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September 16, 2010
Obsessed by Settlements, WaPo Ignores Escalating Terror Attacks from Gaza
Judging from the Washington Post's coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, it seems not to have occurred to the paper's editors and correspondents that Israelis may be at least as upset about a renewed wave of mortar and rocket attacks from Gaza as Palestinians are about the prospect of renewed building in West Bank settlements.
The Post's Sept. 16 article by diplomatic correspondent Glenn Kissler about the latest round of peace talks, if anything, makes it appear that Israel is to blame for terrorist fire from Gaza ("Netanyahu, Abbas 'mean business,' U.S. envoy says -- Mitchell gives upbeat assessment of Mideast Talks" page A14).
Kessler's story is devoted almost entirely to the U.S.-mediated talks, except for a brief -- and misleading -- reference in the lead paragraph, and again in the last paragraph.
Kessler leads off by reporting that Israeli and Palestinian leaders are delving into some of the most divisive issues, "even as Israeli fighters bombed a smuggling tunnel and Palestinian militants launched mortar rounds into southern Israel." The sequence is telling: First, Israel bombs and then Palestinian "militants" retaliate.
But this is a gross misreading of the sharp escalation of mortar and rocket fire from Gaza -- all of it initiated by Palestinian terror groups -- since the start of the Jewish New Year. Kessler stands the sequence of events on its head. The renewal of violence has been entirely initiated by the Palestinian side -- not by Israel, as Kessler suggests.
Kessler then partially corrects himself in the final paragraph by reporting Israel's explanation that the smuggling tunnel was used in attacks against Israelis and that one rocket and eight mortar shells had hit southern Israel -- the largest number of projectilces fired from the Gaza Strip in a single day since March, 2009."
Why wait until the very end to report this, especially when the lead leaves the opposite impression?
In contrast to the Post's kiss-off attitude about the resurgence of Palestinian terror attacks, even the often Israel-bashing New York Times seems to have woken up to this growing cloud over the peace talks and that attention must be paid to these attacks and the sharply negative context they provide to ongoing negotiations.
Here is the Times headline on its Sept. 16 report from Jerusalem -- "Amid Shelling, Mideast Peace Talks Drag."
The Times dispatch reports in its lead paragraph that the peace talks are taking place "amid a rain of mortar shells on southern Israel."
Emphasizing this renewed obstacle to peace, the Times article -- in the third paragraph -- informs readers about "the rising threat from militant groups determined to scuttle the fledgling peace initiative."
And the Times, unlike the Post, doesn't wait until the last paragraph to report that rocket and morar fire from Gaza on Wednesday was "the heaviest day of fire since March 2009." That can be found in the fourth paragraph of the Times article. Times correspondents don't hide this fact like Kessler does.
Also, the Times reports something that's totally missing from Kessler's piece in the Post -- namely that "in another sign of escalation, the Israeli pollice bomb-disposal experts found that two of the mortar shells fired from Gaza on Wednesday contained white phosphorus, according to a police spokesman. Phosphorus munitions are typically employed to illuminate and mark battlefield areas and create smoke screens; they are highly flammable and can burn flish like napalm."
The Times, at least in this edition, evidently regards white phosphorous projectiles fired at civilian targets in southern Israel as important news. The Washington Post doesn't.
Why? Because, apparently according to the Post, only construction in existing settlements poses an obstacle to peace negotiations (never mind that Israel in past talks was quite willing to vacate the vast majority of West Bank settlements), but terror attacks on civilian targets in Israel are par for the course and no threat to peace.