WaPo Tars the IDF

In his latest hit on Israel, Joel Greenberg, the Washington Post's Jerusalem correspondent, gins up a report from B'Tselem, a self-described "human rights" group with an anti-Israel agenda, which accuses the IDF of using live fire to kill Palestinian protesters. ("Concerns arise about Israeli use of force -- 5 unarmed Palestinians fatally shot by troops since start of year" Jan. 29, page A9)

Here's how Greenberg puts it in his lead paragraph:

"A spate of fatal shootings of unarmed Palestinians by Israeli soldiers this month has raised concerns about the use of live fire by troops facing protesters and guarding Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank."

Citing B'tselem as his source, Greenberg writes that a report by this "Israeli human rights group" accuses the IDF of "extensively and systematically" violating their own rules of engagement.

The only direct Israeli rebuttal in Greenberg's piece is that the army called B'Tselem's report a "biased narrative" and said the incidents were exceptions.

However, while uncritically taking B'Tselem's findings and conclusions as gospel, Greenberg gives short shrift to the army's actual response.

Here's what Greenberg doesn't tell his readers: In its actual response, the IDF said "the report is lacking in factual merit, especially in an attempt to imply that the IDF's safety protocols and rules of engagement are unclear and cannot be implemented." A far more robust IDF denial than what you can read in the Post.

Also missing from Greenberg's article is the IDF's emphasis that "IDF rules of engagement are very clearly defined. Every soldier who is expected to contend with that situation (violent protests) regularly trains with riot dispersal means and is carefully taught the rules of engagement."

Thus, while Greenberg hypes B'tselem, he woefully shortchanges the IDF side of the story. Hardly an example of fair, balanced journalism.

Nor does Greenberg inform readers that B'Tselem is far from being a dispassionate "human rights" organization. Rather, it has been extensively financed by the European Union and more than half a dozen European governments -- all with their own pro-Palestinian agendas. B'Tselem itself follows a thoroughly political agenda that periodically besmirches Israel, while blinding itself to human-rights abuses on the Palestinian side.

As for incidents where Palestinians demonstrators were killed by IDF troops, Greenberg eventually concedes that there's been an uptick in "stone-throwing and hurling of Molotov cocktails" by Palestinians protesters in the West Bank. That's putting it mildly. Use of powerful slingshots to hurl stones at Israeli troops is a lethal game. Israelis have been injured and killed by use of such deadly weapons.

But this hardly matters to Greenberg, who is determined to shape his narrative to give Israel a black eye -- his own standard agenda.

For example, even when he alludes ever so gently to an uptick of violent tactics by Palestinian protesters, Greenberg is quick to add that "the trend began in response to Israel's offensive against the military group in the Gaza Strip in November." Come what may, it's always Israel that bears the blame. No mention, of course, that Israel's Gaza offensive was designed to halt incessant rocket barrages fired against Israeli civilian populations. The Palestinian side always ends up getting a pass from Greenberg.

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

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