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July 30, 2010
Wash. Post Invokes Jesus and John the Baptist to Flog Israel
Discerning Washington Post readers have come to expect a regular menu of Israel-bashing articles from Jerusalem correspondent Janine Zacharia. Not a week goes by without a major Zacharia feature about Israeli shortcomings and blemishes, however spurious, however questionable. And especially questionable in the context of total silence about any failings by Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority, of which many very serious ones still await Post coverage.
The latest Zacharia effort to extend her string of anti-Israel pieces, however, deserves special mention because it's a stretch beyond a stretch. She's obviously beginning to run out of saleable material, as attested by a July 30 story that, along with two photos and a map, takes up half a page, with a headline reading: "A Sacred but sullied spot? -- Activists say pollution makes baptism site unsafe."
The lead paragraph explains the headline: "Environmentalists claim that the hallowed spot along the Jordan River where Christians believe John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ has become too filthy for human use."
She then goes to quote a spokesman for Friends of the Earth Middle East as saying that "unlimited sewages continues to flow both directly and indirectly into the river." And so this group wants Israel to prevent thousands of Christian pilgrims from immersing themselves in that spot of the river.
Having scored her usual hit against Israel, Zacharia only then proceeds to report Israel's denial that the river is actually quite safe and, in any case, Israel is working to make it even safer.
So how unsafe really is the Jordan for Christian pilgrims?
According to Zacharia, a water test last October found bacteria within levels deemed safe by Israeli standards. And Israel has an enviable public health record. But that doesn't satisfy Zacharia. "The result," she adds "would not have met the standard set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is 10 times as stringent."
Is the Post now going to examine pollution levels in rivers around the world to check if all of them conform to EPA standards? Why worry only about the health of bathers in an Israeli waterway?
Still, Zacharia isn't done yet. Groping for a more up-to-date gotacha peg, she orders up a spot check just days before filing her story. But alas, even she has to admit that it "found the water quality to be safe, even by U.S. standard."
By now, you'd think Zacharia would just give up and admit that she hit a dry hole. But no. Instead, she soldiers on by immediately neutering the most recent test: "Still, environmentalists dismissed the results as unreliable because contaminant levels can vary hourly."
Wow! Just think about it. The Jordan conforms to EPA standards in the middle of the summer, when the river dries up to a trickle and is far more susceptible to carrying pollutants. Neverthless, Zacharia is determined not to let that get in the way of satsifying her anti-Israel agenda.
If the Post were genuinely interested in the health of pilgrims immersing themselves in a holy river, I'd recommend that Zacharia be dispatched to India to report on very real contaminant threats to millions of Hindu pilgrims who bathe in the sacred Ganges River. But gosh, the Ganges is well beyond Israel's jurisdiction. So scratch that idea.
In sum, the Post's failure to put all the world's holy rivers under its anti-Israel microscope, makes a mockery of its claims to responsible, even-handed reporting. It points up the paper's gross anti-Israel bias, the hypocrisy of its negative obsession with Israel -- its glaring double standard!