WaPo Hypes Settler violence

The West Bank is not the most peaceful place.  Extremist settlers attack Palestinians.  In turn, Palestinians attack Jewish settlers.  Both sides seem to have a great talent for rock-throwing.

But that’s not the way the Washington Post reports on this volatile situation in its Nov. 2 edition, in an article by correspondent Anne Marie O’Connor ("In West Bank, temporary step to guard children lasts a decade,” page A12).

O’Connor’s lead paragraph focuses exclusively on “Palestinian children being menaced by Israeli settlers.”  Ditto the next paragraph, about Palestinian kids having to be escorted by Israeli soldiers.  The escorts are necessary because their paths are near “a Jewish settlement harboring teens and adults who have attack the youngsters with sticks and stones.”

O’Connor proceeds to widen her Israelis-attacking-Palestinians theme into a “metaphor for the stalled peace process.”  She also quotes a former Israeli commando who declares that violent settlers reflect “a heavy price we are paying for being conquerors” – exactly the slant O’Connor pursues.

It’s not until the ninth paragraph that readers gradually are informed that there’s another side to this story.

An Israeli army spokesman notes that the settlement spotlighted by O’Connor “is the only Palestinian town in the West Bank that has an Israeli army escort for schoolchildren.” 

The tenth paragraph brings news, lo and behold, that there actually were 3,900 rock-throwing incidents by Palestinians in the West Bank in the first nine months of this year.  A secret kept from all preceding paragraphs.

And this is contrasted with only 399 incidents of settler violence last year – a fact hidden from readers until the 11th paragraph.

Bottom line: settler violence gets top play.  Palestinian violence gets neatly hidden.

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