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April 3, 2010
WaPo Exculpates Hamas in Terror Attacks From Gaza
There's been a sharp increase in rocket and mortar fire from Gaza in recent weeks, prompting Israel to retaliate with airstrikes on military targets. A fair, balanced roundup of these developments should include three essential elements -- what's been happening to increase tensions, comments from the Hamas regime in Gaza as well as from Palestinian residents, and comments from Israeli officials and from Israelis living near the border.
Unfortunately, in an April 3 article by Jerusalem correspondent Janine Zacharia, Washington Post readers are presented with only the first two of these elements, while comments and views of Israeli officials and Israelis in the target zone are completely ignored. ("Hostilities intensify between Gaza, Israel -- Cease-Fire At Risk -- Hamas leader urges international intervention" page A5).
Zacharia, who hadn't bothered to document in recent weeks the sharp escalation in rocket and mortar fire from Gaa, now weighs in with a lengthy piece, prompted by Israeli airstrikes in response to cross-border attacks from Gaza.
After summing up the heightened rate of action/reacton incidents, Zacharia -- high up in the third paragraph of her dispatch -- quotes Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas's leader in Gaza, as calling for international intervention and asking other factions in Gaza to avoid provoking Israeli retaliatory attacks.
The next paragraph is devoted to an interview with Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha, who elaborates on Haniyeh's comments, depicting Hamas as statesmanlike in trying to calm things down.
What somehow escapes Zacharia's attention is that it's not just other factions that have been firing on Israel. Hamas itself claimed responsibility for setting an ambush that killed two Israeli soldiers.
Why make it appear that Hamas has embraced pacifism when its hands are just as bloody as those of other terror groups in the territory?
But Zacharia isn't through giving a Post platform for unchallenged comments by Hamas officials. She conducts another interview, this time with Hamas economics minister Ziyad al-Zaza, who assures her that Hamas genuinely wants to reconcile with Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah in the West Bank.
But that's not all that Zaza gets to tell Post readers. He also bemoans Egypt's construction of an underground steel wall on its side of the Gaza border, and worries that the Egyptians will destroy smuggling tunnels to halt not only the flow of weapons into Gaza, but also what Zacharia herself describes as heavy Palestinian reliance on the tunnels for "everyday necessities."
In sympathy with such Palestinian views, Zacharia suggests that the tunnels are an essential lifeline for Gaza because Israel is only
That's a gross distortion of Israel's far, far greater and more extensive movement of humanitarian supplies into Gaza. And these supplies didn't just start ''NOW." They've been occurring since Hamas violently took control of Gaza back in 2007. In just one week last month, Israel supplied Gaza with 12,000 tons of wheat, flour, meat, chickens, fish, vegetables, animal feed and medical supplies, plus 1 million liters of diesel fuel and 837 tons of cooking gas. And 483 Gaza medical patients and their escorts passed through what Zacharia describes as the "all but empty" Erez crossing for special treatment in Israeli hospitals.
In 2009, Israel sent 620,000 tons of humanitarian supplies into Gaza and opened its border crossing to more than 10,000 Gazans for medical treatment in Israel.
Why hide this from Post readers?
Post editors might want to ask Zacharia to spend a few days at Israeli border crossing points and then report factually on what actually moves into Gaza to meet humanitarian needs, even while residents on the Israeli side come under rocket and mortar attacks. Zacharia's dismissively cavalier treatment of Israel's vast humanitarian aid to Gaza bears no resemblance to reality.
But even as Zacharia ignores the vast scope of goods and people moving into and from Gaza, she still is not done quoting Palestinians about their woes under Israel's anti-Hamas blockade, citing Kamal Awaja as unable to return to his luxurous seaside villa near Gaza's border with Israel because of sporadic Israeli fire.
Zacharaia ends her skewed article by telling Post readers that Awaja lives in a tent with his family in a field a short drive away. Says Awaja: "I'm afraid to go back there." End of story.
But remember: This is supposed to be an article about intensified hostilities between Gaza and Israel. And yet, while devoting copious space to the views of Hamas officials and other Gazans, the article is completely devoid of any pronouncements from Israeli officials about their views of the rise of rocket and mortar attacks. Nor are there any interviews with Israeli residents near the Gaza border.
No up-close-and-personal accounts of Israelis in Ashkelon being roused by Code Red sirens and having only seconds to look for some shelter against incoming rockets. No interviews with any Israeli official or spokesman explaining that tensions are due entirely to violations of the cease-fire from the Gaza side -- that if calm prevails for Israelis, calm will prevail for Gazans.
Hamas gets to have its say in the Post. Israel does not.
And just to keep the record straight, the Israeli Air Force struck at two weapons-manufacturing sites in Hamas-ruled Gaza -- not one, as Zacharia reported.