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February 23, 2016

Washington Post's Singling Out of Israel is in the Bag

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With all of the incredibly important issues requiring reporting, it is hard to understand why The Washington Post chose to highlight a 10-day trip to Israel being included in the Oscars gift bag (“This Year’s Oscar Swag Bag Includes a $55,000 Trip to Israel"). Many countries use the opulent, high profile Oscar night as a promotional tool to boost tourism, with tours, hotel stays, and vacations. Specifically, the quarter-million-dollar gift bag includes a private 15-day walking tour of Japan valued at nearly the same price as the Israel trip, $54,000, as well as stays at the Golden Door Resort & Spa in San Marcos, California, at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento, Italy, and at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo in Lake Como, Italy. The choice by Israel’s Ministry of Tourism to do the same is neither unique nor compelling. Yet, Post Israel Bureau Chief William Booth labels the Israel package as “part of an effort to sell Israel as a travel destination and not a conflict zone,” overlooking the many other trips in the “bag” and the fact that Israel is a travel destination, drawing over 3 million visitors per year. There is nothing revolutionary in the Ministry’s move to promote its appeal to an international audience.

Furthermore, though the news of the $55,000 Israel package being offered in the gift bag sparked efforts by advocates of the “Boycott, Divest, Sanction” (BDS) movement to have the certificate removed, Booth overstates the movement’s success. He uses Omar Barghouti, founder of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, as a credible source on the matter, despite Barghouti’s hypocrisy. While advocating boycott of Israel even in academia, Barghouti himself obtained a graduate degree from Tel Aviv University. His explanation of this? “My studies at Tel-Aviv University are a personal matter and I have no interest in commenting.” Barghouti has repeatedly obfuscated the fact that the intention of BDS is not a two-state solution, but dissolution of Israel and the establishment of a Palestinian state in its place. According to Barghouti, Israel’s Ministry of Tourism’s move to have this trip included on Oscar night is proof of the State “desperately trying to fight its increasing isolation through bribes and intimidation rather than ending its occupation and apartheid.” In fact, this is a non-story of a country going about normal governmental and promotional business, yet Booth does not question Barghouti’s statements. There is not any suggestion that, perhaps, such a conclusion is unfounded and biased.

Booth does not point to the overwhelming evidence that directly contradicts Barghouti’s claim that BDS is successfully isolating Israel. There is no mention of Israel having recently signed a new trade deal with Russia, of Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, making an official visit to the State during which she stated her unequivocal support of Israel, or of the EU’s decision not to remove “Made in Israel” labels from products originating beyond Israel’s 1967 lines. All of this despite the unceasing efforts of BDS to seal Israel off from the international community. Rather than finding itself in “increasingly isolation,” as Barghouti and Booth would have readers believe, Israel continues to make and be recognized for its vital contributions to research in technology, medicine, and other industries.

So, why is Israel singled out for taking identical promotional actions as several other countries? Is this evidence of some bias when it comes to Post reporting on Israel? Well, is any other country impugned or maligned in a story as unimportant as the gifts actors and directors can expect to receive at the Academy Awards?

--Rachel Frommer, CAMERA Intern

Posted by SC at February 23, 2016 09:09 AM

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