Wash. Post faults Israel for cross-border violence initiated by Gaza terrorists

Who fired the first shot that provoked the latest flare-up of cross-border fighting between Israel and Gaza terrorists?  It's an important question because the answer goes to the heart of who really is messing up the so-called "peace process" and can't be trusted to carry out its obligations under any potential peace agreement.

The Washington Post, in an Oct. 31 article about weekend exchanges of rocket barrages from Gaza and Israeli counter-strikes, puts the onus on Israel for firing the first shot -- the opposite of what really happened.

The headline above Jerusalem correspondent Joel Greenberg's account is the first tip-off of the blame-Israel context he and Post editors weave into their coverage.  In extra large type, the headline reads:  "Palestinian dies in border clash."  A sub-head in smaller type follows:  "2 days of fighting have claimed 10 militants and 1 Israeli civilians."

Greenberg reports that this was the worst cross-border violence after a relative lull of several months.  He quotes the Israeli army as pointing to more than 40 rockets and mortar shells fired at Israel over the weekend, while an Israeli airstrike killed five Islamic Jihad "militants"  (Greenberg would never call them by their real job description, ''terrorists").

But who exactly initiated all this violence?  Who fired the first shot?

Greenberg's answer: The Israeli army said the "targeted militants had been preparing to fire long-range rockets into Israel."

So, according to Greenberg, there had been no violence until  Israel jumped the gun to pre-empt a possible Islamic Jihad rocket attack.   It was only then that Islamic Jihad began to pummel southern Israel with rockets and mortar shells.  Israel thus is painted in an aggressive mode, while Islamic Jihad merely reacts to Israel's breach of a cease fire.

Which stands actual history on its head.  Because by leaving out the real fuse that shattered a two-month lull, Greenberg engages not just in historical revisionism, but in downright historical denial.

Here's what he left out of his story:  Three days before the weekend exchange of fire across the Gaza border, Islamic Jihad terrorists on Oct. 26 launched an advanced Grad rocket toward Ashdod, a major town in southern Israel.  Since there were no Israeli fatalities, the Post didn't see fit to devote much ink to such cross-border aggression.  It never does.  Nevertheless, the Grad strike was the deepest yet into an area of major population centers.  Several residents went into shock and had to be treated.  The incoming Grad triggered air raid sirens in areas that never experienced them before, including Rehovot and Rishon Lezion. 

This event -- completely unmentioned by Greenberg -- actually was the first cross-border attack since the lull which spanned the prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas that freed Israeli Sgt. Gilad Shalit from five years of Hamas captivity in exchange for Israel's agreement to release more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

And there's not a word about it in Greenberg's report.  Yet, given the gravity of the deeper penetration of the Grad rocket into Israel  and the obvious portent that much bigger slices of Israel's population were now under strategic threat from Gaza terrorists, it was clear that Israel couldn't just turn the other cheek.  Like any other nation under similar threats and actual attacks, it had to respond to preven a major breach of its anti-terrorism deterrence.

Israel military intelligence soon discovered the identity of the five Islamic Jihad terrorists who comprised the rocket squad that fired the Grad toward Ashdod on Oct. 26.    Three days later, the army not only got them into its cross-hairs as they were preparing to fire another rocket -- as Greenberg reports -- but more importantly, it knew full well that these were the same terrorists who started the latest flare-up by previously having fired the Grad rocket toward Ashdod - the crucial historical answer to the who-fired-first question.

An Israeli drone soon struck this rocket-launching group, killing its commander and four other Islamic Jihad terrorists. 

The real historical sequence is quite plain:  Islamic Jihad initiated the latest round of cross-border violence, but you won't read that in Greenberg's account, which actually leaves readers with the opposite impression, buttressed by the "Palestinian dies in border clash" headline, that Israel was the culprit for the cease-fire breach.

The Israel-blame game a la Washington Post.  With its own trick-or-treat Halloween twist.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers