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June 23, 2008

Post Scants Big Israel Anniversary Bash

The Washington Post foreign desk’s practice of covering Israel largely as an extension of Arab complaints seems to have affected the city desk as well.

On June 1, tens of thousands of people attended an “Israel @ 60" celebration on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, this was the largest Jewish community event in the nation’s capital in years. It received virtually no Post coverage. Why?

Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell tried to answer that question in her June 15 column, "Commemorations Without Ink."

A reporter was sent, but told by editors to cover the gathering only if there was conflict, only if anti-Israel demonstrators appeared.

Israel — one of the world’s high tech innovators, the Middle East’s only Western-style democracy, and perhaps the most successful of all the scores of post-colonial, post-Cold War countries — is well worth coverage on its own. So are big diaspora celebrations of the Jewish state. Imagine The Post reporting on Black History Month with one small Metro section photograph (what it gave to “Israel @ 60") because no white racists objected.

It is, of course, valid to run stories on the Arab-Israeli conflict, and about Palestinian Arab grievances, including the many self-inflicted wounds. Yet coverage of this 60th anniversary celebration of Israel’s independence should have stood above that, as reporting on this year’s Fourth of July celebrations will include much more than news about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Conflict is not the only thing that is newsworthy,? Ombudsman Howell concluded.

But when The Post’s foreign desk refracted Israel’s 60th anniversary through Arab filters ("Born at the Dawn of a New State; Two Men's Lives Reflect Divergent Fortunes of Jewish, Palestinian Peoples," May 8, subject of the “Washington Post-Watch: Seeing Israel Through Arab Eyes? at our Web site, can the city desk be expected to do better? — Adam Grodman, D.C. research intern

Posted by ER at June 23, 2008 04:20 PM


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