WaPo quota system: A major Israel-bashing spread once a week
At the Washington Post, it has become an all too predictable ritual -- a major Israel-bashing article by Jerusalem correspondent Joel Greenberg once a week -- preferably at the weekend.
Greenberg's highly selective pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel coverage gets top play in the foreign news section. It is designed and executed by Greenberg to put Israel in the worst possible light, while keeping silent about all too real Palestinian obstacles to a two-state solution.
A case in point: Greenberg's latest dispatch in the November 27 edition, spread across a full half page with a six-column headline that reads, "In Israel, concerns grow about stifling dissent -- Threats against anti-settlement activist come amid legal proposals that some say are aimed at government's leftist critics."
Stifling dissent in the Jewish state? For anyone acquainted with all the raucous debate in Israeli society about political and religious issues, this sounds like a bad joke. But Greenberg nevertheless pushes the alarm button about a supposedly imminent danger to democratic dissent.
His evidence? A couple of pieces of legislation in the Knesset that would restrict funding of leftist "human rights" groups by foreign governments and restrict access to Israel's ultra-liberal Supreme Court by such groups. That, along with death threats received by an activist of Peace Now, an anti-Israel group that advocates full Israeli retreat to the 1967 lines without reciprocal Palestinian concessions.
Put it all together, Greenberg argues, and it amounts to nothing less than an "extremist challenge to Israel's democracy."
With a closer look, however, Greenberg's case quickly begins to fall apart. The legislative crackdown against foreign-financed NGOs (non-governmental organizations)? It's going nowhere because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is keeping it safely bottled up, as Greenberg -- after his all his dire forecasts -- is finally forced to admit. But Greenberg's admission doesn't pop up until the 12th paragraph, well into the second half of his article -- a reality check that most readers won't even notice as they scan the biased headline and the biased top of his story, and then go on to peruse other parts of the Sunday paper.
The death threats to a Peace Now researcher, it turns out, are getting serious attention from Israeli authorities and a suspect already has been arrested. But readers aren't told that until the 19th paragraph -- again, well after Greenberg milks the death threats to the fullest and presents them as a death-knell to Israel's democracy.
For good measure, Greenberg also takes aim at "militant Jewish settlers" who in recent months have attacked Palestinian mosques, cars and olive groves in the West Bank. True -- up to a point. Violence in the West Bank, however, is not a one-way affair of settlers attacking Palestinians, as Greenberg would have Post readers believe. It's a two-way affair, with plenty of Palestinian violence against settlers, which Greenberg fails to report.
Just to mention two incidents in recent months that Greenberg doesn't include in his article: Five members of the Fogel family of the Jewish community of Itamar near Nablus -- Udi Fogel, his wife Rath, and children Yoaf, 11, Elad, 4, and three-month-old Hadas -- were stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist. Also, Asher Palmer and his one-year-old son Yonathan were killed when a Palestinian hurled a rock through the windshield of their car.
Why not present a complete picture of West Bank violence? Why not take aim at extremists from both sides?
And that's exactly the problem with Greenberg's coverage. Palestinians tend to be portrayed only as victims, while only Israeli transgressions merit big play. Would the Post ever splash across a half page with a six-column headline pieces about Mahmoud Abbas glorifying suicide bombers or teaching Palestinian children that "Palestine" stretches from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, swallowing up all of Israel?
Of course, not.
Because, in the final analysis, even-handed journalism, thy name is not the Washington Post.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers