Bias by the Numbers

Pick up the Sunday, Nov. 18 edition of the Washington Post and you'll find a lengthy, front-page wrap-up about Israel's antiterrorist counteroffensive in Gaza -- with three perfect examples of pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel bias. all within eight paragraphs of each other ("GAZA CLASH WIDENS -- Israel expands air assault against Hamas, says Tel Aviv-bound rocket was intercepted" by Karin Brulliard and Abigail Hauslohner).

Here they are by the numbers:

1) Brulliard and Hauslohner devote half a dozen paragraphs to a heart-tugging, up-close and personal account of two Gaza teachers awakened by the family's windows shattering and their walls bursting open. The house next door, which belonged to a Hamas commander, sustained a direct hit. One of the teachers "frantically dug his five children out of the rubble." The other teacher "rushed from room to room, crying and gathering her children's clothing, school bags and dolls." The Post quotes her as saying again and again, "Where are we going to go? The Israelis are responsible. They are the enemy of God. What did we do? Did we carry any missiles? Did we launch any rockets?" All very poignant. But what about similar scenes in Israel, where Hamas rockets by the hundreds have been pounding civilian targets from Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Netivot to the proximity of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem? Do Brulliard and Hauslohner devote as much space to cameos of Israelis, especially children, suffering from shock and post-traumatic stress? Does their suffering also rate half a dozen paragraphs of sympathetic coverage? If not six paragraphs, how about three... or maybe just one paragraph? Or a single despairing quote? But in the entire Post article, there isn't a single sentence depicting Israelis frantically rushing to shelters as sirens blare at any time of day -- or the traumas left in their wake. Nothing, nada. As Shakespeare might have protested: "If you prick us, do we not bleed?"

2. Brulliard and Hauslohner, writing about Israeli air strikes that demolished a Hamas police building and the headquarters of Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, conclude that "Israel appeared to be channeling new efforts toward Hamas civilian institutions." Hamas headquarters a "civilian institution"? It is nothing of the sort. The terrorist group has a unitary command-and-control apparatus and infrastructure. This is where all the terrorist plots are hatched under single command. But the Post, long known for its predilection to sanitize Hamas, presents them as "civilian" facilities that presumably should remain untouched. How touching -- for beleaguered Hamas, with Brulliard and Hauslohner to the rescue of this terrorist outfit.

3) And what about fatalities on either side? Here's the article's take: "The death toll in Gaza rose to 45 by Saturday evening, Health Ministry officials said. Three Israelis have been killed by rocket fire from Gaza." Forty-five dead "Palestinians" versus three dead "Israelis." The numerical comparison, however, is highly misleading. It's apples and oranges. On the Israel side, the three fatalities were civilians -- a reflection of Hamas aiming its massive rocket barrages at civilian populations. On the Gaza side, however, Israeli air strikes are carefully and deliberately aimed at terrorists, their arms caches, ammunition, and rocket launchers. Yes, there are collateral fatalities, but only because Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza hide amid civilians and use them as ''human shields.'' Estimates of combatant-versus-noncombatant fatalities in Gaza are beginning to trickle in. Early figures show most of them were combatants engaged in terrorist operations. To bundle civilian and terrorist fatalities into a single statistic leaves readers with a false impression that perhaps most or all of those killed Gazans were civilians -- the very opposite of what's really happening there. Bottom line: Washington Post readers beware. This isn't kosher journalism.

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

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