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July 08, 2008

Wash. Post Eulogizes Bulldozer Terrorist

The Washington Post's Griff Witte covers the story of the brutal terror attack in Jerusalem as a eulogy for the Palestinian terrorist. Palestinian Hussam Edwyat went on a deadly rampage with a huge bulldozer through the streets of Jerusalem, crushed to death three Israelis and injured dozens, but the Post was mostly interested in how the terrorist used to have a Jewish girlfriend and what a seemingly nice guy he was.

So perhaps one would conclude, the murderer actually liked Jews, must have closed his ears and eyes to anti-Jewish incitement on Arab TV and radio stations, and was not likely to have been an actual terrorist?

mangled car.jpg

The first-day article, "Three Killed in Jerusalem Rampage" (July 3, 2008), by Griff Witte, (buried on page A10), offers an unabashedly sympathetic portrayal of the Palestinian killer. It begins as if it were an obituary for an Arab man who loved Jews and was devoted to peace. It acknowledges that the man killed and wounded Israelis, but the implication is that this was an inexplicable incident, not a deliberate terrorist attack. The first two paragraphs begin:

Hussam Edwyat, the Palestinian construction worker who killed three Israelis and injured dozens of others by crushing cars and ramming buses with an earthmover in downtown Jerusalem on Wednesday, had intimate ties with his Jewish neighbors.

He worked among Jews, helping to build a luxury, ultra-Orthodox apartment complex in West Jerusalem. He lived among them, waking each day in a house that faces a Jewish neighborhood in mostly Arab East Jerusalem. And for a time, he dated one, friends and relatives said, having had a long-term Jewish girlfriend.

In the third paragraph, Witte again casts doubt that carrying out the bulldozer massacre of innocent Israelis was a deliberate terrorist attack by Edwyat.

But on Wednesday, for reasons that remain unclear, Edwyat attacked them and ended up dying with them.

Not until the second half of the fifth paragraph and sixth paragraph is there any indication that the Palestinian killer clearly acted deliberately:

Behind it lay a 400-yard trail of mangled bodies and vehicles. Witnesses said Edwyat, 34, appeared determined to cause as much destruction as possible before he was stopped.

And not until the eighth paragraph does Witte mention anything personal about the Israeli victims:

One of the victims was identified late Wednesday night as Elizabeth Goren Friedman, 54. The other two were a 70-year-old man and a 30-year-old woman whose names were not disclosed. More than 40 people were injured.

In three more paragraphs, Witte acknowledges -- and dismisses -- Israeli suggestions that the attack was politically motivated and reiterates his theme that the killer was really a good man, not a terrorist:

While Israeli officials suggested Edwyat had political motivations, friends and relatives in his East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher said that he had never expressed strong views and that his final act had caught them off guard. "He didn't interfere with other people's business," said an uncle who did not want his name used. "Everybody in the neighborhood likes him. This was a shock and a surprise for every one of us." Edwyat dated a Jewish woman for several years. A neighbor and a human rights worker who had spoken with the family said Edwyat had fathered the woman's child. Relatives said his only two children are by his Palestinian wife.

And in the next paragraph, almost as an afterthought, Witte adds:

Police said Edwyat had a criminal record involving drug charges, but they did not provide details.

In 17 paragraphs of this first-day story on a deadly attack on Jews in Israel, the Post has provided readers with a eulogy for the Palestinian killer. One wonders why he spent so much time interviewing the terrorist's family and friends, and not those of the victims. Not until the 18th and 19th paragraphs is there any substantive discussion of the attack itself:

Edwyat had been driving the earthmover as part of work on a planned 13-story apartment building for ultra-Orthodox Jews. He left the site just before noon and guided the earthmover onto an adjacent street, Jaffa. Witnesses said he immediately started ramming traffic both with the body of the vehicle and with the large shovel attached to it by a mechanical arm. Drivers and bus passengers who were in the earthmover's path described a scene of initial confusion, followed by terror as they realized they were under attack.

As for context, in the 22nd paragraph, Witte states that: "The attack occurred during a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the armed Islamist movement in charge of the Gaza Strip." Witte's reference to the "cease-fire" fails to acknowledge the Palestinians' repeated violations, including numerous missile attacks from Gaza targeting civilians in Israel.

By contrast, consider the first five paragraphs of the New York Times' first-day article "Palestinian Kills 3 With Construction Vehicle" (July 3), by Isabel Kershner. The first paragraph summarizes the attack, the second describes the number of Israelis killed and wounded, the third and four paragraphs note that Israeli police are treating the incident as a terrorist attack, and the fifth and sixth paragraphs identify the Israeli victims:

The Palestinian driver of a large construction vehicle went on a deadly rampage along a central Jerusalem thoroughfare on Wednesday, crushing several cars and ramming into buses and pedestrians before an off-duty soldier and a police officer clambered up to the cabin and fatally shot him.

At least three people were killed by the lurching vehicle, and more than 40 were wounded, Israeli officials said.

The police said that they were treating the event as a terrorist attack and that the driver, about 30 years old, was a resident of Sur Baher, an Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel in 1967 and then annexed.

“There is no doubt at all that this was a terrorist attack,” Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, said at the scene shortly afterward. He added that the authorities were investigating whether the driver, identified by acquaintances as Hussam Dweikat, had acted alone.

Two of the victims were Israeli women, Bat Sheva Unterman, 33, and Elizabeth Goren-Friedman, 54, both residents of Jerusalem.

The identity of the third victim still had not been released by late Wednesday night.

The Times also reported the Israeli police's explanation of why the Palestinian driver had to be killed:

Police officials contended that it was necessary to kill the driver to stop him. An initial investigation indicated that at least four security personnel members had tried to stop the driver. The off-duty soldier shot him but failed to kill him. An officer from a special antiterrorism police unit who sped to the scene on a motorcycle finally ended the episode. The officer, Eli Mizrahi, told reporters that he had climbed up to the driver’s cabin “when he was still driving like crazy and trying to harm civilians,” and that he fired twice.

The Post continued its odd coverage the next day, in "Motives in Earthmover Rampage Debated in Jerusalem" (July 4, p. A11), also by Witte. In this second-day story, the Post finally provided information of at least one of the victims of Edwyat's barbaric attack, but it also reiterated its unseemly theme that the Palestinian killer was basically a good man who liked Jews:

Israeli officials and media described Edwyat as a terrorist who had targeted Jews. But friends and relatives in East Jerusalem on Thursday described a man with no political affiliations or particular grievances against his Jewish neighbors. Instead, they said Edwyat had suddenly snapped for reasons they did not understand.

"He was not a person who hates Jews. He worked with them for years in construction," said Hassan Darbash, an uncle. Relatives confirmed that Edwyat had had a long-term Jewish girlfriend.

But buried in the second half of the eighth paragraph, Witte notes, almost as an afterthought, that the killer

"had recently served two years in prison following allegations of domestic abuse and drug charges, relatives said."

In fact, Witte obscures the fact that the killer had gone to jail for DOMESTIC BATTERY of his Jewish girlfriend.

A July 4 Associated Press report by Matti Friedman ("Jerusalem attacker once had Jewish girlfriend") reported:

She said they broke up because Dwayat became abusive. "He would really hit me hard, but I still loved him. I was willing to convert to Islam for him," she said.

She said she eventually pressed charges and he served time in jail.


It bears adding that the AP story reported the killer's actions far less sympathetically than did the Post:

Dwayat, 30, crushed three people to death and wounded dozens on one of Jerusalem's busiest thoroughfares Wednesday with the massive earth moving vehicle he used in his job at a nearby construction site. He smashed through traffic, drove over cars and flipped a crowded city bus on its side.


It also noted that:

The Israelis who stopped Dwayat by shooting him heard Dwayat shout "God is great," an Arabic phrase used by Islamic militants as a battle cry.



The Post, of course, made no mention of this fact, which would have undermined its thesis that the killer had no religious or political motives.

The Post's emphasis on the killer's relationship with a Jewish woman and its belittling of his history of physical abuse of the woman is especially galling. One would think that hitting someone you are dating is indicative not of affection, but of hatred and cruelty toward women and/or Jews.

To the Post, however, even an extremely violent relationship involving an abusive Palestinian man hitting his Jewish girlfriend seems to provide enough of an excuse to justify portraying a cruel terrorist who crushed people to death as a man of coexistence and peace.

Seeing a photo (see above) of one of the cars that the terrorist utterly crushed and mangled until it was unrecognizable as a car, and knowing that witnesses heard him repeatedly shout "Allah Hu Ahbar" as he crushed human beings to death, one wonders how the Post reporter could have any doubt that this was a deliberate terrorist attack.

Stephen A. Silver

Posted by LG at July 8, 2008 03:40 PM

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