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November 19, 2012

Tunisia - Much Larger than Israel - Still 'Tiny'; Jordan Still 'Small'

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Never mind the oxymoronic phrase “moderate Islamists,� a news media favorite rebutted by Daniel Pipes in an online posting,(National Review Online, Oct. 30, 2012, “Islamism’s Unity�). Focus on The Washington Post’s recurrent practice of describing countries larger than Israel as “tiny� but virtually never highlighting Israel’s small area and limited population.

Once again, The Post has described an Arab country far larger than Israel as “small� (“Syrians in Lebanon and Jordan join exodus,� Sept. 22, 2015). The Post stated “nearly 2 million of Syria’s refugees reside in the small Arab countries� of Lebanon [the 170th largest country according to the CIA World Factbook] and Jordan [the 112th largest country], which “only� have populations of “about 4.2 million and 6.1 million people, respectively.�

As noted above, Israel—ranked 154th in geographic size—is seldom referred to as “small� by major news media outlets. (There are 193 United Nations-member states; the CIA World Fact Book also includes several dozen dependencies and other territories including the West Bank and Gaza Strip.) Jordan’s 34,450 square miles, as noted below, makes it about as large as South Carolina, while Israel’s approximately 8,000 square miles puts it at roughly the size of New Jersey.

Israel’s population of 8.32million, including 6.3 million Jews, is larger than that of Jordan, but “only� by a “small� amount.

Wrong end of telescope

Post readers could be forgiven for wondering why other countries that are similar or larger in size and population to Israel, are referred to as small whereas the world’s sole Jewish state is not. Perhaps because when viewed through the wrong end of the telescope—known in this case as “the Palestinian narrative�—Israel looks like Goliath, Jordan and Lebanon like David.

Previously, reporting on tension between secularists, “the moderate Islamist party Ennahda,� and Islamic fundamentalists known as Salafis, The Post described Tunisia as “tiny� for at least the third time in two years (“Violence ups ante for Tunisia’s new rulers,� September 21). Following the September 14 attack on the U.S. embassy in Tunis, Post foreign correspondent and Jerusalem bureau chief Karin Brulliard wrote: “Those questions [of religious authority versus secular freedoms] have become a defining battle of the democratic transition in tiny Tunisia [emphasis added] ….�

As CAMERA had pointed out before, Tunisia is roughly five times larger than Israel in area, with about three million more
people. It is one of at least eight countries larger than Israel that The Post has referred to as tiny while withholding this accurate description from the Jewish state.

A Nexis search then indicated no “tiny Israel� reference in Post reporting for at least the past five years. At just over 8,000 square miles (the size of New Jersey) and (at the time) fewer than eight million people, it ought to have qualified. Next door, Jordan, with more than four times Israel’s land mass, has been referred to as “tiny.� In “Jordan hit by protests over fuel price increase; Muslim Brotherhood accused of exploiting public discontent� (Nov. 15, 2012), The Post described the Hashemite kingdom as “the small Arab country of six million ….�

That Israel does not qualify for The Post’s diminuitive designation may indicate how the newspaper perceives the Arab-Israeli conflict. This could include assumptions about which side is less vulnerable, more “naturally� able to make concessions, more likely to use excessive force and so on. Of course, Israel not only is tiny territorially, its constricted area is uniquely vulnerable, four miles wide just west of Jerusalem, barely eight miles wide north of Tel Aviv.

Journalism is based on who, what, when, where, why and how. Accurate journalism requires those six questions to be answered in context. Israel’s lack of what military planners call minimum defensible depth ought to be reported as part of the context.


Then there was this:

The Post, in "Latvia gets go-ahead to begin using euro in 2014; Despite European crisis, Baltic state hopes move will boost its prosperity" (July 10, 2013) noted that "Latvia ... is about as large as West Virginia ...." A cutline for a photograph accompanying the article referred to Latvia as "the tiny Baltic nation ...."

At nearly 25,000 square miles, tiny Latvia is three times larger in land area than Israel. The Baltic state's population, 2.2 million people, is, however, not quite 3/8ths that of Israel. Of the world's nearly 200 countries, Latvia ranks 124th in area, 143rd in population; Israel stands at 154th and 97th, respectively, according to the CIA World Factbook. Perhaps The Post -- and other news media that miss this fact -- occasionally will see fit to describe Israel, especially in comparison to some of its much larger, and threatening neighbors, as, if not tiny, then "quite small." -- by Eric Rozenman and Sean Durns

Posted by ER at November 19, 2012 04:17 PM


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