The Washington Post’s Only Goal Is to Convict Israel
Long before The Washington Post’s June 12, 2022, report — “How Shireen Abu Akleh Was Killed” — the newspaper had reached its verdict about who was responsible for the Al Jazeera journalist’s death.
Akleh was fatally shot on May 11, while reporting on Israeli counter-terror raids in Jenin. But within hours of her death, Post staffers not only blamed Israel, but they alleged that she was “murdered in cold blood.”
As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) highlighted, Post journalist Rana Ayyub tweeted: “This is a murder in cold blood by Israel. Shireen was one of those journalists who documented the everyday brutality by the Israeli forces for the world, a generation of viewers grew up watching her dogged reporting from Palestine. Will the world speak up?”
Ayyub’s claim was promptly retweeted by Post columnist Karen Attiah, leading an independent journalist, Armin Rosen, to note that “two Washington Post staffers [were] spreading what amounts to a conspiracy theory before any of the most relevant facts are in.”
CAMERA pointed out to Post staff, including executive editor Sally Buzbee, that the employees were violating published standards and ethics, while simultaneously casting doubt on the newspaper’s ability to report on the Jewish state fairly and accurately.
Ayyub subsequently deleted her tweet. But the Post declined to respond to CAMERA’s complaint. The newspaper and its employees did not issue a retraction, correction, or a clarification.
They’re aware. They just don’t care.
And other troubling tweets by Ayyub remain, including one which alleges:
If a prominent journalist can be murdered in cold blood, with cameras as witnesses, imagine the plight of ordinary Palestinians whose murder goes unaccounted, unreported. The sniper that hit Shireen might not have shot the first innocent, he will not be the first to go unpunished.
Mere hours after Akleh’s death, a Washington Post reporter had already concluded that not only was Israel responsible, but that the Jewish state had used a “sniper” to intentionally murder her — part of a long process of the Jewish state intentionally murdering “ordinary Palestinians.”
Neither the antisemitism nor the lack of journalistic ethics is particularly subtle.
Ayyub offered no evidence. No citations. But for some, evidence isn’t needed to convict the Jewish state. That’s antisemitism. And, as the Post’s failure to respond and uphold its own standards makes clear, that’s now its brand of “journalism.”
Yet, the Post has no problem issuing corrections or reprimanding journalists over other violations of social media policy and standards.
A few weeks after Ayyub’s tweet, the Post suspended journalist Dave Weigel for retweeting a comedian. But slandering the Jewish state — alleging that it wantonly murders journalists and Palestinian civilians — doesn’t rise to the occasion.
The newspaper’s headline didn’t lack humility, authoritatively declaring that this was how “How Shireen Abu Akleh Was Killed.” But determining exactly how, and by whom, Akleh was killed is near impossible without ballistic evidence. And the Palestinian Authority (PA) is refusing to provide that.
The PA, which rules over the majority of Palestinians, and which had initial possession of Akleh’s body, refused to turn over the bullet that killed her.
In fact, the PA completely refused to cooperate with Israel, which immediately called for an investigation into her death.
The PA’s refusal to cooperate and turn over the bullet that killed Akleh is certainly suspicious. But the Post doesn’t spend anytime ruminating on the PA’s decision. Indeed, in a lengthy report, the newspaper barely mentions it, burying it in the middle of the article. One of the audiology experts who was consulted by the Post, Steven Beck, even states that “without knowledge of the type of round [used], a more accurate estimate of the distance [of the shooting] is not possible.”
But the newspaper glosses over this statement, and the title and tone of the report make it clear that the Post seems quite certain how she was killed.
Worse still, the Post uncritically quotes claims by PA officials:
An investigation by the Palestinian Authority concluded that Abu Akleh was hit by a bullet fired by an Israeli soldier. The Palestinian attorney general, Akram Al-Khateeb, said at a press briefing last month that she was shot ‘directly and deliberately,’ a conclusion he said was based in part on the fact that Abu Akleh and Samoudi were shot in the upper part of their bodies, and gunfire, he said, continued after they were shot.
Khateeb said a decision had been made not to hand over the bullet to the Israelis — or even to disseminate an image of the round — ‘to deprive them of a new lie, a new narrative,’ he said, adding that the Palestinians were capable of conducting a thorough investigation on their own.
The PA itself has a long history of using human shields, including journalists, which dates back decades. The PA has even praised terrorists who posed as journalists while carrying out attacks. Yet, the Post is happy to regurgitate its claims while failing to ask why the PA won’t turn over the bullet.
And it’s not only Israel which has lambasted the Authority’s refusal to cooperate in an investigation — so has the United States. Yet, the Post fails to tell readers about this fact.
While the Post takes the PA’s claims at face value, it repeatedly impugns those of Israel, writing that “no evidence was offered” for the IDF’s claim that Shireen Abu Akleh was not intentionally targeted. And instead of acknowledging that Israel’s investigation was fluid and changing — a result of not having a predetermined outcome — the newspaper sinisterly paints Israel’s evolving conclusions as “shifting explanations.”
By contrast, the PA, the Post would have readers believe, conducted an “investigation.” This being an entity whose leader, a former terror financier in the 17th year of a four-year term, has steadfastly refused to quit paying tax-deductible salaries to terrorists.
Fatah, the movement that controls the PA, has a long history of intimidating, torturing, and even murdering journalists.
Indeed, as CAMERA noted in The Daily Caller some years ago, when the Authority beat and imprisoned several journalists covering anti-PA protests in 2018, The Washington Post didn’t even bother to file a report. I’ve even had a Post journalist describe to me how he was scared when he accidentally stepped on the shoe of a high-ranking Fatah member more than two decades ago.
One would be hard pressed to think of any other case in which the Post would take the word of an autocracy so willingly over that a democracy with free courts and press and a rambunctious civil society.
The Post’s report ends by quoting an Al Jazeera news channel producer who says: “We went to cover news. Not to die.” The newspaper omits that Israel is — by a wide and overwhelming margin — the safest place for reporters in the Middle East. As the former AP journalist Matti Friedman observed, news outlets have vastly more staff in Israel than in the rest of the Middle East, indeed than in much of the world outside the United States and western Europe.
But as CAMERA recently noted, that’s not the narrative that media outlets like the Post are trying to propagate. Their intention is clear, even when the facts are anything but.
The writer is a Senior Research Analyst for CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis