WaPo Depicts Israeli Counterterrorism through Palestinian Lens
It's been exactly a year since Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense, an eight-day counteroffensive to halt incessant rocket fire from Gaza against civilian targets in southern Israel. By and large, the operation had its desired effect. Rocket fire by Hamas and other terrorist groups has become an occasional rarity. The Israeli Defense Forces also proved their mettle by going the extra mile to minimize civilian collateral damage -- a huge feat when one considers that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups place rocket launchers in heavily populated Gaza areas. Consequently, the operation ended with a high proportion of combatant terrorist fatalities on the Palestinian side.
Since Pillar of Defense began on Nov. 14 last year, the Washington Post decided to mark its first anniversary with a front-page article by its Jerusalem bureau chief, William Booth ("A year after war, all quiet on Israel-Gaza front -- mostly.")
Booth acknowledges that Pillar of Defense went a long way toward quieting the Gaza border. Unfortunately, it's in depicting the circumstances that prompted Israel's counterterrorism offensive that he takes a leave from objective journalism and peppers his copy with lots of pro-Palestinian spin.
Let's start with his lead paragraph: "Just a year ago, Israel and the Gaza Strip's Hamas rulers fought a lop-sided eight-day war in the skies that the United Nations said left more than 160 Palestinians and six Israelis dead." In Booth's eyes, the far greater Palestinian casualty count taints Pillar of Defense as a "lop-sided" operation, leaving a distinct impression that Israel used excessive force. The reader thus is advised to channel his or her sympathy toward the Palestinians.
But on closer examination, it's a false impression. Booth fails to mention the sizeable proportion of Palestinian terrorist fatalities in his overall Palestinian fatalities count. He leaves Post readers totally in the dark about the extent of IDF efforts to spare Gaza civilians -- by alerting them to keep away from rocket emplacements and other military targets. Nor does he spell out the fact that Pillar of Defense was preceded by many months of unremitting rocket barrages against towns in southern Israel.
The real lopsided aspect of Pillar of Defense was the contrast between Palestinian terrorist groups deliberately targeting Israeli civilians versus the IDF deliberately exerting maximum efforts to spare Palestinian civilians. That is sorely absent from Booth's article -- and not just from his lead paragraph.
There are other flaws in his piece: Hamas is described as an "Islamist militant and political organization." That's a neat euphemistic formula for "terrorist," a far more accurate label that Booth stretches mightily to avoid. At another point in his article, Booth writes that Israel doesn't talk to Hamas, "which it considers a terrorist organization." What he fails to point out is that it's not just Israel that uses the "T"-for-terrorism word for Hamas -- the United States and the European Union also consider Hamas to be a terrorist outfit.
Booth also uncritically reports that Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of Gaza's Hamas government, still calls for "continued armed resistance." Another neat euphemism for more Palestinian terrorist attacks. "Resistance" falsely implies that Israel is the aggressor and the Palestinians are merely resisting Israeli attacks -- an utter falsehood that Booth just passes on to readers.
The sad aspect of Booth's piece is his Pavlovian use of such false, tired, old euphemisms in pursuit of a pro-Palestinian slant in his coverage.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers