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September 25, 2009
A WaPo anti-Israel trifecta
On Sept. 24, singer-poet Leonard Cohen packed a 45,000-seat stadium near Tel Aviv for a concert designed to raise funds for one of his pet projects -- an organization that promotes reconciliation -- with a good measure of success --between Palestinian and Israeli families whose members have been killed or injured during this protracted conflict.
Some fringe groups of Israel-bashers urged a boycott of the concert, but failed miserably, as was clearly demonstrated by the huge turnout.
So how does the Washington Post report this event? As a triumph of hands-across-the-divide efforts to sow amity and cooperation between the two sides -- the full realization of what Cohen was trying to accomplish -- in the teeth of organized attempts to torpedo the concert?
No, siree. Washington Post correspondent Howard Schneider deftly shapes his account to give top play to vociferous critics of the concert and follows this up with a recitation of other recent anti-Israel boycott attempts. A triumph for Cohen and a feather in Israel's cap are turned upside down into a twisted picture of Israel behind the eight ball.
How do Schneider and the Post manage to give their readers this distorted piece of anti-Israel bias.?
Start with the headline, a tipoff of Schneider's real agenda -- "Singer Leonard Cohen Performs in Israel, Against Backdrop of Criticism ."
Schneider's lead paragraph doesn't even mention his performance the day before in Israel, which one might expect under basic precepts of Journalism 101. No, Schneider starts off by recalling that Cohen's first concerts for Israelis weren't in Israel, but for Israeli troops in the "then-occupied Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, part of a morale-boosting tour that the Montreal native gave during the 1973 Yom Kippur War."
The way Schneider puts it, readers would never know that this "occupied Sinai Peninsula" was a short time earlier the launch pad for an Egyptian blitzkrieg aimed at destroying the Jewish state. In Schneider's version, Israel had no business to defend itself and being in Sinai -- regardless of all-out Egyptian aggression.
Schneider then gets around to this week's concert in his second paragraph, which he writes "again embroiled (Cohen) in the Arab-Israeli conflict." Schneider immediately stresses that this time he was the target of a "boycott campaign that aims to discourage artists, writers and others from performing or touring in Israel."
The third paragraph again puts primary emphasis on this total failure of a boycott campaign, with Schneider reporting that it came "amid accusations that Cohen had betrayed his humanist and Buddhist principles." And in the same paragraph, Schneider's first quote for his article comes from Shir Hever, an anti-Israel activist, who describes the concert as a "validation of Israel's occupation of the West Bank."
The fourth paragraph finally gets around to acknowledge that Cohen's proceeds were intended for his reconciliation projects.
In the fifth paragraph, Schneider for the first time admits that even "the mainstream Israeli peace movement criticized what they regard as fringe groups trying to undercut cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians."
But Schneider immediately brushes aside thhe views of mainstream peace groups and instead inserts another quote from Israel-bashing Hever: "Palestinians don't want appeasement, they want recognition of their rights. Israelis point out the willingness of people like Madonna and Leonard Cohen to give shows as a sign Israeli is normal, like a European country. It evades responsibility."
Well, by now, discerning readers get the real message that this Post reporter doesn't care a fig about his journalistic "responsibility."
From this point in his article, Schneider then devotes two lengthy paragraphs to a recitation of "recent successes" by "grassroots boycott efforts" in Israel and abroad. And he couples this with a reprise of the recent UN Gaza war report that was critical of Israel's conduct during the Gaza war, plus a survey by the Israeli Manufactures Association that found that 20 percent of its members were "affected" by such overseas efforts. How much they were affected, Schneider doesn't say. Nor does he report that the great majority of such boycott efforts have failed, just as they did with Cohen's concert. Nor does he mention that, despite the global financial turnout, Israel's economy already has emerged out of recession.
Tellingly, it is not until the very last paragraph of his 14-paragraph article that Schneider quotes Ali Awwad, a West Bank resident whose brother was killed by Israeli forces but now works on reconcilation efforts: "How can you boycott a good heart like Leonard Cohen?" Awwad asks. "We have loss and pain but still believe in peace and reconciliation. We come without labels to talk in one voice. It's not our destiny to keep dying."
But at the Washington Post, the destiny of such peacemakers is to get shoved into journalistic oblvioon -- the last seat in the back of the bus -- while an embittered Israel-basher gets first-class treatment at the front of the bus.
EXAMPLE No. 2:
In the same edition, in another example of the Post's anti-Israel agenda, the paper gives a shockingly, minimal, kiss-off account about Prime Minister Netanyahu's address at the UN. It's squeezed into a short 10-paragraph article at the very bottom of the page -- with only 4 of these 10 paragraphs devoted to what Netanyahu actually said about Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust and the existential threat Israel faces from a nuclear Iran. Nothing whatsoever about Netanyahu's strong defense of Israel's conduct in the Gaza war, in which he pointed out the unparalleled efforts by Israeli forces to minimize civilian casualties, and contrasted Israel's behavior with that of the Allies who pulverized German cities in retaliation to German rocket attacks on London. Would anyone have thought of prosecuting FDR and Churchill as war criminals, Netanyahu asked. Given the reams of copy the Post devoted to Ahmadinejad's presence in New York, one would have thought that Netanyahu's retort merited more than 4 paragraphs in an article that also devotes 2 paragraphs to a reprise of Ahadminejad's declarations and the remaining four paragraphs to the tirades of Hugo Chavez.
In sharp contrast, a lengthy article about the antics of Libya's Qaddafi rates top-of-the page play -- with Qaddafi getting more than five times more play than the Post's miserly treatment of Netanyahu
EXAMPLE No. 3
During the same news cycle, there were protest rallies against Ahmadinejad by Israel supporters in New York and Farragut Square in Washington, DC, just a few blocks from the Washington Post building.
How did the Post report these events?