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October 31, 2006

Read More, Know Less: Washington Post Israel Coverage

On October 24, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister (and former military chief of staff) Shaul Mofaz told The Washington Times that Syria and Iran are rapidly rearming Hezbollah terrorists in southern Lebanon. Mofaz charged that the international “peace-keeping” force assembled after last summer’s Hezbollah-Israeli war has failed to fulfill U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 and disarm the Iranian trained and funded, Syrian-supported Shi’ite Muslim organization.

On October 26, The Jerusalem Post reported that Hamas (the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement) had smuggled millions of dollars raised in Iran, Syria and Egypt into the Gaza Strip to pay the salaries of thousands of policeman. Employees on the bloated Palestinian Authority payroll largely have gone unpaid since Hamas’ victory in January’s legislative elections; the new government’s refusal to recognize Israel, abandon terrorism, and respect previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements led international donors to suspend aid.

Ha’aretz reported on the 26th that Hamas was “making massive weapons purchases” to arms its supporters in anticipation of intensified clashes with Fatah, the movement led by PA President Mahmoud Abbas and that controlled the Authority before Hamas’ election victory.

On October 27 Ma’ariv disclosed that Israel might use “smart” bombs along the Gaza Strip-Egyptian border to destroy the Palestinian Arabs’ numerous weapons smuggling tunnels.

On October 30, The Boston Globe headlined an article “Hezbollah Demands More Government Power in Lebanon,” and The Times of London disclosed that, with Iran continuing its nuclear enrichment efforts, Israel is constructing a shelter in the Jerusalem Hills to protect the cabinet in the event of nuclear war. Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh was quoted as saying that “this will be a command and control center that will be able to run the state of Israel during a war, even after a nuclear strike.”

Nevertheless, on October 30, The Washington Post — which covered the above breaking news barely if at all — ran a lengthy page one article headlined “A Campaign For Settlers in Golan Heights; Lebanon War Revives Dispute Over Territory” by its Jerusalem bureau chief, Scott Wilson. CAMERA member and former McClatchy Newspapers Washington bureau chief Leo Rennert critiqued The Post’s article this way:

* It says Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war but does not mention what the war was about or Syria’s long-standing use of the Heights to shell Israeli civilians below;

* Refers to “Israel’s summer war with Hezbollah” without noting that Hezbollah was the aggressor, not Israel;

* Describes the Golan as a place “where the Israeli army twice fought Syrian forces” without reporting that it did so in wars of national survival; and

* Quotes Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as saying that the Heights are “an inseparable part of Israel” but does not tell readers that Israel nevertheless has offered to engage in negotiations with Syria — provide the latter ends its support of Hezbollah and Hamas.

In addition, The Post article claims that “for years, the Syrian government has helped arm and fund Hezbollah to strengthen its own hand in talks on the region [emphasis added].” Syria has backed the Shi’ite “Party of God” to bleed Israel “by remote control,” as it did for years before Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000; to help Damascus dominate Lebanon politically and economically; and to help cement the Syrian-Iranian alliance. Potential use of its support for Hezbollah as a bargaining chip in talks with Israel or the United States is neither the sole nor primary reason for Syria’s arming and funding the movement.

The Post also notes that “some Israeli generals” now argue that “air power has reduced the strategic importance of the [H]eights” but makes no reference to assertions that the summer’s fighting against Hezbollah in Lebanon — with its need for large ground attacks after intensive air strikes — casts doubt on that argument.

Instead, The Post article focuses on a campaign to attract “Israeli yuppies” to the Golan and Golan Druze complaints about Israel’s “occupation.” It does, at least, note the Jews' ancient historical presence on the Golan Heights.

It was said of USA Today in its early years that “the more you read, the less you know.” USA Today is no longer the “McPaper” its initial critics derided. And The Washington Post is less and less the indispensable paper of ‘70s Watergate coverage. -- E.R.

Posted by ER at October 31, 2006 04:49 PM

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