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Opinion

Do Washington Post reporters or editors think Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a liar?

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Michael Barone,Middle East,Benjamin Netanyahu,Palestinians

Sometimes writers betray bias by the choice of conjunction. Apparent case in point: the Washington Post's front page lead story today headlined “With arrest of six Jews in Arab teen's killing, Israel confronts its own extremists.” The conjunction in question is the first word in the 10th paragraph, “But.”

The preceding paragraph reads as follows: “Visiting the home of one of the Israeli teens slain last month after being abducted in the West Bank, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Khieder’s killers would ‘face the full weight of the law.' ”

Then, immediately following, is this: “But he also called on the Palestinian Authority, which controls some areas of the West Bank, to go after the killers of the Israelis — 16-year-old Naftali Fraenkel, 16-year-old Gilad Shaar and 19-year-old Eyal-Yifrach.”

Writers use “but” to indicate antithesis: that one thing is different from another. But what is the difference in principle in what Netanyahu is advocating? In both cases, he seeks punishment for brutal murders. You could only see antithesis if you somehow believe that it’s inconsistent to seek the punishment of persons who murder a Palestinian and persons who murder three Israelis. In other words, if your motivation is tribal: Murder of Israelis bad, murder of Palestinians good. Many Palestinians may believe the inverse of that (murder of Israelis good, murder of Palestinians bad). Netanyahu, by words and action, seems not to believe that murder is bad, period.

Unless you believe Netanyahu is lying or dissimulating, the proper conjunction would be “And.”

Do the Washington Post reporters and/or editors believe that Netanyahu is lying or dissimulating? I don’t know, but their choice of conjunction suggests it. Of course that choice may simply have been a mistake or example of sloppy writing; the reporters and editors were working on deadline. But it does give you some food for thought.

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