John Leo
"He kept bleeding" was a large front-page headline in the April 3 Washington Post. The story was about a wounded Palestinian who died in Bethlehem after Israeli forces refused to let ambulances into the fire zone. The Israelis said snipers were still active. Also they may have been suspicious of the local ambulance corps after a belt of explosives was discovered under the stretcher of a 3-year-old boy.

Maybe the Israelis were just being monsters, as the press increasingly seems to think. But the level of "he-kept-bleeding" and "they've-killed-my-wife" coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli war is quite high. Another Washington Post headline was "Father, son dead, family wonders why." This is a very unusual way to cover combat, particularly when there are no neutral observers around to back up stories supplied by angry partisans.

The British press is filled with this stuff, and the hostility to Israel is impossible to miss. American reporters are more professional, but focusing on highly emotional "they've killed my wife" coverage is dicey. It tells us nothing about what we need to know -- whether the killing of civilians was incidental or intentional, massive or minor. After all, "they've killed my wife" journalism can be churned out after "collateral damage" in almost any battle in any war.

In contrast, I don't see much emotional coverage of the Israeli civilians intentionally blown up by Palestinian bombers. Most attacks pass without any notice in the press. The coverage we do get is dry and matter-of-fact. In February, for instance, CNN's Web site mentioned the "killing of two Israelis" by a suicide bomber. The bomber was identified, but there were no names of victims, no details about the horrific damage to other teens by flying nails embedded in the bomb, and not even a mention that one of the two dead was an American citizen.

Palestinian bombers, on the other hand, tend to get more vivid treatment, often with endearing photos and warm, human-interest touches. The New York Times reported that one bomber "raised doves and adored children," though this adoration apparently did not extend to the children being bombed.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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