Since these are going to be crucial negotiations to resolve major issues on both sides, one might expect that the Post would pay equal attention to each side's agenda and demands. But unfortunately, this isn't the case. From start to finish, Hauslohner and Birnbaum limit their reporting to Hamas's demands. And for good measure, they even toss in some pro-Hamas spin of their own.
Readers are introduced to Mousa Abu Marzook, Hamas's deputy political leader, who unfurls a series of Israeli concessions that Hamas will insist on obtaining. If Israel balks, he warns, Hamas is prepared to resume rocket attacks on Israel.
In specific terms, Marzook says that Hamas will insist on unfettered continuation of arms smuggling into Gaza. Plus the lifting of Israel's blockade of Gaza. Plus unchallenged access to a buffer zone along the Gaza-Israel border. And so on. It's all about what Marzook wants.
Hauslohner and Birnbaum even go so far as to volunteer a pro-Hamas assist of their own. "Israel tightly limits the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza, including a ban on the import of most construction materials -- measures that rights groups and Israeli officials say have crippled Gaza's economy and hindered reconstruction efforts in the wake of a 2008-2009 Israeli ground invasion," they write.
Actually, the situation in Gaza is not so dire. Hauslohner and Birnbaum fail to point out that in the last couple of years, Israel has gradually loosened restrictions on movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza. The list of permissible imports keeps getting longer and longer. Ditto with Gaza exports of agricultural goods. And some construction materials are allowed in -- under close scrutiny to ensure that Hamas can't use them to fabricate rockets. Plus truck convoys with food and medicines from Israel provide more than the basic needs of Gaza residents. Plus scores of Gaza patients have been admitted to Israel to receive special hospital care, even when Israel has been under rocket attack. None of this catches the eyes of the Post's reporting team, which also manages to skip any mention of the thousands of rockets fired by Hamas and other terrorist groups on civilian targets in Israel -- the very reason Israel felt it necessary to institute a blockade.
Instead, Hauslohner and Birnbaum focus entirely on Marzook's demands -- naming him no fewer than eight times in their article. In contrast, their piece is bereft of a single Israeli official who might inform Post readers about Israel's wish list in this new round of indirect negotiations -- whether on or off the record.
The spotlight is reserved for Hamas, while Israel is shoved to the side. A neat propaganda coup for Palestinian terrorism. Hamas couldn't have asked for more from such obliging reporters.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers
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