NPR's Middle East correspondent, Linda Gradstein, has consistently issued
reports colored by her publicly-stated views on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
While reporters naturally hold political convictions, most subscribe to a
formal "Code of Ethics" which explicitly states, "News reports
should be free of opinion or bias and represent all sides of an issue."
In an interview with the alumni publication of Pardes, a religious
institution in Jerusalem Gradstein attended from 1986-1988, the reporter
revealed her personal views of the Middle East. Those views not only reflect
an ignorance of history but an extremist political position.
"Up until the Yom Kippur War, Israel was really ready for peace
and the Arabs weren't. Today that situation has reversed."
In fact, Israel's profound desire for peace and willingness to make
concessions was dramatically demonstrated when, nine years after the Yom Kippur
War, in response to Anwar Sadat's offer of peace, the nation relinquished to
Egypt all of the Sinai with its oil fields, settlements and air bases. Israel
has continued to wait for similar evidence of peaceful intent from other
neighboring states. The notion that Israel prefers an environment of war
coincides with the Arab view and is a perspective rejected by the Israeli
"The PLO has done some unbearable, terrible things, but people
can change...Israel has to talk with the PLO."
The pro-Arab position downplays the terror campaign waged by the PLO and the
ongoing acts of terror for which the organization regularly and openly takes
credit. Despite Arafat's alleged renunciation of terror in 1988, the PLO has
never ceased sponsoring assaults against Israelis and Jews, and its leaders have
continually repeated their aim of destroying Israel. In the first half of 1992
alone, Yasser Arafat publicly called for "Holy War" against Israel no
fewer than seventeen times.
"I do feel that Jews have a right to live in Hebron and other
places in the West Bank. Yet, I don't think that's a right that should be
exercised at this time, because I feel it's a provocation, and because both Jews
and Arabs are losing their lives because of those Jews living there."
Regardless of the advisability of building settlements in the territories,
the notion that Jews are the cause of the violence is, again, contrary to fact
and history. Terrorism against Jews long predates the settlements, has occurred
in all areas of pre-1967 Israel, and springs from a widespread Arab refusal to
accept the presence of Israelis anywhere in the region.
"I think the Palestinians have a right to a state."
Again, Gradstein expresses the view of a small minority of Israelis and
Americans, a view which coincides with the Arab perspective.
"When I first came to Israel, I had starry-eyed notions of
building bridges between Arabs and Jews... Just because Israel has a lot of
problems doesn't mean you give up on it. If you want the state of the Jewish
people to be what you want it to be, you have to work on it from here."
Gradstein's avowed aim to "work on" changing Israel to conform
more to her vision of how the country ought to function is pursued unabashedly
in her reporting for NPR. Her own candid description of her agenda suggests a
startling ignorance of professional responsibility to refrain from abusing the
power of the reporter in pursuit of personal aims.
Gradstein's views determine the choice of stories
she files and the slant of those stories. Among the persistent themes is the
insidious equating of the actions of Arabs and Jews, a device that obscures
Arab violence and implicitly urges Jews toward greater concessions. Gradstein's
bias is entirely consistent with NPR's overall failure to report Israeli
security concerns. The following are excerpts from reports filed both during
the period of the CAMERA study and subsequently.
" In the Middle East, history repeats itself . Seventy years
ago, Jews in Palestine living under the British mandate began building a
foundation to govern themselves. They started an organization called the Jewish
Agency to run the daily affairs of the Jewish community. Some of their
activities were legal; others, such as smuggling guns into the area, were
not...Now Palestinians say it's their turn. Already they've formed committees."
January 20, 1992
The Palestinians began organizing in 1964 when they formed the PLO, whose
objective was the destruction of Israel and whose strategy included worldwide
campaigns of terror against innocents. In omitting the central "organization"
to which Palestinians look for leadership, and suggesting that the formation of
various "committees" in the West Bank demonstrates a similarity in the
evolution of the Israelis and Palestinians, Gradstein reveals her casual and
careless attitude toward fact and historical veracity. The Jewish Agency,
primarily a social welfare agency, rescued, housed and clothed persecuted Jews.
It never called for the destruction of other peoples or engaged in terror
campaigns. Indeed, where Jews were involved in acts of terror the Agency
"Everyone in the Middle East has his own version of history.
Palestinians say that in 1948 more than 800,000 Palestinians were forcibly
kicked out of their homes by what soon became Israel. Israelis say the number
is half that and Palestinians left when their Arab leaders urged them to
because they intended to destroy the Jewish army. Whatever the numbers or the
cause... May 14,1992
Evading the first tenet of journalistic responsibility to report the truth,
Gradstein reports the wildly inflated and unsubstantiated Arab refugee numbers
and Arab accusations against Israel. Literature abounds on the subject of the
Arab refugees, and includes numerous documents by Jewish leaders in 1948
exhorting Arabs to remain in their homes. Scholars generally agree that between
450,000 and 600,000 Arabs fled the fighting. Gradstein also states
misleadingly that the Arabs intended to "destroy the Jewish army."
In fact, the openly-advertised aim was not to destroy just the army, a goal that
may have permitted Jews to remain in the region, but to obliterate the people
of the newborn nation.
Israel is repeatedly portrayed as the unprovoked
aggressor, whether in day-to-day encounters with rock throwers or in the 1967
"In recent weeks there has been an upsurge in violence.
Israeli troops have shot and killed at least ten Palestinians in the past
month. Arabs have also stepped up attacks on Israelis."
March 27, 1992
Offering no explanation, Gradstein implies that shootings by Israeli
soldiers were unprovoked attacks. The words "at least" encourage
listeners to speculate that many more Palestinians died. Also, why omit the
number of Jews killed by Arabs, and the number of Arabs killed by Arabs?
Gradstein consistently avoids the matter of the "intrafada," the
slaughter of Palestinians by other Palestinians. In the last year Palestinians
were more than three times as likely to be murdered by their brethren than to
die in clashes with Israelis (238 to 74).
"The land in question is the occupied territories, meaning the
West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. Israel conquered
this territory in 1967." November 1, 1991
Sidestepping history, Gradstein implies that Israel gained the disputed
territories through aggression. Gradstein repeatedly omits mention of the
facts of the 1967 War, in which Israel gained territory in the course of self
Gradstein's reports on two funerals, that of a
Jewish schoolgirl, Helena Rapp, and a Palestinian man, are a startling example
of the differences in coverage accorded the two groups. The treatment given
the Jewish victim is peremptory, detached, and leans towards criticism of the
Jews. In contrast, the Arab's death is described in a lengthy and highly
sympathetic and detailed account. It contains blatant errors
"Fifteen year-old Helena Rapp was buried today in an emotional
funeral attended by thousands of local residents. Rapp's father called on Jews
to exercise restraint, but groups of angry Jews attacked Arabs. In a town near
the funeral, Jews stabbed and seriously wounded an Arab who is a citizen of
Israel, not the West Bank. Several other Arab Israeli citizens were attacked,
but not seriously injured." May 25, 1992
(Excerpts) "Anton Shamili was not very different from most 22
year-olds. He liked music and soccer, and his friends say he was always quick
to tell a joke and to laugh...Anton had been in and out of jail since he was
fourteen. He has never been accused of kidnapping or murder, but the
organization he belongs to, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,
is suspected of hundreds of such attacks... Inside the home, visitors are
offered cups of bitter black coffee. Drinking the coffee shows that the visitor
joins in the family's mourning. But along with the mourning there is anger...
One fact is clear: Israeli soldiers are killing Palestinian men in increasing
numbers... But to Anton Shamili's parents, all of this discussion is little
consolation. His mother, Samira, sits dressed in black, looking much older than
her age of fifty-seven. `I want my son' she says over and over. `I could
understand if he was part of a demonstration and then been killed, but he
wasn't doing anything. They just killed him.' Across the road, Anton's father
Louis is sitting with the men, his face covered with a grizzled gray beard.
Louis was partially crippled from polio as a child. He puts up a brave front,
saying he's proud to sacrifice his son for Palestine, but his eyes and his
shaking hands reveal his suffering." May 28, 1992
The lack of humanizing detail in the description of the girl, the
insignificance of her family's suffering, and the negative assertions about her
community, all stand in striking contrast to Gradstein's vivid, moving, and
extended portrayal of Anton Shamili and his family. Apparently, for Gradstein
and NPR only Palestinian suffering deserves listener attention, and, it seems,
the death of a Palestinian is more relevant to the conflict than the death of a
The use of the word "suspected" to characterize the
documented crimes of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is a
blatant instance of the reporter's determination to obscure even the most
notorious PLO violence. Similarly, Gradstein evades reporting the particulars
of Anton Shamili's crimes, implying his behavior had been inconsequential.
Gradstein resorts to outright falsehood to advance her thesis of
Israeli brutality and Arab victimization when she states, "One fact is
clear; Israeli soldiers are killing Palestinian men in increasing numbers."
The fact that is clear is precisely the opposite. The number of Palestinians
dying in clashes with Israelis has declined sharply since 1989, from 270 that
year to 93 in 1990 and 74 in 1991. The number has continued to decline in 1992.
A particularly telling and willful misrepresentation of the Arab's
funeral is to be found in Gradstein's translation of the chanting of the crowd
in attendance. Gradstein claimed the crowd chanted an innocuous,
"Anton, Anton, you were murdered. We promise to continue your
struggle." The crowd's actual chant, accurately translated, was
considerably less benign. "With
fire and blood we will liberate Anton," was the cry, a variation
on the Arab
chant familiar to Israelis, "With fire and blood we will liberate
Palestine." Gradstein's mistranslation of the chant to omit overt
Arab threats of violence is entirely consistent with the pattern of
Having defined what she considers the essentials
of the Middle East conflict, Gradstein presents these views as though they are
the actual geopolitical concerns of the parties. As always, the central
concerns of Israelis and American supporters of Israel are omitted, superseded
by her perspective:
"...the biggest issues remain what they were at the beginning:
Who will represent the Palestinians? And if a conference is convened, will
Israel be willing to trade land for peace?"
October 16, 1992
"Despite what Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir may say, the
Madrid conference is about trading land for
peace." November 1, 1991
Absent from Gradstein's reports is the full Middle East landscape which
reveals that for Israel "the biggest issues" are not those involving
the Palestinians but those related to the irredentist Arab impulse to destroy
Israel and the emerging intensification of that drive with the growth of
militant Islam and Arab acquisition of increasing quantities of conventional
and non-conventional arms, including biological weapons and nuclear technology.
From Gradstein's viewpoint and from the Arab view, however, the peace
conference concerned just one major issue, extracting territory from Israel. In
the worst tradition of unprincipled journalism, the reporter knows better than
the involved parties, and shapes the facts to her opinions.
"The goal of the Intifada has been to force Israel to accept
an independent Palestinian state next to Israel." October 29, 1992
Conveniently, Gradstein excludes mention of the "goals" daily
reiterated by PLO and HAMAS spokesmen calling for the annihilation of the
Jewish state. Even among those segments of the Palestinian community assumed
to be most moderate, the Western-oriented Christians, many openly resist
notions of accommodation with Israel.
"But at least for now, the young men of Palestine and the young
men of Israel are killing each other in a war that seems far from ending."
May 28, 1992
So impatient is Gradstein for the creation of an actual "Palestine"
she employs the power of her position on National Public Radio to promote the
effort, implying as in this quote that a Palestinian state exists.