Sugarcoated: Wash Post fails miserably at backgrounder on Palestinian Islamic Jihad

Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters take part in a military parade in Al-Shati refugee camp, west of Gaza City, on June 24, 2022. Photo by Attia Muhammed/Flash90.

by Sean Durns

(CAMERA) — In a May 12, 2023 report, The Washington Post asked: “What is Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the militant group Israel is targeting in Gaza?” But after reading the 1,294-word backgrounder on the terrorist organization, Post readers are likely left with more questions than answers.

The newspaper’s look at Palestinian Islamic Jihad is timely. The terror group has attacked Israel with growing frequency, hatching additional plots at the behest of its chief benefactor, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Israel has responded by “mowing the grass” — a term for carrying out short-term, highly surgical operations aimed at severely handicapping PIJ. A May 2023 operation, dubbed “Shield and Arrow,” provided the basis for the Post’s backgrounder on the group.

Yet it is striking what Post reporter Miriam Berger omitted. Indeed, despite the report’s length, she failed to mention a key fact: PIJ isn’t a “militant” or “extremist” group as the Post claims. Rather, it is a U.S.-designated terrorist group that calls for Israel’s destruction and a genocide of Jews.

That seems important.

Indeed, instead of noting PIJ’s ambitions, the Post echoes language used by the terror group. PIJ, the Post asserts, is “committed to armed resistance against Israel, a self-described Jewish state established in 1948 on land Palestinians claim.” But as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis has noted, “armed resistance” is a euphemism for terrorism.

PIJ’s real objective is to murder Jews and destroy Israel. Its leaders routinely say as much — and open-source English-language translations of their rhetoric are readily available. It is both curious and pathetic that none of these statements from PIJ leaders made it into a backgrounder on the group.

Nor was PIJ established to achieve Palestinian statehood.

Berger doesn’t mention it, but Palestinian leaders have rejected numerous offers for statehood, including in 1948. Instead, they’ve continuously embraced war, explicitly seeking the destruction of the world’s sole Jewish state. The Post passes on noting this salient fact; instead, the newspaper claims that PIJ is simply “opposed to the 1993 Oslo Accords, which never went into full effect, and any other political agreement with Israel.” But Islamic Jihad is opposed to the very existence of Israel. Indulging in another common euphemism employed by terrorists, the Post meekly refers to this objective as “the Palestinian struggle.”

PIJ itself exists in Hamas-run Gaza, which is an ethno-nationalist entity that is entirely devoid of Jews. By contrast, the “self-described Jewish state” of Israel has an Arab population that enjoys vastly greater rights, freedoms and quality of life than Arabs living under PIJ or Hamas rule. Arabs in Israel can vote, have their own political parties, have run hospitals and founded major businesses, and sit on the Supreme Court. Gaza hasn’t held an election in nearly two decades.

The Post, however, remains committed to pushing a PIJ-approved narrative. Elsewhere, the Post quotes casualty statistics supplied by “Gaza’s Health Ministry.” But as CAMERA has frequently pointed out, including to Post staff, this “ministry” is run by Hamas, a terrorist group with both an interest in, and a history of, lying about casualties.

For good measure, Berger also claims that “last year Israeli forces killed nearly 150 Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem” and “in the first four months of 2023, Israeli forces have killed nearly 100 Palestinians, according to U.N. figures.” But as CAMERA has highlighted (including to Post staff) that many of those killed have been linked to terrorist groups. What is more, casualty stats provided by the United Nations should be treated with skepticism — the agency has a long-documented history of anti-Israel bias.

PIJ and Hamas would have the unsuspecting reader believe that Israel is wantonly slaughtering Palestinians. The Washington Post seems happy to toe that line.

Similarly, the Post misleads when it writes that Israel “controls and restricts nearly all passage of people, goods, and humanitarian services into and out of Gaza.” This, the paper implies, is responsible for high unemployment and poverty. But this overlooks that Egypt also blockades Gaza — and for good reason, as the territory is ruled by a terrorist group.

Whether it’s the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, or Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, terrorist organizations seldom make for good governance. However, this fact is glossed over; it’s much easier to just blame Israel instead of acknowledging that Gazans themselves voted for a terror group whose very charter approvingly cites Adolf Hitler.

Instead, the Post chalks PIJ’s booming popularity up to the “perceived failures” of aging Palestinian leaders in Fatah and Hamas. PIJ, the post says, “is increasingly popular among Palestinians disillusioned by the failure of politicians to achieve statehood, ensure safety and end the Israeli occupation.”

This is nonsense. Palestinian leaders have been offered peace in exchange for statehood on a number of occasions — most recently in 2000, 2001 and 2008. All of these U.S. and Israeli proposals were rejected by Fatah leadership. As for “safety,” in recent years, more wars have been started by Hamas and PIJ than Fatah. And PIJ’s own propaganda to include printed maps and slogans is clear that it considers all of Israel to be an “occupation.”

The Post’s backgrounder on PIJ fails in other respects; it doesn’t fully articulate the group’s founding, its ideology or leadership. Readers looking for a better account of the group and its history would be well advised to look to CAMERA’s 2016 report, Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Still, it is both telling and damning that a lean but mighty nonprofit managed to provide a better look at a terrorist group than one of the world’s largest newspapers, with all of its considerable resources.

Sean Durns is a senior research analyst for CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.