Responding to criticism that the Washington Post doesn’t publish pictures showing the consequences of Hamas rocket atacks on Isral, the paper’s ombudsman, Patrick Pexton, says that “the overwhelming majority of rockets fired from Gaza are like bee stings on the Israeli bear’s behind.” Where to begin?
Let’s start at the beginning. The present controversy commenced when, as Scott discussed at the time, the Post published a large front page photo of a Palestinian toddler killed during Israel’s Gaza operation. This prompted some to ask why the Post hadn’t published photos showing the damage caused to Israel by Hamas rocket attacks. After all, Israel’s military campaign was a response to Hamas’ rocket attacks, which President Obama declared unacceptable.
Pexton offers several defenses on behalf of the Post. First, he states:
The Post cannot publish photographs that don’t exist. No Israeli civilian had been killed by Gaza rocket fire since Oct. 29, 2011, more than a year earlier. The first Israeli civilian deaths from Gaza rocket fire in 2012 did not take place until Nov. 15, when Hamas, the group that controls Gaza, began firing more accurate and deadly missiles in response to the Israeli offensive that had begun the day before. There were no recent photos of Israeli casualties to be had on the night of Nov. 14.
Notice how Pexton tries to shift blame to Israel by saying that Hamas killed no Israelis by rocket attack (in 2012) except in response to Israeli aggression. But, as Alana Goodman points out, a few days earlier, Hamas had pounded southern Israel with more than 100 Hamas rockets, injuring at least three. Yet, Pexton makes Israel sound like the instigator of potentially deadly hostilities. He thereby shows his anti-Israel bias, if not the Post’s.
But this isn’t the only problem with the quoted portion of Pexton’s response. Pexton concedes that Hamas attacks killed Israelis on Novmeber 15, the day that the Post had run the photo of the dead Palestinian (a decision the paper made the previous night). Yet, as Goodman notes, the paper didn’t follow up with a front page photo of these casualties and, in fact, hasn’t printed any pictures of any Israeli casualties on its front page since the start of Operation Pillar of Defense. Why not?
Pexton seems to admit that the reason is based on a political point of view, not human interest (as he begins his column suggesting) or by lack of available photos. He continues:
I think we can all agree that the Gaza rocket fire is reprehensible and is aimed at terrorizing Israeli civilians. It’s disruptive and 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 reference to “the Israeli bear” shows plainly enough where Pexton’s sympathies lie. Israel is the big ugly bear attacking innocent Palestinian children.
Beyond that, it is true that most Hamas rockets don’t kill or injure anyone. But since Hamas’ rocket fire is “reprehensible,” and given that it indisputably caused Israel’s response, the Post has no excuse for downplaying the impact of those rocket attacks that do kill or injure Israelis.
Furthermore, as Goodman argues:
Hamas’s rockets don’t cause as many casualties as they otherwise would because Israel goes to great lengths to protect its people. It spends fortunes on bomb shelters and missile defense systems. In contrast, Israel’s military responses cause more Palestinian casualties than they otherwise would because Hamas goes to great lengths to endanger its people. It shoots missiles out of hospitals and schools, uses children as human shields, and tells Gaza civilians to ignore Israeli warning pamphlets that advise them to leave targeted neighborhoods.
It is probably inevitable that liberal newspapers like the Post will play into the hands of the evil organization that takes affirmative action to generate the kind of “photo opportunity” displayed on the Post’s November 15 front page. One might, however, have hoped for a Post ombudsman who is less open about his anti-Israel bias.
But I suppose newspapers get the ombudsman they deserve.