WaPo alarmist report on Israel boycott buries good economic news

All the  elements of a growing boycott of Israel are in vivid display in a June 13 Washington Post article by correspondents William Booth and Ruth Eglash.   Israeli economic minus signs are splashed over six columns and accorded more than half a page in the main news section.

Examples: Israel’s soccer team almost gets kicked out of the international soccer league.  The British National Union of Students votes to endorse the Israel boycott.  A major French telecommunications company signals that it may pull out of Israel.  Prime Minister Netanyahu warns that Israel is under fierce economic attack – “It is not connected to our actions; it is connected to our very existence.”

The alarms, selectively picked by Booth and Eglash, are accurate enough.  But the article lacks balance, because there’s another element to this picture.  Israel’s economy remains on solid terrain – which the Post’s correspondents belatedly, far down in their story, acknowledge.

In fact, despite new challenges, Israel’s economic performance remains the envy of most developed countries.

“Beyond bad public relations,” the Post’s correspondents write, “economists say they have not discerned much impact from the boycott, a conclusion supported by an Israeli parliament report earlier this year.  The Israeli economy appears to be rock solid:  Trade, travel and investment are growing; the gross domestic product rose 2.9 percent in 2014 despite a 50-day war with Hamas in Gaza; and unemployment is low, at 5.9 percent.”

The readers’ problem with this bullish mention is that is relegated to the 22nd paragraph in a 25-paragraph story.  You can bet that most readers never get that far.  Instead, their main impression is shaped by a six-column headline that reads, “In Israel, concerns rising over boycott movement.”  Even if its economy remains rock-solid.

Also, lo and behold, on the positive side, even rock music acts still beat a path to Israel – “the Rolling Stones and Lady Gaga have come.”

But you’re not apt to see that, because this particular news is relegated to the 23rd paragraph.

Bad news gets fulsome play.  Good news gets shoved to the back of the bus.

Objective journalism?  Not quite.

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