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September 22, 2008

In Praise of The Washington Post, Twice

CAMERA frequently criticizes The Washington Post’s foreign desk for filtering Arab-Israeli news through a Palestinian perspective and taking Palestinian grievances — real, self-induced and imagined — at face value while discounting legitimate Israeli concerns. But The Post’s “Olmert Steps Down As Premier Of Israel (September 22), one of the newspaper’s lead world news articles that day, was balanced and pertinent.

Jerusalem Bureau Chief Griff Witte and stringer Samuel Sockol fairly summarized the factors behind Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s resignation, explained ruling Kadima Party Chairman and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s early effort to build a parliamentary majority, and briefly noted Likud Party efforts to block her. The dispatch accurately referred to “the opposition Likud” and its leader, former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, “a staunch critic of the talks [with the Palestinian Authority].” It thereby avoided the not-uncommon editorializing-by-adjective usages “the hawkish Likud” and “hardline Netanyahu.” Likewise, Witte and Sockol more accurately described Israel’s Labor Party as “center-left” rather than “left-wing” or "dovish." (In Israeli politics, there are “hardline” parties to the right of Likud, and “dovish” [no one writes “soft-line”] ones to the left of Labor.)

The Post updated itself, telling readers that Livni “narrowly won that [Kadima primary] vote last week,” after its initial report had given her a relatively wide margin over top challenger Shaul Mofaz, a cabinet member and former military chief of staff.

Overall, readers were well-served by the paper’s “Olmert Steps Down As Premier Of Israel.”

So too by Post editorial page Deputy Editor Jackson Diehl’s column “A Peace From the Bottom Up” (also September 22). Diehl asserted that “amid the din of the financial crisis and the presidential campaign, the Bush administration’s attempt to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal has quietly expired.” The writer deftly used that news peg to examine an alternative for future diplomacy:

Instead of top-level efforts to negotiate and impose a settlement on Israeli and Palestinian societies, come to grips with “building Palestinian civil society” from the grassroots up. Rather than solely backing the often corrupt, repressive, inefficient Palestinian Authority under President Mahmoud Abbas, strengthen countervailing reformers.

Diehl highlights this recommendation by former Soviet dissident, Israeli Knesset (parliament) member and current think tank scholar Natan Sharansky, and long-time Palestinian human rights monitor Bassem Eid. In doing so, he spotlights a fresh (or refreshed) idea worth readers' attention but unlikely to make headlines as a news story.

Credit when and where it's due.

Posted by ER at September 22, 2008 02:32 PM

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