WaPo runs reader letter blasting non-existent Israeli target

Leo Rennert
The Feb. 7 editorial page of the Washington Post features a letter from reader Joanne Heisel, who castigates Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for supposedly approving housing subsidies for 70 settlements in the West Bank.  She attributes this "fact" to the Post's coverage and goes on to argue that this proves that Netanyahu has no intention of supporting a two-state solution.  The headline over the letter reads:  "Netanyahu reveals his true intent"

There's just one problem with Heisel's letter.  She's blasting a non-existant target.  Yes, the Israeli cabinet on Feb. 1 approved a list of 500 communities eligible for housing subsidies, including as it turned out several dozen in the West Bank.  The Post reported this in is Feb. 2 edition, prompting this reader's letter.  

But no sooner had subsidies for settlements been publicized than the Israeli cabinet, at the instigation of Netanyahu, removed all settlements from the subsidies list, prompting loud denunciations of Netanyahu by right-wing Israeli politicians. Any such subsidies for Israeli communities in the West Bank now would have to be ratified separately in the future by a "political decision" of the government.  In the meantime, they're out in the cold as far as housing subsidies are concerned. Netanyahu is not subsidizing housing for settlers.

The AP ran a detailed story about Netanyahu's turnabout, pointing out that he had been under U.S. pressure to reverse course.  But pity this poor reader, the Washington Post ignored this fact,  leaving her to direct her ire at a no-longer existing target.

Who bears responsibility at the Post for running a letter with no basis in fact?   Obviously, the editors of the editorial page.  But they might plead extenuating circumstances and shift some blame to the news pages, where pejorative gotcha pieces about Israel abound, but where positive reports about Israel are virtually non-existent. In other words, the Post, in this instance, has been hoisted by its own biased petard.  Editors of the editorial page apparently were misled by the news department's non-coverage of Israel's decision not to proceed with housing subsidies for settlements.

The anti-Israel bias of the Post's news coverage is further in full view in the same Dec. 7 issue, in a report by Jerusalem correspondent Joel Greenberg about a Hamas-Fatah agreement to form a joint government headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas's "unity" embrace of a terrorist organization like Hamas puts in jeopardy hundreds of millions of dollars in annual U.S. aid to the Palestinians.  Under U.S. law, any such aid is strictly prohibited.

But Greenberg, with his usual pro-Palestinian spin, is not at all dismayed about the prospect of a U.S. aid cutoff.  In fact, he sees a way out for such aid to continue.

"Having Hamas at the helm of the interim government, holding the title of prime minister as well as president, could help preserve Western support, including crucial financial aid for the Palestinian Authority," he writes.

This is, of course, merely wishful thinking by Greenberg.  The State Department, aware of the legal ban against funneling aid to terrorist organizations, was much more cautious in its initial response, stating that it needed  to plumb exactly how this new Fatah-Hamas "unity" government will operate - with a terrorist partner of equal stature and influence.

Greenberg, however, has no such scruples because he's confident that Hamas's sterling "moderate" reputation will keep the money flowing to the Palestinians.  The prospect of an ascending Hamas in Palestinian politics doesn't faze him.

The problem with Greenberg's roseate view of Abbas is that it ignores his dark side - his persistent glorification of terrorist murderers and his regime's insistence  -- in Abbas-controlled media, sermons and textbooks -- that a future state of Palestine will encompass all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, thus leaving no room whatsoever for a Jewish state.

Greenberg, however, averts his eyes and studiously avoids Abbas's maximalist agenda and his incitement  to violence against Israel, while falsely portraying him as a "moderate," reliable peace partner.

Which leads one to conclude that at the Washington Post, the predicate for Mideast "news" coverage apparently is Abbas "good" and Netanyahu "bad" - and to hell with the facts.


Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers




The Feb. 7 editorial page of the Washington Post features a letter from reader Joanne Heisel, who castigates Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for supposedly approving housing subsidies for 70 settlements in the West Bank.  She attributes this "fact" to the Post's coverage and goes on to argue that this proves that Netanyahu has no intention of supporting a two-state solution.  The headline over the letter reads:  "Netanyahu reveals his true intent"

There's just one problem with Heisel's letter.  She's blasting a non-existant target.  Yes, the Israeli cabinet on Feb. 1 approved a list of 500 communities eligible for housing subsidies, including as it turned out several dozen in the West Bank.  The Post reported this in is Feb. 2 edition, prompting this reader's letter.  

But no sooner had subsidies for settlements been publicized than the Israeli cabinet, at the instigation of Netanyahu, removed all settlements from the subsidies list, prompting loud denunciations of Netanyahu by right-wing Israeli politicians. Any such subsidies for Israeli communities in the West Bank now would have to be ratified separately in the future by a "political decision" of the government.  In the meantime, they're out in the cold as far as housing subsidies are concerned. Netanyahu is not subsidizing housing for settlers.

The AP ran a detailed story about Netanyahu's turnabout, pointing out that he had been under U.S. pressure to reverse course.  But pity this poor reader, the Washington Post ignored this fact,  leaving her to direct her ire at a no-longer existing target.

Who bears responsibility at the Post for running a letter with no basis in fact?   Obviously, the editors of the editorial page.  But they might plead extenuating circumstances and shift some blame to the news pages, where pejorative gotcha pieces about Israel abound, but where positive reports about Israel are virtually non-existent. In other words, the Post, in this instance, has been hoisted by its own biased petard.  Editors of the editorial page apparently were misled by the news department's non-coverage of Israel's decision not to proceed with housing subsidies for settlements.

The anti-Israel bias of the Post's news coverage is further in full view in the same Dec. 7 issue, in a report by Jerusalem correspondent Joel Greenberg about a Hamas-Fatah agreement to form a joint government headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas's "unity" embrace of a terrorist organization like Hamas puts in jeopardy hundreds of millions of dollars in annual U.S. aid to the Palestinians.  Under U.S. law, any such aid is strictly prohibited.

But Greenberg, with his usual pro-Palestinian spin, is not at all dismayed about the prospect of a U.S. aid cutoff.  In fact, he sees a way out for such aid to continue.

"Having Hamas at the helm of the interim government, holding the title of prime minister as well as president, could help preserve Western support, including crucial financial aid for the Palestinian Authority," he writes.

This is, of course, merely wishful thinking by Greenberg.  The State Department, aware of the legal ban against funneling aid to terrorist organizations, was much more cautious in its initial response, stating that it needed  to plumb exactly how this new Fatah-Hamas "unity" government will operate - with a terrorist partner of equal stature and influence.

Greenberg, however, has no such scruples because he's confident that Hamas's sterling "moderate" reputation will keep the money flowing to the Palestinians.  The prospect of an ascending Hamas in Palestinian politics doesn't faze him.

The problem with Greenberg's roseate view of Abbas is that it ignores his dark side - his persistent glorification of terrorist murderers and his regime's insistence  -- in Abbas-controlled media, sermons and textbooks -- that a future state of Palestine will encompass all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, thus leaving no room whatsoever for a Jewish state.

Greenberg, however, averts his eyes and studiously avoids Abbas's maximalist agenda and his incitement  to violence against Israel, while falsely portraying him as a "moderate," reliable peace partner.

Which leads one to conclude that at the Washington Post, the predicate for Mideast "news" coverage apparently is Abbas "good" and Netanyahu "bad" - and to hell with the facts.


Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers