National Public Radio can't seem to help itself. A July 11, 2014 segment of On The Media with host Brooke Gladstone was one for the books. A program that supposedly examines media coverage of events was itself a platform for blatant media bias.
In a practice that has often marred the network's objectivity and professionalism in the past, Gladstone concealed essential background about her guest speaker, Philip Weiss, who has an extensive record of espousing radical, factually flawed claims attacking Israel. He was presented instead as a mainstream, credible expert with no substantive challenge whatsoever given to his statements. Indeed, the NPR host herself embellished and expanded on the skewed line of discussion, instead of giving listeners information they needed to put the speaker's assertions into context.
The format was a chatty conversation between Gladstone and Weiss, whose Mondoweiss blog feverishly lambasts the Jewish state with one-sided and frequently inaccurate charges. An avowed anti-Zionist, Weiss supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign to weaken and dismantle the Jewish state. He and his fellow writers from the hard left are especially incensed that Israel has outspoken defenders, and brand them "Israel firsters" a favored trope of anti-Semites like David Duke and white supremacist Willis Carto.
Nevertheless, Gladstone introduced Weiss without any indication of his fringe views, calling him simply the "co-editor of Mondoweiss.net." The only hint of the guest's political hue came at the very end of the program when Gladstone noted Weiss brings "a progressive Jewish perspective," an observation that hardly conveyed the nature and extent of his vituperative and unreliable assertions.
The subject under discussion in the program was the media's coverage of the kidnap-murders of three Israeli teenagers by Arabs and the killing of an Arab boy and beating of another by Jews. But both the analysis of how the media handled those events and Gladstone's own rendition of the basic facts were distorted.
She introduced the NPR segment with audio clips recounting the kidnap murders that had set off a round of violence. A single cursory sentence described the kidnap-killing of three Israeli teenagers in June by Arabs. Although the victims, among them an Israeli-American, were reportedly seized, shot at point blank range, and their deaths immediately celebrated by the killers, these details were unmentioned.
Nor was there any word in the segment about Fatah's Facebook page posting a cartoon of the kidnaped Israeli boys depicted as rats or the enthusiastic three-finger salute campaign that spread on Palestinian social media under the rubric "the three Shalits" urging a repeat of the kidnap-imprisonment of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
In contrast, the two Palestinian victims were described in the NPR segment at length and sympathetically in more than a dozen sentences. Their experiences, their pain, the connection to the U.S., the brutality of the Israeli kidnapers and media attention to the whole thing were, in fact, the focus of the segment. In particular, the beating of the Palestinian-American was the centerpiece.
That Palestinian American teen, 15 year old Tarek Kadeir, was visiting family in Jerusalem from Tampa Florida. A video that is said to show Israeli police beating and kicking him and photos of his battered and swollen face have circulated widely on line, fueling outrage and extensive coverage in the US media.
Audio of the beaten boy and his mother deploring the attack and expressing understanding for hatred of Israel was also broadcast. The mother, Suha Abu Kadeir, declares in an emotional statement:
After actually coming and going through it I don't blame these people for hating for having so much hate for Israel.
Thus, having excluded essential information directly related to the murder of the three Israeli boys underscoring the cruelty of the act and the jubilation of the killers both of which are products of the hate-indoctrination against Jews in Palestinian media and political discourse the larger cause and effect are inverted. An act of deplorable violence by Israelis becomes occasion to indict Israel as a whole even though its citizenry and government repudiated the actions of the perpetrators.
Weiss invoked American media coverage that had relied on a particularly inflammatory opinion column in Israel's Haaretz newspaper, an organ of the Israeli far left.
Weiss was evidently energized by this topic, arguing with enthusiasm that he sees a "landmark moment in coverage of the conflict" because of prominent attention given to the Palestinian-America boy by The New York Times and Washington Post. Weiss predicted a new era in which the American media will echo "a more international understanding of the conflict which is that military occupation produces resistance." Gone will be the attention to themes like Israeli security considerations.
Translation: The US media is becoming more like the hyper-partisan, anti-Israel European media that traffics in anti-Jewish images and themes and largely condones violence against Israel because it is cast as the natural, justifiable response to "occupation."
In fact, however biased some coverage may have been regarding the kidnap-killings, American coverage shows no clear-cut trends. Indeed, some journalists found the two kidnap events a morally clarifying moment. MSNBC's Chris Matthews, a sometime critic of Israel, delivered a striking statement of support for Israel's actions and broader national character, saying the swift arrest and nationwide denunciation of the killers of the Arab boy were a sharp contrast to the celebration by Palestinians of the murder of the Israeli boys.
No doubt equally galling for those like Weiss campaigning daily for US abandonment of Israel are the yearly Gallup polls underscoring high public support for Israel or the recent Pew survey that indicates a general philo-Semitism among Americans.
Gladstone not only threw soft-ball questions to her anti-Israel guest, but added her own misinformation from anti-Israel sources expanding on Weiss's theme of Israeli mistreatment of Palestinian children. She said: "According to The Defence for Children International Palestine, 214 children have been detained in Israel as of May ... Will this bump in coverage have any real impact on how the conflict is covered more broadly?"
The problem is Gladstone's own source is as extreme and partisan as her guest speaker. The Defence for Children International Palestine is a rabidly anti-Israel group that supports BDS against Israel, continues to claim there was a "massacre" in 2002 in Jenin, although even the UN has dismissed that bogus charge, and has previously counted as child fatalities individuals who were actually combatants.
Did Gladstone give any thought to the statistics she offered? The state of Connecticut with a population half the size of Israel had 375 juveniles in detention in 2008, according to the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. Has On The Media investigated the treatment of juveniles in Connecticut where there's evidently a more serious situation?
Gladstone's piece was a travesty. It should be of concern to anyone who cares about the integrity of NPR and should sound an alarm to those who thought the network had moved away from its reliance on hard left anti-Israel voices.
On The Media Friday July 11, 2014 "A New Narrative on Israel-Palestine"
Bob Garfield: From WNYC in New York, This is On the Media. I'm Bob Garfield
Brook Gladstone: And I'm Brook Gladstone. The Israeli Palestinian conflict is at its deadliest in years as Hamas rockets launch into cities and towns in southern Israel, Israeli bombs pummel the Gaza Strip. Palestinian sources say that the Palestinian death toll has surpassed 100. This recent surge in violence was fueled by a horrific series of events.
"We have breaking news out of Israel. TV stations there are reporting that three Israeli teenagers kidnapped in the west Bank have been found dead."
"Just hours after they were buried a 16 year old Palestinian Muhammad al Kadeir was abducted his body was later found burned. The early autopsy results show he was alive when he was set on fire."
"It's widely assumed he was killed in an act of revenge by Israeli extremists."
"Abu Kadeir's Palestinian American cousin Tarek was attacked and beaten by Israeli forces as he attended a protest after the murder."
Gladstone: That Palestinian American teen, 15 year old Tarek Kadeir, was visiting family in Jerusalem from Tampa Florida. A video that is said to show Israeli police beating and kicking him and photos of his battered and swollen face have circulated widely on line, fueling outrage and extensive coverage in the US media.
Philip Weiss, co-editor of Mondoweiss.net says the attack on Tarek Abu Kadeir has prompted a landmark moment in coverage of the conflict
Philip Weiss: Both The Washington Post and New York Times covered this in a way that I have not seen in the past. At the top of the front page of The New York times you saw a three column photograph of tarek abu khaedir badly beaten. His face is still misshapen. In the Washington Post they had a video interview where the kid got to say I don't know why they did this to me. I was just watching. I wasn't throwing stones.
Kadeir: I don't know why they hit that hard. I fell asleep from how hard they hit me. I went unconscious.
Weiss: I was so surprised and pleased to hear the NPR report by Daniel Estren in which he quoted Tarek's mother Suha abu Kadeir saying, now I understand why Palestinians hate Israel.
Suha Abu Kadeir: After actually coming and going through it I don't blame these people for hating for having so much hate for Israel.
Weiss: I mean to have that type of statement in the American media in a dignified way relating the Palestinian experience. It was just surprising.
Gladstone: So tell me about the coverage on mainstream tv outlets. Did you see a shift there as well?
Weiss: I was really amazed to see that Ayman Mohyeldin on NBC News was going to the grave of Muhammad Abu Kadeir who was the 16 year old abducted last week. Going to that grave with Tarek abu Kadeir who was Muhammed's cousin who was so badly beaten.
Abu Kadeir: I feel so bad. I feel like I missed a chance to see him for the last time.
Weiss: I mean. It was just a tremendously moving moment. And I think we have to acknowledge that here's an Egyptian-American reporter Mohyeldin with a Palestinian-American boy. It just reflects a degree of diversity in the reporting. And Jake Tapper grilled Israeli spokesman Mark Regev on CNN the other day.
Tapper: Mark, Palestinians say this happens all the time. The only difference is that this kid was American.
Weiss: He even asked Regev if this isn't part of the culture of Israel, which is a narrative that we have not heard much in the American mainstream.
Gladstone: How do these stories differ from what you're used to seeing. Is it simply that they're there at all?
Weiss: Here I would contrast this with the coverage of say, the case of Emily Henochowicz a Cooper Union student just four years ago when she was shot with a tear gas cannister. She was protesting specifically an Israeli attack on a Turkish relief ship the Marvi Marmara
Weiss: in which 9 Turks were killed. She's an American citizen. She's an artist. She lost an eye. This could have been a big story. There wasn't a lot of coverage of Emily's disfigurement in the American press.
Gladstone: And why do think that is
Weiss: Well it's been four years. And I think that there's a certain understanding that Israel's response to the continuing resistence to occupation is going to be violent. That impression has built since 2008/09 the Gaza invasion and then the attack on the Mavi Marmara which she was protesting. Instead of traditional treatment of this violence as being necessary for Israeli security or it's part of a cycle of violence we're beginning to see a narrative on the mainstream that says this violence is a product of occupation that you can't have a military occupation for nearly 50 years without producing resistence. So I think that the American mainstream discourse is beginning to reflect a more international understanding of the conflict which is that military occupation produces resistance.
Gladstone: Many besides Tarek's mother have noted that if he hadn't been an American citizen he wouldn't be in the news. And according to The Defense for Children International Palestine 214 children have been detained in Israel as of May and Palestinians are charged in military courts where the conviction rate is nearly 100%. Will this bump in coverage have any real impact on how the conflict is covered more broadly?
Weiss: I think it will. Traditionally people said Israel is only acting out of its security needs or this is a cycle of violence. The new narrative now is NO this is occupation. This is the abuses that happen to people under occupation. That's the narrative I see. This is now becoming something of a mainstream trend. And you and I both know when there's a good story that's a new narrative journalists will jump on it. I have a friend who said to me you know my view of Israel was set by that Life Magazine cover in 1967 of those bronzed Israeli soldiers in the Sinai lounging on a tank after they'd destroyed the Egyptian army and she said you know here were these people who were destroyed in Europe who had finally found a country of their own and they were you know triumphant against five invading armies. That's what she believed and you know without going into what's true and not true about that history we're in a different moment now.
Gladstone: Thank you very much.
Weiss: Well thank you, Brooke.
Gladstone: Philip Weiss is co-editor of Mondoweiss.net a news Web site covering American foreign policy in the Middle East from a progressive Jewish perspective.
On The Media is supported by Legal Zoom