paper trail

The Washington Post accused of anti-Israel bias in its war coverage

The ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt and Washington Institute’s Rob Satloff offered rare, sharp criticism of the paper’s editorial standards

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

People walk by the One Franklin Square Building, home of The Washington Post newspaper, in downtown Washington on Feb. 21, 2019.

The Washington Post has faced mounting scrutiny in recent days from Jewish leaders and foreign policy experts for its coverage of the Israel-Hamas war, raising questions over the paper’s editorial direction as it continues to report aggressively on the evolving conflict.

Two weekend Post headlines, for instance, drew particularly harsh criticism for characterizing as “captives” the Palestinian prisoners now being released by Israel in a negotiated exchange for hostages held by Hamas and other terror groups, fueling accusations of editorial bias.

“Describing children and elderly people kidnapped from their homes as ‘captives’ is an editorial choice,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a sharply worded post on X, formerly Twitter, on Saturday, sharing a screenshot of a web headline alluding to a so-called “exchange of captives” between Israel and Hamas.

“Describing inmates who committed crimes as ‘captives’ is explicit, indefensible bias,” Greenblatt added, tagging the Post in his message. “Absolutely shameful.”

Meanwhile, Robert Satloff, the executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, took issue with a separate headline that ran on the front page of the Washington Post on Sunday, which he charged with “equating Israeli hostages and Palestinian security prisoners as ‘captives.’”

“Editors still on Thanksgiving holiday?” Satloff wrote in social media comments on Sunday, describing the headline as “the latest in a series of unprofessional editorial decisions by” the Post, whose handling of the war he has otherwise called “tendentious” and “one-sided.”

In a recent essay, for example, Satloff criticized the framing — and the ambiguous sourcing — of a front-page story on premature Palestinian infants separated from their mothers during Israel’s war in Gaza, which made no mention of Hamas’ abduction of babies and toddlers.

The triple-bylined story relied on mostly anonymous sourcing; there was only one named source, of a Palestinian mother, in the entire piece. The story didn’t name the hospital where premature babies from Gaza were receiving treatment in Israel because, the report wrote, “staff members fear reprisals from Israeli authorities.”

The newspaper “took a fundamentally good news story about premature babies from Gaza cared for by compassionate people across enemy lines and turned it into a horror story, with diabolical Israelis lurking overhead,” Satloff claimed last week, noting that the story “repeated unverified accusations” against unnamed Israeli authorities.

“If that isn’t the one-sided editorialization of news, what is it?” he concluded.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center also condemned the Post story, alleging in a statement that it had contributed to the “demonization of Israel” and created “increased misinformation and hate against Israelis.”

Days after the story was published, its lead reporter was forced to correct a separate piece erroneously claiming that Doctors Without Borders had “accused Israeli forces of deliberately firing on a convoy carrying employees of the organization and their family members in Gaza on Saturday, killing one and wounding one,” as the Post noted in its correction. 

“Doctors Without Borders described and condemned the attack but did not name Israeli forces or any entity as its perpetrator,” the paper acknowledged.

As hostage release negotiations were being finalized earlier this month, the paper also faced scrutiny from media observers for mistakenly reporting that Israel and Hamas had reached a tentative deal, requiring another major correction — which was issued belatedly.

The newspaper has also framed its coverage of Israel’s war against Hamas as the “Israel-Gaza war” — in contrast to most other national outlets, which have framed the fight as Israel’s battle against Hamas.

The Post did not respond to requests for comment regarding its recent coverage.

In addition to the Post, The New York Times drew criticism on Sunday for a front-page story citing United Nations figures to claim that “more than twice as many women and children have already been reported killed in Gaza than have been confirmed killed in Ukraine” — even as the U.N. “believes the true toll in Ukraine is considerably higher,” as the author acknowledged.

The story, critics noted, also relied on unverified figures reported by Gaza’s Health Ministry, which is controlled by Hamas.

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