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June 8, 2010
WaPo's blind eye to Gaza armed divers
The Washington Post, in a June 8 dispatch by Jerusalem correspondent Janine Zacharia, treads ever so gently on the identity and objectives of four Palestinian terrorist frogmen who were killed off Gaza by Israel's Navy ("Four divers shot, killed by Israel off Gaza" page A11)
Let's start with the headline -- that Israel killed 4 "divers." A reader who looks only at the headline -- and there are lots such readers -- might get the erroneous impression that a trigger-happy Israeli naval unit shot and killed a group harmless scuba-diving folks off a Gaza beach.
But that's far from what actually happened. The four were identified by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the terrorist wing of Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party, as their own members. This is a terror organization which boasts of having killed more Israeli civilians than Hamas during the recent intifada and still regularly claims responsibility for firing rockets and mortar shells from Gaza into Israel.
Yet, to the Washington Post's headline writer, they are merely "divers." Would the same writer crafting a headline for an article on U.S. drones killing Al-Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan describe them merely as "mountaineers"? I doubt it. So why a different standard for softening terrorists when they are Palestinians?
In her article, Zacharia does get around to identifying the "divers" as members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, but again shies away from labeling this a terrorist organization. Since the "T" word is taboo at the Post for Palestinian terrorists, she describes the group as a "violent affiliate" of Abbas's party -- a big step down from outright terrorism.
But her article doesn't only suffer from failure to use proper terminology to identify terrorists; it also suggests -- not once but twice -- that the four "divers," who Israel claims intended to stage a terror attack deep inside the country, were unarmed -- contrary to Israeli press reports that they did indeed carry arms.
Zacharia, seemingly bent to make these "divers" appear as peaceful as possible, first quotes an Al-Aqsa spokesman that "the divers were on a training mission, unarrmed." Notice that she didn't bother to ask what they were training for? And what use the training was if they didn't carry arms?
In the next paragraph, Zacharia cites a brief Israeli military statement that its forces fired upon "a squad of terrorists wearing diving suits on their way to execute a terror attack." But she immediately adds that the Israeli statement failed to provide specifics of what was planned or say "whether the divers had weapons." Again, Zacharaia might have been able to fill in those blanks had she shown some elementary curiosity and directly asked an IDF spokesman whether in fact these "divers" carried weapons. Instead, she's more interested in casting doubt on Israel's statement, having shown no such skepticism when she accepted Al-Aqsa's statement at face value.
On the issue of whether the 'divers" did or didn't carry arms, Zacharia evidently paid no attention to a same-time article on the website of Yedioth Aronoth, Israel's largest-circulation daily newspaper, which quoted a senior Israeli Navy officer that the four terrorists "wore diving suits and also carried weapons on them."
Why only look for ways to downplay the terrorist threat to Israel and ignore Israeli media reports that these were armed men? Why take the word of a terrorist group but ignore published assertions by a high-ranking Israeli Navy officer?
Also missing from Zacharia's article is an increasingly worrisome threat to Israel's security from seaborne terrorism originating in Gaza -- a threat which reinforces the need for its blockade. It was only a few months ago that barrels laden with explosives washed up on Israeli beaches not far from Gaza. Fortunately, they were spotted and neutralized in time. But they again underscored that Israel has to guard against terrorist attacks not only by land but also by sea. None of this context appears in Zacharia's article.
Instead, Zachara's eight-paragraph article devotes four paragraphs to tiptoeing around the gravity of terrorist threats from Gaza and the last four paragraphs to putting Israel again in the dock over the killing of nine passengers aboard a Gaza-bound flotilla after they triggered a violent melee by brutally beating and bloodying Israeli commandos with knives and metal bars as they tried to board one of the vessels.
Rest assured that Zacharia doesn't report that incident accurately, either. In her version, there were no attacks on Israeli commandos at all. It was just an Israeli "operation that left nine activists dead." No mention whatsoever of what these "activists" did to the Israeli commandos before they ended up dead.