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Media Analyses





NPR's Special Bias


National Public Radio, the taxpayer funded radio network known for its flagrant pro- Palestinian bias, will begin airing on Monday morning, September 30, a special seven part series on the history and origins of the Arab-Israeli conflict, featuring a lineup of “experts” dominated by harsh critics of Israel. These include Edward Said, Rashid Khalidi, Avi Shlaim, Phillip Mattar, Yezid Sayigh, Tom Segev, Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, and Benny Morris. And the host and researcher for the series, NPR diplomatic correspondent Mike Shuster, also has a history of false and inflammatory reporting on Israel.

According to a NPR press release announcing the series, those interviewed will include:

Avi Shlaim, Oxford University. Shlaim is one of the so-called “new historians,” whose stock in trade is blaming Israel for all the ills of the Middle East, and specifically for the alleged mass expulsion of Palestinians during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948-49. Shlaim’s particular hobby horse is that Jordan and Israel colluded to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. The tendency of Shlaim and other “new historians” to fabricate and distort in the service of their political agenda was most fully exposed in Professor Efraim Karsh’s Fabricating Israeli History: The New Historians (Frank Cass & Co, Ltd. London, 2000).

Besides tendentious “history,” Shlaim also serves up tendentious op-eds, most recently focused on harsh criticism of Israeli leader Ariel Sharon:

1. Sharon Needs to Be Told to Stop Shooting and Start Talking, (International Herald Tribune, January 10, 2002), which begins “Ariel Sharon is a dangerous man.”

2. Sharon’s Dangerous Designs, (IHT, April 5, 2002) which labels Sharon a terrorist and, as usual, exonerates Arafat and the Palestinians.

3. The self-explanatory America must see that Sharon is the problem, (The Observer, April 14, 2002)

In addition, Shlaim’s crystal ball is at best cloudy, as witnessed by his article in 1999 proclaiming that Ehud Barak’s election would bring peace with the Syrians and the Palestinians closer. This same article also includes the false claims that UN Resolution 194 “upheld the right of the 700,000 [Palestinian] refugees to choose between a return to their original homes and compensation,” and, most incredibly, that Yasir Arafat has “kept his side of the Oslo deal, and continues to co-operate closely with Israeli security services and the CIA in the fight against Islamic extremists ...” (London Review of Books, September 16, 1999).

Benny Morris, Ben Gurion University. Morris coined the term “new historian,” and has been one of its leading practitioners. He is most well known for his book The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem. As such he was the leading fabricator exposed in Karsh’s Fabricating Israeli History. However, he has recently begun to blame the Palestinians for the failure of the peace process (Guardian, February 21, 2002).

Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Professor of Psychology at the University of Haifa. Beit-Hallahmi is an authority on cults and new religious movements, but is most well known to the general public for his books The Israel Connection: Who Israel Arms and Why and Original Sins: Reflections on the History of Zionism and Israel, in which he makes clear his extreme anti-Zionism.

The flavor of Original Sins is immediately evident in Beit-Hallahmi’s acknowledgments, which include thanks to a virtual who’s who of anti-Israel propagandists, including Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Nubar Hovsepian, Edna Hunt, Rashid Khalidi, John Mahoney, Norton Mezvinsky, and Israel Shahak.

After such thanks it is little surprise that in the body of the book Beit-Hallahmi includes such falsehoods as the claim that Israeli Arabs “are excluded from over 90 percent of the land,” and that when Israeli-Arabs “build their own homes in Israel the constructions are considered illegal – and they are.” Both these claims are nonsense, and it is astounding to hear them from an Israeli who can easily witness legal, large-scale Arab building merely by taking a 10 minute drive in his car. Beit-Hallahmi also falsely claims that “the rights to free speech, freedom of association and freedom of religion do not exist in Israel.”

Finally, establishing himself as the perfect NPR guest, Beit-Hallahmi labels Israel a “herrenvolk democracy.” Herrenvolk is German for “master race.”

Rashid Khalidi, Professor of History at the University of Chicago. Despite his academic appointment at a leading US university, Khalidi is regarded by senior PLO officials as a reliable propagandist who “wouldn’t harm the cause”:

Khalidi enjoys the confidence of the PLO and has access to its leaders that stems from the ties he forged while teaching in Beirut from 1974 to 1985, when the PLO maintained its headquarters there.

“He became close to the leadership and gained their confidence,” said Suhail Miari, executive director of the United Holy Land Fund.

For Khalidi’s book, Under Siege: PLO Decisionmaking During the 1982 War, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat made the organizations archives available to him, for the first time.

“He was given access because he’s a serious scholar and a Palestinian who wouldn’t harm the cause,” said Hassan Abdul Rahman, director of the Palestine Affairs Center in Washington ... (Chicago Tribune, October 31, 1991; emphasis added)

Just like Beit-Hallahmi, Khalidi has repeated the canard that non-Jews are barred from most land in Israel:

... non-Jews are barred by law from purchasing or leasing most properties (Jewish National Fund property, “state land,” and land under control of the Custodian of “Absentee” Property – ie., stolen Arab land) and are barred from renting in segregated Jewish-only neighborhoods. Where is the racism in this picture? (Washington Post, October 1, 1997)

Khalidi also heads the so-called American Committee on Jerusalem , a Washington-based non-profit that regularly engages in crude anti-Israel propaganda. Khalidi, for example, more than once has signed fund raising letters for the ACJ claiming that Israel engages in “ethnic cleansing” in Jerusalem:

... forcing out its Muslim and Christian Arab population, and making Jerusalem an exclusively Israeli city. Israel is attempting to reach its stated goal of a 70% Jewish majority in all of Jerusalem by the year 2020. (ACJ fund raising letter, dated December 1998 and signed by Dr. Rashid Khalidi)

Khalidi’s claim is arrant nonsense. The fact is that Jerusalem’s population in 1967, after reunification, was 74.2% Jewish and 25.8% Arab, and since then the Jewish proportion has declined and the Arab proportion grown, so that today Jerusalem’s population is 31% Arab. That is, the city has become less Jewish and more Arab! Some ethnic cleansing.

Perhaps Khalidi’s most shocking propaganda, however, was his “Remembrance” for the PLO terrorist mastermind known as Abu Iyad (Salah Khalaf). Khalaf was notorious for his plots to assassinate King Hussein, and for his leadership of the so-called “Black September” organization, the PLO group that slaughtered Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, and in 1973 murdered US diplomats in Khartoum. The assassination of the US Ambassador to Lebanon in 1976 was also carried out under Khalaf’s orders. (For details on Khalaf see entry in An Historical Encyclopedia of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Greenwood Press.)

Incredibly, Khalidi remembers not one word about any of these bloody terrorist attacks in his “Remembrance.” Instead he credits Khalaf with pioneering the PLO’s “diplomatic strategy” in 1988, with his “eloquent speeches and his back room political skills.”

According to Khalidi, “Abu Iyad will be sorely missed by the Palestinian people to whom he devoted his life.” (Middle East Report, March-April 1991) If this is the sort of history Khalidi writes, no wonder the PLO places so much trust in him.

Like Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Rashid Khalidi is the perfect NPR guest.

Philip Mattar. NPR’s press release identifies Mattar only as the author of The Encyclopedia of the Palestinians, neglecting to mention that he is also Executive Director of the Washington, DC-based Institute for Palestine Studies, a quasi “academic” organization which was founded in Beirut and has long had close, if unacknowledged, ties to the PLO. Indeed, one State Department official described the IPS as “the unofficial academic wing of the PLO.” (New Republic, May 19, 1982)

Not surprisingly, in a National Geographic article entitled “Who are the Palestinians?” (July 1992), Mattar claimed that the Palestinians are descended from the Canaanites, a pre-Israelite people who had long disappeared from history, thus attempting to trump Israeli claims to the ancient land of the Hebrews.

Mattar is also the author of The Mufti of Jerusalem: Al-Hajj Amin Al-Hussaini, Founder of the Palestinian National Movement. The Mufti was the leader of the Palestinians in the 1930's through the 1950's, and was notorious for his close alliance with the Nazis in World War Two, including his formation of a special Muslim Waffen SS Division in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Known as the Handschar Division, it committed brutal war crimes against Serb Christians, leading the postwar Yugoslavian government to indict the Mufti as a war criminal. Mattar, evidently a member in good standing of the Rashid Khalidi school of history, manages to mention none of these facts.

Tom Segev, Israeli author and journalist. Segev is yet another Israeli revisionist, of the same school as Benny Morris and Avi Shlaim. According to Yehoshua Porath, a leading Israeli historian, Segev has:

an eagerness to unearth the darkest truths about Israel's past. He is convinced that past chroniclers of Zionist history did everything in their power - including lying - to whitewash the most sordid deeds committed by the Zionist leadership .. (Azure, Spring 2000)

In rewriting the history of Israel’s absorption of hundreds of thousands of immigrants just after 1948, Segev portrayed Israel’s “leaders not as the heroic, moral ideologues of the classic narrative, but as cynical, conniving, racist and at times even vicious men, who openly conducted policies that discriminated against immigrants from Islamic lands.”

And Segev’s The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust, “depicts the leaders of the yishuv, beginning with David Ben-Gurion, paying lip service to the rescue of Europe's Jews during the Second World War while exploiting the catastrophe for their own state-building schemes.”

According to Porath, Segev seems to know:

even before he approached the material, just what conclusions best suited his iconoclastic proclivities, and that his research was no more than a search for confirmation of these conclusions. In part, this effect is created by his slipshod research methods, which at times border on wanton dereliction of his duties as a historian.

Of course, this sounds suspiciously like NPR’s own methods, perhaps explaining Segev’s part in the present project.

William Quandt, author of Peace Process: American Diplomacy and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Quandt is Professor of Political Science at University of Virginia, and a former staffer at the National Security Council under Zbigniew Brzezinski. Quandt has also been a persistent critic of Israel. Speaking on NPR’s All Things Considered, for example, Quandt repeated the land canard mentioned earlier, charging that:

Israel was established as a state for Jews. It has of course an Arab minority who have citizenship rights, but the specific way in which land is owned in Israel is predominantly that the Jewish Agency purchases land on behalf of the Jewish people and then leases it out to its Jewish citizens.

Arabs cannot have access to that land that's owned by the Jewish Agency. They can keep land they have privately owned before the State of Israel was created. There's a small amount of private property that can be traded and Arabs can buy that as well as Jews, but most land is held in trust for the Jewish people, so yes there is a legal basis for what we would flat out call discriminatory practices. (March 8, 1997).

After an extended correspondence with the present author, Professor Quandt admitted his error and notified NPR. The network, however, did not respond to inquiries concerning the matter, nor did it ever air a correction.

Yezid Sayegh. NPR’s press release identifies Sayegh only as the “author of a monumental study on the Palestinian national movement.” Professor Yezid Sayegh is Assistant Director of the Centre for International Studies at the University of Cambridge. He has worked closely with the PLO, first as an advisor to the Palestinian delegation in the early 1990's, and then as a negotiator of the Gaza-Jericho Agreement in 1993-94. He co- authored a book with the previously mentioned Avi Shlaim (The Middle East and the Cold War, 1997).

Like his collaborator Shlaim, Sayegh seems to hold Israeli leader Ariel Sharon in very low regard:

He’s a butcher going all the way back to Qibya ... He’s one person I'd never shake hands with. (Washington Post, October 2, 2000)

Edward Said. While NPR’s press release identifies Said as a Palestinian-American writer of Peace and its Discontents, he is actually a professor of comparative literature at Columbia University. Said is also a former member of the Palestine National Council, the Palestinian “Parliament in Exile” and the highest policy-making body in the PLO.

Said is a prolific writer of op-eds and broadsides, and he is probably the most well-known Palestinian activist in the world. No matter what the anti-Israel canard, whether it is that Arabs have no access to most land in Israel, or that pre-state Israel colluded in the Nazi holocaust, it is likely that Said has vouched for its accuracy.

Perhaps there is no better example of this than Said’s introductory essay to the French edition of Israel Shahak’s deplorable pamphlet Jewish Religion, Jewish History. (Information about Said’s essay is courtesy of Professor Werner Cohn’s article on the subject. Cohn has also written about Shahak in general. )

Jewish Religion, Jewish History is a mendacious rehash of anti-Semitic themes going back to medieval times, including gems like the claim that Jewish children are taught, “whenever passing near a cemetery, to utter a blessing if the cemetery is Jewish, but to curse the mothers of the dead if it is non-Jewish,” (p. 25 of the English edition). Or that when, before and after meals, Orthodox Jews engage in the ritual washing of their hands accompanied by special blessings, “on one of these two occasions he is worshiping God ... but on the other he is worshiping Satan ...” (p. 34)

Shahak also repeats the land canard, claiming that “92 percent of Israel’s land is the property of the state and is administered by the Israel Land Authority according to regulations issued by the Jewish National Fund ... [which] denies the right to reside ... to anyone who is not Jewish.” (p. 5)

Finally, it should be noted that the French edition of Shahak’s book is published by La Vielle Taupe, described by Cohn as a “neo-Nazi sect in Paris that publishes books denying the holocaust.”

Despite all this, Said praises Shahak’s scholarship highly, and avers that the booklet, a collection of anti-Semitic lies, is “nothing less that a concise history of classic and modern Judaism insofar as these are relevant to the understanding of modern Israel.”

With regard to his own history, Mr. Said has recently been revealed to be a prevaricator as well. He had long claimed that he grew up in Jerusalem, describing an idyllic childhood in his “beautiful old house,” only to be driven out with his family by the Israelis, thus making him a refugee and the very personification of the oppressed and displaced Palestinian. In fact, Said grew up in a wealthy section of Cairo, attending the posh Gezira Preparatory School. (Commentary, September 1999)

Again, the perfect guest for NPR.

• The other guests slated to appear in the series include Howard Sachar, Anita Shapira and Michael Oren. Sachar is an American historian who is clearly sympathetic towards Israel, Shapira is an Israeli historian who has in recent years criticized the Israeli revisionist historians, and Oren is an Israeli historian best known for his recent New York Times bestseller Six Days of War, on the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

So NPR’s balanced panel of experts includes at least four quite extreme Israeli critics of Israel, at least four extreme Palestinian critics of Israel, one American critic of Israel, and three experts who could be characterized as supportive of Israel – amounting to nine critics of Israel and just three supporters. This exactly mirrors the bias found in NPR’s Middle East coverage generally.

In addition, Mike Shuster, the researcher and reporter is also quite biased against Israel, as evidenced by his previous reporting, and also by the extremely unbalanced panel of experts chosen for this series.

The conclusion – listeners beware.

For links to more of CAMERA's critique of the series, click here.



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