An Ethnic Cleanser–but He Loves His Kids

You don’t generally expect to see a member of a terrorist movement portrayed sympathetically in the pages of a major U.S. newspaper, but that’s what the Washington Post gave us this week (10/15/08) in a report from the West Bank by Linda Gradstein:

Avi Ben Yakov is a soft-spoken Jewish settler who loves playing with his young children in their red-roofed home in the hills above Nablus, deep inside the West Bank. But when it comes to his Palestinian neighbors, his tone hardens.

“They will not be my neighbors if I do what I have to do, which is take them back to their lands,” he said. “We don’t want them here. Expelling them is the solution.”

Ben Yakov would not say if he had been personally involved in a series of recent attacks on the nearby Palestinian village of Asira Al-Qibiliyya. But he said the violence was justified by the Israeli army’s failure to protect the lives and property of West Bank settlers.

You can probably find advocates of ethnic cleansing who love their kids in conflicts all over the world, but in most situations journalists don’t see their affection toward their family as the first thing to report on them. Nor are the reasons they have for wanting to drive out their ethnically distinct neighbors usually described sympathetically as “frustrations” and “deep-felt anxiety,” as Gradstein went on to do; more typically, media call the feeling that violence should be used to drive away unwanted ethnic groups “hatred” or perhaps “racism.”

But this kind of framing is less surprising coming from Gradstein, who has a track record as a cheerleader for Israeli violence (FAIR Action Alert, 8/14/01). After a bombing aimed at Israelis in Jerusalem, Gradstein declared (NPR Morning Edition, 8/9/01):

I think Israel has to retaliate. Israel has been saying from now on it will retaliate for every attack. This is the second largest attack in the last ten months of violence–18 dead, including six children. I think Israel has no choice but to respond.

As FAIR noted at the time, it’s difficult to imagine a U.S. reporter announcing after an Israeli attack left a similar number of Palestinians killed, “I think Hamas has to retaliate.” And it’s difficult to imagine most U.S. reporters–other than Gradstein, who’s been criticized in the past for taking money from pro-Israeli groups–saying the same thing about Israel.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.