Wash. Post plays up Israeli-on-Palestinian violence, plays down Palestinian-on-Israeli attacks
It's the lead article in the international news section of the Sunday, Aug. 16 edition of the Washington Post -- a spread with two accompanying photos and a map across three quarters of an entire page. The map incidentally shows Jerusalem sliding into the West Bank.
The headline, in large type, reads: "Settler attacks on Palestinians cause alarm among Israelis - Beating of Arab teen, firebombing of taxi renew concerns about increasing violence and vandalism by Jewish extremists."
The first two paragraphs of the story, filed from Jerusalem by bureau chief Karin Brulliard and correspondent Samuel Sockol, read as follows:
"The vicious nighttime beating of an Arab teenager by a mob of Jewish youths in a downtown square here this month has prompted arrests, condemnation and soul-searching about the depths of ethnic hatred in Israeli society.
"But human rights activists and analysts say an act of violence against Palestinians that occurred hours earlier in a much different context - a stretch of highway in an Israeli-controlled section of the occupied West Bank - has become a test case for an equally grave problem: rising attacks by radical settlers on Palestinians and their property."
The two incidents were indeed quite shocking and merit full coverage. But so do unceasing Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israelis - whether from Gaza-fired rockets or use of firebombs in Jerusalem and the West Bank. And, while playing up Israeli-on-Palestinian violence, the Post doesn't come close to giving readers a full picture of the reverse - Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians.
For example, Post readers are left totally unaware that in the last two months, Israel sustained 229 terrorist attacks, including 127 from Gaza, 78 in the West Bank and 24 in Jerusalem, according to Israeli security authorities. Firebombs were the favored weapons of Palestinians terrorists in Jerusalem and the West Bank, while terrorists in Hamas-ruled Gaza prefer rockets and mortar shells.
Brulliard and Sockol use an old journalistic dodge to give the impression that they haven't totally overlooked that violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a two-way street. But mention of Palestinian attacks on Israelis is carefully buried in their 29-paragraph article.
The headline certainly fails to give any indication that Palestinians continue to wage a terror war that mainstream media, including the Post, largely ignore.
In the fourth paragraph, for example, Brulliard and Sockol, after reporting "escalating violence of Palestinian mosques and property, assaults against Palestinians and attacks against the Israeli military" by extremist West Bank settlers, briefly mention that some of these settlers justify their attacks as "retaliation against Palestinian violence."
It is not until the ninth paragraph, below the fold, that the article attempts to provide some context that has been sorely missing in the headline and the initial paragraphs. "To be sure, violence goes two ways in the West Bank," Brulliard and Sockol acknowledge.
And in the next paragraph, they concede that there have been "shocking recent cases of Palestinian violence against settlers. Last year, for example, two Palestinians were convicted of murdering a family of five settlers while they slept."
However, they then are quick to downplay the gravity of such attacks, writing that "Israeli military statistics, however, show a steady decline in violent attacks by Palestinians in the West Bank." There is no numerical breakdown of Palestinian attacks that would give readers a real understanding of how prevalent such Palestinians attacks really are.
Bottom line: Would the Post and its correspondents devote three quarters of a page to Palestinian terror assaults on Israelis? No. Would they try to find out if Palestinian society - like Israel - engages in "soul-searching about the depths of ethnic hatred" in their society? No. Would they then report that, quite to the contrary, Palestinians from Mahmoud Abbas on down glorify terrorist killers and educate their young to emulate them? No.
Israel is fair game and gets full expose treatment in the Post, while Palestinian terrorism gets short shrift, buried as an afterthought, with editors and correspondents knowing full well that most readers never bother to read a lengthy Sunday article in its entirety.
Thus, the net impact of Post coverage is to falsely depict Israel as the only "violent" player in this conflict.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers