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Media Analyses





On Israel, NPR is No Perspective Radio


The NPR program, "All Things Considered," featured a segment reported by Lourdes Garcia-Navarro on July 12 entitled "Report: Violence Against West Bank Palestinians Is Up." With it, Garcia-Navarro continues her pattern of reporting stories constructedin a manner thatshows Israel in a negative light.
 
The broadcast begins with a picturesque image of Palestinian Arabs in the disputed territories whose pastoral lives are interrupted by unprovoked violence perpetrated by Israeli "settlers":
Farming is the mainstay of the Palestinian communities around the village of Yanoun. Animals graze the land, and money is made harvesting citrus fruits and olives.
 
Last Saturday, Palestinians say, a group of settlers killed some of the sheep belonging to the Bani Jabr family. Palestinians say it's part of a regular pattern of harassment in the area by settlers.
As background, Garcia-Navarro provides information about what she terms "the settlement enterprise." She says, "There are over 100 Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The international community views them as illegal under international law."
 
What "the international community," in particular today's United Nations and constituent agencies, believes hardly makes it factual or lawful. The Jewish people's right to settle in the land between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea is enshrined, by, among other authoritative documents, the Balfour Declaration, the San Remo Treaty, the League of Nations' Palestine Mandate (Article 6), the Anglo-American Convention, United Nations Charter (Article 80), and implicitly by U.N. Security Council Resolution 242. Statements to the contrary, even by U.N. officials, are political in nature, not legal.
 
In fact, the United Nations Security Council is one body that has codified international law and while this issue has been brought before the panel, settlements have never been declared illegal by the Security Council.
 
The thrust of the story is that Israeli residents are violent toward Palestinian residents of theWest Bankand that violence is systemic. While statistics refute this assertion, Garcia-Navarro quotes four people to bolster that position:
  • Ibrahim Bani Jabr who alleges that Israeli soldiers beat him.
  • Udwan Bani Jabr who alleges he was injured and says there is no justice for Palestinians.
  • Jessica Montell of B'Tselem, a non-government organization (NGO) often at odds with Israeli government policies, who says, "Violence is a means of displacing Palestinians and expanding the settlements in a very explicit way."
  • Matthias Behnke, from the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, who declares, "Palestinians are almost defenseless."

Garcia-Navarro does not mention that the report which presumably serves as the basis for her story, though it certainly is intended to paint Palestinians as innocent victims, shows that during the week of the Yanoun incident the same number of Palestinian Arabs and Israelis were injured in the disputed territories, four:

Palestinians injured by settler violence:
This week: 4
 
Israeli settlers injured by Palestinians:
This week: 4
Only one voice in the story presents the Israeli position, Moshe Goldsmith, the mayor of Itamar. In the words of the reporter, "He disputes the narrative that settlers are responsible for the bulk of the violence." Yet even the report itself, as cited above, shows that indeed settlers are not responsible for the bulk of the violence.
 
It is only at three-minutes and ten seconds into the 3:54 report, that mention is made of the Itamar massacre. Garcia-Navarro reports, "Goldsmith says that only last year, five members of the Fogel family were brutally slain in their beds in Itamar by Palestinian terrorists."
 
Goldsmith says? NPR does not recognize that crime as a fact?Or perhaps Garcia-Navarro has no independent confirmation of it?This is particularly interesting since NPR covered the Itamar massacre, though in a wholly inadequate way.
 
Currently, there continues to be Palestinian violence against Israeli residents of the disputed territories yet Goldsmith is the only voice in the story to mention it. Ignoring this fact does not present the balanced perspective required by ethical journalistic standards. The reporter should certainly have known about Palestinian violence against Israelis because there was coverage of both arson and stone throwing incidents in the media in the days prior to her story.
 
Not surprisingly, Garcia-Navarro gives the Palestinian victim angle the final word. Inthe reporter's own voice, she quotes Udwan Bani Jabr as saying, "There is no justice for Palestinians. The army protects the settlers, and the settlers, he says, do what they want."
 
A Habitual Bias

CAMERA has reported numerous times on troubling coverage of the Middle East by National Public Radio. Though written in December of 2009, CAMERA's analysis continues to apply:

National Public Radio's (NPR) news coverage of the Middle East often leaves the impression that Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Jerusalem is the main obstacle to an accord between Israel and the Palestinians. Meanwhile the unrelenting vilification of Jews by Arab media, religious leaders and government institutions remains a largely taboo subject at the public network. During the Second Intifada, NPR's coverage had become so unbalanced that it prompted a flood of complaints from members of the Jewish community, who traditionally were staunch supporters of the public network. CAMERA produced numerous studies documenting the tilted coverage and ran full-page ads calling attention to the issue. The blatantly one-sided reporting diminished in the face of sustained public protest and NPR began to provide more balanced coverage, including more segments highlighting facets of Israeli life separate from the grinding conflict with the Palestinians. But recent examples make clear, the temptation to revert to old habits is ever-present and the need for constant vigilance in holding NPR accountable remains.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reported a story on Morning Edition last week that was also constructed to reflect negatively on Israel. "Walls Of Palestinian Homes Come Tumbling Down" is also based on a United Nations report and similarly frames the Palestinian position sympathetically. It also features only one voice on the Israeli side with four on the Palestinian side. And it too ends with a touching story of Israeli cruelty to a seemingly blameless Palestinian. The stories are so structurally similar that it sounds like Garcia-Navarro works according to a simple anti-Israelformula.
 
Violent Israeli Settlers?
 
Garcia-Navarro quotes Jessica Montell of pro-Palestinian NGO B'Tselem. B'Tselem calls itself "an Israeli human rights organization" and is frequently so labeled by the news media. Though the story cites B'Tselem, it does not include the full scope of B'Tselem's findings. The truth is that, even using figures reported by B'Tselem, the image of violent Israeli settlers is false. According to a CAMERA analysis:
It is noteworthy and disturbing that media critics of Israel, who frequently laud B'Tselem as a reliable source, have avoided reporting the obvious disparity in violence between West Bank Arabs and Jewish settlers.
 
According to B'Tselem's accounts, of the 50 Palestinian Arabs listed as having been killed by Jewish settlers in the past 11 years (including four in Gaza), 20 of them were killed while conducting armed infiltrations of Jewish communities, five were slain while engaging in potentially lethal stone throwing incidents on roadways and two were killed assaulting security guards. Among the remaining 23, several were killed in the vicinity of settlements in suspicious circumstances.
 
By contrast, the 215 Jewish settlers murdered in the West Bank (254 if Gaza is included) involved almost without exception clear-cut circumstances in which Palestinian assailants targeted their victims, often in home invasions involving the slaughter of entire families, gang assaults on hikers or attacks on civilian vehicles. Other sources, like the Israeli Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the United Nations (OCHA) confirm the relatively few murders committed by Jewish settlers and the much higher number of lethal assaults by Palestinian Arabs.
The very report used as the basis for the story indicates that at least one of the Palestinians injured during the week at issue was engaged in some suspicious activity:
In one incident of note during the period, a 28-year-old Palestinian was shot with live ammunition by a private Israeli security guard at the entrance of Ma'ale Adumim settlement (Jerusalem); according to the Israeli District Coordination Office, the man had attempted to take the security guard's handgun. He was transported to hospital for medical treatment.
And, recall that Garcia-Navarro only alludes briefly to the massacre of five members of the Fogel family, including a four-month-old infant, by unrepentant Palestinian terrorists -- casting it as an Israeli claim rather than widely-reported fact even though one of the murderers told reporters, "I don't regret what I did, and would do it again."
 
If one contrasts this with her stenographic-like transmission of Palestinian charges and B'Tselem assertions, the absence of "strict adherence to objectivity and balance" required of Garcia-Navarro and NPR is plain. It's clear that, for Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, reporting on Israel means framing the story without factual context. And what journalists sometimes call "framing" is what politicians know as "spinning."

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