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March 30, 2011
A fanciful Wash. Post 'news' article replete with anti-Israel bias
Janine Zacharia, the Washington Post's Jerusalem correspondent, concocts a conjectural piece entirely with anonymous sources that Israel somehow hopes that Bashar Assad will emerge from spreading anti-government protests in Syria still firmly in power ("Israel, no fan of Assad, may prefer that he stay" March 30, page A8).
While acknowledging that Assad has been allied with Iran in providing massive amounts of rockets and other weaponry to the Hezb'allah terrorist group in Lebanon, on balance, Zacharia concludes, Israelis feel they're better off with him than with some problematic Islamist or radical successor. After all, he's maintained quiet on the Syria-Israel border for decades.
"Israelis have been forced to confront the notion that they may well be better off with him than without him," she writes.
To support her thesis of an Israeli tilt toward Assad, Zacharia quotes an unnamed cabinet member as predicting that Assad will survive the current unrest. She also cites a comment from an unidentified "senior Israeli military commander that "we've had a dictator, but it's been very quiet." But even he -- whoever he may be -- stresses that "it's absolutely clear to us that the Syrians play a negative role in the region."
Thin gruel indeed to substantiate the headline and Zacharia's conclusion that Israelis would prefer to see Assad remain in power.
But it gets even worse.
Zacharia's only clearly identified source totally rejects her notion that Israelis think they're probably better off with Assad than with any likely successor regime.
Ehud Ya'ari, a commentator on Arab affairs for Israel's Channel 2 television station, tells her that "A different regime is not naturally an ally of Hezb'allah and the Iranians. People would very much like to see Assad gone and his whole regime replaced. That doesn't mean they don't have concerns about what's coming next."
Ya'ari, however, appears at the very end of her piece -- well after she has written the very opposite of his view that Israel would be better off with Assad gone.
Zacharia -- had she chosen to do so -- could have written a totally different conjectural piece that Israelis "would very much like to see Assad gone" by quoting Ya'ari at the top of her article instead of at the bottom.
I suppose she figured she could make a bigger splash in the Washington Post by concocting a piece about Israelis supposedly wishing to see Assad remain in power.
But all this theorizing is totally beside the point. Israelis are realists. They've got Assad's number and know that, whatever happens, they will continue to live in a tough neighborhood. Wishful thinking is not their wont.
What is more reprehensible in Zacharia's piece than her concoction of a phony lead based entirely on anonymous sources is outright anti-Israel bias in dealing with real threats Israel faces on both its northern border with a Lebanon under Hezb'allah's sway and on its southern border with Hamas-ruled Gaza.
Zacharia writes that Israel, in publicizing Hezb'allah's huge arsenals of missiles in southern Lebanon, would like to avoid "the kind of international rebuke it received after it launched an operation in late 2008 to try to stop Palestinians militants from firing rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israeli towns. About 1,300 Palestinians were killed in that offensive."
For the second day in a row, Zacharia tosses in a "Palestinian" fatality count on the high end of various estimates that fails to tell readers that most of those 1,300 Palestinians were operatives of terror groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Fewer than half were civilians, according to both IDF and Hamas reports.
She similarly injects a misleading bit of history when she writes that Hezb'allah has been expanding its weapon arsenals in southern Lebanon, "all since 2006, the last time Israel attacked the Shiite militia."
Again, no mention that Israel attacked Hezb'allah in 2006 to put a halt to numerous cross-border attacks by Hezbollah into Israel after Israel's complete withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000.
Thus, Israel is painted as killing only "Palestinians" -- not terrorists in Gaza, and Israel ends up being the aggressor against Hezbollah in 2006 without mention of prior provocations by Hezb'allah, like crossing the border to kill and kidnap Israel soldiers.
Distorted anti-Israel history a la Zachaira and the Washington Post.