Wash. Post ombudsman urges extensive coverage of Israeli nukes -- ignores bigger dangers
Patrick B. Pexton, the Washington Post's ombudsman, criticizes the paper -- and the U.S. press generally -- for not devoting more coverage to Israel's reputed nuclear arsenal. In his weekly column in the Sunday, Sept. 2, edition, Pexton expresses agreement with readers who ask "Why does the press follow every jot and tittle of Iran's nuclear program, but we never see any stories about Israel's nuclear weapons capability?" ("Media silence on Israel's nukes" page A15).
Pexton enumerates various reasons for paucity of stories about Israel's alleged nuclear weapons -- Israel's refusal to acknowledge their existence, U.S. support of Israel's deliberate ambiguity of whether it possesses atomic weapons, Israel's decision not to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which requires transparency, Israel's military censorship and a notable absence of leaks.
But Pexton also adduces what he terms a not-so-benign reason for lack of coverage of Israel's nuclear capacity. He quotes George Perkovich, nuclear policy director at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, to the effect that "U.S. sources don't leak (because) it can hurt your career. It's like all things having to do with Israel and the United States. If you want to get ahead, you don't talk about it, you don't criticize Israel, you protect Israel. You don't talk about illegal settlements on the West Bank even though everyone knows they are there."
Which is a ludicrously baseless charge about the Post and a media world that hammer Israel at every opportunity, especially about settlements, while dealing all too softly with its foes.
Pexton wants the media to focus more on "how Israel's doomsday weapons affect the Middle East equation." But he himself is singularly reticent to delve in full into the "Middle East equation." Not once does he point out the fundamental difference between Israel and Iran in this "equation." Israel, whether or not nuclear-armed, doesn't threaten the existence and sovereignty of its neighbors. Iran does.
Iran's clerical leaders depict Israel as a cancer that must be removed from the Middle East. That makes its nuclear ambitions far more ominous than Israel's supposed nuclear arsenal. Israel does not threaten the survival of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon or Syria. Israel's reputed nukes are its ultimate deterrent against total destruction of the Jewish state. Iran, however, has no need for deterrence . Its military resources are entirely devoted to a campaign of aggression against Israel and the U.S.
Yet, Pexton somehow is not interested in this lopsided "equation" between Iran and Israel. So he lets Iran off the hook when its Lebanese surrogate, Hezb'allah, kills 241 U.S. troops in a suicide bombing in Beirut in 1983 -- the largest single-day death toll for U.S. Marines since the battle of Iwo Jima.
Nor does Pexton fill in another crucial blank in his "Middle East equation" -- Iranian threats to use atomic weapons to wipe Israel off the map. Or, as former Iranian President Ali Rafsanjani put it, "The employment of even one atomic bomb inside Israel will wipe it off the face of the earth but would only do slight damage to the Islamic world."
If Pexton were really interested in remedying incomplete coverage by the Washington Post, he need look no farther than in the same edition, in a huge spread for an article by Jerusalem bureau chief Karin Brulliard, who writes about rising hopes in Gaza for improved relations with Egypt's new Islamist rulers. ("In Gaza, hopes for a new era with Egypt - With rise of Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo, Palestinian offshoot Hamas dreams of free trade with passage at crossing" page A10.)
While Brulliard focuses on possible Egyptian relief from Israel's blockade and isolation by the West, she maintains total silence about persistent shelling of rockets and mortar shells from Hamas-ruled Gaza on civilian targets in southern Israel - a barrage that keeps terrorizing a million men, women and children.
Pexton's search for gaping holes in the Post's coverage of the Middle East could be more productive if he got the paper to document not only the missile war waged against Israel from Gaza, but also the glorification of suicide bombers by Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party in the West Bank. These are all part of a real assault on Israel's existence and sovereignty -- more flagrant and bellicose than Israel's supposed possession of nuclear weapons.