When Rockets Are Just ‘Bee Stings’ For The Washington Post
by Petra Marquardt-Bigman
You can safely bet the ranch on it: When a Washington Post writer dismisses thousands of rockets as not much more than “bee stings” on a “bear’s behind,” the country that is targeted with these rockets is Israel.
The callous dismissal of the roughly 12 000 rockets and mortars that have been raining down on Israel’s south and its 1 million residents in the past 12 years – yes, on average a thousand attacks a year – is all the more outrageous when you consider that it comes from the Washington Post’s ombudsman Patrick Pexton. Officially, Pexton “represents readers who have concerns or complaints on topics including accuracy, fairness, ethics and the news-gathering process. He also serves as The Post’s internal critic and strives to promote public understanding of the newspaper, its Web site and journalism more generally.”
With his response to criticism of a recent front page photograph showing a grief-stricken father from Gaza holding the shrouded body of his infant son, Pexton certainly succeeded in giving the public a glimpse of the multiple biases that apparently guide his own work when it comes to Israel’s efforts to defend its citizens against bombs and terrorism.
First it is noteworthy that Pexton emphasizes that the criticism came from “Jewish groups and American Jews” – which of course makes one wonder if all the individuals who protested the photo indeed mentioned that they were Jewish.
Secondly, it is worthwhile pondering Pexton’s principal defense of the photo, which he gives right at the outset of his article:
“A photograph may be worth a thousand words, but even at its most revealing it never tells an entire story. It is the capture of a single moment, a split-second version of the truth. But if it is an effective photograph, it moves the viewer toward a larger truth.”
It is not entirely clear from Pexton’s article what exactly he regards as the “larger truth,” but he later on notes that the controversial photo “depicted […] the horrific cost to innocents on both sides of the violence in the Middle East.”
However, this seemingly “balanced” statement inevitably acquires a purely perfunctory character when Pexton then claims that, while being “disruptive and traumatic,” the “overwhelming majority of rockets fired from Gaza are like bee stings on the Israeli bear’s behind. These rockets are unguided and erratic, and they carry very small explosive payloads; they generally fall in open areas, causing little damage and fewer injuries.”
It is also noteworthy that Pexton links in his first paragraph to a Washington Post article on “The Israeli-Palestinian politics of a bloodied child’s photo.“
As the following screenshot shows, this article features three images: the first on the left is the photo that was the controversial choice for the Washington Post’s front page; the one in the middle is an injured Israeli infant, and the third photo is again from a boy killed in Gaza who was rushed to Gaza’s Shifa Hospital just when Egypt’s Prime Minister was visiting there with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.
One could argue that there is a “larger truth” here – but it’s a truth that isn’t revealed by the three pictures, and it isn’t spelled out by the Washington Post.
This larger truth is that ultimately, all three children were victims of Hamas.
This is most obviously true for the injured Israeli infant; but it is also true for the boy in the third picture, who, as blogger Elder of Ziyon has documented, was killed by one of the more than 150 Hamas rockets that crashed back into Gaza.
Even in the case that was featured on the Washington Post front page, it is by no means clear that the son of Jihad Masharawi was killed by Israeli fire. As again Elder of Ziyon has pointed out, there are many reasons to question the uncritically accepted claims that Masharawi’s home was hit by an Israeli missile – and it is most definitely untrue to assert that it was deliberately “targeted” by the IDF if it was just a civilian residence.
But whatever ordinance struck the Masharawi home, the unfortunate truth is that the family’s apartment is located in the al-Zaytoun neighborhood where Hamas chose to conceal a launching site for the long-range missiles fired at the metropolitan Tel Aviv area and Jerusalem. Acting with the same open cynicism, Hamas also launched a missile on Jerusalem from the vicinity of Gaza’s Shifa Hospital; and there are many more similar incidents that have been documented and reported.
“so long as Hamas continues to fire rockets from densely populated civilian areas, rather than from the many open areas outside of Gaza City, this cynical tactic—which constitutes a double war crime—will guarantee that some Palestinian women and children will be killed.”
And this is the larger truth that the Washington Post and most mainstream media outlets tend to ignore: Hamas hides among Gaza’s civilians to launch rockets on Israeli civilians, and no matter on which side civilians are killed and wounded as a result, Hamas can claim “success”: there will be open celebrations when Israelis are terrorized, wounded or killed; and when civilians in Gaza are the victims, Hamas can count on the media to spread dramatic images that feed the myth of a brutal und utterly “disproportionate” Israeli response to something that, after all, is mostly “like bee stings on the Israeli bear’s behind.”
Last but not least, it’s worthwhile to note that the image of a bear stung by bees echoes an Aesop fable for children – and unsurprisingly, the bear is the aggressor, while the bees valiantly (and successfully) defend their honey. Pexton’s Israeli bear stung by Palestinian bees seems to be just another reflection of the bias that obviously mars the judgment of the Washington Post’s ombudsman when it comes to Israel. Hamas will love the image, because after all, the cause of the bees is just, and they win against the bear.