You should question much of what you read about the war in Gaza

Former Washington Post Baghdad bureau chief Louisa Loveluck has had a run of bad luck.

To wit, her recent coverage of the Middle East, including the war in Gaza, has included an impressive number of corrections and clarifications, including a 200-plus-word editor’s note in one case.

Loveluck, whose title had changed to “foreign correspondent” in 2023, drew attention this week when she accused the Western free press of being on the wrong side of the war in Gaza.

“27,000 people dead in Gaza,” she tweeted, “most of them civilians, as the world’s most powerful newspapers publish stories likening Arabs to insects, aid operations to terrorist outfits, and an entire Muslim community in Michigan to jihadists. The world is upside down.”

Among other things, this tweet seems to express anger that 12 employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza had been credibly accused of participating in the Oct. 7 terrorist attack that saw the slaughter of more than 1,000 Israeli civilians.

More significantly, Loveluck’s tweet, like much of her reporting on the war in Gaza, requires some clarification.

The 27,000 number she cites comes directly from Gaza’s Ministry of Health, which Hamas controls. The current death toll could be close to the truth, or it could be vastly inflated for propaganda purposes. It’s hard to say, given the ministry’s questionable accounting methods. For example, the ministry has made it a point never to distinguish in its death tally between civilians and combatants. (For context, Israel claims to have taken out an estimated 10,000 Hamas combatants since Oct. 7.)

The point is not to dispute that civilians have been killed in Gaza, as they certainly have been. The point is that the figure Loveluck cites is doubtful enough that journalists should not be repeating it uncritically and without proper caveats regarding its origins.

That is assuming that it’s even appropriate for a journalist covering such a contentious conflict to let loose with such histrionic opinions on social media. At the very least, the tweet bolsters the impression that Loveluck is uncritically sympathetic to Palestine and reflexively critical of Israel, neither of which is a suitable posture in terms of news-gathering. The proof is in the pudding, as they say.

In December of last year, Loveluck co-authored a report that accused Israel of imposing unreasonable and cruel bureaucratic burdens on Palestinian mothers. The story claimed that Israel requires all Palestinian women from Gaza seeking pre- and post-natal care in Israel to run back and forth between the two regions, without their newborns, to satisfy onerous permit requirements. That story now bears a 230-word editor’s note, which confesses that Loveluck and her colleagues, Sufian Taha and Hajar Harb, had botched the story, among other things failing even to contact Israeli officials for their side.

“The article incorrectly said that all Palestinian mothers who received authorization to leave Gaza for humanitarian reasons had to return to Gaza to reapply after their permits expired,” the editors’ note reads. “In fact, it was not always necessary for mothers to return to Gaza. The article has been updated to specify that it was hospital officials [i.e. not official Israeli state policy] who told two Palestinian mothers that they needed to return to Gaza to apply for new permits.”

It adds, “The Post neglected to seek comment from Israeli officials for this article, an omission that fell short of The Post’s standards for fairness.” This omission might help explain how the Washington Post came to report on a government policy that doesn’t exist.

On Feb. 9, theWashington Post’s website billed Loveluck as the paper’s “Baghdad bureau chief.” The online version of her latest report, published on Jan. 30, referred to her by the same title. Meanwhile, since at least October 2023, Loveluck has referred to herself on social media only as a “foreign correspondent.”

A spokesperson for the Post told me that the paper “does not have a Baghdad bureau chief” and that “Louisa is a foreign correspondent for the Post.” The title may just have been out of date — such things do happen — but the spokesperson declined to say when, exactly, a change had occurred. The Post has since updated Loveluck’s online author biography as well as her story credits to remove the title “Baghdad bureau chief.”

The paper also declined to comment on the 230-word editor’s note.

In October 2023, by which time Loveluck’s title may or may not have changed, she co-reported a story about the al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza being hit in a “strike.” The report insinuated through quotes from third-party groups that Israel had been responsible for what appeared “to be the deadliest single strike on civilians in Gaza since the conflict began.” The report also cited the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry, which placed the hospital death toll at around 500.

That article has been undercut since by more rigorous and less credulous investigations, including by the Post itself.

The story Loveluck co-authored relied heavily on input from Palestinian officials and Doctors without Borders, both of which claimed outright that Israel was responsible for the “airstrike.” The report also quoted Hamas claiming as much. The accusations, which appeared side-by-side with brutal details of Israel’s post-Oct. 7 invasion of Gaza, featured prominently throughout the article. The report was also careful to detail similar airstrikes carried out by the IDF, clearly suggesting that this had been part of a pattern.

The article featured a single paragraph dedicated to Israel denying responsibility for the al-Ahli Hospital incident. The paragraph references Israeli officials who claimed the explosion was likely caused by an errant rocket fired by the anti-Israel group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a claim later backed up by multiple groups, including the U.S. intelligence community, Human Rights Watch, and even the Washington Post itself.

Third-party groups estimated later that the death toll caused by the misfire was likely somewhere between 100 and 300. This means that the Hamas-originated death toll was likely exaggerated on a scale of two to five times the real toll. What implication does this have for the Hamas-sourced 27,000 number cited above?

The Washington Post, for its part, stands by its coverage of the al-Ahli Hospital strike.

“The Post remains proud of its coverage of the ah-Ahli hospital strike,” a spokesperson told me. “Essentially alone among news organizations, we made a responsible decision in alerting the incident by withholding the Hamas claim that Israel was at fault. The early versions of the story included allegations from both sides but made clear what could and couldn’t be verified.”

It’s true the Washington Post does not quote Hamas as blaming Israel by name.

Rather, the paper quoted Hamas as describing the strike as a “crime of genocide” that “reveals the ugly face of this criminal enemy.” This obviously refers to Israel.

There are additional, smaller examples of where Loveluck’s efforts have fallen short, including an October report titled, “Israel says it will end Hamas rule in Gaza as casualties soar.” The story cited a “warfare expert” who appeared to claim that Israel had dropped in a single week nearly as many bombs as the U.S. had dropped in Afghanistan during its heaviest-ever year of aerial bombardment.

That story now bears a correction, which states: “A previous version of this story said 7,423 bombs were the most dropped by the U.S.-led coalition in any year during the war in Afghanistan. It was the highest number since the U.S. Air Force Central Command began releasing strike data on a monthly basis in 2006, not since the start of the war.” In other words, the comparison might have some validity, but only if you ignore the actual invasion.

This exact same correction made a second appearance in November, when Loveluck co-authored a separate story that made the same bogus claim regarding U.S. aerial bombardments of Afghanistan.


There are further examples of slipups and inaccuracies on a smaller scale, but you get the point. What is left is an established pattern, coupled with Loveluck’s credulous coverage of Hamas and her occasional outbursts on social media.

At least four published corrections, one of which is a repeat, one casual war-crime allegation, one lengthy editor’s note, and all that in just four months. That seems like an awful lot for a foreign correspondent, let alone one who once held the title of bureau chief.

Becket Adams is a writer in Washington and program director for the National Journalism Center.

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top