WaPo's Ombudsman Needs an Ombudsman
In its Sunday, Nov. 25 edition, the Washington Post runs a couple of articles by supposedly neutral and objective observers who are anything but.
The more egregiously biased piece is penned by the Post's ombudsman, Patrick B. Pexton, who instead of taking a critical view of the Post's news coverage, turns into its cheerleader. In this instance, he responds to an avalanche of criticism from readers about a front-page color photo that depicted the anguish of a Gaza man holding the shrouded body of his 11-month son. ("Outrage over a front-page photo" page A19).
Readers rightly complained that the photograph's stand-alone display on the front page totally ignored the pain and suffering of a million civilians in southern Israel as they were pounded by incessant and mounting rocket barrages. The Post's entire sympathy was with Palestinian victims, while it ignored the suffering of Israelis having only a few seconds to seek refuge in bomb shelters, with parents cradling children afflicted by post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Pexton, however, averts his eyes and resolutely rejects criticism of blatantly one-sided use of photography in the Nov. 15 edition. He basically tells offended readers to go take a hike. Gaza rocket fire, he writes, may be disruptive and even traumatic, "but let's be clear. The overwhelming majority of rockets fired from Gaza are like bee stings on the Israeli bear's behind. The rockets are unguided and erratic, and they carry very small explosive payloads, they generally fall in open areas, causing little damage and fewer injuries."
Well, tell that, Mr. Pexton, to the rocket-battered residents of Sderot, Netivot, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Negev kibbutzim -- and even as far away as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. They might not appreciate having their suffering compared to "bee stings on the Israeli bear's behind." They know all too well that Hamas and Islamic Jihad rockets have become increasingly accurate. Whatever the weight of their payloads, they're intended to kill Israelis and they create havoc in a sizeable portion of Israel. They do injure and they do kill innocent human beings.
Given such blatant anti-Israel bias, the Post would seem to be in dire need to hire another ombudsman to ride herd on this one, if for no other reason than to revive the credibility of the position of internal critic of its coverage.
The other Sunday punch against Israel is delivered in a front-page, pro-Hamas piece by Jerusalem bureau chief Karin Brulliard, who cheers on the terrorist group Hamas as the supposed victor to emerge from the eight-day war with Israel ("Hamas's tactics garner support -- Frustration with Diplomacy -- Palestinians see path to victory through fighting").
While going all out in depicting Hamas as triumphantly trumping its rival Fatah among Palestinians, Brulliard finds little to criticize Hamas, which she describes as merely comprised of "Islamist militants who refuse to recognize Israel." No mention that Hamas is tarred as a terrorist outfit by the United States and, far from limiting its role to nonrecognition of Israel, is avowedly committed to the destruction of the Jewish state and the elimination of Jews from the Holy Land.
Brulliard sees Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza as turning away from Fatah, headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and toward Hamas with its bellicose agenda. The trend, she assures Post readers, is fueled by Hamas's "victory" over Israel during the recent Operation Pillar of Defense.
Nowhere in her piece does Brulliard point out that this so-called Hamas "victory" resulted in the elimination of the top tier of the leadership of its military wing and the widespread destruction of Gaza's infrastructure that will take years to rebuild, let alone the deaths of some 160-plus Gazans, including scores of Hamas and Islamic terrorists.
Where Brulliard goes off the rails is in her failure to recognize -- and thus report -- the difference between Palestinian rhetoric and Palestinian reality. In reality, Israel delivered a massive blow that sent Hamas reeling. But Hamas was quick to give its masses a shot of propagandistic adrenaline, exciting them with bombastic claims of triumph that, on the morning after, will give them another dose of despair with their sorry lot.
A friend of mine described more accurately than Brulliard the outcome for Hamas -- "Let's pray that Hamas will have many more such 'victories'." A point conveniently overlooked by Brulliard in her enthusiastic but futile Hamas cheerleading.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers