is a full time Federal Administrative Law Judge]


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Post Gives Front Page Headline and Lead Paragraph Coverage to Lebanese and UN Condemnation of Israel for Bekaa Valley Commando Raid, While Burying Israeli Explanation Deep In The Article - New York Times Report Much Better

Israel's commando raid in the Bekaa Valley on Saturday was, according to Israel, designed to disrupt arms shipments rearming Hezbollah. These arms shipments are illegal under the UN Security Council's resolution suspending the fighting. The resolution explicitly gave Israel the right to respond defensively to violations by Hezbollah. The Post's coverage of the raid sought to obfuscate these facts and bury Israel's justification. (Israel Strikes Deep in Lebanon, Premier, U.N. Chief Condemn Attack as Violation of Truce, 8-20-06, A01) As Leo Rennert's letter below demonstrates, prominent placement and emphasis of the Lebanese and UN condemnations of Israel in the headline and early paragraphs of the front page portion of the article and the withholding of Israel's position until the non-front page, interior portion of the article, probably prevented many readers from learning of Israel's position:


To: Washington Post Executives and Editors
From: Leo Rennert
Date: 8-20-06
Subject: Washington Post's Anti-Israel Bias On Truce "Violations"

Israel staged a commando raid on Hezbollah positions in Lebanon on Saturday to interdict arms shipments to Hezbollah from Syria. Under the U.N. Security Council's cease-fire resolution, such shipments constitute a violation of the cease-fire. Under the same resolution, Israel is permitted to conduct DEFENSIVE military operations. Interdicting the resupply of rockets that Hezbollah can use to fire at civilians in Israeli towns perhaps as far as Tel Aviv certainly qualifies as a defensive move. If you need a precedent, President Kennedy in 1962 mounted his own defensive operation by ordering a naval quarantine of Cuba -- an act of war under international law -- because Soviet missiles on the island threatened the U.S. Given the strategic threat and the provocation, that made it in the eyes of the world (except in Havana and Moscow) a legally permissible defensive operation.

Now, let's see how the Post covered the Israeli raid. It became the main story on the front page of the August 20 Sunday paper with the headline: "Israel Strikes Deep in Lebanon -- Premier, U.N. Chief Condemn Attack as Violation of Truce." Nothing in the headline about Israel's statement to the contrary.

It gets worse. The second sentence of the lead paragraph reads: "Lebanon called the attack a 'flagrant violation' of a fragile six-day-old cease-fire." Still nothing about Israel's rebuttal. Still nothing about illegal arms shipments into Lebanon. Still nothing about what the cease-fire resolution's terms actually are.

The 3rd paragraph finally mentions that Israel said it carried out the raid to interdict weapons shipments to Hezbollah. But still nothing about Israel's contention that this DID NOT violate the cease-fire. And still nothing about what the cease-fire resolution actually says.

It gets worse. The Post again piles on Israel in the 4th paragraph: "Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told reporters in Beirut that the attack was a 'flagrant violation' of the U.N. cease-fire." Notice that this is an exact repeat of the catchy "flagrant violation" quote the Post already used in the 1st paragraph. Reporters always are told not to regurgitate in a story content they've already penned higher up. But the anti-Israel quote has too much resonance at the Post to be used only once. And still nothing about Israel's rebuttal that this was NOT a violation of the cease-fire and still nothing about the terms of the cease-fire resolution.

It gets worse. In the 5th paragraph, the Post quotes U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan as declaring that Israel violated the cease-fire agreement. Still nothing about Israel saying it did no such thing. And, naturally, no mention that Annan, in his public statements about Israel's battles against Palestinian terrorists left a trail of reflexive anti-Israel pronouncements that, upon later investigation and reflection, turned out to be wrong, sometimes even by his own admission (see his incendiary charge against Israel when a Palestinian family got wiped out during an explosion on a Gaza beach, when Annan immediately blamed an Israeli strike only to admit later that he didn't have all the facts, which turned out to be otherwise). And still nothing about Israel's rebuttal that this was NOT a violation of the cease-fire and still nothing about the terms of the cease-fire resolution.

It gets worse. At this point, the story ends on the front page and continues inside on page A12. Thus, lots of Post readers who don't go beyond the front page wouldn't have the slightest idea that there's another side to this story! They'd be left with the clear impression that Israel -- and only -- Israel threatens the truce with a clear violation. 

It gets worse. The headline over the jump on page A12 reinforces the false charge by the Lebanese PM. It reads: "Lebanon Threatens to Halt Deployment." It says nothing about Israel's denial of a violation of the cease-fire.

It gets worse. It is not until the 9th paragraph that the Post FINALLY cites a denial by an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman that this was a truce violation. Yet, still nowhere in the story is there the slightest reporting by the Post of what the cease-fire resolution states about letting Israel conduct defensive operations or about its mandate of an absolute embargo on illegal arms shipments to Hezbollah.

If you need another perspective on how biased the Post story is, look no further than the NY Times treatment of the same event, also in its main story on page one.

The Times headline reads: "Truce Strained as Israelis Raid Site in Lebanon -- 1 Killed in Night Attack -- Army Says It was Trying to Disrupt the Flow of Arms to Hezbollah." Notice that the Times doesn't rush in with false charges against Israel but alerts readers to what the purpose of the raid was -- something totally missing from the Post's headline.

In the first paragraph, the Times, like the Post, uses the "flagrant violation" quote from the Lebanese prime minister. But then read the 2nd paragraph: "The Israelis said 'the aim of the operation had been to disrupt terrorist activities against Israel and to prevent arms from being transported to Hezbollah from Iran and Syria.' Any such resupply effort would itself violate the security council cease-fire resolution that took effect on Monday."

Thus, the Times, unlike the Post, points out on its own the illegal arms embargo terms in the cease-fire resolution -- something the Post failed to do. And the Times, high up in its story, makes it clear to readers that there's more than one side to this story -- something the Post abjectly fails to do. Times readers didn't have to wait until the inside-page jump of the story to find Israel's version about compliance with the truce. The Times, unlike the Post, gives a fuller, more objective and even-handed report of this entire incident.

Leo Rennert
[Leo Rennert is a journalist and former White House correspondent]


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Washington Post Reporter Propagates Vicious Libel Of Israel - Editor Takes Only Mild Corrective Action - Reporter Alleged Israel Deliberately Leaves Hezbollah Rockets In Place So That Hezbollah Will Continue To Kill Israeli Civilians - When Challenged Says His Source Was Unnamed US Military Analysts - Then Changes To Say Source Was Senior Israeli Official - Now Says Believes It Was Not True In The First Place

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch recently challenged Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie to take appropriate corrective action against the Post's own version of Jayson Blair, with an added element of anti-Israel animus. Downie dropped the ball. What follows is Ed Koch's letter to Downie, followed by excerpts from the reporter's on-air interview, CAMERA's analysis, the reporters reply to the ombudsman's inquiry and Leonard Downie's barely disapproving response to a demonstrated lack of candor and animus toward Israel by one of his reporters.  


You will be interested in correspondence I had with the Executive Editor of The Washington Post concerning the statements of a Washington Post reporter, Tom Ricks.

All the best. 
Ed Koch 


Sent August 17, 2006 By E-Mail 

Mr. Leonard Downie, Jr. 
Executive Editor 
The Washington Post 
1150 15 Street, N.W. 
Washington, D.C. 20071 

Dear Mr. Downie: 

On the August 6th "Reliable Sources" program on CNN, Howard Kurtz's guest was Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks, who stated, "One of the things that is going on, according to some U.S. military analysts, is that Israel purposely has left pockets of Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon, because as long as they're being rocketed, they can continue to have a sort of moral equivalency in their operations in Lebanon."

Kurtz responded, "Hold on, you're suggesting that Israel has deliberately allowed Hezbollah to retain some of its fire power, essentially for PR purposes, because having Israeli civilians killed helps them in the public relations war here?"

Ricks' reply: "Yes, that's what military analysts have told me."

I was shocked when I read Ricks' comments.

Still, I thought to myself, anything is possible in a war. There are crazy people on both sides of every war, but, Dear God, I hope this never happened. A few days later, in a note to the Washington Post Ombudsman, Ricks offered an explanation. He wrote: "What I said was accurate: that in an off-the-record conversation with military analysts, a couple had suggested that the Israeli strategy involved leaving Hezbollah 'rocket pockets' in place so as to shape public perceptions and give their forces more freedom of maneuver in Lebanon. But I've since heard from some smart, well-informed people that while such a strategy might be logical, that the Israeli public just wouldn't stand for it. And they were pretty dismayed that I had passed on the thought."

Ricks also wrote, "My comments were based on a long conversation I had with a senior Israeli official a couple of years ago."

I read the New York City newspapers every day. It happens that when the apology appeared, I was having my annual medical tests and did not see it. When back in my office, I recalled the incident and looked for the news story, but could not locate it. There is, however, one source you can rely on when it comes to keeping track of news stories on the Middle East -- CAMERA -- Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. CAMERA did indeed have both of Ricks'statements, which are enclosed.

I believe Ricks' statements are comparable to the age-old blood libel used by anti-Semites to incite pogroms in Europe. That blood libel, used to show the callousness of Jews and their need for blood, was to the effect that Jews, in preparing for the Passover holiday and Seder dinner, baked matzos with the blood of Christian children whom they are charged with killing for that purpose. The implication of Ricks' anecdote is that Jews would even kill their own children, not to make Matzos, but to receive sympathy, "because as long as they're being rocketed, they can continue to have a sort of moral equivalency in their operations in Lebanon." What Ricks was really saying is that the rockets that fell on Israel were the result of Israel's own design. 

CAMERA points out that on CNN's Reliable Sources, Mr. Ricks described his sources as "some U.S. military analysts," while in his note to the Washington Post, he describes his source as "a senior Israeli official."

Many people watch "Reliable Sources," and they will recall with horror the thought that the Israeli government could be so cruel and contemptible as to risk the lives of its own civilians for public relations purposes. The great majority will not have seen Ricks' attempt at an explanation, and many who see it will not understand its relevance. Is Ricks essentially different than Jayson Blair of The New York Times, who was fired for writing false stories -- journalistic fraud? Shouldn't The Washington Post sanction Ricks? Is he immune because he once won a Pulitzer Prize? So did Janet Cooke. The Prize is an even greater reason to hold him responsible. He knew or should have known that the tale he was retelling was at best unsupported and, more likely, untrue and told to him with malicious intent. The fact that Ricks spoke in another medium than The Post should not excuse him from his responsibility to his newspaper to be truthful and accurate in his public statements.

The transcript from Howard Kurtz's show follows as it appeared on CAMERA's website. 

All the best. 

Sincerely, 

Edward I. Koch 
Enclosure


August 9, 2006 
by Alex Safian, PhD 

Updated: Post's Thomas Ricks Charges Israel Intentionally Leaving Hezbollah Rockets Intact 

See update below

A few days ago a CNN anchor leveled the outrageous charge that Israel had the ability to shoot down the Katyusha rockets that have been killing scores of its citizens, but had chosen not to do so. Now the Pentagon reporter for the Washington Post, Thomas Ricks, has gone one step further. Appearing on CNN's media program, Reliable Sources, Ricks told viewers, and the astounded host Howard Kurtz, that Israel had intentionally left some Hezbollah launchers intact to ensure that there would be continued attacks against Israel. Here's the clip; the passage from the transcript is below:

[video clip can be viewed here]

KURTZ: Tom Ricks, you've covered a number of military conflicts, including Iraq, as I just mentioned. Is civilian casualties increasingly going to be a major media issue? In conflicts where you don't have two standing armies shooting at each other?

THOMAS RICKS, REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think it will be. But I think civilian casualties are also part of the battlefield play for both sides here. One of the things that is going on, according to some U.S. military analysts, is that Israel purposely has left pockets of Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon, because as long as they're being rocketed, they can continue to have a sort of moral equivalency in their operations in Lebanon.

KURTZ: Hold on, you're suggesting that Israel has deliberately allowed Hezbollah to retain some of it's fire power, essentially for PR purposes, because having Israeli civilians killed helps them in the public relations war here?

RICKS: Yes, that's what military analysts have told me.

KURTZ: That's an extraordinary testament to the notion that having people on your own side killed actually works to your benefit in that nobody wants to see your own citizens killed but it works to your benefit in terms of the battle of perceptions here.

RICKS: Exactly. It helps you with the moral high ground problem, because you know your operations in Lebanon are going to be killing civilians as well. (August 6, 2006)

One wonders who these "military analysts" are and why they have apparently not gone on the record. And why has Ricks so far not written the story in the Post? Can it be that his claims are too much even for the Washington Post to publish?

Whatever the reason, a reporter who thinks that Israel would intentionally allow Hezbollah's Katyushas to rain down on Israeli civilians would believe anything about Israel, no matter how monstrous. And a reporter who believes that reserve Israeli soldiers would follow orders to not attack rockets that are aimed at their children and wives, and that these soldiers would not immediately go to the Israeli media with the story, is an idiot.

The fact is that Israeli soldiers are fighting and dying, going house to house in Lebanese villages that Hezbollah spent six years preparing as killing zones, to stop those rockets, while at the same time minimizing Lebanese civilian casualties. Hezbollah, on the other hand, has been reportedly forcing civilians to stay in the villages to create human shields. Mr. Ricks' charge is therefore nothing short of obscene, and he should put up or shut up. Let him name his so called "military analysts," and let him, as the Post's Pentagon correspondent, explain why their views are persuasive and credible. If he can't or won't, he should publicly retract his claim and apologize.

Update: Ricks can't decide if his source is Israeli or American. Thomas Ricks has now offered a contradictory apology/retraction for his remarks on CNN. In a note to the Washington Post Ombudsman, Ricks wrote:

Ugh. I wish I hadn't. I'll attach a transcript at the end. What I said was accurate: that in an off-the-record conversation with military analysts, a couple had suggested that the Israeli strategy involved leaving Hezbellah 'rocket pockets' in place so as to shape public perceptions and give their forces more freedom of maneuver in Lebanon. Such a strategy might be considered logical and even moral, in that while suffering some short-term casualties, it would provide more protection for more Israelis in the long run.

But I've since heard from some smart, well-informed people that while such a strategy might be logical, that the Israeli public just wouldn't stand for it. And they were pretty dismayed that I has passed on the thought.

My comments were based on a long conversation I had with a senior Israeli official a couple of years ago...

Best

Tom

There is a serious problem with Mr. Ricks' note to the Post ombudsman: on CNN's Reliable Sources Mr. Ricks described his source as "some U.S. military analysts," while in the note he describes his source as "a senior Israeli official." Which raises the question of whether Mr. Ricks had any source at all - besides himself, that is.


Leonard Downie's Reply of August 17, 2006:

I have made clear to Tom Ricks that he should not have made those statements. 

Len Downie


Friday, August 4, 2006

Burying The Truth - Qana Death Count Cut In Half And Washington Post Downplays It - Post Reporters Call Hezbollah Fighters Civilians And Report Israeli Attack On Hezbollah Headquarters In Former Hospital Building An Attack On A Hospital

Earlier this week the Post howled over the huge civilian death toll in the bombing of a building in Qana last Sunday. The Post proclaimed in its headline, in every print article it ran and in a multitude of wire service reports on its web site that 57 people died, 37 of whom were children. (Israel Moves to Suspend Air Attacks for 2 Days After Strike in Lebanese Village Kills 57 Civilians, As Leaders in Region Condemn Operation, Rice Says Cease-Fire Could Come Soon, 7-31-06, A01). Now, after it has been discovered that the death toll was mistaken, that there were less than half as many deaths as were reported (28 in total, of whom 16 were children), the Post buried it deep in the interior of an article in yesterday morning's paper. (Hezbollah Unleashes Fiery Barrage, 230 Rockets Strike Northern Israel, Shattering Brief Lull, 8-3-06, A01) Exaggerations and outright lies too often find their way into the headlines and top paragraphs of front page articles in the Post. The truth, if it is reported at all, is frequently buried so deeply that many readers will never see it.

More Misleading Reporting by Washington Post Reporters 

On Tuesday night Israeli forces launched a raid in the northern Lebanese town of Baalbek in which they entered what was described as a "hospital" and took five Hezbollah members prisoner. Yesterday's article cited above devoted six paragraphs to this raid, the first five of which were misleading and designed to make Israel look bad. They depicted Israel as having attacked a hospital and killed many innocent civilians. The last of the six paragraphs, almost as an aside, slipped in a few facts that amounted to a complete reversal. Here's the way it was set up:

paragraph 1: Tuesday night Israeli special forces launched a "raid ... on a hospital in the northern Lebanese town of Baalbek. Lebanese officials and witnesses said 24 civilians had been killed by Israeli fire, while a top Israeli commander said five Hezbollah fighters had been taken captive and 10 killed."

paragraph 2:  "Halutz said the Israeli raid ... had been conducted to demonstrate that Israeli forces could strike anywhere. It began ... with a large gun battle at the Dar al-Hikma Hospital on the edge of the city...."

paragraph 3:  "Other raids on a half-dozen sites around Baalbek quickly followed...."

paragraph 4:  "The road from the entrance to Baalbek to the hospital was littered with more than 20 strafed cars, the charred bodies of their drivers still in the front seat, witnesses reported by telephone Wednesday morning." Keep in mind that this is the road leading to the supposed "hospital" and readers of the article will at this point still be under the impression that these are supposed "civilians."

paragraph 5:  "Eleven other civilian motorists were killed in their cars as they drove along the road to the hospital, according to witnesses and local officials, who provided names for all the victims." Again, this is the road to the supposed "hospital" and readers of this article are being explicitly told by the reporters that these are "civilian motorists." 

paragraph 6 - The Revelation:  "Halutz said the hospital building was being used as a Hezbollah logistics base and storage site for weapons. Hezbollah fighters prohibited reporters from approaching the hospital, which they said had been emptied of patients at the beginning of the war. Local officials said a number of Hezbollah fighters and guards were inside."

What should have been called a former hospital or at least made clear right from the start was not being used as a hospital, was reported as an attack by Israel on a "hospital." By Hezbollah's own admission there had been no patients in it since the beginning of the war. The supposed "civilians" killed were on the roads leading to the hospital: 

"...road from the entrance to Baalbek to the hospital..."

"civilian motorists were killed in their cars as they drove along the road to the hospital"

Who were these "people," and why were they on the road to the hospital? Were they simply innocent civilians who didn't know Hezbollah had taken over the hospital and were driving there to seek treatment? Or were they Hezbollah fighters who, when the alarm was sounded that an Israeli raid was in progress, were hightailing it to what Hezbollah, by its own admission, indicated was a former hospital being used as a Hezbollah base? This appears to be one more of many instances of Post reporters misleading their readers by portraying Hezbollah fighters, vehicles, buildings, infrastructure and strongholds as civilian. This is confirmed by the IDF, which reported on its web site that Baalbek is a Hezbollah stronghold located close to the Syrian border, that the target of the raid was "Hezbollah targets, infrastructure, and logistics," that no civilians were killed in the operation and that Hezbollah fighters outside the hospital, some of whom were responding as reinforcements, were killed. (IDF Report - Special Forces Raid in Baal-bek, Thursday 03/08/2006 13:03


Thursday, August 3, 2006

Post Prominently Reports Estimates of Cost To Rebuild Lebanon and Numbers of Lebanese Displaced But Fails To Report Estimates of Cost to Rebuild Israel and Number of Israelis Displaced

To: The Editor, The Washington Post
From: Carol Greenwald
Date: August 2, 2006

Why does your reporting on the Hezbollah-Israeli war exclude the estimated costs to repair the damage done by Hezbollah rockets in Israel. It is estimated by the UN that $2.5 billlion will be needed for reconstruction in Lebanon. Israel is the innocent party here. It is a terrorist organization which is part of the Lebanese government which started this war. Why isn't the world community raising money to rebuild Israel? Why isn't your newspaper reporting on the cost of rebuilding the homes, hospitals, railways, etc. that have been destroyed by Hezbollah rockets in Israel?

In the same vein, the estimate that 800,000 Lebanese have been displaced is repeated endlessly but that a million Israelis have been displaced or are living in shelters and that Haifa has been closed down is no where in your paper. Why the differential treatment?

Carol Greenwald


Post Continues to Distort News Coverage of War

The following quotation could easily have been about The Washington Post's war coverage, because the same slanting of the news appears daily in the Washington Post. It includes shrill and emotional headlines, the use of photographs to exaggerate damage and the manipulation of factual information by placement and word choice to depict Israeli conduct as brutal and unjustified:

"While the slanted comments and interviews are bad enough, the degree of pictorial distortion is even worse. From the way many TV stations worldwide are portraying it, you would think Beirut has begun to resemble Dresden and Hamburg in the aftermath of World War II air raids. International television channels have used the same footage of Beirut over and over, showing the destruction of a few individual buildings in a manner which suggests half the city has been razed.

A careful look at aerial satellite photos of the areas targeted by Israel in Beirut shows that certain specific buildings housing Hezbollah command centers in the city’s southern suburbs have been singled out. Most of the rest of Beirut, apart from strategic sites like airport runways used to ferry Hezbollah men and weapons in and out of Lebanon, has been left pretty much untouched.

From the distorted imagery, selective witness accounts, and almost round-the-clock emphasis on casualties, you would be forgiven for thinking that the level of death and destruction in Lebanon is on a par with that in Darfur, where Arab militias are slaughtering hundreds of thousands of non-Arabs, or with the 2004 tsunami that killed half a million in Southeast Asia.

As it happens, Israel has taken great care to avoid killing civilians"

Media Missiles, Working for the enemy, Tom Gross, National Review Online, 8-2-06


Saturday, July 29, 2006

Washington Post Fails to Report That UN Post Hit By Israeli Air Strike Was Being Used By Hezbollah As Shield

Strong evidence surfaced this week in emails from one of the UN observers killed in the bombing that the UN post hit during the Israeli air strike was being used by Hezbollah as a shield. It was reported by the CanWest News Service. (Hezbollah Was Using UN Post As 'Shield,' Canadian Wrote Of Militia's Presence, 'Necessity' Of Bombing, Ottawa Citizen, 7-27-06) Here's what the Canadian UN observer wrote in his emails days before he died:

"We have on a daily basis had numerous occasions where our position has come under direct or indirect fire from both (Israeli) artillery and aerial bombing.

"The closest artillery has landed within 2 meters (sic) of our position and the closest 1000 lb aerial bomb has landed 100 meters (sic) from our patrol base. This has not been deliberate targeting, but rather due to tactical necessity."

In the Canadian news reports a former UN Commander is quoted as follows:

"Those words, particularly the last sentence, are not-so-veiled language indicating Israeli strikes were aimed at Hezbollah targets near the post, said Maj.-Gen. MacKenzie.

"What that means is, in plain English, 'We've got Hezbollah fighters running around in our positions, taking our positions here and then using us for shields and then engaging the (Israeli Defence Forces)," he said.

That would mean Hezbollah was purposely setting up near the UN post, he added. It's a tactic Maj.-Gen. MacKenzie, who was the first UN commander in Sarajevo during the Bosnia civil war, said he's seen in past international missions: Aside from UN posts, fighters would set up near hospitals, mosques and orphanages."

The Washington Post and many other news outlets ignored it. The Post considers itself a leader among the world's news services. In this instance it should have led the pack in fully reporting the truth, rather than burying it. 


Reader Criticism of Post For Mischaracterizing Conflict as Disproportionate and Asymmetrical

To: The Washington Post
From: Beth Singer
Date: 7-16-06

The Washington Post, July 16th, page 1: " ... the asymmetrical nature of the conflict .... For each attack by Hezbollah ... Israel has inflicted a far greater price." (Israel Intensifies Assault on Beirut, 7-16-06, A01) Mr. Shadid's article-opinion-commentary exemplifies the skewed coverage of The Washington Post's all things Arab-Israeli.

Why is Israel forced to target some of Lebanon's civilian infrastructure? How is it that Hasan Nasrallah confidently and brazenly asserted that Hezbollah is ready for all-out war with Israel? It is because for several years, Iran has been using its cargo and passenger jets to make large-scale deliveries of its upgraded Fajr-3, Fajr-5 missiles, and others, such as Syrian reproductions of Soviet BM-27 220 mm rocket systems, which have a range between 30-45 miles, by way of Damascus International Airport. There, the weapons are off-loaded by Hezbollah agents and Iranian Revolutionary Guard members onto trucks that drive to the Hezbollah-occupied Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. Some Iranian cargo flights land at the Beirut International Airport itself, which provides a more direct supply route.

Hezbollah is confident and brazen because both classes of weapons are fired from mobile launchers, including customized Japanese trucks, and carry 200-pound high-explosive payloads.

It is because many of the rockets Hezbollah has intentionally fired into Israel's civilian centers to maximize bloodshed and terror, come from the top of Lebanese civilian apartment buildings, where Hezbollah uses its own population as human shields (unlike Israel, which tries to keep her civilians safe by placing them away from Israeli launch sites, and which tries to prevent Lebanese civilian casualties by dropping leaflets warning their civilian population to get far away from the Hezbollah before the Israelis respond to Hezbollah's brazen provocations).

It is confident and brazen because the new Iranian Safir rockets have far greater range than the earlier ones and are launched from civilian living quarters. There are credible reports from south Lebanon that some families have "spare rooms" housing these rockets, and they live alongside them until called upon to fire.

To the best of its ability, Israel is targeting exactly those places: highways, bridges, airports, and fuel tanks used to re-supply the Hezbollah war machine with yet more missiles and weaponry than the thousands it already obtained from Iran and Syria. If Israel targets specific apartment buildings, it's because those numerous and deadly Iranian missiles are fired from their tops and stored inside of them.

When one has the courage to acknowledge the fact that Hezbollah is but a sword in the hand of the Goliaths, Iran and Syria, it is nothing short of mendacious to call Israel's actions disproportionate and asymmetrical. Indeed, Israel has yet to react strongly enough, as it is a David fighting tyrants hugely greater and richer than itself.

Once again, Israel is doing the West's dangerous, dirty work. And once again, the West will likely self-righteously denounce Israel for it.

Beth Singer


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Washington Post Deliberately Seeks to Stir Sympathies and Passions With Misleading and Melodramatic Headlines

On the front page of Wednesday's edition of the Post was an article bearing the following headline:

'God Stop the Bombs!'

Those readers who only scan the headlines will never know that this outburst from a Lebanese woman taking shelter from the bombing was met by others in the shelter telling her to "Shut up!" because she was scaring the children. However, the same advice could appropriately be directed at the Post for gracing its front page with the woman's outburst as a headline.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Washington Post Publishes Sympathetic Stories of Death and Destruction in Lebanese Port City of Tyre, But Hides Fact That Tyre is the Primary Base for Hezbollah's Daily Rocketing Of Haifa

To: Washington Post Executives and Editors
From: Leo Rennert
Date: July 24, 2006
Subject: The Missing Piece In Washington Post Lebanon Coverage

On the front page of the Post's Monday, July 24, edition, the headline reads: "Civilian Toll Mounts in Lebanon Conflict." Below the headline is a heartrending four-column, color picture of 3 Lebanese women weeping outside a hospital in Tyre, waiting for a relative to be transferred to another faciity. And below the picture is the Post's main story, datelined Tyre, with the lead paragraph reading: "The day ended in Tyre as it began, with a desperate cry of grief." The lengthy story is a compendium of up-close and personal cameos of the grief and misery experienced in and around Tyre by Lebanese civilians. It's beautifully written, very poignant, very emotional, and obviously is bound to touch the heart of any reader with a modicum of sympathy for innocents caught in wartime destruction.

There's just one problem with the story: Nowhere does it mention that Tyre and its environs are the main staging ground for virtually daily rocket attacks on Haifa, which have killed and wounded many of its residents, inflicted great property damage, and sent half the city's population fleeing to safer ground.

The fact that Israeli intelligence has pinpointed Tyre as the launching site for missiles headed toward Haifa is no deep, dark secret. It was prominently reported on the web site of Haaretz, Israel's most liberal, anti-government newspaper, before the Post's article was put to bed. Here's what Haaretz reported under a heading of "A Tale of Two Cities": Hezbollah has been raining Syrian rockets and upgraded Iranian Kathyushas from the city of Tyre in a war of attrition against Haifa, its most important target in Israel. The Syrian rockets, recently delivered to Hezbollah, carry warheads of several dozen kilograms. The Iranian Katyushas have been upgraded from a range of 22 kilometers to 35 kilometers.

What is odd is that Haaretz is by far the Post's favorite Israeli media source. The Post frequently gleans articles and opinion pieces from Haaretz that are sharply critical of Israel and its government. So it's not as if Haaretz is unknown to the Post or that it lacks credibility with the Post's reporters and editors. Instead, here's an instance of Haaretz reporting a major facet of the war that the Post seems uninterested in. Is it far-fetched for readers to conclude that Tyre as the launching site for rockets on Haifa went unmentioned because it might have attenuated the emotional "bang" of the Post's story on civilian grief in Tyre? In any case, wouldn't fair journalism dictate that the Post should have devoted at least one paragraph, or just one sentence, to Tyre's military role in this conflict?

This is, of course, not the first time that the Post has managed to overlook how Hezbollah fighters and rockets are deeply embedded among the civilian population and thus directly invite civilian casualties. A couple of days earlier, the Post splashed on the front page an equally large color picture of the devastation of apartment buildings in south Beirut without any mention whatsoever that this was a Hezbollah command center and stronghold.

In fact, since the start of this war, the Post has yet to publish a single article devoted entirely to Hezbollah's many ways of hiding among civilians, including storage of rockets in mosques and under the beds of residential sleeping quarters, or to Hezbollah's use of what the Post terms "civilian infrastructure" for its own military purposes.

The Post's own media critic, Howard Kurtz, perfectly sums up this failing by his own newspaper when he writes: "Since Israel has inflicted far more damage on Lebanon than it has sustained, a heavy focus on the more than 300 civilian victims in that war-ravaged country could help tilt public opinion against the Jewish state. BUT THAT WOULD OVERLOOK TWO KEY FACTS: THAT ISRAEL RETALIATED ONLY AFTER HEZBOLLAH CROSSED A U.N.-SANCTIONED BORDER TO KILL AND CAPTURE SEVERAL ISRAELI SOLDIERS, AND THAT HEZBOLLAH FIGHTERS HIDE -- AND HIDE THEIR WEAPONS -- AMONG CIVILIANS TO MAKE COUNTERATTACKS MORE DIFFICULT." (A War Between Neighbors, Seen From Their Back Yard, 7-24-06, C01)

Kurtz need go no farther than his own newspaper to find a lot of this sort of "OVERLOOKING" of Hezbollah's culpability.

Leo Rennert
[Leo Rennert is a journalist and former White House correspondent]


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Washington Post Ombudsman Serves As A Spokesperson And Defender Of The Post

Deborah Howell, the Post's ombudsman, occasionally levels a mild criticism at the Post on a topic that is non-controversial, but in most instances she perceives her role to be that of a defender of the Post. Readers should not expect an open mind or a strong advocate against slanted reporting. In addition, she is predisposed to expect and discount complaints from supporters of Israel. In her column today, she complained that when fighting broke out between Israel and Lebanon she was not surprised to receive "a volley of visceral, negative e-mail" from Israel's supporters that "picked at news stories, headlines, a Post Magazine piece on the Israel lobby and KidsPost." Leo Rennert's letter below points to the proper role of an ombudsman and where there could be improvement in Ms. Howell's performance:


To: Deborah Howell, Ombudsman, The Washington Post
From: Leo Rennert
Date: 7-23-06
Subject: The Proper Role Of An Ombudsman

In recent days, we exchanged e-mails about the Post's refusal to acknowledge that Safed and Tiberias, two Northern Israeli communities hard hit by Hezbollah rockets, also happen to be two of Judaism's holy cities. In the meantime, the Post, in covering rocket fire on Nazareth, identified it as a "sacred Christian city." You checked out my complaint and agreed that Safed and Tiberias indeed are cities holy to Jews and should be so identified. You also informed me that you passed on your information about the sanctity of these two towns to Scott Wilson, the Post's Israel correspondent, and to David Hoffman, the assistant managing editor for foreign news. When a couple of days later, I e-mailed you that the Post still failed to note Hezbollah's continuing attacks on these sacred Jewish towns, you reminded me that you already had passed the proper information to Wilson and Hoffman, adding: "That's all I can do."

After reading your Sunday, July 23, editorial-page column about the Post's overall coverage of the Lebanese crisis, I've come to the conclusion that there was, and is, indeed far more that you can and should do in your role of the paper's ombudsman. I found that your column basically straddled or evaded reader criticism of the news coverage that you should have addressed and judged in specific terms instead of downplaying or brushing off such complaints with a few generalizations.

But first let me also make clear what my beef is NOT with the Post or with your column: I do not share some of your readers' criticism of Post editorials, columnists, op-ed opiners, etc. I didn't criticize the Post for running a column by Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, or Richard Cohen's piece calling Israel a "historic" mistake, however much I abhor the views of both these gentlemen. I'm sure the Post, if it got the chance, would print an exclusive column by Osama Bin Laden (and I'd be interested to read it). I'm a strong believer in the free market place of ideas.

My beef with the Post is entirely with the Post's news articles, and that's where you unfortunately pulled your punches by never tackling specific reader criticism -- backed by an ample record of evidence and citations -- that the Post all too often skews news stories against Israel.

So let me now go into a bit of detail of where I found your column lacking, both by what you wrote and what you didn't write about:

1.   Right from the start, you lump Post readers critical of its Mideast coverage into a bunch of folks who are not quite kosher or respectable: "Reporting on Israel is the third rail of American journalism," you begin. "Touch it critically and you excite strong emotions. It was no surprise that the war in Israel and Lebanon brought a volley of visceral, negative e-mail...." Instead of calling into question some of the Post's problematic coverage, you raise from the get-go suspicions about the messengers -- making it easier to dismiss their messages.

2.   Still on the defensive, you go on in the second paragraph to describe Scott Wilson, the Post's reporter in Israel, and Anthony Shadid, his counterpart in Lebanon, as "two skilled war correspondents." As a critic of Wilson, I will immediately stipulate that he's indeed a very "skilled" reporter -- and indefatigable to boot. But that's not the issue. The real question, which you fail to address, is whether Wilson's overall coverage is fair, even-handed, objective. Similarly, you slide from substantive criticism of Wilson pieces to a generalization that the "coverage has been comprehensive and deep and particularly moving when dealing with the uncertainty and fear of the Israeli and Lebanese people." Again, the Post's correspondents have covered lots of bases with great energy and have done some worthy up-close-and-personal sidebars about the impact of this war on real people. But again, that's not the main issue. The accuracy and fairness of the basic news coverage matter more than how many stories the Post runs in its "comprehensive" coverage.

3.   Along with your unworthy slam at Israel supporters who send you complaints, I was also disturbed by your strong endorsement of the views of Post columnist David Ignatius, whom you term a "must-read on the Middle East." You offer no such compliment to Charles Krauthammer, whose pro-Israel views are obviously antithetical to Ignatius'.  Again, I have no problem with both of them appearing on Post opinion pages. But is it your job as ombudsman to endorse the views of any of these columnists?

4.   While you cite several very general complaints about the overall news coverage, you devote very little space to specific instances of criticism by readers when Wilson and other reporters tilt against Israel. For example, you mention in passing complaints, including mine, that the Post was slow in reporting criticism of Hezbollah by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. But the Post wasn't just slow. It really never gave readers a "comprehensive" insight into the depth and breadth of an anti-Hezbollah backlash throughout most of the Arab world. The Post also has tilted its coverage to make it appear that the U.S. is far more at odds with its allies and the U.N. than it really is.

5.   As for many other failings in the news coverage -- there's simply no mention of them. Just as you didn't address the egregious omission of the sacred status of Safed and Tiberias, you didn't challenge the Post's repeated criticism in its news stories of Israeli attacks on Lebanon's "civilian infrastructure." This is a gross distortion, repeated again in today's main news story: "The attacks fit a pattern of sustained Israeli efforts to destroy civilian infrastructure in Lebanon." As you well know -- or should know -- Israel is really targeting DUAL USE -- NOT SOLELY CIVILIAN INFRASTRUCTURE. Hezbollah uses Lebanese roads, bridges, ports, airports to resupply rockets and other weapons. They are thus proper strategic targets. How "comprehensive" is the Post's coverage when it routinely leaves out the fact that this infrastructure is strategically vital to Hezbollah? Or why did the Post splash a four-column, color photo above the fold on the front page of widespread damage in Beirut, while leaving out the critical fact that this neighborhood was a Hezbollah stronghold and command center? Total silence from you. Yet, by constant repetition that Israel's attacks are aimed at civilian infrastructure, the Post fuels demands for Israel to desist as quickly as possible, with Hezbollah then able and free to continue doing its worst.

6.   I will dispense with many other examples of unwarranted anti-Israel spin that I've called to your attention and that of Post editors. Let me just mention one other paragraph in your column, which defends Glenn Frankel's piece about the Israel lobby in the Sunday Magazine. Since the magazine is not expected to run objective pieces, the article and its timing didn't bother me nearly as much as the lapses in news coverage. What bothered me more was your enthusiastic endorsement of the piece and its timing: "I liked it. ... [It] couldn't have been more aptly timed." That again suggests to me intrusion of your personal views into your job as a supposedly fair and objective critic of the Post's coverage. One might ask: If you liked a piece about the Israel lobby and found its timing just perfect, why didn't you tell Post editors to also run at the same time a piece on the equally active and influential Arab lobby?

In sum, I didn't think your column did justice to the specs of an ombudsman's job, which is to be less of a cheerleader for the paper and more of an incisive critic. Post publishers and editors don't need any help at self-promotion. They do need help from an ombudsman to point out real failings and shortcomings to make the paper better and enhance its credibility with more readers. Ombudsmen who do a good job end up being unpopular with news editors. It comes with the territory. Unfortunately, you punted and your column will be taken as a signal by Scott Wilson, David Hoffman and Executive Editor Len Downie that they have nothing to worry about when it comes to frequent, conspicuous anti-Israel bias in the "news" columns of the Washington Post.

Best regards,

Leo Rennert
[Leo Rennert is a journalist and former White House correspondent]


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Washington Post Portrays Israel as Randomly Attacking Lebanese Civilians, Hides Association of Israeli Targets To Hezbollah, Magnifies Death Toll and Eliminates Mention of Iran and Syria Backing Hezbollah

 The Post continues to portray Israel as engaging in random attacks on Lebanese civilians by remaining silent on the close association between the targets of the attacks and Hezbollah. The Post's articles rarely describe the locations of Israeli air attacks in relation to Hezbollah supply lines, launch sites and storage facilities. Readers are not told of Moslem civilians in Hizbollah strongholds willingly permitting Hezbollah to hide stockpiles of weapons in their homes and mosques. Readers are not told of the widespread support and collusion of whole Moslem communities with Hezbollah's activities, including their cross border attacks on Israel. Readers are not told of the fathers, sons and brothers living in these same homes who fight with Hezbollah. 

Buried deep within an interior, feature article about the widespread support among Israelis for the current war, a devoted reader might find the rare reference to Hezbollah rockets being fired from trucks that then immediately move on:

"He said Hezbollah is firing rockets from the backs of trucks, meaning 'the targets we are seeing have a life of one minute before they move on.'" (For Troops, A Sense of Moral Clarity, 7-22-06, A01)

However, information such as this about the staging of rocket launchings from vehicles on public roads and within villages is notably absent from the Post's front page articles reporting the damage in Lebanon. (Road Through a Landscape of Death, 7-22-06, A01  & Israeli Forces Gather at Border, Lebanese Warned To Flee to North, 7-22-06, A01) Instead, those articles go on at length about Israeli air attacks on roads, vehicles and other facilities and structures, with no mention of the Israeli reason for choosing these targets. 

The Post's effort to magnify the civilian death toll continues. The article cited above, hyperbolically titled "Road Through a Landscape of Death," begins by describing in its opening paragraphs a horrific scene of 82 dead bodies in coffins in the city of Tyre about to be interred in a mass grave. The author, by his description, deliberately leads the reader to believe that Israel massacred these civilians in Tyre this week:

"It begins in Tyre, where 82 people killed in Israeli attacks this week were sheathed in hastily crafted wooden caskets Friday, their faces pointed toward Mecca, as custom dictates." 

A photograph of the coffins with crying Arab women accompanies the story. However, there was no such mass killing of 82 civilians in Tyre this week or at any time. It isn't until the very end of the article that the author explains that these bodies were gathered from many cities all over southern Lebanon this past week and shipped to Tyre for burial in a mass grave. However, many readers will not read to the end of this lengthy article and may therefore be left with the impression that Israel is slaughtering Lebanese civilians en masse. The erroneous impression thus created is reminiscent of the misreporting by the media of a mass slaughter by Israel of Palestinians in Jenin in April, 2002. 

In addition, the Post's reporters are trying to airbrush Iran and Syria out of the news. Hezbollah absurdly denies the role of Iran and Syria in creating and supporting it. Some Washington Post reporters have bought Hezbollah's line and do their best to avoid any reference to Iran and Syria, even when the context calls for it.

In the above article about the widespread support in Israel for the current fighting to root out Hezbollah, Scott Wilson notes that this is a war "with a clear front line and firm public backing." (For Troops, A Sense of Moral Clarity, 7-22-06, A01) He explains the Israeli public's backing of the war by saying "Israel's army is suddenly engaging a more obvious enemy." He notes that it has become "clear that Israel faces formidable threats" and in interviewing some of the soldiers he notes that they talk of this war as "a war that feels to many here like the storied ones their fathers fought in 1967 and 1973 -- fights against outside threats." Amazingly, Syria and Iran are not mentioned anywhere in this article. 

Even more astonishing is the elimination of any reference to Iran or Syria in two articles in which the context should have dictated that they be mentioned. 

In a detailed article about the history of Israel's fighting in Lebanon from 1978 to the present and the birth and history of Hezbollah, there is no mention whatsoever of the role of Iran in creating Hezbollah, the role of both Iran and Syria in supporting and supplying Hezbollah or the relationship of Hezbollah to Iran and Syria today. (History Revisited in Lebanon Fighting, Pattern of Engagement the Same, but Enemy May Be Tougher Than in '78 and '82, 7-22-06, A10) In 1982 Iran sent over 2,000 members of its Revolutionary Guard to Lebanon to fight Israel and help establish Hezbollah. Even Al Jazeera doesn't try to hide the fact that Iran and Syria provide "logistical, financial and military support" to Hezbollah. The authors of this article, however, say nothing of it. They did, however, touch upon the subject of who was responsible for the formation of Hezbollah, assigning blame to Israel for its formation. They also accuse Israel of now engaging in a "renewed attempt to fashion Lebanese society to Israel's advantage" and suggest that the current fighting may produce an even worse enemy to Israel.

Ignoring the role of Syria and Iran, the reporters press the view that Hezbollah is an indigenous movement. By quoting others they suggest it may be impossible to root out Hezbollah, because it is allegedly Lebanese: 

"The difference is Hezbollah is Lebanese and you can't expel them." 

The reporters suggest that it is only Israel's idea to eliminate Hezbollah as a military force in southern Lebanon. They refer to "Israel's demand that the Lebanese army rid the border region of terrorists by enforcing state authority," conspicuously ignoring UN Resolution 1559 calling for Hezbollah to be disarmed and for the Lebanese military to assert itself in southern Lebanon. 

In another feature article about ex members of the South Lebanon Army (SLA) who fought along side Israel against the PLO and Hezbollah and who are now living in Israel, there is no mention at all about Iran or Syria, despite historical references and current interviews with these former soldiers in which they clearly express the need in the current fighting to root out Hezbollah from Lebanon. (Views Complicated By Dual Loyalties, Lebanese Who Fought Alongside Israel Watch New Conflict on Familiar Terrain, 7-22-06, A10) There can be little doubt that these Lebanese fighters, who are well aware of the Iranian origins and the influence and support of Iran and Syria, mentioned this in their interviews, but the article is conspicuously devoid of any such reference.

It is unfortunate that Washington Post readers continue to be the unwitting dupes of reporters with political agendas.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

New Perspective In Post's Editorials on Israel's War Against Terrorists 

Something is afoot at the Post. In the past few weeks there have been a number of fair and accurate editorials on the subject of Israel's war against terrorism. The Post should be commended on its willingness to take a fresh look at an old subject and revise its position where appropriate. These editorials are totally out of character with the Post's past editorial history of criticizing Israel at virtually every opportunity, and they are totally out of character with even its current news reporting from the region. The Post's news reporting continues to be slanted against Israel. The editorials convey a much more accurate picture. Here are the four opinion pieces:

  1. Hamas's War, The movement defended armed attacks and hostage-taking; now it's complaining that Israel is fighting back. 7-1-06, A24

  2. The Mideast Erupts, Israel is entitled to retaliate. And then what? 7-14-06; Page A20

  3. A War With Extremists, This Middle East conflict should end with the defeat of its instigators. 7-18-06; Page A18

  4. Diplomatic Traps, The usual means of stopping the fighting in the Middle East would only reward the aggressors. 7-20-06, A22

The false picture being conveyed by Post reporters is that:

  • Israel is responding disproportionately and harshly to relatively minor provocations by Hamas and Hezbollah, 

  • Israel's attacks are having virtually no impact on Hezbollah and Hamas, yet at the same time are randomly killing many civilians and causing widespread and unnecessary damage to Lebanon's infrastructure, 

  • Israel alleges that Iran and Syria are behind Hamas and Hezbollah's operations, but it is not clear,

  • there should be a cease fire, but it is being blocked by Israel and the US, and 

  • with the exception of the United States, Israel is isolated against virtually unanimous world opinion against it.

Post's reporters continue to downplay the more than 1,000 rockets rained down on Israeli cities by Hezbollah over a one week period of time and underreport the impact on Israelis of that constant bombardment. 

The editorials, on the other hand, stand in diametric opposition to the misleading narrative conveyed by the Post's news reports. The editorials note:

  • Israel was forced into the current fighting by repeated and hostile bombardment of Israel with rockets launched by the terrorists, culminating in the most recent cross border attacks and abductions, even after Israel vacated both Lebanon and Gaza in moves that should have advanced the cause of peace, 

  • Israel has a right to demand return of its kidnapped soldiers and should not engage in a prisoner exchange, because it would "legitimize the terrorist operations by Hamas and Hezbollah that began the conflict and further empower their rogue military organizations at the expense of the Lebanese government and the Palestinian Authority."

  • Iran and Syria are playing a role and bear responsibility for their behind the scenes conduct in support of the terrorist organizations,

  • Israel's additional goal from the fighting should be to drive Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon, 

  • proportionality by Israel in response to the terrorists attacks should not be necessary or even desirable if Israel is to accomplish its goal of driving Hezbollah out of the south, 

  • Forcing Israel into a cease fire before its goal of a Hezbollah-free southern Lebanon can be accomplished would be premature and foolish,

  • Not only the US but also Great Britain, Germany, Australia, Canada and several Arab countries are appropriately refraining from pressuring Israel into a premature cease fire.

We understand the need for independence of the editorial pages from the news sections at the Post. However, leadership filters down from the top. The stark contrast between the recent fairness and balance in Post editorials and the one sided distortions of the news reports should send a message to management at the Post to similarly clean up the opinionated and agenda driven news reporting.


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Washington Post Portrays Hezbollah Terrorists And Those Supporting Them as Victims and Israelis as Brutal Aggressors - Depicts Whole World As Against Israel and Ignores Countries Supporting Israel

The fighting in northern Israel and Lebanon started because Hezbollah launched an unprovoked cross border attack against Israel, killing 8 and kidnapping 2 Israeli soldiers. Israel declared it an act of war. UN Security Council Resolution 1559 had previously mandated that Lebanon disarm Hezbollah and replace it in southern Lebanon with the presence of the Lebanese army. The resolution had been ignored. The result was war. When Israel retaliated and sought to recover its soldiers, Hezbollah further escalated the fighting by launching hundreds of rockets into numerous Israeli cities in the North of Israel. Over 700 rockets and mortars have been launched at Israel thus far, and large scale Israeli damage, several deaths and a large number of Israeli injuries have ensued, but the Post is downplaying its reporting of the Israeli damage and placing heavy emphasis on its reporting of damage in Lebanon in order to depict Israel as the aggressor and as overreacting. 

Four articles were published in today's paper. Two of the four articles were written by Post foreign correspondents reporting from the region. The number and location of these foreign correspondents is revealing. The lead article about the fighting, with a banner headline across the top of the front page, was written by Anthony Shadid in Beirut, aided by John Ward Anderson (husband of post reporter Molly Moore) in Gaza, Alia Ibrahim in Beirut, Lynn Maalouf in Beirut and Rhonda Roumani in Damascus. That's five foreign correspondents embedded and reporting about the fighting from Arab cities. (Israel, Hezbollah Vow Wider War, At Least 66 Dead in Lebanon; Militia Strikes Warship at Sea, 7-15-06, A01) Scott Wilson stayed in Jerusalem to write about how Ehud Olmert is using different tactics than Ariel Sharon. (Dual Crises Test Olmert as Leader, Tactics Differ From Those of Sharon, 7-15-06, A01) No Post correspondent was stationed in or reported from Haifa, Nahariya, Tiberias, Safed, Meron, Kiryat Shmona, Karmiel or any of the northern Israeli cities that are being bombarded by Hezbollah. 

Detailed accounts are provided on the front page of Israel's attacks on various targets in Lebanon, while Hezbollah's attacks and damage to Israeli cities is largely buried on interior pages. On the front page there is no mention of Israeli injuries and deaths. These details are treated as less important, and are reserved for interior pages. On the other hand the death count in Lebanon is incorporated into the front page headline:

"At Least 66 Dead in Lebanon" 

An unsupported, unexplained and doubtful assertion is made by reporter Anthony Shadid deeper in the article that most of these deaths were of civilians, despite the clear indication that the Israeli attacks on bridges, roads, the Hezbollah radio station, the Hezbollah leader's home and Hezbollah's headquarters building were all centered on a portion of South Beirut that Mr. Shadid concedes is a Hezbollah stronghold.

However, there is evidence that Mr. Shadid may well be describing members of Hezbollah as "civilians." A separate article by the same reporter in the interior of the paper describes this Hezbollah stronghold as "a poor Beirut neighborhood." (A Poor Beirut Neighborhood Feels Brunt of War, 7-15-06, A17) Yet the "poor Beirut Neighborhood" is also described in the article as "a hardscrabble, crowded swath of southern Beirut known as the Dahiya, or the suburbs, whose Shiite Muslim inhabitants give Hezbollah its most loyal and devoted support." Mr. Shadid also states that this stronghold is "the place where Hezbollah draws the backing that makes its survival possible." He describes a statue of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, streets named "Resistance" and "Liberation," and a bridge named after the Hezbollah leader's son. 

"Hezbollah casts a long shadow over the neighborhood, effectively running it. No one takes pictures without approval. Journalists are often questioned, sometimes for hours, soon after arriving, particularly around the block of nondescript apartment buildings that serves as Hezbollah's headquarters, which was targeted Friday. It is known as the 'security square.'"

Mr. Shadid quotes residents militantly supporting Hezbollah, one of whom alluded to waiting to use chemical weapons on Israel in the future. 

Reports elsewhere than in the Post have indicated that many of the victims are Hezbollah or members of their families living in homes targeted by the Israelis because they are being used as storage facilities for missiles.

So, precisely who the so-called "civilians" are that Mr. Shadid asserts make up most of the Lebanese death toll is far from clear.

Lengthy descriptions appear on the front page depicting Israel as inflicting heavy damage in Lebanon, with little attention given to the fact that Israel is pursuing Hezbollah strongholds and targets that are strategically important to Hezbollah's military movements.

"After a cabinet meeting, Israeli officials said the military would further prosecute an offensive that has already sent scores of missiles into Beirut's international airport, as well as bridges, power stations and roads, and blocked most ways out of the country."

Scott Wilson's front page article in its lead paragraphs depicts Israel as brutal by aggregating the Palestinian death tolls in both Gaza and Lebanon - thereby enabling him to report a larger number. He makes no effort to separate terrorists and those aiding and abetting terrorist from civilians. They are just people. And even though both battles - in the South with Hamas and in the North with Hezbollah - were ignited by the terrorist groups, without provocation, entering Israel and launching attacks on the Israeli military, Mr. Wilson describes Israel's actions as "Olmert's offensive:"

"Over the past three days, Olmert has ordered one of the largest Israeli military operations in Lebanon since the 1982 invasion, bombing roads, bridges and Beirut's international airport in response to a cross-border raid by the militant group Hezbollah that resulted in eight Israeli soldiers being killed and two others captured. Coupled with Israel's operation in Gaza, Olmert's offensive has killed more than 120 people and drawn criticism from European countries that he is using disproportionate military force."

The subject of criticism of Israel by other nations is also given a decidedly anti-Israel slant by the Post. A teaser on the front page pointing to an interior article states:

"Reaction Diverges: World leaders condemn Israel's actions as excessive, but Bush declines to call for a "cease-fire. World A16" 

The interior article reports that "many world leaders condemned [Israel's] military strikes in southern Lebanon" and specifically noted that "European and Arab leaders have denounced what they deem a lopsided response to Palestinian and Hezbollah provocations." The article specifically quotes statements critical of Israel by representatives of France, Spain, the Vatican and a UN representative, but it conspicuously fails to mention statements by leaders of Canada, Germany, Australia and Great Britain declining to condemn Israel or placing primary blame on Hezbollah. (Bush Declines to Call for Israeli Cease-Fire, Other World Leaders Denounce Military Strikes Against Lebanon, Which Seeks U.N. Action, 7-15-06, A16

Furthermore, what deserved to be a story in itself, Saudi Arabia's strident blame and criticism of Hezbollah for igniting the crisis, was buried in the next to last paragraph. The portion of the Saudi statement quoted in the Post article was relatively mild, and nowhere are Saudi statements reported that what Hezbollah did set the whole region back years and was "unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible." Representatives of Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain were reported to have concurred in the Saudi position, but this was nowhere mentioned by the Post. 

The Post has become schizoid lately. Just yesterday there was an excellent editorial critical of Hezbollah and its "benefactors," Syria and Iran, and strongly supporting Israel's response. (The Mideast Erupts, Israel is entitled to retaliate. And then what? 7-14-06; Page A20) The tone and substance of this entire editorial is inconsistent with the Post's long standing pattern of slanted reporting on Israel, including its reporting on the current fighting. What is most remarkable about the editorial published only one day earlier is that it derides the European community for ignoring or downplaying the Hezbollah rockets raining down on Israeli cities and disapproves of the European community's criticism of Israel for a supposedly excessive response:

"Europeans and others in the international community are already criticizing as excessive Israel's swift military response. Conspicuously they have said comparatively little about the volleys of dozens of rockets Hezbollah rained down on northern Israel yesterday. In fact, given the all-too-familiar patterns of violence and retribution in the Middle East, the Israeli attacks are entirely predictable, and precisely what Hezbollah and its patrons must have expected and even wanted."

Perhaps what the Post needs now is an editorial criticizing its reporters for doing exactly the same thing this editorial criticized the Europeans for doing.


To: Editors and Publisher, The Washington Post
From: Sara Miller
Date: July 15, 2006
Subject: "Hezbollah Raid Opens 2nd Front," 7/13, A1

Anthony Shadid and Scott Wilson provide an inadequate description of the anti-Semitic, extremist nature of Hezbollah. Hezbollah is a well-known terror group that killed 241 American Marines in Beirut in 1983; destroyed the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires in 1994, killing more than 100 civilians; has brutally murdered CIA agents; and seeks, through its radical Iranian sponsors, to destroy Israel. It is a major purveyor of anti-Semitic, anti-American propaganda throughout the Middle East and is not willing to accept any form of the "cancerous Zionist project," as it charmingly calls Israel. 

In one speech, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said, "If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, I do not say the Israeli." The anti-Semitic Hezbollah considers all Jews anywhere legitimate targets of terrorism, and it seeks to violently remove all infidels who are not fanatic Shi'a Muslims, especially Jewish infidels. 

It is important that during the war in which Israel is currently engaged, Wilson and other Post reporters adequately and consistently describe both the vicious nature and actions of the terror group that provoked this crisis.

Sara Miller
New York


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Washington Post Again Provides Terrorists With Pulpit On Op-Ed Page - Publishes Hamas Propaganda by Prime Minister of Palestinian Authority

The Washington Post once again shamefully donated a substantial amount of propaganda space to Palestinian terrorists by publishing a large op-ed piece by Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader of the Palestinian Authority. (Aggression Under False Pretenses, Ismail Haniyeh, 7-11-06, A17) We don't use the term "donate" loosely. The value of this gift to the terrorist organization cannot be measured solely by the huge dollar amount it would have cost Hamas to pay for a political ad of the same size. The help this provides Hamas in its effort to claim an undeserved respectability is invaluable. One internet blog asked whether the Post would give op-ed space to Adolph Hitler. Another voiced the outrage of many readers by asking "What the Hell is Wrong with the Washington Post?" 

Haniyeh's lies and distortions, noted in Judge Grossman's letter below, are transparent to most, and many irate readers have already written to the Post to object. However, the flip side of saying those lies and distortions are transparent to most is that some readers may well be fooled. That's what Haniyeh hopes. What does the Post hope? Certain of the Post's reporters and editors were long ago duped by the same Palestinian arguments, and we see the effect almost daily in the character of the Post's reporting from the region. This op-ed piece explicitly states that it was written in a place called "Gaza, Palestine," a state that at this time exists only in the minds of Palestinian sympathizers and Washington Post editors. When the Post publishes news articles from Jerusalem they're identified only as "Jerusalem" and never as Jerusalem, Israel. 

After Hamas's election victory in January the Post donated similar op-ed space to a high ranking Hamas official, Mousa abu Marzook, second in command of the Hamas organization in Syria. (What Hamas Is Seeking, January 31, 2006 A17) The granting of that type of propaganda pulpit to a representative of a terrorist organization drew a substantial amount of criticism at that time. The Palestinian terrorist mantra is not new. The educational value to Post readers of seeing the terrorist rationale repeated once again in print, even by their elected lead terrorist, is de minimis. Whatever might be said about the value of a reasoned, frank and truthful opinion piece by a controversial figure does not apply here. The Post allows these demagogues to deceive by mincing their words in an effort to conceal such revealing evidence as (1) the anti-Semitism and sworn violence against Israel contained in the Hamas charter, (2) the campaign of violence they have continued to wage even in the aftermath of the Gaza disengagement, (3) the defensive and deliberately restrained nature of Israel's military response to continuing rocket attacks on Israel by these terrorists, (4) the fact that the immediate provocation for the current violence in Gaza was the terrorist murder of two soldiers and kidnapping of another, Gilad Shalit, launched from Gaza into Israel via tunnel and (5) their own continuing contribution to the destruction that is keeping their own people in misery. Post readers don't benefit by allowing this terrorist leader to try and fool them into thinking Hamas is peaceful. Should the Post allow itself to be used for such an unworthy cause, solely to provide its readers with a spectacle or in the misguided belief that its own prestige is enhanced by publishing an op-ed piece by the Hamas leader of the Palestinian Authority? The answer should be clear.


To: The Editor,Washington Post
From: Judge Herbert Grossman
Date: 7-11-06

The lengthy diatribe by the Palestinian Authority's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, in "Aggression Under False Pretenses" (Op-ed, July 11), about Israel's so-called "aggression" in its current incursion into the Gaza Strip, needs no specific rebuttal. The public is well aware that Israel withdrew from Gaza and ceased all military operations only to have its civilian population bombarded with over a thousand rockets and its soldiers attacked, killed and kidnapped.

But the public may not be aware of the meaning of either the hudna (the Islamic truce) or the fair and permanent peace that Haniyeh offers.

In the seventh century, the Muslim prophet Mohammad entered into a ten-year truce with his adversary, the Quraysh tribe. Having fully rearmed, Mohammad broke the truce after two years and destroyed the Quaraysh, conquering Mecca. Ever since, the hudna has been the accepted Islamist model for lulling an enemy into complacency and then attacking.

The "fair and permanent peace" that Haniyeh offers, must be considered in the context of the Hamas Charter, which Haniyeh and Hamas refuse to modify or disown, even in part, which uses stark historic anti-Semitic invective in calling for the obliteration of Israel, the killing of Jews, and the establishment of an Islamic state in Israel's place. It is a peace without Jews or Israel.

Haniyeh's so-called offer is sheer chutzpah, a term I would be happy to explain to him, and an insult to the intelligence of the reader.

Sincerely, 


Judge Herbert Grossman
[Herbert Grossman, author of the book "J'Accuse the N.Y. Times and Washington Post: Biased Reporting from the Middle East," is a full time Federal Administrative Law Judge]


Saturday, July 8, 2006

The Post Emphasizes Only One Side Of The Fighting, Palestinian  Injuries Death And Property Damage From Israeli Tanks and Missiles - Downplays and Ignores The Continuing Stream Of Terrorist Attacks On Israel That Forced Israel To Re-Enter Gaza

Ever since Israeli troops were provoked into re-entering Gaza, first by months of almost daily bombardment of Israeli cities by the terrorists within Gaza and then triggered by the terrorist infiltration into Israel and kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, the Post's correspondent, Scott Wilson, has placed himself in Gaza among the Palestinians. He isn't trapped there.

"No, I don't feel trapped, although Gaza is a small, crowded place and when fighting starts here (even on small scales) it can be frightening. I, of course, can leave - whether to get medical attention or if I feel the situation is too dangerous." (Online Transcript of Scott Wilson Interview, 6-28-06

The Post also sent its own photographers into Gaza with Scott Wilson. The result has been a series of one-sided, sympathetic portrayals of the Palestinian perspective - rumbling Israeli tanks, explosions of artillery, Palestinian property damage, Palestinian injuries and Palestinian deaths, all aided by sympathetic photos of Palestinians splashed across the pages of the Post and its web site. 

During this same period the terrorist rocket attacks on Israeli cities have continued unabated, but they have been downplayed and virtually ignored by the Post. The extension of these rocket attacks within the last several days to reach further North in Israel to the major port city of Ashkelon was touched upon only briefly by Mr. Wilson in his reports and received no mention in headlines, even though it provoked an escalation in the fighting. One of the Ashkelon rockets hit a school. In Mr. Wilson's comments he describes the rocket as crude and hastens to add that the school building that was hit was empty. The Jerusalem Post reported that the blast from the second of the two Ashkelon rockets caused "eight people suffering from shock, among them two children, [to be] evacuated to Barzilai Medical Center," but Mr. Wilson was silent about this. On the other hand, in his reports about Israeli missiles hitting an empty Palestinian government building - Mr. Wilson calls it a "bombing" - he says nothing about the building being empty and hastens to provide the number of civilians in nearby residences alleged to have been injured. When Israeli missiles hit an empty Hamas built school, Mr. Wilson doesn't note that it was empty at the time and fails to note that it is used at night for Hamas meetings. He does, however, quote a Palestinian official touring the school as saying that Israel is trying to "'annihilate the Palestinian people.'"

The drive from Gaza to the Israeli city of Sderot is but 10-15 minutes, and Ashkelon is perhaps another 5 minutes. So, if Mr. Wilson had an interest in observing and describing the human and property damage terrorists are causing to Israelis, all he would have to do is take a drive.

As Leo Rennert's letter below demonstrates, the effect of this one-sided reporting has been to turn cause and effect on its head. The reporting by the Post creates the impression that Israel is the aggressor and the Palestinians are doing nothing more than responding in a weak and ineffectual way to Israeli attacks.


To: Publisher, Chairman, Editors and Ombudsman, The Washington Post
From: Leo Rennert
Date: July 8, 2006

Scott Wilson is doing a bang-up job covering Israel's military operation in Gaza from the Palestinian side, but precisely because of his vivid, empathetic descriptions of Palestinian suffering, the Post's virtually total blankout of the Israeli side of the equation is all that much more glaringly obvious. I'm referring to the incessant, continuing and growing Palestinian barrage of rockets into Israel -- the very reason why Israel launched its counter-offensive in Gaza (the kidnapping of its soldier was the other reason).

Saturday's Post article by Scott is a perfect illustration of what I'm referring to. While Scott was embedded Friday on the Palestinian side, interviewing individual Palestinians to give readers dramatic up-close and personal sketches of how Gazans are impacted, here's some of what happened on the Israeli side during the same news cycle on Friday:

  • At least 15 rockets were fired into Israel, most of them against the city of Sderot.

  • One rocket hit near Ashkelon, a major Israeli port.

  • One rocket hit near the city of Netivot in the western Negev -- the first time Palestinians were able to target this Israeli community. This particular rocket traveled more than 10 kilometers -- another indication of the lengthened range of Qassams now being deployed against Israel.

  • In Sderot, the most frequent Palestinian rocket-attack target, 3 people were injured; four others were treated for shock.

  • One rocket narrowly missed a school building in Sderot.

  • Another rocket scored a direct hit on a factory in Sderot -- setting the building on fire.

All this on a single day and one day after Sderot absorbed seven rocket attacks on Thursday.

Wilson's piece summed up some, but by no means all, of the above-described Friday rocket barrage, in not even a single paragraph, but in a brief sentence tacked on to a wider paragraph that begins with Israelis killing 7 Palestinian "gunmen" -- a regular Post euphemism for terrorists.

By giving such ultra-scant attention to the provocative rocket firings by Palestinians -- in the context of all-out coverage of a most personal nature of the Palestinian side -- the Post gives readers the definite -- but erroneous -- impression that it's Israel that initiated the crisis and the Palestinians are responding with rocket attacks -- instead of the other way around. The sum total impression on readers of the Post's coverage -- and especially non-coverage -- of the current crisis is to stand history on its head!

As I've mentioned to you in a couple of earlier e-mails, if there's to be even a minimum semblance of fairness and even-handedness in the Post's coverage, editors need to supplement Wilson's coverage of the Palestinian side with equal attention to and description of the impact of ever more frequent, more accurate and wider-ranging Palestinian rockets on Israeli communities.

Just for a moment, put yourself in the place of children in Sderot who don't know from one minute to the next whether they will be killed by Qassams, or parents worried sick about their children in school when a rocket hits a school ground, or Sderot's entire population treated to siren blasts that give people literally only seconds to take cover against incoming missiles. None of their up-close and personal suffering and angst appears in the Post, even though they've had to endure rocket attacks for many months.

Best regards,

Leo Rennert
[Leo Rennert is a journalist and former White House correspondent]


Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Washington Post Views And Reports Israel's Struggle Against Terrorism Through the Prism of Moral Equivalence - Equates Infiltration and Seizure of Israeli Soldier to Arrests and Imprisonment of Terrorists and Accomplices - Says Kidnapping of Israeli Soldier Provides Hope to Families of Jailed Terrorists - Seeks To Shed Doubt On Israel's Sincerity In Saying Gaza Offensive's Primary Purpose Is To Recover Kidnapped Soldier

An article today by the Post's Scott Wilson demonstrates the distorted perspective of moral equivalence that permeates much of Mr. Wilson's reporting. (In Gaza, Not Just a Soldier -- or Prisoner, Corporal's Capture Emboldens Israel's Bid to Weaken Hamas, Palestinians' Pleas for Detainee Releases, 7-4-06, A09) Mr. Wilson harbors the bankrupt notion that Arabs and Israelis, terrorists and soldiers, aggression and defense all are morally equivalent, and he often injects this opinion into his writing. 

Today's article is written against the backdrop of the kidnapping of Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. It purports to be a feature article about the prisoners of both sides in the conflict. Mr. Wilson juxtaposes the perspective of each side toward its own "prisoners," discussing the reasons why each side feels so strongly about its own. In the process, however, he drives home his real point, which is to humanize the Palestinian prisoners, show readers the difference in numbers - 1 Israeli versus 8,500 Palestinians or 1 Israeli versus the 1,000 Palestinians who the terrorists have demanded be released in exchange for Corporal Shalit - and by implication justifies the Palestinian kidnapping of the Israeli soldier and makes the Israeli response an overreaction.

Notice the sense of hope Mr. Wilson conveys over a possible prisoner exchange. He appears to personally identify with the families of terrorists in Israeli jails:

"But as they crowded into rows of wooden benches Monday, clutching framed photographs of sons, husbands and brothers in Israeli jails, there was a sense of possibility for the first time in years. Suddenly they have a prisoner of their own -- an Israeli soldier."

This statement of hope derived from a terrorist infiltration and kidnapping was picked up and repeated in the caption of a large photograph that ran with the article of a tiny Palestinian girl carrying a photograph of a Palestinian man. The caption read:

"For the prisoners relatives, there was a sense of possibility for the first time in years, with the hope that Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails would be freed in exchange for Shalit."

In addition to this photograph, the Post ran a huge (1/3 of the page) photograph of  Palestinian women with pleading expressions clutching portraits of doe-eyed terrorists. The caption read: 

"Relatives of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails gather every Monday at the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza City to call for release of their family members." 

Under both of these photos is a tiny (1 1/4" x 3/4") photograph of Gilad Shalit, with a caption that stated: 

"Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit, 19, was captured June 25 at his army post."

Moral equivalence is the view that each side in a conflict is equally right and/or wrong and that one must view the conflict from each side's perspective to understand it. Understanding it is the same as accepting it. In an effort to force the real world, with all of its subtleties, shadings and lack of equivalence, into the cramped mold of moral equivalence, differences and distinctions must be minimized, context must be stripped, history and facts must be twisted or ignored, terminology must be "equalized" - or should we say euphemized - with the end result being a false and misleading depiction of events.

Mr. Wilson does all of these things in this article. He distorts his terminology. Not once in this article is there any reference to terrorists or terrorism or even the euphemism ordinarily favored by the Post, "militant." The two euphemisms used by Mr. Wilson in this article to fill the mold of moral equivalence are "prisoners" and "illegal organizations." Terrorists are transformed into "prisoners" and terrorist organizations, including Hamas, are transformed into "illegal organizations."

"How did the capture of one soldier mushroom so quickly into crisis? Because in the Palestinian territories a prisoner is not just a prisoner, and in Israel a soldier is not just a soldier."

Looking beyond the distorted terminology, Mr. Wilson deliberately strips his report of the necessary context that would enable readers to arrive at their own conclusions. He strips his report of facts, background and history. These so-called "prisoners" were simply arrested by Israel for no good reason. There is not a single reference to the thousands of dastardly acts they perpetrated, planned, conspired to commit, aided or abetted. To the contrary, he notes that to Palestinians they are considered heroes, but he refrains from providing the reader with any hint of their heroic acts:

"In the West Bank and Gaza, the more than 8,500 Palestinians in Israeli jails are viewed as models of personal sacrifice, holding a status just below those who have been killed in the conflict with Israel."

The closest he comes to giving any factual background is to blatantly misrepresent that the crime of most of them was simply "belonging to illegal organizations." Furthermore, he doesn't define the illegal organizations or say why they're illegal. He ignores the fact that they openly declare their intent to destroy Israel. Israel's declared intent, on the other hand, is to live side by side in peace with the Palestinians, which is obviously a distinction without a difference to Mr. Wilson. Not only is the goal of these so-called illegal organizations concealed in this article, but Mr. Wilson employs terminology treating them as an equivalent fighting force to the Israeli army. The planning and carrying out of suicide bombings and other murders of unarmed civilians is, in Mr. Wilson's parlance, "military," and they do it with "military tactics:" 

"Prison time is important to any Palestinian political resume´ and serves as a stand-in university for many young Palestinians, who learn politics, military tactics, Hebrew and Islam in its cells."

By eliminating any reference to their terrorist acts and by elevating Palestinian terrorists to the status of soldiers, a moral equivalence is drawn between deliberately murdering innocent civilians and the actions of Israeli soldiers in fighting back against those acts. Mr. Wilson avoids any mention of the terrorist acts that landed these prisoners in Israeli jails, because he knows that to do so would unavoidably lead intelligent readers to see the absence of moral equivalence.

The article is virtually devoid of the historical context that would enable readers to examine issues of cause and effect, fault or even the essentially defensive nature of Israel's struggle against terrorism. A reporter during the Nazi era injecting moral equivalence into news reports could have depicted Hitler's murderous aggression as nothing more than the acts of a democratically elected, charismatic patriot caught up in a conflict because he was determined to solve Germany's social problems and obtain for his country the recognition he was convinced it deserved in the European community. Readers should not stand for this level of deception.


Two other points should be noted about this article. The first is Mr. Wilson's ridiculous assessment of the reason for the Israeli reaction to the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit. He attributes the Israeli reaction to the fact that Gilad Shalit is a soldier and Israeli society is full of soldiers. He believes the Israeli reaction is due to the solidarity soldiers feel for other soldiers. He arrives at this absurd conclusion because he himself has a poor opinion of Israelis and Israeli society and can find no other reason for the Israeli reaction. Here's what he says about the Israeli reaction to Shalit's kidnapping and Israeli society as a whole:

"Because almost everyone in Israel except ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs has been a soldier, the capture of a young conscript matters deeply across the whole society. The obligatory service in the Israel Defense Forces, as the military is known, is the seminal shared experience in a society divided by politics, ethnicity and religious belief."

What is shocking is that after having been in Israel as long as he has, Mr. Wilson still has so little sensitivity to Israelis and Israeli society as to be oblivious not only to the premium Israelis place on the life of each and every other Israeli, soldier or no soldier, but more importantly to the horror every Israeli experiences over one of their own coming into the hands of a savage and blood thirsty band of Arab terrorists who hate him to their very core. That is the reason for the Israeli reaction to the terrorist kidnapping of Shalit, but it completely escaped Scott Wilson.

The second point is that in this article Mr. Wilson continues to depict Israel as cynical,  calculating and insincere by his assertion that it is using the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit as a pretext for its desire to weaken and remove Hamas from power. Mr. Wilson claims to have Israeli "military officials" as sources for this assertion:

"Israeli military officials have indicated they intend to use Shalit's capture to take care of unfinished business, namely weakening the Hamas-led government and taking out the Palestinian rocket launchers that have plagued southern Israeli cities." 

A portion of the headline of this article repeats this assertion. It states:

"Corporal's Capture Emboldens Israel's Bid to Weaken Hamas"

Mr. Wilson published an entire article with this as its theme on July 1. We wrote about it then, and we noted Mr. Wilson's conspicuous use of unnamed sources. We noted then that he didn't indicate that his sources asked not to be named, and he continues that pattern in today's article. But there are other reasons for a reporter to not name his sources. If the reporter has so distorted, slanted or taken out of context statements made by his sources, the safest thing to do is to refrain from naming the sources. In addition, if the sources are not in a position to know or speak authoritatively about the motivations of high level officials - in other words, if they're just talkers - the reporter insulates himself from criticism by simply not naming the sources. Considering Mr. Wilson's position with the Washington Post, its reputation of bashing Israel and his history of publishing articles slanted against Israel, we doubt that anyone in the IDF in a position to speak authoritatively about Israel's motivations for its military activities in Gaza would have confided in him. This is likely just one more effort by Mr. Wilson and the Post to bash Israel.


Monday, July 3, 2006

The Post Slants Its Headlines to Eliminate the Good and Portray Israel As The Aggressor

Some people limit their newspaper reading habits to scanning the headlines. On a day he described as "one of the quietest here since the June 25 attack" in which Hamas kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Post correspondent Scott Wilson opened his article today with a balanced statement reporting the most important news from Gaza yesterday, which was Israel's humanitarian gesture in opening a key crossing and pipeline into Gaza for food, medicine and fuel while at the same time affirming its commitment to do all that is necessary to recover the kidnapped soldier. 

"Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert approved the opening of a key cargo crossing and pipeline into the Gaza Strip on Sunday to allow delivery of medicine, food and fuel here even as he ordered the military to "do everything" toward forcing the release of a captured Israeli soldier."

Mr. Wilson should be commended for not burying the news favorable to Israel toward the back of his article. However, headlines aren't written by reporters, and the headline on this particular article lacked the balance of the opening paragraph. Here was the headline:

"Israel Orders Army To 'Do Everything' To Free Corporal"

Nothing was mentioned in the headline about Israel's opening of the crossing and pipeline, even though that was the first news reported in the article. The internal quotation marks on the phrase "do everything" demonstrate an effort by the Post (and Mr. Wilson, who did the same) to emphasize and give the erroneous impression that Israel will go to any length to recover the Israeli soldier, even if it is inhumane and excessive. That this was the intent and effect of the headline is further illustrated by the teaser on the front page of the Post's web site saying: "Israel Orders Army to Free Soldier at All Costs."

Because it runs a news service, the Washington Post's articles are picked up and published by other news outlets around the nation and world. This particular story was no exception, but the differences in the headline given to the exact same story by other news outlets are noteworthy. In fact, the only significant news outlets to pick up the story appear to have all placed emphasis on Israel's humanitarian gesture, contrary to the Post headline, which ignored it.

Newsday:
Israel Reopens Key Route For Goods

The Indianapolis Star:
"Israel Allows Supplies To Enter The Gaza Strip, At The Same Time, Prime Minister Tells Military To Do Whatever It Can To Gain Release Of Soldier"

The Boston Globe:
Supply Route Reopened, Allowing Food, Fuel Into Gaza, Israel Builds Up Tanks, Troops Along Border

The Houston Chronicle:
Israel Permits Relief Measures In Gaza, Move Will Allow Delivery Of Food, Fuel And Medicine

Fortunately, this is far from the worst of the Post's exhibitions of anti-Israel bias, but it does show a dishonest effort to slant its headlines to convey to its readers erroneous impressions about Israeli conduct. A headline is the print media's equivalent of the sound bite. It's what grabs a reader's attention and forms his initial and sometimes only impression. The Washington Post knows this, and even when its reporters in the field don't do a good job of slanting the news against Israel, its headline writers take up the slack.


Sunday, July 2, 2006

Why Hasn't The Washington Post Reported The Announcement By Fatah's Terrorist Branch That It Has Developed Chemical And Biological Weapons and Will Use Them Against Israel?

A week ago the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, the terrorist group that is part of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party, announced that for three years it had been working on developing chemical and biological weapons to use against Israel and that it has now succeeded in producing at least 20 different varieties of these weapons. The group stated that it would not hesitate to arm Kassam rockets being launched at Israel with these weapons of mass destruction. (Al-Aksa Claims Chemical Capabilities, Jerusalem Post, 6-25-06) The Washington Post never reported this story, despite having been alerted to it by readers. Although it is clear this story should have been considered very significant (see discussion at FrontPage Magazine), readers should ask themselves why a story such as this would not in the Post's judgment have warranted at least a small paragraph in the World in Brief Section?


To: Publisher, Chairman, Editors and Ombudsman, The Washington Post
From: Emily Rose
Date: June 26, 2006

Why has there been a virtual news blackout of the threat made by the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades to use biological and chemical weapons against Israel? If Israel had threatened to use WMD against Gaza, it would have been front page news 24/7 around the world.

The Aksa Martyrs Brigades announced on Sunday 6/25 that its members have succeeded in manufacturing chemical and biological weapons.

In a leaflet distributed in the Gaza Strip, the group, which belongs to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah Party, said that its members would not hesitate to add the new weapons to Kassam rockets that are being fired at Israeli communities almost every day.

WHY IS THERE A BLACKOUT ON THIS NEWS COVERAGE???? I am tired of your double standard in reporting the news, and your obvious bias against Israel.

Emily Rose


Saturday, July 1, 2006

Post Correspondent Falsely Reports That Israel Used Kidnapped Israeli Soldier As Pretext To Invade Gaza And Remove Hamas Government - Post's Own Editorial Contradicts Him, Saying It Was The Hamas Leader Who Made Such A Claim And That The Claim Appears To Be False

Rarely do we get as penetrating a glimpse into a reporter's effort to mislead readers as we did today, when we witnessed the Post itself, on the same day, contradicting assertions of its own correspondent, Scott Wilson. Post reporter Scott Wilson authored a front page article falsely portraying Israel as having used the kidnapping this week of Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, as a pretext for the current Gaza military campaign. (Israelis Increase Pressure On Hamas, Its Hold on Power Said to Be Target, 7-1-06, A01) Mr. Wilson used multiple unidentified Israeli sources to allege in the first three paragraphs of this article - paragraphs that appeared on the front page of the paper - as follows: 

"Israel has taken an escalating series of military and political steps against Hamas that officials said are aimed at weakening the radical movement's hold on the Palestinian government, even as the search continues for a 19-year-old Israeli soldier captured this week by Palestinian gunmen.

The steps against Hamas include the arrests of more than 60 officials, including eight cabinet members, an airstrike on the Interior Ministry, and a decision Friday to strip four Hamas officials of their Jerusalem residency rights. Israeli officials acknowledge that the bold measures signal a broad new effort against the movement and, by extension, the fragile government it controls.

The military pressure continued on Friday, with periodic artillery shelling at rocket-launching sites in northern Gaza and two missile strikes that caused no injuries. Some of the measures were planned even before the soldier was kidnapped. A number of Israeli military officials say Israel should have carried out the plans long ago."

Hmmmm....

"...officials said..."
"...Israeli officials acknowledge..."
"A number of Israeli military officials say..."


OK... Thinking aloud here... If he's telling the truth and Israeli "officials" said it, maybe there's some truth to it. But let's wait and see if Mr. Wilson will tell us who these officials are so that we can make sure they're in a position to know Israeli policy and motives and to make sure Mr. Wilson didn't cherry pick a few low ranking folks, not in a position to know and prone to speculation ... the kind of people who simply like to hear themselves talk. Mr. Wilson never qualifies these statements to indicate that his sources, the so-called "officials," asked to remain anonymous, so we continued to read the article to ascertain who they were. They're never identified anywhere in the article. He uses the plural and throws in the vague phrase "a number of Israeli officials," but even assuming Mr. Wilson is telling the truth, we may be dealing with only a couple of low ranking talkers. Curiously, these lead paragraphs that appeared on the front page page of the paper are themselves contradicted in the interior of the article, when Mr. Wilson states: 

"Israeli officials say they are seeking the soldier's release through political and military means, which are being felt acutely here in the Gaza Strip.

Cpl. Gilad Shalit was taken by Palestinian gunmen Sunday during an attack on an Israeli army post just outside Gaza's southeastern border. The raid, carried out by Hamas's military wing and two smaller armed groups, left two soldiers dead. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has threatened a broad military operation in Gaza, including significant numbers of ground forces for the first time since Israel's departure last September, to win the soldier's release."

Even more curious is that Mr. Wilson himself contradicted these statements in a live online question-answer session on Wednesday, when he said: 

"Israel believes Hamas is largely responsible for the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit and makes no distinction between its political leadership, now running the Palestinian Authority, and its military wing, which has claimed responsibility (along with two smaller armed groups) for the soldier's capture. So the military operation - on the ground and in the air - is a form pressure Israel hopes will shake loose the prisoner." (Transcript, 6-28-06)

If it isn't bad enough that Mr. Wilson himself can't seem to get his story straight, that he contradicts himself both elsewhere and in the very same article, Washington Post editors, in a superb editorial in the same edition, contradict Mr. Wilson by stating that what Mr. Wilson claims he got from unnamed and vaguely described "Israeli officials" is actually the claim of Hamas's leader, Ismail Haniyeh, and that it doesn't appear to be true: 

"PALESTINIAN Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh charged yesterday that Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip is aimed at overturning his government. It's not clear that's the case -- the incursion seems mainly intended to recover a soldier held hostage by Palestinian militants. But if it is, Israel would be entirely justified." (Hamas's War, The movement defended armed attacks and hostage-taking; now it's complaining that Israel is fighting back. 7-1-06, A24)

Was Mr. Wilson falsely attributing Palestinian claims to vague and unidentified Israeli officials in an effort to mislead readers? Would you believe us if we told you we were told as much by a number of Washington Post officials?

The above editorial is a breath of fresh air for the Washington Post in its balanced perspective on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The contrast with Mr. Wilson's unbalanced editorializing in what are supposed to be news reports couldn't be sharper. Someone at the Post examining Mr. Wilson's internal contradictions and use of unidentified and vaguely described official sources would be right to be embarrassed.


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