There’s an old joke that was never funny and makes little sense in the digital age: What’s black and white and read all over?
The answer is a newspaper.
But the reporting by elite U.S. newspapers about the rash of terrorist attacks on Israelis could justify changing the joke from “read” to “red” because our media colleagues have blood on their hands.
Sadly, we’ve grown used to headlines like “Palestinian Killed by Israelis” and “6 Palestinian Teens Die Amid Unrest” — you know, the kind that emphasize the deaths of the Palestinians without mentioning that they died while attacking and often killing Israelis. Such headlines have been a daily feature of the violence in Jerusalem and other cities.
But the “standards” applied by two of the last bastions of newspaper quality have been shocking even in comparison with typical media bias and carelessness.
The Washington Post saw a tweet from a Reuters correspondent about a secondhand report that undercover Israeli security forces incited and participated in Palestinian stone throwing against Israeli troops, just to give those troops an excuse to attack. It’s an outrageous charge, but rather than investigate or ignore it, the Post built a story around the correspondent’s nonexistent eyewitness report.
In another case, The New York Times published a lengthy article that questioned whether a Jewish Temple ever existed atop the Temple Mount — something that’s at least as certain as some white men signing the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776. The reporter clearly gathered scholars’ opinions about whether the exact location of the Holy of Holies is known, then applied the comments to questions about the Temple’s very existence.
Note that the article didn’t get around to the evidence of that giant Herodian retaining wall in Jerusalem until the fourth-to-last paragraph — and never questioned whether Muhammad actually ascended to heaven from the site of the Dome of the Rock.
Denial of the Temple Mount’s legitimacy isn’t academic; it’s used to fuel rage over false rumors of Israeli plans to open the site to Jewish worship.
To be clear, the person responsible for a terrorist attack is the terrorist, and the incitement and cheerleading by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah cause more deaths than all the biased reporting and inaccurate reporting in the world.
But we should also make no mistake: Palestinian leaders are increasingly talented at playing the propaganda game.
They’ve learned through press coverage of two intifadas and Israel’s repeated shooting wars with Hamas and Hezbollah that what they can’t win on the battlefield they can capture on the diplomatic and legal fronts. They know that every misleading headline and out-of-context story about Palestinian deaths feeds their narrative and builds momentum for their cause. They are willing to sacrifice promising young people to feed the view that Israeli occupation sparks violence and death.
They also recognize that their most important allies against Israel aren’t BDS-supporting celebrities such as Roger Waters or Arab nations or even terrorist-funding, potentially nuclear-armed Iran, but The New York Times, The Washington Post and the BBC.
We can only hope that soon the mighty media outlets will get their own message and that when they do, they will do the morally right thing and stop playing a part in the deaths of Israelis and Palestinians alike.