WaPo's trifecta

The Washington Post today hit a trifecta when it comes to anti-Israel spin.

Picking up the March 31 edition of the Washington Post, readers immediately would be shocked to see above the fold on the front page a dramatic,  four-column photograph of Israeli soldiers using pepper spray in Jerusalem to subdue an Arab protester who's writhing in pain.

 The photo, under the headline "Protesters, Israeli forces at odds on Land day," imparts an irresistible impression that Israel is using brute force against a hapless Palestinian.  The bad guys are the Israeli border police; the victim is an Arab, described in the first line of the caption as an "injured protester."

Buried in the third line of the four-line caption is a brief mention that Israeli security forces confronted "stone-throwers" during an anti-Israel rally.  But that's hardly sufficient to convey the real truth and sequence of events.

Israeli police were confronted by a hail of lethal stones hurled at them by  protesters.  Israeli police responded to this violence by using rubber bullets and tear gas against the violence-bent Arab crowd.  Aggressive behavior in this case originated with the Arab demonstrators, while Israeli police responded with non-lethal means to overcome an Arab riot -- the very opposite of what the dramatic photo, attributed to Reuters photographer Ammar Awat,  purports to report. 

Had the Arab crowd staged a non-violent protest, there wouldn't have been any harsh Israeli response - and no photo like the one on the front page.

At a minimum, the Post should have used two photos - not just one of Israeli police subduing an Arab protester, but also another one showing Arab demonstrators hurling lethal rocks at Israeli police.   That would have given readers a more accurate view of what actually happened instead of just another instance of the Post tipping the scales against Israel.

Now, let's turn to the actual article about scattered demonstrations on Israel's borders, referenced by the front-page photograph.  It's on page A6, headlined "One killed amid annual protest of Israeli policy."   In the same vein, the lead paragraph of the article by AP correspondent Diaa Hadid reads as follows:

"JERUSALEM-Israeli troops fatally shot a Palestinian protester in the Gaza Strip on Friday as thousands in the Palestinian territories, Israel and neighboring countries participated in an annual protest against the Jewish state's land policies."

Again, the AP/Post's most salient bit of news puts Israel in a bad light -- it's Israel killing a Palestinian protester.  Was he armed, did he act provocatively, did Israeli forces just fire at an innocent protester?  The lead paragraph is totally mute on all these points.

Thus, Post readers just looking at the headline and perusing the lead paragraph might well conclude that Israel recklessly used disproportionate violence against demonstrators.  And readers who don't go beyond the lead paragraph are legion.

It is not until the sixth paragraph that the article finally quotes the Israeli military as explaining that, before the protester was fatally wounded, its troops along the border fired warning shots before shooting him, in accordance with army rules of engagement. But nowhere in the article is there a mention that the protester kept ignoring repeated warning shots as he kept advancing  toward the border.

To the casual reader, it's just one more innocent Palestinian killed by the Israelis.  Not a menacing crowd of demonstrators organized by Hamas to create mayhem at the Gaza border.

At a minimum, the article's lead paragraph should have included that repeated warning shots were fired before the protester was fatally shot.  But the Post and the AP showed no such journalistic scruples.

Finally, let's look at a third example in the same edition of the Post's anti-Israel bias.  Splashed across five columns, with two photos and a map, is an article about an unauthorized mini-settlement in the West Bank that has become a major source of controversy in Israel in wake of a decision by the Israeli Supreme Court that it must be taken down.  ("West Bank settlement's future could shape Israel - Israeli supreme court has ordered its destruction, setting up possible conflict between police, evicted residents" by Post correspondent Karin Brulliard, page A6).

Except for some hype and magnification, the article, standing alone, is not objectionable.  But that's just the problem.  It stands alone.  Brulliard, who seems to have recently stepped in as successor to Jerusalem correspondent Joel Greenberg, already appears to be falling in the same selective, anti-Israel trap of picking and choosing mainly stories that cast Israel as the seemingly only obstacle to the peace process - with West Bank settlers as the main target.

Brulliard has yet to devote as much interest and space to another equally, if not bigger, obstacle or obstacles - the occupation of Gaza by a Hamas terror groups that will settle for nothing less than Israel's destruction, along with the constant glorification of Palestinian terrorists by President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.

By all means, don't ignore the problem of settlements in setting boundaries for a two-state solution.  But be equally diligent in highlighting the problem of new generations of Palestinians, not only in Gaza but also in the West Bank, being tutored in Abbas-controlled media, schools and mosques to countenance terrorism,  to aspire to a  "Palestine" that completely swallows up Israel, and to deny any Jewish historical ties to Jerusalem and any other part of the Holy Land.

Where are the three-quarter-page spreads on such massive anti-Jewish, anti-Israel incitement?  And where incidentally is there any recognition in the Post that, historically, Israel made the agonizing choice of taking down settlements in the greater cause of peace -- as it did in Sinai to pave the way for its peace treaty with Egypt, and in Gaza, where Ariel Sharon pulled out all settlers in the futile belief that this would encourage the Palestinians to reciprocate?

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