A Tale of Two Newspapers
On Jan. 6, the Israeli government provided foreign reporters with an exhaustive study of incitement against Israel and Jews by Palestinian Authority media and textbooks. The Israeli presentation received considerable coverage by the New York Times and the Washington Post. In terms of journalistic fairness, however, their articles were strikingly dissimilar.
Jodi Rudoren, the Times' Jerusalem bureau chief, plays it fairly straight, leading her dispatch with concrete examples of Palestinian incitement -- Hitler quotes on websites of PA schools; a girl on Palestinian TV describing Jews as "barbaric monkeys, wretched pigs" and "murderers of Muhammad; Palestinian maps erasing Israel; Mahmoud Abbas embracing as "heroes" released Palestinian killers of Israelis. ("Israeli Officials Point to an Intensifying Campaign of 'Incitement" by Palestinians" Jan. 7, page A4)
In all, Rudoren devotes 4 paragraphs in an 18-paragraph piece to rebuttal arguments by Palestinians. Overall, readers are left with an impression that Palestinian incitement cannot be overlooked or brushed aside in any serious efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Over at the Post, the coverage by Jerusalem bureau chief William Booth is quite different -- with 8 out of 19 paragraphs devoted to Palestinian rebuttals and Booth's own attempts to neuter the effect and importance of the incitement study presented by the Israeli government. Rather than playing it straight, Booth's coverage comes across as generally dismissive of the Israeli report.
Also, when you devote far more ink to quotes from Palestinian propagandist Hanan Ashrawi than from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, you know which side Booth is on. ("Israel says Palestinians push a 'culture of hate' that could undermine talks" Jan. 7, page A9).
Here's a typical Booth paragraph: "The Israeli government made its case in a PowerPoint presentation. The slides often lacked citations or precise dates, making it difficult to determine whether the material is still online or how many Palestinians have seen it."
Or, in the second paragraph, where readers are told that the Israeli government "tracks social and news media sites in the Israeli-occupied West Bank." A not so thinly disguised way of soliciting sympathy for the Palestinian side against Israeli "occupiers."
Or a study of Palestinian and Israeli textbooks that concludes that they're equally slanted, according to Booth. Not so in Rudoren's coverage at the Times that cites a study which found that "Palestinian books contained more negative characterizations." This study, Rudoren also reports, found that "the official Palestinian media continue to incite against Israel and to claim that all of Palestine belongs to the Palestinians. There's almost no positive discussion of peace, two peoples, any of that sort of favorable or even just moderate messages about Israel. On the Israeli side, some "unofficial, extremist fringe individuals whose statements are disowned and discouraged for the most part by government leaders."
At the Times, the pendulum swings against the Palestinian side in evaluating incitement in textbooks; while at the Post, Booth works mightily to paint Israel as guilty as the Palestinian Authority.
A tale of two newspapers -- one playing it fairly straight; the other pursuing a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel agenda.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers