One-sided Washington Post special section ignores Palestinian failures contributing to West Bank occupation

Allow me to stipulate upfront that I support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the only conceivable outcome that has any chance of succeeding.

Let me also stipulate that I agree -- with some reservations that I'll explain below -- with the general international consensus that continued Israeli settlement activities in Palestinian areas are a serious hinderance to achieving that two-state goal.

Also, that Israeli policies toward the Palestinians are too often heavy handed and, thus, are easily interpreted as being unjust. In short, while I'm a strong Zionist, I do not believe that Israeli government policies are above reproach -- not by a long shot.

However, I also subscribe to the notion that quality journalism acknowledges there are at least two sides to every conflict, and that historical context is exceedingly important to understanding why any conflict, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, keeps dragging on. It's important for journalists, when covering a heated debate, to treat people on both sides with respect, while striving for accuracy and fairness.

Which is why I believe that The Washington Post's three-story special section published Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary of the June 1967 war in which Israel took control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is an exercise in one-sided, blatantly anti-Israel journalism.

All three stories featured the problems, and the suffering, that Palestinians endure under Israeli control without any -- not any -- input from Israeli sources defending or at least explaining their side's actions.

As such it constitutes shoddy if not dishonest journalism. Because it's not as if the Post doesn't know that other points of view exist on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- namely the consensus Israeli Jewish view. Or that leaving them out was bound to unleash lots of complaints such as mine.

So, I wonder, why did the Post do this? Why be so obviously one-sided?

Here's the Post's introduction to the six-page stand-along section:

Occupied: Year 50
Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza began five decades ago, when Israel defeated three Arab armies. Today, millions of Palestinians still face concrete walls, checkpoints and other Israeli controls. What does it feel like to be “occupied” in 2017? The lives of three people – a construction worker, a cancer patient and a tycoon – offer some answers.

Before I proceed, let me provide the requisite links so you can read the stories yourself and reach your own conclusions. Here's one for the construction worker story, which led the section. Here's the cancer patient link and here's one for the tycoon's story.

I know they're a lengthy read. But please give it a shot, or at least open the links to see their accompanying photos, which, of course, are meant to underscore the stories' overarching intent -- which is clearly to stir sympathies for the Palestinian side while bashing Israel for all the very real problems Palestinians face.

Palestinian contributions to the ongoing conflict -- and the fear of risky compromise that Palestinian violence and political failures have instilled in Jewish Israelis -- are minimized to the point of virtual exclusion, exiled as they are to a few short summary paragraphs that quote no one from the Israeli side.

And even this is packaged in a way that tells readers where their sympathies should lie.  Witness this sequence from the story of the cancer patient who's family is unable to get to the East Jerusalem hospital where she dies because they lack the proper Israeli-granted travel permits.

There are many ways to tally the human costs of the Israeli occupation, which began 50 years ago in June.
Israel has faced rockets and three wars with the Islamist movement Hamas in Gaza, whose members deny Israel’s right to exist. Israelis endured two Palestinian uprisings, the second marked by suicide-bomb attacks against civilians. More recently there was a wave of knife and vehicular assaults. Thousands of Israelis have died in Palestinian attacks. This is why Israelis say they need walls and permits.
On the other side, Palestinians in 2017 live their lives under a cone of control that they say Israelis or Americans would rebel against.
There are checkpoints, walls -- and more than a hundred kinds of permits that a Palestinian needs to enter Israel.
Permit is a bloodless term. An automobile needs a permit. What is a permit for a Palestinian?

Could the Post be anymore obvious in its intent?

Then there's what I'll call the section's journalistic architecture, the personal profile approach.

Using individual stories to draw readers into a larger narrative is a valued journalistic construct. People relate to people in a way they can't with policy wonk stories.

However, it's also a journalism truism that human subjectivity -- meaning the biases of the involved reporters and editors -- will play a role in determining who is selected to be the human face on a complicated and hot-button story.

Among the myriad small decisions that go into selecting one person or family from among millions to tell a story is how sympathetic they will seem to the reader. Journalists do this all the time, and I've done it myself. But in truth, it's emotionally manipulating facts to make a point.

The Post may well do more stories on the June 1967 war -- also known as the Six-Day War -- and they may well chronicle the Israeli side's experiences and thinking in a sympathetic way. If so, that will not undo the damage, the loss of trust among Israel's supporters, that this special section is bound to cause.

One final note. I said above that I do not consider all Israeli settlement activities as hindering an end-of-conflict two-state agreement. I'm referring, in the main, to Jerusalem-area construction and the Old City's Jewish Quarter.

The latter, technically, lies in what the international community considers the West Bank.   But there's no way that Jewish Israel will give up Judaism's holiest site, the Western Wall, nor, I believe, should it.

Moreover, Israel has in the past offered to pull out of the West Bank (it's already done that in Gaza, though it maintains control over the area's borders for what it terms security reasons) and to swap Israeli land for a couple of percentage points shy of 100 percent of the West Bank land currently occupied by Israeli settlements.

Those proposals were rejected by the Palestinian Authority, the irreparably corrupt and undemocratic agency recognized internationally as the Palestinians' sole negotiation authority, prolonging the occupation and providing excuses for Israel to construct more West Bank housing.

The Washington Post, of course, made none of this clear.

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