> Israel > Media Objectivity

Media Critique #40: Critique of the Washington Post

May 9, 2009 | by

Lee Hockstader delivers page one sympathy for Palestinian combatants.

The Washington Post has two reporters, Lee Hockstader and Daniel Williams, covering the fastly-unfolding events of the Mideast conflict.

On March 13, Hockstader filed a front-page story about Palestinian casualties entitled: "Father, Son Dead; Family Wonders Why... Some Civilians Slain Without Apparent Provocation." The article details the tragic death of Abdul Rahman Izzadin who was shot on the roof of his Gaza home during an Israeli army operation.

Long-time Washington Post readers wrote to HonestReporting saying they could not recall a page-one story with interviews with the bereaved Israeli victims of Palestinian terror. Even the Hockstader-Williams story following the March 9 homicide bombing of a Jerusalem cafe and the attack in Netanya which killed 13 Israelis, waited until 1000 words into the story to interview any survivors of the attack.

Given the Post's front-page headline declaring that Palestinian civilians were "Slain Without Apparent Provocation," readers also could not recall the Washington Post ever referring to Israeli victims as "slain without apparent provocation."

On the contrary -- the Post often tries to find some "justification" for Palestinian terror. When a Palestinian bomber killed nine Israelis (including six children) on March 2, Williams declared an apparent provocation in the second paragraph: "Fatah officials said [the bombing] was in retaliation for the Israeli army's raids on two West Bank refugee camps."

Read Hockstader's article at:

======= HOCKSTADER'S BOYS =========

In recent days, Hockstader has repeatedly reported on Israel rounding up "Palestinian boys and men" for arrest or screening.

Hockstader on March 12 (page one): "Well over 2000 Palestinian boys and men have been rounded up... Some 600 boys and men said goodbye to their parents, wives and children, surrendered to the soldiers and were herded into a dust-choked stone quarry..."

Hockstader on March 13 (page one): "...Israeli forces have rounded up more than 2,500 Palestinian boys and men for questioning..."

Other news agencies called the young Palestinians "teens," but Hockstader's use of the less-accurate term "boys" invokes a stronger reader response, and presumably revulsion. Hockstader undoubtedly knows that some Palestinian attackers and homicide bombers have been as young as 17. They are not innocent "boys."

Hockstader should also refer to The New York Times' classic report, "Palestinian Summer Camp Offers The Games Of War" (August 2, 2000). The article details the training received by 15- and 16-year-old Palestinian "boys," including a camp exercise involving a "mock attack on an Israeli military post, ending with a sentry being grabbed by the neck and fatally stabbed. Finally, there is the opportunity to excel in stripping and reassembling a real Kalashnikov rifle."

The Post has displayed inappropriate sympathy for Palestinian terrorists in the past. Last April, The Post's Williams filed a profile of a Palestinian homicide bomber, Dia Tawil, a 19-year-old "star" student, "headed toward a career in electrical engineering" and an "unlikely candidate for a suicide mission."

In July, Hockstader wrote a defense of Aziz Salha, the young man photographed proudly waving his bloody hands out the window of a Ramallah police station after lynching two Israelis. Hockstader sympathetically described Salha: "The young man was very ill when he was a baby, he stuttered, he was shy... maybe it really wasn't him photographed in the window ... people's emotions were boiling over because of Palestinians teens shot by Israeli soldiers... Israel's settlements and occupation were on Salha's mind... he was a calm, good-natured and athletic kid..."

======= THE BIAS WEEK =========

We present here a review of last week's coverage, as published on The Washington Post website, highlighting some violations of media objectivity.

----- MARCH 4 -----

Williams filed a story, "Aqsa Martyrs Brigades Operate in the Shadows" which interviewed the terrorist commanders and described the supposed difficulties Arafat has controlling this offshoot of his Fatah organization. Williams whitewashed the Al Aqsa brigades' terrorist acts with these descriptions:

- "A pair of gunmen ran down a main Jerusalem street and shot up bystanders." The Post makes no mention of the 3 Israelis killed in the Jaffa Road attacks.

- "Gunmen ambushed a West Bank policeman." The Post makes no mention that the Israeli was killed.

- "A Jerusalem suicide bombing... that killed nine men, women and children." Actually, the bomb killed 6 children, 2 women and a man. Williams' order of victims, we argue, serves to lessen the barbarity of the act.

- "Brigade members attacked an Israeli checkpoint at a place called Ein Arik." The Post makes no mention of the 6 Israelis killed there.

Williams also claimed that the Palestinian uprising was "triggered" by Ariel Sharon's September 2000 visit to the Temple Mount. Most media outlets have long abandoned this rhetoric, given the ample evidence (including statements by Arafat deputies) showing that the uprising was planned well in advance of Sharon's visit.

----- MARCH 5 -----

Williams filed a story, "Israeli Shell Kills Woman, 5 Children," describing how "Israeli forces shelled a pickup truck carrying a Palestinian militant's wife and children." There is no mention in The Post's coverage of 3 Israelis killed in a Tel Aviv restaurant that day. The Post website cited an Associated Press account.

Williams and Hockstader jointly filed, "Mideast Fighting Intensifies; Both Sides Vow More." The Post writes that each side "vowed to inflict even more casualties on the other... The result: a daily trading of punches that has raised the number of victims, most of them noncombatants."

The Post presents a moral relativism, even though Palestinian terror groups specifically target Israeli civilians, while when Palestinian civilians are hit, it is always unintentional.

----- MARCH 6 -----

Williams filed, "Death Toll Rises as Mideast Conflict Escalates," which hides the fact that some of the Palestinians killed were combatants. He presents a total of 8 killed, only later mentioning that the majority of those killed were gunmen.

----- MARCH 7 -----

Williams presents, "Israel Answers Missiles with Broad Offensive." Williams repeats his "hide-the-combatant" game, writing that 7 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, and only later revealing that the majority were military personnel.

----- MARCH 8 -----

In "Israeli-Palestinian Bloodshed Mounts," Hockstader and Williams write of the killing of "at least 33 Palestinians, including two ambulance workers." Who were the other Palestinians killed?

For the answer, The New York Times described one of the battles: "16 Palestinians, most of them armed, died in one savage firefight with Israeli forces."

The Post team mentions a Palestinian attack that killed "five Israelis and wounding 20, according to the Israeli army." Note that in reporting the 33 Palestinian casualties, The Post don't cite Palestinian sources; they just accept it as fact. By contrast, the Israeli casualty report is "according to the Israeli army," putting the figure in question.

The Post mentioned the 5 Israelis killed in passing. By comparison, The New York Times wrote in its opening paragraph of "five Israeli teenagers [who] died in a Palestinian's suicidal rampage through a settlement." The Times detailed the attack: "A Palestinian militant from Hamas, armed with an assault rifle, at least nine clips of bullets and six grenades, raced though a school in the settlement. He flung a grenade into a dormitory room, killing one student with a blast that scorched the room black. He then killed four teenagers while they were studying religious texts, before he was shot dead."

The Washington Post completely ignored details of the barbarous attack.

----- MARCH 9 -----

In "Deadliest Day in Mideast," Williams took a partisan position by suggesting that the Israeli attacks on terrorists are part of the "longtime struggle by... Sharon to crush Palestinian armed resistance... More and more, the current offensive has taken on characteristics of Sharon's 1982 invasion of Lebanon." Williams describes Israeli attacks against Palestinian refugee camps 20 years ago, and for good measure throws in the Christian Lebanese atrocity in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps for which "an Israeli inquiry found Sharon indirectly responsible."

----- MARCH 10 -----

Williams gave graphic details of the death of a Palestinian mother in "Israeli Troops Turn Homes Upside Down." The Israeli soldiers, Williams wrote, "did not knock. They blew in [her] metal door," killing her.

Williams never explained why the Israeli soldiers "did not knock." In their search of the Aida refugee camp, the Israeli army was aware of Palestinian mines, ambushes, booby-traps, and snipers waiting for them in the camp's maze of alleyways. The army could have used tanks and bulldozers to safely clear their entry, putting large numbers of Palestinian civilians at risk. Instead, the Israeli troops punched and cut through the walls of homes in their search for gunmen, bomb factories and arms caches. Israeli soldiers found their quarry in some of their searches, but Williams reported none of that information.

A listing of The Washington Post's Middle East articles can be found at:

Write to The Washington Post editor at:
(include home address, and home and business telephone numbers)

Letters to the Editor
The Washington Post
1150 15th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20071

Write to The Post ombudsman, Michael Getler, at:

Related Posts

🤯 ⇐ That's you after reading our weekly email.

Our weekly email is chock full of interesting and relevant insights into Jewish history, food, philosophy, current events, holidays and more.
Sign up now. Impress your friends with how much you know.
We will never share your email address and you can unsubscribe in a single click.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram