The Washington Post ‘Gets Lost’ on its Israel Road Trip
Despite expending thousands of words and dozens of glossy photographs, the newspaper can’t bring itself to tell readers the truth about why there isn’t a Palestinian state.
By Sean Durns, JNS.org
The Washington Post’s Nov. 22 story, titled “Highway of Hope and Heartbreak,” was clearly a major project. The dispatch was authored by Jerusalem bureau chief Steve Hendrix and reporters Shira Rubin and Sufian Taha, and ran an astonishing 4,494 words. It contained more than 40 photographs and a video—all to chronicle “how remote the prospect of a Palestinian state—and a resolution of the Middle East conflict—has become.”
The story’s concept centers around a road trip along Route 60, which the Post claims “reveals how distant” the prospect of a two-state solution really is. The 146-mile journey “begins and ends in Israel,” but “most of it … traces the spine of the occupied West Bank.” Should “Palestinians ever achieve statehood,” the Post tells readers “Route 60 will be its national road.”
Despite expending thousands of words and dozens of glossy photographs, the Post can’t bring itself to tell readers the truth about why there isn’t a Palestinian state.
As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) has documented, Palestinian leaders have rejected numerous offers for a Palestinian state if it means living in peace next to Israel.
In 1937, the Arab community in British-ruled Mandate Palestine rejected the findings of the Peel Commission, which recommended the creation of an Arab state and a Jewish one from land that had originally been set aside for the recreation of a Jewish homeland. In 1947, they joined Arab nations in rejecting the U.N. partition plan, which would have created a Palestinian Arab state out of portions of land originally provided for Jewish settlement, choosing instead to declare war on the fledgling Jewish nation.
In more recent years, Palestinian leaders rejected U.S. and Israeli proposals in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference.
The latter offer, CAMERA noted in The Washington Post on Nov. 6, 2020, included 93.7 percent of the West Bank, with land swaps for the remainder, a capital in eastern Jerusalem and a state. Yet, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas rejected the proposal, declining to even respond with a counteroffer. In both 2014 and 2016, the United States used the 2008 offer as the basis for restarting negotiations. Once again, Abbas declined and refused to make a counter offer.
Palestinian leaders themselves have acknowledged that they have rejected offers for peace and statehood. For example, as the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has documented, the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, openly admitted in an March 27, 2009 interview on Al Jazeera that both Arafat and his successor, Abbas, rejected formal proposals in 2000 and 2008.
This isn’t distant history. It is both recent and relevant. It can readily be verified via open-source material; a simple Google search would do. And the Post is certainly aware of it. This writer has even had conversations with Post staff, pointing out the long history of the Post’s tendency to fail to note the long history of Palestinian leaders declining statehood and peace. Apparently, the paper just isn’t interested.
In fact, adding to the relevancy, the 2016 proposal was made by current U.S. President Joe Biden back when he was serving as vice president. Biden, the Post now tells readers, has “doubled down” on efforts to achieve a Palestinian state, but “the reboot comes at a time when conditions for Palestinian statehood have never seemed less ripe or the status quo of the occupation more entrenched.”
The newspaper does not tell readers that a Palestinian-Arab state has never existed. It never tells readers that Palestinian leaders alone are responsible for the lack of such a state, much less that Israel itself has either proposed or accepted proposals that would’ve led to such an eventuality. It never—in nearly 5,000 words—mentions these facts. That’s not just pathetic; it’s downright Orwellian.
Indeed, facts aren’t just elusive in the newspaper’s lengthy piece; they’re actively twisted. For example, the Post asserts that “the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state” has “long been championed by U.S. administrations.” This is false. It was the George W. Bush administration (2001-09) that “broke new diplomatic ground” by declaring in an Aug. 29, 2001 letter to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah “that the Palestinians have a right to self-determination in their own state,” as several former administration officials have noted. Several preceding administrations had envisioned something less than a state.
The Post also misleadingly claims that “both peoples claim” Jerusalem as their capital—omitting that Israeli leaders have both made and accepted peace proposals that would’ve given the Palestinians a state with a capital in eastern Jerusalem. Palestinian leaders, by contrast, continue to deny the Jewish people’s historic ties to the city; indeed, they did so as recently as a week before the Post’s story was published.
Elsewhere, the Post’s bias is made clear by its language. Palestinians have “villages,” whereas Israelis have “settlements.” That many of the latter are as old as, or older than, the former is worth noting. Israeli businesses are described sinisterly as “proliferating,” while “the local economy that would sustain a [Palestinian] state founders.” Perhaps this is because Jew-hatred makes a poor basis for a sustainable economy.
The settlements, the Post claims, have been “relentlessly expanding” over the last several decades. Yet in previous reports and research, the Post itself has admitted that this isn’t true. Indeed, a March 31, 2017 Post report, for example, was titled “Israel set to approve first new settlement in 20 years.” Oh.
“Zealotry,” the Post tells readers, “is on the rise” in Jerusalem with proponents on “both sides.” This, too, is false—only one side, that of Palestinian leaders, names streets, schools and sports tournaments after terrorists. Only one side pays salaries to terrorists who murder and maim Jews. In fact, the day before the Post’s story was published, Hamas carried out a terrorist attack in Jerusalem, murdering an Israeli tour guide and wounding four others. After news of the attack broke, Palestinians handed out candy to celebrate—a fact that the Post declined to mention in its separate report on the incident.
It is clear that The Washington Post expended considerable time and effort in its road trip searching for a missing Palestinian state. They have their priorities—and noting Palestinian responsibility and independent agency isn’t one of them. The Post’s report is long on gas but short on awareness and facts. It drives right past the truth.
Sean Durns is a senior research analyst for CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.
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