Suppose that Israel's chief rabbi, at an interfaith meeting in Jerusalem with Pope Benedict XVI, had launched a vicious tirade against all Palestinians, accusing them of murdering women and children and dismissing their legtimate political aspirations. Suppose further that this outburst came from someone who wasn't even scheduled to speak, who had a history of calling for the death of all Arabs, but managed to force his way to the microphone to harangue the pope. And suppose that a clearly embarrassed pope, dismayed by such intolerant behavior, then walked out once the toxic Hebrew words were translated for him.
Would the Washington Post bury this singularly unscheduled incident during the first day of the pope's visit to Israel? Wouldn't it have played that as the lead or very close to it?
Of course, it would have.
But as it turns out, this is exactly what happened on May 11, except that the fanatical interloper was not Israel's chief rabbit but his Palestinian opposite, SheikTaissir al-Tamimi, the chief Islamic judge of the Palestinian Authority, who owes his high station to appointment by Fatah. And his vitriolic harangue was directed at Israel, which he accused of every crime, while denyng its right to Jewish sovereignty. Yes, the top spiritual authority of what the Washington Post regularly refers to as the "moderate" Palestinian Authority, controlled by the "moderate" Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and his "moderate" Fatah political party.
But instead of leading with this incident or playing it very high in Post correspondent Howard Schneider's dispatch, it gets neatly hidden away at the very end of the 13th paragraph in a 17-paragraph article. The 13th paragraph first mentions 3 complaints against Israel -- for closing a press center Palestinians tried to set up in Jerusalem for the pope's visit, for not granting enough travel permits to Catholics in Gaza to view the pope, and for good measure, a Hamas complaint that the pope shouldn't have met with the parents of abducted Israeli soldier Gilat Shalit. Only then, at the end of this very long 13th paragraph do Post readers first find out that Tamimi launched a "verbal assault on Israel and asked the pope to condemn the Jewish state."
Of course, Taimimi's intervention was far more provocative and slanderous. He accused Israel of "murdering Palestinian women and children, and destroying mosques and cities," and claimed Jerusalem as the exclusive capital of a Palestinian state.
Schneider merely appends a brief paragraph that the Vatican protested that Tamimi's shrill attack on Israel was a "direct negation" of what interfaith dialogue should be.
And that's it. I bet that more than half thereaders never even got as far as the 13th paragraph, or certainly the end of it, and thus came away not having any inkling of this display of utter fanaticism by a high Palestinian Authority spiritual official. And even those who read that far weren't told the depth and breath of Tamimi's poisonous harangue nor that the pope cut short his presence at the inter-faith conference when he became aware of Tamimi's actual words nor that the Vatican voiced concern that Tamimi's intolerance could spoil the pope's main message of greater respect and peaceful cooperation between leaders of all 3 faiths during his visit to the Middle East.
Nor did Schneider point out that this was not the first time that Tamimi created such a revolting spectacle during a papal visit. In 2000, he similarly disrupted an inter-faith dialogue during a visit by Pope John Paul II.
Nor, for that matter, did Schneider tell Post readers that Tamimi believes that "Jews are destines to be persecuted, humiliated and tortured forever" and that what Hitler started must be finished by Palestinians. The same Tamimi who urges Palestinians to also pray for the destruction of the United States. None of this appears in Schneider's dispatch.
Which brings up this question: Why would the Washington Post do its best to hide and bury this incident from its readership? Could it be that it provides a glimpse into the real soul of the Palestinian Authority and more than justifies Israeli Prime Minister's skeptical attitude about Palestinian statehood (much higher in his article, Schneider is quick to mention Benedict's support for a two-state solution and Netanyahu's less than enthusiastic view of Palestinian readiness for such an outcome)? And thus could it be that giving greater prominence to this incident would have gone counter to the myths propagated by your newspaper that Palestinians with their "moderate" leaders are more than ready for statehood and that it's Israel that keeps the conflict going?