Washington Post Ombudsman’s Admission and Error

The Washington Post ombudsman, Michael Getler, has an impressive journalistic background, including 26 years of senior assignments at The Post and four years as executive editor of the International Herald Tribune.

As ombudsman at The Post, Getler recently reviewed complaints of The Washington Post’s anti-Israel bias. On April 7, Getler found that The Post’s reporting on Palestinian suicide bombing has NOT been even-handed.

“The Post has done a good job of reporting these bombings,” Getler wrote, “but it has done less well in capturing the impact of these attacks on Israeli families and society. At the same time, The Post has reported powerful stories about Palestinian suffering from the Israeli offensives taken in response to these and other attacks, and this sharpens the contrast with the lesser focus on the effect of such bombings on Israel’s Jewish citizens.”

Getler responded to issues addressed in a recent HonestReporting communique:

“Readers who say they see a pro-Palestinian bias in Post reporting claim the paper underplayed an Israeli military charge that Palestinians used an ambulance to transport explosives, which is why Israeli forces have been stopping them. Another [correspondent Daniel] Williams story Friday from Ramallah quotes Red Cross official Ola Skuterud raising doubts about that claim… It is hard to know the validity of the ambulance-weapons claim…”

Unfortunately, Getler has failed his mandate to investigate readers’ complaints. Several HonestReporting members sent letters to Getler, providing proof of the “ambulance-weapons claim.” Getler was sent a March 31 article from The Jerusalem Post, entitled, “ICRC ‘shocked’ by explosives in Palestinian ambulance.”

According to The Jerusalem Post, “The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said at the weekend it was ‘shocked and dismayed’ that explosives were hidden by Palestinians in a Palestine Red Crescent Society’s (PRCS) ambulance. The ICRC said it ‘condemns such abuse of an ambulance and of the Red Crescent emblem’ and called for Palestinian ‘respect of the ambulances’ medical mission.’”

“After the Israeli authorities reported the discovery of explosives in the ambulance, with a child lying on top of them, ICRC delegates made immediate contact with the Israeli authorities and the PRCS and went to the site near Ramallah where the ambulance was stopped. ‘There they observed how a device was taken out from the vehicle and detonated in the presence of a number of onlookers,’ the ICRC said. ‘Until a full investigation has been made, the ICRC is not in a position to comment further on this incident. The ICRC understands the security concerns of the Israeli authorities and has always acknowledged their right to check ambulances, provided it does not unduly delay medical evacuations.’”

If Ombudsman Getler and Washington Post editors truly want to provide balanced and unbiased reporting, they can start by analyzing the reports coming from the region. Their correspondents have been filing stories almost daily on alleged Israeli atrocities against Palestinians and damage to Palestinian hospitals and institutions. We have not seen stories on the trove of incriminating documents captured from Arafat’s compound, the truth behind the Palestinian ambulance, the illegal weaponry captured in Israel’s raids, the Christian hostages held by Palestinian terrorists in Bethlehem.

Instead, here is a sample of recent headlines in the Post:
- Palestinian Detainees Decry Treatment
- ‘He Kept Bleeding’
- Wounded Die as Israelis Restrict Ambulances in Bethlehem
- Reporters Become Targets Of Israeli Army Firepower
- Attacks Strip Away Foundation of Palestinian Rule
- West Bank Hospitals Perilously Low on Supplies

If you believe The Washington Post’s coverage has not been fair, write letters to the editor or to the Ombudsman. The most effective method is to write a letter in your own words. Otherwise, use the sample letter below.

letters@washpost.com

The Washington Post ombudsman can be reached at:
Phone: (202) 334-7582
E-mail: ombudsman@washpost.com

Snail-mail: The Washington Post, 1150 15th Street, N.W., Washington DC 20071

==== SAMPLE LETTER OF COMPLAINT ====

To the Editor:

The Post’s unbalanced coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been confirmed by the Post’s own ombudsman (April 7). Your correspondents have been obsessing on alleged Israeli misconduct while ignoring Palestinian hostage-taking, illegal arms amassed by the Palestinian Authority, the trove of incriminating documents tying Arafat to terrorism, and the Palestinian misuse of ambulances.

The Post’s ombudsman missed the mark, however, when he claimed that “it is hard to know the validity” of Israeli charges that Palestinian ambulances have been used to smuggle weapons. Officials of the International Committee of Red Cross admitted that a bomb-bearing ambulance (with children on board) was caught by Israeli forces. As reported by The Jerusalem Post (March 31), Red Cross officials observed the explosive device taken out of the vehicle and detonated. The Red Cross expressed “shock and dismay” and “condemned the abuse of an ambulance and the Palestinian Red Crescent emblem.”

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