A Formula for Smearing Israel

Here's Exhibit A of the Washington Post's -- and many other media outlet's -- method of slandering Israel.

You start with the Post's Dec. 12 headline: "Israel raids offices of 3 West Bank groups." For readers who just skim the headline and go on to other parts of the paper, the impression is clear: Israel using its muscle to intimidate Palestinians.

The article, with a Joel Greenberg by-line, sets a similar tone in the lead paragraph. Greenberg writes that Israeli soldiers raided the offices of three Palestinian "non-governmental organizations in downtown Ramallah, rifling files and seizing laptop computers in a rare sweep in the heart of the de facto capital of the Palestinian Authority." NGOs are usually cast in a positive light, so this reinforces the impression of heavy-handed Israeli action against do-good outfit -- and in the heart of "Palestine" no less. What chutzpah of the IDF!

In the second paragraph, Greenberg tells us that the Israeli army searched several offices affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which he defines as a "militant leftist faction." Still looks fairly harmless -- probably a group that's ultra-zealous in pursuing a leftist agenda. "Militant" is a fairly neutral term; it carries no opprobrium baggage. In the third paragraph, Greenberg gives the names of the three groups whose offices were raided, including Addameer, "a group offering legal aid to Palestinian prisoners." Give that group a gold star for its humanitarian work.

The fourth paragraph describes the raid on Addameer -- all the stuff taken out by Israeli soldiers "and papers strewn on the floor." How messy of the IDF!

The fifth paragraph details the raid of the Palestinian NGO Network, which coordinates with the other NGOs, where some doors were broken and "files scattered in several rooms," including an office "serving the international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, known as BDS." Among other things, this group urges foreign companies not to do business with Israel "because of its policies." Again, a harmless, nonviolent group denied its First Amendment rights by heavy-handed Israel.

And so it continues with Greenberg speculating that all this was payback for the Palestinians getting statehood recognition at the UN.

It is not until the tenth paragraph that Greenberg finally lets out a glimmer of truth, identifying one of the groups as an affiliate with the PFLP, which he finally acknowledges is "considered a terrorist group by Israel and the United States." So an apparently fairly harmless NGO isn't really that. Except that the vast majority of Post readers would never get the real scoop because they've long since moved to perusal of other parts of the paper.

And not until the eleventh paragraph are we told that the PFLP has asserted responsibility for several suicide bombings and rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip. And that its credits include assassination of an Israeli cabinet minister. All neatly hidden away and buried in this next-to-last paragraph.

The final twelfth paragraph tells us that Addameer -- remember all the mess Israeli soldiers left in this presumably harmless outfit as per the fourth paragraph -- has "represented prisoners affiliated with the PFLP." In other words, they're lawyers for terrorists.

Greenberg would have come far closer to the truth if he had reversed the order of his 12 paragraphs. But don't ever expect that to happen in the Washington Post.

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