Double standard in coverage of terror threats facing Israel
Suppose for a moment that a man carrying 11 pipe bombs, a pistol and ammunition tried to cross into a secure area in the U.S. -- perhaps at an airport -- but was stopped in time by police and prevented from carrying out what could have been a lethal terror attack.
Would the Washington Post have ignored this incident? I doubt it very much. The Post would have given it front-page coverage and followed up with stories about the identity and motives of this would-be terrorist.
Yet, when exactly this kind of incident occurred on Sunday, Jan. 8, at a West Bank checkpoint near Jenin where a Palestinian, armed to the teeth, was halted trying to cross into Israel, the Post kept it a secret from its readers. Not a single sentence.
The New York Times didn't do much better. It buried the incident in another piece about Israeli prosecutors filing charges against five Jewish settlers who had raided an IDF base as part of an effort to block the dismantling of an illegal outpost. The incident about the Israeli-bound Palestinian intruder was tacked on in the last two paragraphs of the Times piece about the prosecution of Jewish radicals. Most readers probably never even saw it.
Times correspondent Isabel Kershner focused virtually exclusive attention - topped by a six-column headline - on what she termed a "crackdown on settlers who have been described by some Israeli officials as homegrown terrorists." ("Israel Charges 5 Settlers in Army Base Clash, Linking Them to Illegal Outposts" page A6).
Like the Times, the Post also gave prominent coverage to the indictment of extremist settlers. In fact, it's the top story in its World News section ("Israel charges 5 in riot on base - Army Post In West Bank - Settlement dismantling at issue, document says" page A7).
No doubt that attacks by Jewish extremists against their own army is news -- and should be reported. But so should terror attacks by Palestinians against Israelis. And yet, these graver threats consistently are overlooked or downplayed by the Post and the Times.
Readers of both papers might be surprised to find out that Palestinian terrorists, operating from Gaza, fired 680 rockets, mortar shells and advanced Grad missiles at Israel in 2011. They certainly wouldn't know this from subscribing to the Post or the Times.
Nor would they know that just in December, Israel sustained 81 Palestinian terror attacks. Just imagine the kind of coverage in the Post or the Times if only a fraction of that number had been aimed at the U.S. Yet, in that month alone, there were 30 rocket attacks from Gaza, another 25 attacks in Jerusalem and 26 in the West Bank. Most of the latter attacks were incidents involving firebombing, but there also were some stabbings and other types of assaults on Israelis.
By all means, it behooves the Times and the Post to give full coverage to Jewish extremists featured in Kershner's piece as "homegrown terrorists." But isn't it past time that when Palestinians are perpetrators of terrorism that their depredations also should be reported and that they also should be identified with the T-for-terrorism label instead of sanitized as acceptable "militants"?
Israel faces multiple kinds of terrorism. All deserve equal coverage.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers