Wednesday, January 19, 2011

WSJ and WaPo Share Anti-Israel Bias in News Columns

by Leo Rennert

The Wall Street Journal is usually regarded as a nationally influential newspaper with a right-of-center bent. For its part, the Washington Post -- highly influential in the corridors of national power -- is usually seen as a left-of-center newspaper.

Yet, there is a common thread that runs through their news and editorial pages -- their coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Let's start with their editorial pages. The WSJ has a clear-eyed view of the security threats facing Israel in a hostile neighborhood. So does the Washington Post editorial page, which has been highly critical of President Obama's pressures on Israel to make one-sided concessions to the Palestinians.

As to their news coverage, both papers unfortunately swing in the opposite direction. They proceed with a basic inclination to blame Israel -- and only Israel -- for any glitch in the peace-making process. In shaping their news articles, they start with the premise that a peace deal requires Israel to satisfy all basic Palestinian demands -- with no necessary reciprocity on the part of the Palestinians.

Which may not come as a surprise as far as the Wash. Post is concerned. But for the WSJ -- a Murdoch-owned paper -- to infuse its news articles with anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian bias, that may come as a bit of a shock. Still, there's hardly a dime's bit of difference in their distorted news coverage of Israel.

So, let's examine the latest offering of WSJ's Jerusalem correspondent, Charles Levinson, in the Jan. 18 edition "Israel's Barak Forms Party, Leaves Labor in Disarray" page A11)

Here's how Levinson spins his anti-Israel views into his piece, starting with his lead paragraph that informs WSJ readers that Ehud Barak's fracture of the Labor Party, will result in "casting a cloud over the stability of Prime Minister Netanyahu's government and the prospects of restarting the peace process." In the WaPo, Jerusalem correspondent Joel Greenberg also reports "deepening doubts about prospects for peace" and bemoans the prospect that the departure of some Laborites from the government will rule out "significant concessions to the Palestinians." In the same vein, Levinson also doubts that Bibi's coalition now will be unable to "make the sort of concessions to Palestinians that would likely be necessary for a peace agreement."

Never mind that Barak will remain in the government as defense minister and as Netanyahu's prime negotiating envoy to the White House and the State Department with his portfolio totally intact.

Having injected an anti-Israel poison pill in his lead paragraph about a presumed blow to the stability of Bibi's government, Levinson in the WSJ then comes up with a contrary assessment in his eighth paragraph, much farther down in his article -- that with the departure of hard-left Laborites from the government along with Barak's decision to stay at his post, Bibi now will govern with a "more ideologically cohesive coalition of 66 seats in Israel's 120-seat legislature."

The lead posits an unstable Bibi coalition, contradicted by a U-turn in the eighth paragraph by a "more cohesive coalition." But as every editor and reporter knows, it's the lead that leaves the most telling impression on readers.

Levinson, however, is not done with pumping out anti-Israel propaganda. He also injects an outright falsehood about the history of Israel's peace-making efforts. The Labor Party, he writes, "has seen its influence wane following Mr. Barak's failed bid as prime minister to negotiate peace with the Palestinians in 2000."

This stands history on its head. The 2000 Camp summit was convened by Bill Clinton, who came up with his own peace proposal that he presented to both Barak and Yasser Arafat. It would have given the Palestinians a state comprising all of Gaza, 96 percent of the West Bank, a division of Jerusalem with Arab neighborhoods to be folded into Palestine, plus Palestinian sovereignty over Temple Mount and the Christian and Muslim quarters of the Old City. Barak accepted; Arafat did not -- as recounted in the memoirs of Clinton and his chief Mideast envoy, Dennis Ross.

Prince Bandar, the legendary, long-time Saudi ambassador to the U.S., begged Arafat to accept the Clinton deal. He promised Arafat full Saudi backing. To turn it down, Prince Bandar warned, would be more than a tragedy -- it would be a crime. Prince Bandar later reported that Arafat double-crossed him, promising to go along with Clinton before turning his back on the Clinton initiative.

Given this history, it is utterly shameful for Levinson in the WSJ to write about Barak's "failed bid as prime minister to negotiate peace with the Palestinians in 2000." The opposite is true. It was Arafat's failure to accept Clinton's eminently fair initiative that deprived Palestinians of statehood and ushered in more decades of conflict and violence.

And this is not a one-time failure by Levinson to purvey truthful reportage to WSJ readers. His dispatches regularly follow the same anti-Israel line. Just like the dispatches of the Wash. Post's Jerusalem correspondents.

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Leo Rennert

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