Said Arikat is the Washington bureau chief for the Palestinian Al Quds newspaper. Every day, he attends the State Department press briefings, and more often than not he asks a question or two.
The questions themselves are often loaded; they are attempts to drive a wedge between the US and Israel, or to put unfounded accusations against Israel on the record. Arikat tries to get the spokesperson to condemn Israel for anything and everything conceivable. Generally, the spokesperson - currently Ned Price - does not take the bait.
Yesterday, however, Arikat sneaked some antisemitism into a follow-up question about the Iran deal:
Last question. Are you concerned with the level and intensity of Israelis rallying opposition to this deal? I mean, this is – this comes out in modes of expression or statements by Senator Cotton, for instance, or Senator Lindsey Graham, or Senator Ted Cruz, and so on. Or are you just fine with that; they do whatever they want?
His question presupposes the idea that Israel controls many prominent members of the Senate. Furthermore, it assumes that no one would oppose the Iran deal based on their own analysis; the senators are slavishly following the dictates of the Jewish state.
The "they" in the final phrase is referring to Israel, not the senators - is the US fine with Israel freely controlling much of Congress?
This is not a hard hitting question by a journalist trying to uncover the truth. This is propaganda, an attempt to normalize anti-Israel and antisemitic attitudes in the US. The audience is the other reporters and the people who watch the briefings; Arikat wants them to subconsciously accept the idea that the US has a "Zionist occupied government." And every day, he is given a platform to do exactly that - a platform provided by the US government itself.
Ned Price brushed aside the question as if Arikat was asking whether the senators can do whatever they want, not Israel: " I’m going to let lawmakers speak for themselves." This was not the proper response. Arikat's antisemitism should have been called out, immediately and forcefully.
Because otherwise, it takes root and grows.