It doesn't take very long to notice that NPR has an “attitude problem” in its coverage of Israel and the Middle East. The following examples gathered within one week typify the sort of Middle East reporting frequently heard on NPR.
- NPR Promotes Fringe Anti-Israel Views
September 30, 2001, Sunday, Weekend Edition
NPR correspondent Jennifer Ludden interviewed Israeli journalist Amira Hass known for her extreme positions in advocating Palestinian positions without regard for Israeli perspectives (Hass lives in the West Bank Palestinian city of Ramallah), the journalist decried Israeli conduct. The choice of Hass was in keeping with NPR's pattern of presenting Jewish guests from the far-left fringe of Israeli society-those who reject their country's policies and embrace Palestinian causes, even in times of extreme national emergency, over those of Israel.
Ludden cozily greeted Hass, introducing her as a journalist who “focuses on daily suffering among ordinary Palestinians,” and gave the example of “a [Palestinian] woman who describes the difficulties of traveling to her job with the Israeli army's suffocating closure policy.” (There was, of course, no reference to Israel's need to protect itself from suicide bombers and other Palestinian killers who come from Palestinian Authority areas.)
Ludden made much of Hass' background as a child of Holocaust survivors, declaring that “Hass is driven by her own parents' stories of enduring the Holocaust,” and the searing image of German women standing by and watching indifferently as Hass' mother was hauled off to a concentration camp in a cattle car. In making such references, Ludden drew an implicit comparison between Nazi policy toward Jews and Israeli conduct toward Palestinians.
Seeking to convey the image of a lone, brave journalist willing to sacrifice her place in Israeli society to fight for truth, Ludden told of a Press Freedom award given to Hass and noted the “thousands of hate mail messages” Hass has reportedly received from critics. A brief statement by political analyst Gerald Steinberg about the contentions of Hass' critics that she slavishly amplifies the views of Palestinians and fails to cover their conduct objectively was immediately refuted by Ludden, who described Hass as claiming “to expose what she calls the central contradiction of the state of Israel-democracy for some, dispossession for others...”
NPR does not apparently believe in full disclosure. Dececeptively, there was no mention in this entire segment of the fact that Hass has recently been found guilty in court of fabricating accounts of events to bolster her anti-Israel positions. On June 13, 2001, Hass reported that Palestinian eyewitnesses saw Hebron's Jewish community celebrating the shooting of a Palestinian by Israeli border police. She described the Jewish residents spitting on, stomping and kicking the Palestinian's dead body and then shouting with joy and passing out candies. However, the event described in detail by Hass was entirely bogus and had never taken place-a reality confirmed by televised accounts of the incident. A Jerusalem court judge found Hass guilty of lying with the malicious intent of damaging the Hebron community's reputation and fined her more than $60,000.
Omission of the serious legal judgement against Hass couple with the familiar NPR warmth toward her hostile views toward Israel are further evidence of the network's entrenched “attitude problem” toward the Middle East. In NPR Reportage, Israeli Response Preceeds Palestinian Provocation
- In NPR Reporting, Israeli Response Preceeds Palestinian Provocation
- No Reference to “Terrorism”
October 3, 2001, Morning Edition
NPR host Bob Edwards introduced this report with an account of an Israeli incursion into a Palestinian-ruled area of the Gaza Strip, portraying it as “a new outbreak of violence.” Only after descrbing the Israeli action did he mention that “it was in retaliation for a Palestinian attack on a Jewish settlement in Gaza that left two Israelis dead.”
Reporter Linda Gradstein, likewise, reversed the sequence of events, starting first with a description of Israel's response, and only afterwards describing the initial Palestinian provocation:
Early this morning, Israeli bulldozers backed by tanks and troops moved into Palestinian-controlled Gaza and destroyed police posts and houses near the Jewish settlement of Elei Sinai at the northern tip of the Gaza Strip. Palestinian officials said Israeli tank fire killed three Palestinian policemen and two civilians. Israeli officials said the homes had been used last night's attack on the settlement and that Israel would remain in the area to protect Jewish settlers.
Last night, two Palestinian gunmen entered Elei Sinai and began shooting at Jewish settlers there, killing an 18-year-old female Israeli soldier and her 20-year-old boyfriend. The gunmen also threw grenades into several houses and barricaded themselves inside one of the homes. Fourteen Israelis were injured, including two young children...
Consider the difference for listeners if NPR had reported this same story in the order of occurrence of events:
In the wake of the terrorist slaying yesterday of a young couple, Liron Harpaz and Assaf Yitzchaki and the wounding of 15 more, after Palestinian terrorists tore down the fence surrounding Elei Sinai, threw grenades inside residents' homes and fired automatic weapons, Israel acted to counter this latest attack on its civilian population.
Bulldozers backed by tanks entered Palestinian-controlled Gaza and destroyed police posts and houses near the Jewish community of Elei Sinai. Israeli officials said the houses had been used in last night's attack on the settlement and that Israel would remain in the area to protect Jewish settlers. Palestinian officials said Israeli tank fire killed three Palestinian policemen and two civilians.
Both Edwards and Gradstein avoided labelling the Palestinian perpetrators of the Elei Sinai attack on civilians as “terrorists.” Instead the attackers were referred to as “gunmen,” and the group that claimed responsibility for the attack were called “the radical Hamas movement.”
Both Edwards and Gradstein avoided labelling the Palestinian perpetrators of the Elei Sinai attack as “terrorists.” Instead the attackers were referred to as “gunmen,” and the group that claimed responsibility for the attack called “the radical Hamas movement.”
October 4, 2001, Morning Edition
Apparently seeking to differentiate terror directed at Israelis from terror against Americans, NPR's Kate Seelye presented the radical Islamic terrorist group Hizballah only in terms of its terrorist activities against the U.S. In a segment focused primarily on Lebanon's freezing bank accounts of individuals and organizations with suspected terrorist links, Seelye concluded with a comment on the potential impact this would have on Hizballah, saying:
Many here fear that the militant Islamist group Hizballah would also be a target of the new US crackdown on terror.
Seelye said Hizballah has been “accused of involvement in attacks against US installations in Lebanon...” She never mentioned that Hizballah is on the State Department list of terrorist groups. And she said nothing at all about Hizballah's much more recent involvement with terrorist attacks against Israelis. Although Hizballah has come under intense international criticism for kidnapping three Israeli soldiers in October of 2000, allowing neither humanitarian visits nor the release of any information about them, Seelye made only an oblique reference to Hizballah kidnappings, omitting mention of the Israeli victims, and portraying Hizballah's role of perpetrator as mere allegation:
Hizballah has been accused of involvement in attacks against US installations in Lebanon in the '80's and has also been blamed for a host of kidnappings of Americans and other Westerners.
In fact, Seelye not only hid the Israeli nationality of Hizballah's terror victims, she actually went so far as to suggest that Hizballah's attacks against Israelis were part of a legitimate “struggle against Israeli occupation”:
But the Beirut government praises Hizballah for its long struggle against Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon, which ended last year. Analysts here say that if the US had gone after Hizballah, it would have been difficult for Lebanon to cooperate with the United States…
Hizballah's true agenda was recently affirmed by Hizballah Secretary-General Shaykh Hassan Nasrallah in a phoned-in speech to a massive public rally by the Islamic Jihad Movement in Gaza on Friday, June 2, 2001. He did not call for an end to “ccupation” or even over “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza but called upon Palestinians “to fight the Zionists with stones, daggers, knives and bombs, expel them from the land, and make them return to whence they came, whether Ethiopia, Russia or any other place,” advocating suicide bombing as a method, “.. if you want to liberate your land, you do not need tanks, planes or canons, but only through martyrs, like those who shocked the Zionist entity and scared it, so you can do it again, by suicidal attacks…”
By discriminating between victims of terror and whitewashing Hizballah's terror campaign against Israel with the suggestion it is legitimate, NPR's Seelye twists the truth to portray Israel as the enemy.
Copyright © 2001 by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. All rights reserved. This column may be reprinted without prior permission.