WaPo's Tolerance of Palestinian Violence

Remember the terrorist kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers this summer, followed by the apparently revenge murder of a 17-year-old Palestinian teen, Mohammad Abu Khieder?  Well, the Washington Post decided to revisit the latter incident by focusing on what happened to the Khieder family in the weeks following the killing of its teenager.

The resulting article, by Anne Marie O’Connor, paints the family’s painful travails in 26 paragraphs spread over more than a half page with a headline that reads:  “Palestinian clan tested by ordeal in Jerusalem – Sprawling Abu Khieder family, which has strong U.S. ties, has endured a killing and many arrests” (Page A6, Sept. 4)

O’Connor describes in her lead “an old and respected Palestinian clan that welcomes American cousins” to Jerusalem for family reunions.  But sadly, this “established middle-class family” now has been engulfed “in riots, beatings and arrests.”

In the third paragraph, we learn that as many as 30 family members “have been arrested by Israeli security forces” and “as many as 15 members of the family remain jailed.”

So what gives?  Why all these arrests?

It’s a bit of a mystery.

O’Connor relates that a U.S. citizen is among the Abu Khieder family members and that “American cousins live across the United States, working in places including Hollywood and the White House.”  But again, why the arrests?

Buried inconspicuously at the bottom of the sixth paragraph is a brief mention that an American member of the clan “is accused of throwing firecrackers at police.”

But how does that account or explain why 30 family members should have been arrested? Still a mystery.

O’Connor goes on to note that the family has deep American roots – “some members have served in the U.S. military as early as World War 1 and as recently as the U.S. involvement in Iraq”  A factoid that again fails to account for all these arrests.

Then, as we proceed even further,  the article dwells on the family’s outrage – but again skips whatever causes may be behind itl.

It is not until the 13th paragraph that O’Connor deigns removing her veil of secrecy about what might have triggered so many arrests of members of the Khieber clan. A Khieber mother of five  tells O’Connor that, when it comes to the clan’s young ones,  “they’re young and they’re going to react the way they did, THROWING ROCKS, chanting, protesting.”

So that’s the first real clue -- young members of the clan lace their protests with the throwing of rocks, which this motherly Khieber family member finds perfectly excusable. Never mind that throwing,, rocks, with or without powerful slingshots, can be a deadly weapon.

Finally, in the 19th and 20th paragraphs, O’Connor belatedly sheds a bit more light on the throwing of rocks as she recounts that after the killing of Mohammad Abu Khieber, Palestinian “protesters responded with rocks and Molotov cocktails.”  Asks Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld:  “Why was an American citizens involved in a full-scale riot and throwing stones, and arrested with six other students who were also wearing keffiyehs, and some of them armed with knives?”

Which finally and much too late brings readers to the nub of all those arrests. It’s the violence.  But by then, most readers have long since switched to other articles in the Post’s Sept. 4 edition.

The headline, like the article, is symptomatic of a reporter twisting events so as to further his/her agenda. In this instance,  O’Connor’s objective is to hold back on tarring the Khieber family with violent protests, which it camouflages with all sorts of irrelevancies.

Thus, the headline informs us that a Palestinian clan is enduring an ordeal, that it’s a sprawling family with strong ties to the U.S., that it is enduring a “killing and many arrests.”  But no mention in a lengthy headline that the same family and other Palestinians have used violent tactics with lethal weapons to express their grief or protests.

When it comes to young Palestinians, the Post is OK with rock-throwing as a protest tactic.

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