At ‘Post,’ news stories not evenhanded


The Washington Post on July 24 published a remarkable editorial titled “Tunnel vision: Much of the world blames Israel for killing Palestinians, but Hamas put them at risk.” The editorial went on to say, “The depravity of Hamas’s strategy seems lost on much of the outside world, which … blames Israel for the civilian casualties it inflicts while attempting to destroy the tunnels.”

Unfortunately, this depravity seems also to be lost on the Post’s news staff.

The news pages of the Post are filled with articles that emphasize civilian casualties in Gaza and cast blame on Israel. I conducted a search of the Post for mention of “civilian casualties” from July 8 – when Israel’s attacks on Gaza began – to Aug. 1. There are 24 articles containing that phrase. Of those 24, 20 are about the Gaza conflict, including nine that appeared on the front page. While a few are balanced and mention casualties on both sides, the vast majority portray Palestinian suffering in such a way as to evoke sympathy for the Palestinians while casting blame on Israel for that suffering. And this is not to mention the large color photos showing dead Palestinian bodies or grieving relatives.

To put these civilian casualties in perspective, consider that there are 45 armed conflicts in the world today, according to Wikipedia. The death tolls in Syria and Iraq, to take two examples, have exceeded 250,000 and 22,000, respectively, and most of the dead were civilians. Why this overwhelming emphasis on Gaza?

To give the matter some historic perspective, consider the number of civilian casualties in the six wars the United States has fought during the last 75 years (again from Wikipedia):

WWII (1941-45): 2,000,000
Korean War (1950-53): 2,700,000
Vietnam War (1959-75): 2,000,000
Gulf War (1990-91): 4,000
Afghanistan War (2001-present): 19,000
Iraq War (2003-11): 655,000.

I do not recall any uproar in the press or elsewhere about these civilian casualties. Even when the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was seen at the time as necessary to shorten the war and save American lives.

It would seem that the United States should be the last country to accuse Israel of causing civilian casualties. And we must remember that Israel does not choose civilian targets, as did the United States. The casualties in Gaza are unintended. In time of war and when under fire, every soldier is not a saint and every bomb does not hit its target. Mistakes are made. The fact is that Israel tries harder than did the United States in any of its wars to avoid civilian casualties. In contrast, Hamas deliberately targets civilians. By its continual emphasis on damage to and suffering of Palestinians, the Post inverts morality.

Finally, the July 24 Post editorial goes on to say: “Hamas’s leaders … continue to [demand] … a full reopening of Gaza’s land and sea borders. … John F. Kerry, the Egyptian government and other would-be brokers … should reject Hamas’s agenda.”

Unfortunately, this argument is not supported by the Post’s news articles, which give full credence to Hamas’s demands.

If The Washington Post really believes what its editorial says, it would do well to communicate with the foreign desk and perhaps oversee its reporting on Israel. It is not editorials that mold public opinion.

It is the headlines, especially on the front page, and the color photos. If the public is exposed day after day to articles, headlines and photos that depict Palestinian suffering and that cast blame on Israel, their opinion will not be changed by a small editorial on the editorial page – even if they read it.

Rodney A. Brooks is a retired physicist and author and was a founding member of

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