Zach Schapira
Executive Director of the J'accuse Coalition for Justice

An Open Letter to the Washington Post

Yesterday, your Jerusalem Bureau Chief William Booth and one of his local reporters Ruth Eglash penned an overtly anti-Israel and casually anti-Semitic article entitled “What drives the Palestinians who attack Jews with kitchen knives?”

What could have been an earnest investigation into the causes of the collective psychosis we’re witnessing turned into a piece which passively justifies Palestinian violence as a consequence of Israeli actions.

Every time a Palestinian explanation is given for the attacks, Booth is silent, letting his interviewees’ quotes speak for themselves.  Yet every time an Israeli explanation is given, Booth quickly follows up with an attempt to undermine it:

Relative of slain attacker cites “humiliation of occupation.” Silence.

Father of another attacker cites a viral video showing a Palestinian girl shot dead. Silence.

Cousin of another attacker cites threats against the al-Aqsa mosque. Silence.

Some parents even denied their sons had done anything wrong, that they had actually been pursued by Jews, or that Israeli forces had planted knives at the scenes of shootings.  Here Booth submits that “most” of the attacks are real.

Eleven paragraphs into an article purportedly seeking an answer to its headline’s question, Booth turns to the Israeli perspective for the first time. He spares one sentence to tell readers that Netanyahu “blames the wave of violence on incitement” by Palestinian or Islamist organizations. But then, with a mark of feigned journalistic objectivity, he immediately quips: “One thing Netanyahu never mentions is the 48-year military occupation of the West Bank and the growth of Jewish settlements.”  This is the closest Booth comes to offering his own answer to the question he poses.

Yet he certainly doesn’t mention all of the Palestinian attacks and pogroms against Jews before Israel controlled the West Bank, or even before Israel was established as a state.  He doesn’t mention the massacre of 69 yeshiva students in Hebron in 1929, the Jerusalem Grand Mufti’s close alignment with Hitler during World War II, or all of the Palestinian attacks against Jews in the years 1948-1967.

Even if Booth were rusty on his Middle Eastern history, this was, at best, an astounding missed opportunity to discuss the very real incitement we see all over Palestinian traditional and social media: graphic political cartoons cheering the violence, public figures honoring the killers, campaigns pronouncing “There is nothing greater than a knife penetrating the heads of the Jews.”

But more than just neglectful journalism, denying any credence in this case to allegations of incitement is willful prejudice, plain and simple. The only time Booth mentions hatred as a possible cause is when someone “swore his cousin wasn’t a Jew hater.”  And when Booth notes that the Israeli leadership accuses Abbas of incitement, it’s only so he can dismiss the idea: “But young Palestinian men who attend violent clashes with Israeli soldiers…call him irrelevant.”

(“…who attend violent clashes…!” One wonders what they were doing there, in attendance.)

Were Booth an unprejudiced observer, he wouldn’t have to look very hard to find the answer to his own question staring him in the face.  And he would have at least subtly separated himself and your newspaper from bloodlust comments, rather than toss up and tear down every Israeli comment as a strawman.

Presenting both sides of this conflict as morally equivalent is one thing, enraging though it may be.  But Booth reaches a new low when he goes out of his way to humanize Jew-killers, while virtually denying that incitement and deep-rooted anti-Semitism play any role at all in the violence.

Unfortunately, this article is not an anomaly — it is only the latest in a string of discriminatory coverage that becomes more and more pronounced as the conflict escalates.

In a region of the world where perception is king, and hatred motivates violence, William Booth’s clear anti-Israel bias makes him unfit for the position of Jerusalem bureau chief.

About the Author
Zach Schapira is executive director of the J'accuse Coalition for Justice, a non-profit organization dedicated to combating antisemitism and anti-Israel bias.
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