Whatever changes may be occurring on the ground, a constant in the American
media firmament is National Public Radio's anti-Israel bias. Whether Israel is
battling intifada violence, collecting her dead after terror attacks or ceding
unprecedented land and power to the Palestinians, tax-supported NPR consistently
promotes the Arab agenda. Factual error, distortion, story choice and rhetorical
slant all work to tilt the story. It is perhaps not surprising then that
revelation of a conflict of interest, an NPR reporter married to a Palestinian
Authority official, hardly creates a ripple at the network.
Nicknamed National Palestine Radio by many of its listeners, NPR has
tirelessly advanced its preference for creation of a Palestinian Arab state.
Thus, over many years the network has focused intensively on Arab complaints
against Israel. The historical context of the Arab-Israeli conflict and Israel's
vulnerability both to terrorist assault and to external threat by Arab states
have been consistently minimized and obscured. Ongoing calls for Israel's
destruction and rampant anti-Semitism in the Arab world have been omitted from
The relative lack of interest in such major terrorist attacks against Jews
as the October 1994 Tel Aviv bus bombing by Hamas is startling. Whereas the
Hebron massacre of 29 Arabs by Baruch Goldstein prompted 32 stories on NPR, the
Tel Aviv bombing by Hamas that killed 22 evoked just 8.
Moreover, in a recurring pattern, atrocities against Jews call forth human
interest stories illuminating the humanity, good works and frustrations of the
bombers! Within three days of the first Tel Aviv bus bombing by Hamas in October
1994, NPR's Daniel Zwerdling interviewed John Esposito about the group. An
apologist for Islamic radicalism who once said on another NPR segment that
Arafat's call for Jihad is comparable to a "literacy campaign" or the
fight against AIDS, Esposito joined Zwerdling in painting an enthusiastic
picture of Hamas as a community-minded organization engaged in such happy
enterprises as "honey, cheese-making, and home-based clothing manufacture."
A minor, if deplorable, sideline in terror seemed hardly to outweigh the good
done by the group.
This year's Tel Aviv (Ramat Gan) bus bombing was followed even more swiftly
by the requisite examination of the human qualities of the perpetrator. One day
after six people were blown up, the network ran a story by Maureen Meehan, she
with the marital link to the Palestinian Authority and lately a frequent NPR
contributor. Included were interviews with three Arabs who described suicide
bombers as frustrated and impoverished under the yoke of Israel and driven by
their living conditions to murder Jews. No mention is made of the crude
incitement to kill Jews by Arab leaders or of the Palestinians' role in the
travails of their own people.
Meehan's reporting also reflects NPR's carelessness with factual accuracy.
On the complex issue of water in the West Bank, Meehan filed a July segment
riddled with error in which three Arabs described anecdotally their grievances
at Israel's alleged monopolizing of water. A single official Israeli spokesman
with no expertise on the topic was given a few lines at the end to reply. His
comments appear defensive and devoid of substance, giving credence to the Arab
Yet, the segment is false from start to finish. Meehan began by saying the
water crisis "centers around the fact that over a third of the water used
by Israel comes from aquifers located in the West Bank." In fact, about one
third of Israel's water comes from an aquifer that is shared with the West Bank,
being under Israel and the territories and Israel has always drawn on this
shared aquifer, including before 1967. Meehan's implication that Israel gained a
new source of water by taking Palestinian water in 1967 is spurious.
One sentence later she said, "Following Israel's 1967 military takeover
of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel declared all water state property." Not
true. Israel did not create new laws, but continued the regulations inherited
from Jordan that designated to the sovereign the authority over West Bank water.
Meehan then quoted a Palestinian hydrologist who charged that "Jewish
settlements in the West Bank use 40% of the available water resources, while
Palestinians face chronic shortages." Wrong again. Jewish settlements
consume less than 25% of the water and they are not the cause of water shortages
in Arab towns. Meehan charged that it is "illegal" for Palestinians to
dig wells. In fact, under Israeli administration as of 1991 46 major wells were
drilled in the West Bank for or by Arab residents (as compared to 17 for Jewish
residents). Moreover, most telling, water consumption in the Arab sector has
surged since 1967, rising from 42 million cubic meters to 132 in 1991.
Meehan claimed cities such as Hebron and Ramallah "only have running
water several hours a week." False again. Ramallah has reliable running
water. And the case of Hebron is another in which it is convenient to blame the
Jews for Arab dereliction. Former water commissioner Professor Dan Zaslovsky
notes that the water supply to Hebron is more than adequate but the municipality
has resisted repairing severely leaking water pipes. That reluctance to make
repairs may be linked to the handsome living some city notables earn selling
water to their neighbors. And on and on.
But one major story having to do with a very different sort of Arab
grievance has been overlooked on Meehan's watch that recounted in the recent
report by B'Tselem, a human rights group best known for its criticism of Israel.
The report documents "gross human rights violations" by the
Palestinian Authority against Palestinians. Bassem Eid, author of the study, now
faces threats against his life by Arafat's security strongman in Jericho, Jibril
Rajoub. Indeed, so serious are the threats that Amnesty International has issued
an "Urgent Action Appeal" in an effort to shield Eid against
Maureen Meehan might have found it a delicate matter to probe this issue.
She is married to Jiries Atrash, a Palestinian Authority official in Jericho.
Alerted recently to the obvious conflict of interest posed by Meehan's
obligation as a reporter to provide full, accurate and balanced information and
her role as wife of a PA official, both NPR editorial director John Dinges and
president Delano Lewis flatly denied she is married to a Palestinian official
and brushed off the issue.
However, in response to an inquiry, the Palestinian Authority office in
Jericho supplied a home telephone number for Jiries Atrash, "Assistant to
the Chairman's Bureau of the Jericho Office of the Palestinian Authority,"
that matched that of Maureen Meehan. Numerous other sources confirm that Meehan
is married to a PA official.
Any news organization committed to balanced and accurate reporting would be
alarmed by the apparent conflict of interest in Meehan's position and would have
swiftly and seriously investigated before issuing erroneous denials.
Unfortunately, NPR's blase response in this is entirely consistent with its
notorious lapse from responsible journalism in covering the Arab-Israeli
Update on the Meehan
On September 20, 1995 NPR President Delano Lewis faxed the following letter
Dear Ms. Levin:
This is in response to your fax of September 11 concerning Maureen Meehan's
arrest while covering a demonstration in front of Orient House in East
While Maureen was detained by Israeli police, she was released without
charge after making a statement. She did nothing improper and, in fact, later
received the cooperation of the police while continuing to cover the story.
Maureen's spouse, Jurias Attrash, is not a PLO official. We understand there
are are other similarly-named men in the region, as you may find when checking
the facts of your story. I expect not to see this misinformation in your
By October 6th, however, NPR realized that CAMERA had checked
its facts. In a letter faxed to CAMERA on that date, Mr. Lewis
... I appreciate your perseverance in
communicating the information in question, because it now appears Ms.
Meehan did not adequately disclose to NPR her husband's employment
and association with organizations and events she covered in
connection with her work for NPR. As a result, we have informed Ms.
Meehan that we will no longer take her reports.