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Media Analyses





CAMERA ALERT: Lopsided NPR News from Peter Kenyon


Once again, National Public Radio has focused lopsided coverage on Palestinian civilians unintentionally killed during an Israeli incursion into Gaza, minimizing the responsibility of Palestinian gunmen in deliberately endangering their own civilians, while giving only perfunctory coverage to Israeli civilians targeted for death by an Arab suicide bomber.

*** First, on May 4, anchorwoman Liane Hansen introduced a report with Peter Kenyon by setting up a false symmetry:

. . . even as the [road map] plan was being made public last week, more blood was spilled on both sides. Israeli civilians were killed in Tel Aviv, and Palestinian civilians were killed in the Gaza Strip.

Kenyon continued:

Hours before Mahmoud Abbas' first speech as Palestinian prime minister, in which he called for an end to violence, missiles from an Israeli helicopter killed two Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Hours after the release of the road map, Israeli blood and body parts were again spattered across a Tel Aviv sidewalk as a suicide bomber killed himself and three others at a bar along the city's seafront.

The contrived “balance,” however, ends here. The remainder of the report focuses on the Palestinian deaths in Gaza, including that of a two-year-old boy, with not a word about the suicide bombing until Kenyon's closing statement. Kenyon's emotive coverage of the Palestinian deaths — which included both fighters and civilians despite the fact that NPR framed the story only in terms of civilians killed — included touching commentary from relatives of those killed — a cousin and the grieving father of the little boy.

Ismael, the cousin of the three Abu Hin brothers, Hamas members who were targeted by Israel, stressed the innocence of the Gaza neighbors:

Innocent people, innocent children, they were scared. Believe me, many children were, I mean, crying out of fear.

The two-year-old's father is quoted:

The blood was everywhere. His mother screamed. I run in. I carried him. I was just carrying him, seeing the blood, seeing the hole in his head, and I was knowing this is the end.

**** The report also covers the funeral procession for 12 of the Palestinians killed in the incursion. In contrast, NPR never covered, in this report or any other, the funerals for the three Israelis killed at a Tel Aviv nightclub. (NPR said those murders were the work of Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the latter termed a “militant offshoot” of Arafat's Fatah faction — though the group is designated a terrorist organization by the State Department.) Nor did NPR include, here or elsewhere, comments from the relatives of slain Israelis about the innocence and suffering of their loved ones.

In describing the fighting scene where Israeli soldiers battled it out with the Abu Hin brothers, Kenyon observes that “shockingly, there's even a large splotch [of blood] on the ceiling.” In contrast, when Linda Gradstein reported on the wreckage from the Tel Aviv bombing in a April 30 report, her language was matter of fact, and did not note that the devastation was “shocking.”

*** In her introduction to the report, Liane Hansen says: “NPR's Peter Kenyon has this report on the recent violence and its effect on hopes for the latest peace effort.” However, only Palestinian opinions are included on how the latest violence will effect peace efforts. Not a single Israeli was asked about the ongoing Palestinian terrorism against civilians, or if they are hopeful that Abu Mazen would make a concerted effort to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure and the pervasive incitement that foments the terror.

*** Kenyon obscures Palestinian responsibility for exposing civilians to danger. He reports that “family members here agree and confirm that the [Israeli] soldiers asked the brothers to surrender peacefully, but they were determined to fight to the death.” He does not convey what, for example, a Boston Globe story (excerpts below) did about how Israel tried to protect civilians and how the Abu Hin brothers and other gunmen deliberately fought among women and children, placing them in the middle of a firefight.

Also, while NPR suggests Israeli use of heavy firepower, the Globe gives context by reporting the involvement of heavily armed Palestinians and the discovery of a weapons cache.

BOSTON GLOBE, May 2:

The battle in Gaza City began about 2 a.m. yesterday, when Israeli forces moved into the poor, crowded Shajaya neighborhood and encircled a block of 20 houses inhabited by the Abu Hin clan. Israeli military sources and Palestinian witnesses said the soldiers called for Abu Hin and his brothers to surrender. When they refused and began firing, the Israelis called for women, children, and noncombatants to come out.

Simultaneously, calls issued from mosques around the city for armed men to support the Abu Hin clan against the Israelis. As noncombatants were leaving the Abu Hin block, scores of Palestinians armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons arrived and began fighting with the Israelis, making further evacuation of noncombatants impossible, according to Samir Hito, a reporter for the Palestinian newspaper Al Hayat al Jadeeda...

An Israeli military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that large amounts of weapons, ammunition, and explosives were found in the house where the Abu Hin brothers made their last stand.

The transcripts appear below.

NPR May 4, 2003
Weekend Edition Sunday (12:00 PM EST)

LIANE HANSEN, host: Secretary of State Powell plans to return to the Middle East later this month. He'll visit Jerusalem and Ramallah for talks with Israelis and Palestinians on the road map for peace. But even as the plan was being made public last week, more blood was spilled on both sides. Israeli civilians were killed in Tel Aviv, and Palestinian civilians were killed in the Gaza Strip. NPR's Peter Kenyon has this report on the recent violence and its effect on hopes for the latest peace effort.

PETER KENYON reporting: Hours before Mahmoud Abbas' first speech as Palestinian prime minister, in which he called for and end to violence, missiles from an Israeli helicopter killed two Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Hours after the release of the road map, Israeli blood and body parts were again spattered across a Tel Aviv sidewalk as a suicide bomber killed himself and three others at a bar along the city's seafront.

KENYON: The Israeli army's response focused on this street in Soja Iya in the eastern Gaza Strip, where an earth-mover was cleaning up rubble on Friday. Mofat Sahd , who lost a cousin in the incursion, says he heard sounds from the street around 2 that morning, and came down to see Israeli military jeeps heading toward the Abu Hin family's house down the street.

MOFAT SAHD: (translated) Then there were cross-fire shootings on both sides and one hour later, tanks did arrive. Two jeeps were tailing--crashed because of the rubble and because of heavy shooting around and then the helicopters start to appear. And from that moment, the war started in the area.

KENYON: The army says the three wanted Abu Hin brothers, Yusef, Mahmud and Ayman, were members of the Hamas military wing. Family members here agree and confirm that the soldiers asked the brothers to surrender peacefully, but they were determined to fight to the death.

In this second-story room, the destruction suggests the use of massive firepower. Windows and doors are blown out by tank shells. In one corner, flowers have been placed over a large pool of blood. More blood is spattered on the walls, up a large armoire. Shockingly, there's even a large splotch on the ceiling. A 25-year-old cousin named Ismael says everyone expected the brothers to fight, but no one anticipated that a huge gun battle would rage all morning and into the afternoon.

ISMAEL: Believe me, even I didn't go to the toilet. I sit at home, I mean, pissing in the basket. Believe me, I'm not being killed. Innocent people, innocent children, they were scared. Believe me, many children were, I mean, crying out of fear.

KENYON: Another major battle was taking place out on the streets, and that's where most of the civilians appear to have died. On another street blocks from the Abu Hin house, Ahmed Ayad was calling his four children to stay away from the windows because Israeli snipers were firing from one of the tallest buildings in the neighborhood. And his wife had just taken their two-year-old boy Amer into the bedroom when he heard her scream as an M-16 bullet crashed into one side of the child's skull and out the other.

AHMED AYAD: (translated) The blood was everywhere. His mother screamed. I run in. I carried him. I was just carrying him, seeing the blood, seeing the hole in his head, and I was knowing this is the end.

KENYON: Ayad was an iron worker in Israel before the intifada. He wants peace so he can support his family again. But he says if this is how Israel responds to the road map for peace and the new Palestinian government, the future holds nothing but more tears and bloodshed.

(Sound of funeral procession)

KENYON: At Friday's raucous funeral procession for the 12 Palestinians killed in the Soja Iyaa incursion, Hamas and Al Aqsa Brigade leaders swore never to disarm. Hamas' aging founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, said the Palestinian people have no faith in their new prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas.

SHEIKH AHMED YASSIN, Hamas leader: (speaking Arabic)

KENYON: "This new government is the face of Israel and America,' said Yassin. 'It will not succeed and the road map will also fail, just like the Mitchell plan, the Oslo Accords and other such plans.'

The new Palestinian prime minister is expected to seek a ceasefire with Hamas and the other factions rather than a forced disarmament. A senior Palestinian intelligence officer in Gaza City says if illegal weapons are displayed on the street, they will be seized, but there will be no attempt to go house to house to confiscate weapons. But even that relatively non-confrontational course angers many Gazans. Mahmoud Al-Shia says Abbas has no choice.

MAHMOUD AL-SHIA: And to know the only thing which is respectful for him to do, to resign; unless we'll understand him that he's going to implement the policy which Israel try to limit yesterday; he is going to continue it. If he doesn't want to continue it, the best thing for our support — to resign.

KENYON: These are the images that accompanied the release of the road map last week: Israeli families sobbing at the funerals of the Tel Aviv bombing victims and Ahmed Ayad carrying his dying baby boy down a Gaza street. These are the images Secretary of State Powell will be asking people to look beyond as he struggles to get another peace effort off the ground. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Gaza.

NPR April 30, 2003
Morning Edition (10:00 AM EST)

BOB EDWARDS, host:

A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up today at the entrance to a popular pub in Tel Aviv next door to the American Embassy. Three patrons were killed, 35 wounded in the attack. Two Palestinian organizations have claimed responsibility. NPR's Linda Gradstein reports from Tel Aviv.

LINDA GRADSTEIN: Keyboard player Barry Gilbert was on the small stage at the back of Mike's Place, absorbed in the blues number he was playing for the pub's open mike night.

BARRY GILBERT (musician): About halfway through the song, I just saw a big orange flash, sort of like a lot of light coming towards me, so I just ducked basically, and I felt a blast, and then the place was covered in smoke. Everybody started to just scream, and I ran outside to see what was going on. There was a lot of people lying on the floor very, very badly injured.

GRADSTEIN: One of those badly injured was the security guard, who prevented the bomber's entry into the pub. Two others injured in the attack were tourists, one from the US and one from France. Mike's Place attracted a regular clientele of young Israelis and expatriate Brits and Americans who liked jazz. Many of the customers knew each other.

(Sound of sweeping)

GRADSTEIN: As soon as the wounded had been taken to hospitals, cleaning crews began sweeping up the debris of the explosion. The blast blew the white metal doors at the entrance apart, shattering the windows and leaving the entrance a pile of twisted metal struts. The neighboring US Embassy, separated from the pub by a black metal fence, was not damaged. Several hours after the explosion, co-owner Asaf Ganzman stood in shock, surveying the wreckage of his bar.

ASAF GANZMAN (co-owner, Mike's Place): We were doing pretty well, and we had security, and we felt pretty safe next to the American Embassy. We felt extra safe because even the people in the American Embassy told us that they're allowed to go only to like a few hundred meters from the embassy because that's safe, and this is one of the places. But I guess nowhere is safe.

GRADSTEIN: Israeli police spokesman Gil Kleiman said the security forces receive constant warnings of planned suicide bombings and cannot stop all of them.

GIL KLEIMAN (Israeli Police Spokesman): We have had, as you've known, a lot of successes, and we've been saying this for three years. This is not something that's new, that there is no hermetic ability to seal the country, especially Tel Aviv, a beachfront area, and across from the beach, pubs. There's no way to do that. People were here for a jazz and blues night, a young crowd in their 20s. There's no way you can close all that down.

GRADSTEIN: Two Palestinian organizations, Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyr Brigades, said they planned the attack jointly to avenge the death of an Al Aqsa member recently killed in Nablus by Israeli troops. The Al Aqsa Brigades, a militant offshoot from Arafat's Fatah movement, said the bombing was meant as a message to the new Palestinian government, headed by Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, that nobody can disarm the resistance movements without a political solution. Hours earlier in a speech to the Palestinian Legislature, Abbas had called for an end to terrorism and pledged to collect illegal weapons. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman David Saranga, says the suicide bombing is a challenge to Abbas' new government.

DAVID SARANGA (Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman): We don't think the Palestinian Authority can talk peace during the day and not combat terrorism during the night. The international community will judge the new government of the Palestinian Authority according to performance and not according to declarations.

GRADSTEIN: Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat said the Palestinian Authority condemns the death of all civilians, Israelis and Palestinians. Linda Gradstein, NPR News, Tel Aviv.


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