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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Tuesday, February 18, 2003
10:20 PM

I've been meaning to blog this for a couple weeks... But so much time has elapsed I'll just record it for postery. The Post ran a story on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one of those tales of the underdog that overlooks a nontrivial detail: the underdog wants to commit murder. The story was by Molly Moore, it ran Feb. 10 and was called Deep in Gaza, a Lopsided Battle-- Raid Illustrates Disparities in Firepower, Casualties In this story, Moore discovers rifles and grenades are less destructive than tanks and Apache helicopters. Thanks!
An estimated 735 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip. The comparable death toll for Israeli soldiers is 41. Another 23 Israelis, most of them Jewish settlers, have died in war-related violence. Throughout Israel and the Palestinian-inhabited territories of Gaza and the West Bank, more than 1,800 Palestinians and 700 Israelis have been killed in the conflict.

The primary reason why so many more Palestinians are killed than Israeli soldiers is that the Palestinians are overwhelmingly outgunned. To a large degree, the Israeli military's modern equipment allows it to inflict casualties on Palestinians from a distance, significantly reducing its own losses.

The story was ably blogged by Meryl Yourish, and in much more detail than I can do justice to. Here's a taste:
Okay, I'm going to take a huge leap of faith here and say the primary reason why so many more Palestinians are killed than Israeli soldiers is because there is a war on. No side should ever have to apologize for having better equipment that allows it to protect its soldiers at the expense of the enemy. And the vast majority of these Palestinians are not innocent bystanders.

Washington Post reader Jonathan Medved also objected, in a Saturday Free-For-All letter to the editor:
Molly Moore's Feb. 10 front-page story about the recent battle in Gaza between the Israeli Defense Forces and Palestinians gave moral equivalence to attacker and victim, ignored the cause of these raids and reduced the conflict to a casualty count ["Deep in Gaza, a Lopsided Battle"]. Seen this way, the Palestinians are necessarily the underdog, outgunned and losing more fighters, and therefore deserving of sympathy.

Moore dismisses the reason for the raid as a seemingly senseless thrust against "car repair shops and metal foundries." While she admitted that they were "suspected" of producing Qassam missiles, she belittled their danger by stating that these "projectiles" are "inaccurate but frightening."

What Moore did not point out is that during the past 21/2 years these "resistance fighters" have fired more than 1,300 mortars and 80 missiles at Israeli cities and villages within the borders of Israel. In the past four months, the pace of these attacks has increased, with 40 missiles fired. These missiles were not aimed at "settlements" inside disputed territories, but at pre-1967 Israel....

And for a cherry on top, Post Ombudsman Michael Getler found fault as well, though mild:
Maybe it's the approach of war, but complaints are also rising from readers who say they see an anti-Israel bias in Post reporting. Two weeks ago, they questioned the timing and motivation of a Style piece on the history of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty in 1967. Last week, the criticism was of an article Monday by correspondent Molly Moore from the Gaza Strip.... On balance, I thought the article was powerful and informative, but it had a serious flaw that could have been easily fixed. It took 14 long paragraphs describing the Palestinians' grief and how they are outgunned before it explained that the Israeli mission was to destroy car repair shops and metal foundries, which the Israelis said produce mortars and missiles to be fired at Israeli soldiers, settlements in Gaza and nearby communities in Israel.

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