Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

When Rockets Are Just ‘Bee Stings’ For The Washington Post

November 25, 2012 3:51 am 8 comments

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.

As Alan Dershowitz has argued:

“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.


  • Pexton also ignores the fact that the rockets that are fired into Israel are intended to wound and kill as many civilians as possible. It is only Israeli readiness, and Iron Dome, that prevented the body count from being higher. Pexton needs to be fired – or maybe sent on assignment to southern Israel. He isn’t afraid of a bee sting, is he?

  • I wonder if Pexton would be quite so dismissive if the rockets were fired at Southern California or Texas from Mexico. Let us not forget that Israel was urged by international leaders to pull out of Gaza and got many plus points when it did so. When Hamas seized power and began its overt agression, where were these leaders?

  • Patrick Pexton’s resume includes the fact that he was previously the head editorial writer for DER STURMER.

    • OK, so you’re mightily upset — but you surely realize that by resorting to hyperbole, you make it easy for those who upset you to dismiss you?

  • how do we barrage the washington post with their shilling for jihad?

  • E Pluribus Beagle

    Fair enough. If Hamas rockets are nothing than Gazan deaths caused by them are nothing. Their lives are nothing and they are trash.

    Carry on, defenders of Hamas, carry on.

  • Nicely presented article.

    I am shocked to discover that Pexton is employed as an Ombudsman – a job that requires one to rise above personal biases and Pexton is clearly incapable of doing this.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.

Current day month ye@r *


  • Arts and Culture Features Opinion Playwrite Iddo Netanyahu: ‘Hitler Always Talked About Peace’ (INTERVIEW)

    Playwrite Iddo Netanyahu: ‘Hitler Always Talked About Peace’ (INTERVIEW)

    Late Friday night, on November 13, I was headed for bed when an ominous news bulletin flashed across my computer screen – something about a shooting in Paris. It wasn’t long before the “small number” of shootings and casualties began to double and triple and quadruple. The locations of attacks seemed crazily disorganized, and the tweets and videos became more and more horrifying. It was a long night for many stunned observers. We tried to understand what was happening, and […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Theater BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    In an interview with the Israeli site nrg on Wednesday, Belgian-Jewish stage actress Noemi Schlosser recounted immigrating to Israel after her career in Europe was destroyed by BDS. Schlosser said she had enjoyed success in Belgium and international acclaim until she was targeted by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for her pro-Israel stance during Operation Protective Edge — last summer’s war against Hamas in Gaza. She described watching the theaters where she performed go from packed to nearly empty over a short period of […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    The manager of the Chelsea Football Club said on Monday that he is looking forward to playing in Israel this week against Maccabi Tel Aviv, in spite of the security situation, Israeli news site nrg reported. Jose Murinho, who is already in Israel with his team to compete against Maccabi in the Champions League soccer match, was  asked whether he was worried about the current wave of Palestinian violence sweeping the country. “I have no worries at all regarding the security situation, and neither do […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    Blaming the West has become the most pervasive method of teaching for many Middle East studies departments, which are becoming the heart of pop-culture academia. Efraim Karsh, a distinguished professor of Middle Eastern studies at Bar-Ilan University and professor emeritus at King’s College London, in his latest book The Tail Wags the Dog: International Politics and the Middle East, dispels this myth. “Britain’s ‘original sin,’ if such was indeed committed, lay not in the breaking up of Middle Eastern unity but […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About

    With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About – The Mensch on a Bench is so much happier now than he was a year ago. Look carefully and you will notice that, whereas the previous Mensch had a decidedly worried look, this latest version of the popular Hanukkah toy is flashing an exuberant grin. Is the erstwhile Mensch smiling because he expects to be in some 100,000 homes by year’s end? In truth, the change in visage was suggested last year by the “sharks” on ABC’s Shark Tank […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Actor Adam Sandler unveiled a new version of his famous “Chanukah Song” on Saturday, adding a slew of Jewish celebrities to the ditty’s updated lyrics. The comedian — who released the original song about being Jewish during Christmas in 1996 — performed the latest version of the comedic track during the New York Comedy Festival at Carnegie Hall. Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee, actor Jake Gyllenhaal and “the two guys who founded Google” are among the famous Jewish celebrities now in the line up. Sandler also included lyrics about Star Wars‘ Princess […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom – Famed Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman will be among the 17 recipients of America’s Presidential Medal of Freedom next week. He is the fourth Israeli to receive the highest civilian honor in the US. “A native of Israel, he came to the United States at a young age and was introduced to Americans broadly when he appeared on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1958. Mr. Perlman made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1963 when he was 18,” a White House […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots

    Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots – While Israel is a common destination for cultural and religious pilgrimages, travelers seeking the best hotels, fine dining, and upscale relaxation less often find themselves in the Holy Land. Yet in recent years, the country’s burgeoning tech scene has attracted a business crowd accustomed to ritzy accommodation. Besides, the permanent summer of Tel Aviv and Eilat makes them prime destinations for European vacationers. Israel’s populace managed to tame the swamps and irrigate the desert — so going luxury should […]

    Read more →