As Israel endured the blows of unprecedented Palestinian terrorist attacks in the last terrible days of March 2002, National Public Radio continued its long pattern of sharply underreporting and depersonalizing violence against the people of that nation while emphasizing the feelings, perspectives and accusations of the Palestinians. In a 10-day period from March 27 through April 5, not one of the terror victims was mentioned by name, not one bereaved family was interviewed, not one injured survivor was the focus of a story.
NPR did, however, give listeners the full name of the killer who detonated himself in the midst of a Passover seder.
And NPR did report in touching detail, and with the inclusion of their names, the personal story of two Palestinians, a father and son, injured in an Israeli counter-strike against the terror campaign.
In that period, the network presented 62 Palestinians or other Arabs giving their views, often filled with bitter accusation against Israel, but just 32 Israelis were interviewed. Numerous anti-Israel speakers, some extreme, were also heard blasting the Jewish state, especially as the Israeli military moved into West Bank towns to uproot the terror bases.
Adam Shapiro, who gained notoriety for breaching Israeli barricades to assist and protect Arafat in his Ramallah compound, was featured in a segment and Jeff Halper, who advocates the end of Israel as a Jewish state and propagates misinformation about Israeli housing policies, was also interviewed. Robert Malley, chief proponent of the revisionist charge that Israel was not forthcoming at the Camp David/Taba talks was repeatedly interviewed. So was Philip Wilcox, head of the pro-Arab Foundation for Middle East Peace.
Numerous journalists from other media outlets, some of them among the most skewed in reporting on Israel, were guest speakers. These included Lee Hockstader and Dan Williams from the Washington Post and Charles Sennott from the Boston Globe. (Sennott, recent author of a flawed book on Christians in the Holy Land, made this extraordinary statement:
The Christian presence complicates everything. It makes it wonderfully more complex because when you know there are Christian Palestinians who are also fighting for justice, for a state, then we are forced to move outside of that dichotomy of Islam vs. the West or, you know, Judaism versus Islam, the clash of civilizations.)
Among the few to present a view of the Middle East in which Israel was not cast as the central malefactor and in which Arabs were said to bear responsibility for aspects of the crisis was Johns Hopkins professor Fouad Ajami.
The savage terror attacks were reported briefly with some references to the gruesome details, but almost invariably with emphasis on how such events might harm political developments. NPR bureau chief Peter Kenyon said the Netanya bombing that killed 29 "ripped a hole in U.S.-led case fire efforts."
But among those who were actually "ripped" apart, though ignored by NPR, were Idit and Andre Fried who had immigrated from Hungary in the1970s. Idit was nurse at a Netanya hospital where her two children raced in search of their parents after the terrorist bombing a the Passover Seder. The children had been saved when they arrived late at the holiday meal.
Ernest and Eva Weiss were concentration camp survivors seated at the same table with a friend, George Yakabovitz. All were killed. Frieda Britvich, a survivor or Auschwitz, was also slain.
Dvora Karim, originally from Iran like several other victims, was buried with her husband Michael, who was murdered with her, and is survived by two daughters.
Twenty-one others with names and families were killed by the Netanya bomber, and scores more were maimed.
The next day, Rachel and David Gavish, their son Avraham, and Rachel’s father Yitzhak Kanner, were slain in Elon Moreh when a terrorist broke into their home. The Gavishes left six children, Menashe, Yeshurun, Avigdor, Tzofia, Leah and Assaf.
The day after that, a bomber at a Jerusalem supermarket killed 17-year-old Rachel Levy who was off on an errand before dinner.
Then on March 31, a bomber murdered 14 people in Haifa’s Matza restaurant. Fifteen-year-old Gal Koren was having lunch with his brother Ran, and his father, Shimon. All were killed, leaving the mother to bury her husband and sons.
The Ron family was similarly bereft. Aviel, the father of Anat and Ofer, died with his children, only the mother surviving. Bright-faced Orly Ofir, just 16 and a player on the Maccabi Haifa girls’ soccer team, had been lunching with her mother and two sisters. She spoke a few words after the explosion, as the ambulance rushed her to the hospital, but later succumbed.
Although none of these people or any other of the March terror victims was mentioned on NPR, there were human interest stories about Palestinians. The day after the Haifa slaughter the network aired a segment devoted entirely to the discomforts of a woman in Ramallah whose large house was temporarily requisitioned by Israeli soldiers. The woman, who admitted the soldiers did not mistreat her family, declared that "terrorism is every time a human life is being threatened, is being terrorized and humiliated."
The NPR interviewer did not, of course, remark on the particular kind of humiliation experienced by Israelis engaged in removing badly injured women and children, and body parts, from the streets and cafes of Israel.
But no human interest story of this crisis period captures NPR’s avid pro-Palestinian ethos like that of Linda Gradstein on April 2. The piece concerns the alleged evils of checkpoints, with emphasis on the experience of Samar Hamdun, a Palestinian woman and mother of four, who alleges having been delayed at a roadblock a month earlier and giving birth to a still-born baby as a result.
Characteristically, the report includes a lopsided lineup of speakers, this time including the comments of frequent NPR guest Mustapha Barghouti, who decries Israel’s actions and details Palestinian grievances with regard to restrictions on Palestinian ambulances and delays at checkpoints. Not a word is uttered to indicate the purpose and need for checkpoints, which are presented simply as a gratuitous form of Israeli torment of innocent people. Israel’s effort to restrict the movement of terrorists bent on killing innocents is entirely ignored.
Only at the end of the long and emotive segment does Gradstein report that an Israeli spokesman "insists most ambulances are allowed to pass checkpoints" and that the vehicles have been "misused" by Palestinians to transport explosives. Israeli spokesman Jacob Dalal is given one sentence to say terrorists have exploited ambulances before the NPR reporter hastens to inject that a "coalition of Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups" is seeking redress against the soldiers through the Israeli Supreme Court.
It is also noteworthy that in a crisis involving the rampant mass killing of innocents by suicidal terrorists, not a single word was uttered about the role of the Palestinian Authority in grooming its youth through indoctrination in school textbooks, media, religious sermons, mass rallies, and summer camps to undertake such action.
Although NPR programs were devoted to discussions of the causes of suicide bombing–those interviewed were Palestinian psychiatrist Iyad
Sarraj and Palestinian demographer Khalil Shikaki–and all the explanation and onus turned toward Israel.
Sarraj, ubiquitous in parts of the American media, cited the trauma of the previous intifada, the sense of shame leading to the pursuit of revenge and the adulation of the bombers. Shikaki blamed "despair" and "settlements" and the "occupation." Neither even hinted at any Palestinian responsibility in the creation of suicide bombers. Nor were there interviews with specialists from Israel who follow the campaigns of hate indoctrination by the Palestinians, or with American experts in the psychological impact on young people of extolling suicide and killing.
The depth of NPR’s ideological favoritism for the Palestinians is singularly underscored when, in a week that saw multiple massacres of Israelis, the network could not bring itself to offer even a glimpse at the personal side of the losses suffered. For anyone concerned about the damage done to public understanding of the realities in the Middle East by this tax-supported, listener-funded network, protest and suspension of support are essential.
Copyright © 2002 by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. All rights reserved. This column may be reprinted without prior permission.