Aggressive bias continues at NPR, America's foremost publicly-funded radio network, with lopsided time afforded Israel's detractors, whether man-in-the-street Palestinians or critics from the political fringe. Unsupported and anecdotal charges of Israeli misconduct are routinely aired without any balance or counterpoint. Partisan (and sometimes extremist) groups critical of Israel are characterized euphemistically as neutral champions of “peace” and “human rights.”
Stepped-up public protest about NPR bias is essential. Please read the recent examples below and take action.
1) January 9 -- Morning Edition:
NPR's Peter Kenyon devoted an entire “Morning Edition” segment to the grievances of Palestinians in Nablus in the wake of Israeli military action there. Israel was accused, among other things, of house demolishing, killing “unarmed bystanders,” damaging “ancient walls and streets,” delaying Palestinian firefighters as they try to "save burning buildings" and wrecking water and sewer pipes in the city.
Listeners heard from:
1) a Palestinian bakery owner who says - with no apparent evidence - that “maybe” the “Israeli army are going to come and kill me in my store;”
2) the Palestinian fire chief of Nablus who alleges Israel blocks firefighting and knocks down “electric cables;”
3) the Palestinian mayor of Nablus who says desperate boys are attacking Israeli tanks “because of the occupation.”
Kenyon cited charges of Israeli misconduct at checkpoints leveled by B’Tselem, a pro-Palestinian group which he characterizes misleadingly as an “Israeli human rights group.” He reports B’Tselem's charges that Israeli soldiers have “beaten” men with “rifle butts” and “beaten and handcuffed” students “to an olive tree.”
(A dramatic indicator of B’Tselem's extreme advocacy of Palestinian positions is the fact that in tallies of those killed it categorizes as “civilians” Palestinians who have been killed in the course of bombing, stabbing and shooting to death Israeli civilians.
For example, B’Tselem includes the following listing under Palestinian civilian victims of Israel:
“Abd a-Salam Sadeq Hasouna, from Nablus, the West Bank, killed by IDF gunfire after having fired at Israeli civilians in a banquet hall in Hadera, in Central Israel.”
Not only had Hasouna “fired at” Israeli civilians with his M-16 assault rifle — he killed six of them and wounded 24 attending a young girl's Bat Mitzvah party. See www.btselem.org)
Despite the very serious allegations leveled in the segment, there was not a single Israeli speaker to convey the need for operations in Nablus to disrupt terrorist violence emanating from a city that has produced a quarter of the suicide bombers of the last three years. The only Israeli “rebuttal” was Kenyon's ambiguous reference to a written response by the army saying the B'tselem charges were being investigated and such efforts are “time consuming.” In contrast, other major media presented essential context for Israel's actions in Nablus.
* One day before NPR's story, the New York Times wrote on Jan 8:
“Nablus is the hottest and most dangerous town,” an Israeli commander in Nablus told reporters on Tuesday. “Most of the suicide bombers, most of the bombs, most of the ammunition, is in Nablus.”
* Agence France Presse wrote on Jan 7 :
Israel has come to regard Nablus as a hotbed of militancy. A suicide attack on December 26 on the outskirts of Tel Aviv was carried out by a bomber from a village close to the town. Israeli military sources said 27 Palestinians had been arrested in and around Nablus since the middle of last month, and that the drive against the “terrorist infrastructure” would continue. Militants from the Nablus region had attempted to carry out 18 separate attacks against Israeli targets since early October, one source said. “The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) is operating in the city of Nablus due to serious alerts of terrorists organising and carrying out terror attacks from the city,” said the source. “The IDF regrets that terror organisations operate in densely operated civilian environment and take advange of civilian infrastructure. We do our upmost to leave innocent civlians out of harm's way.”
January 14 (Multiple NPR programs were seriously distorted on this date):
2) Morning Edition (1st segment, 1/14/04)
A Morning Edition segment reported by Linda Gradstein was again focused on events in Nablus, primarily on the case of a Palestinian killed there by the Israelis. The circumstances of his death are disputed, with the man's brother, Mustafa al Khasass, alleging gratuitous murder by the Israelis who are said to have shot the victim in the face at close range and then prevented his evacuation to a hospital.
Gradstein reports “several neighbors” confirm the “exchange” between the victim and the soldiers. Likewise, she says Nablus governor, Mahmoud Aloul, asserts “hospital reports” supposedly corroborate the event which “looks like a summary execution.”
One Israeli army spokesman is heard presenting the military perspective that the Palestinian man was shot from a distance when soldiers believed he was armed and threatening.
But the segment concluded once more with Gradstein repeating allegations of B’Tselem, yet again described as “the Israeli human rights group.” The group's director charges “excessive force” by Israel and “cases of Palestinians killed with no justification whatsoever”
The skewed segment consisted of three critics of Israeli policy and one defender.
3) Morning Edition (2nd segment, 1/14/04)
NPR's Peter Kenyon concluded a “Morning Edition” report on the suicide bombing at Gaza's Erez checkpoint that killed four Israelis with a reference to the death of Tom Hurndall who had been shot by an Israeli soldier nine months earlier. Once again, an extreme, anti-Israel group was misrepresented as devoted to “peace.”
NPR host Bob Edwards called Hurndall a “British peace activist” and Kenyon said “he was part of an international peace group.” In fact, Hurndall was a member of the International Solidarity Movement, a self-avowed pro-Palestinian group whose spokespeople have endorsed violence against Israel. ISM leaders have said “the Palestinians have a right to resist with arms, as they are an occupied people ... Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics — both nonviolent and violent...”. The same leaders have described “suicide operations” as “noble.” (Palestine Chronicle, January 29, 2002)
Unlike NPR, numerous other major media outlets reporting Hurndall's death did not whitewash his controversial political activity with the misnomer "peace." The Los Angeles Times and Associated Press referred to Hurndall as a member of the "pro-Palestinian" International Solidarity Movement. Reuters, the New York Times, the Washington Post and AFP termed Hurndall merely a "British activist" or an "activist."
4) All Things Considered (1/14/04)
A segment reported by Linda Gradstein the same day was also based on the allegations of a partisan political group critical of Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights. Gradstein quotes false and misleading charges by the organization's director, Arik Ascherman who claims “it is almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain permits to build legally” in Jerusalem.
Gradstein herself resides in Jerusalem where specialists on the subject of Arab housing, such as Justus Weiner (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs), could have readily been enlisted to offer rebuttal and balance on this contentious subject. Weiner's recent book on construction in Jerusalem documents that it is actually not difficult for Arabs to secure ordinary building permits. (As in any modern city or town, building cannot impinge on services and infrastructure.) Over the last five years an average of 183 have been issued to Arab residents. Weiner notes that “the percentage of applications that result in the issuance of a building permit is virtually identical in Arab and Jewish neighborhoods.”
Arab preference to build illegally, without having to pay permit fees, and with scant chance of retribution has helped spur the massive illegal construction in the city. According to Weiner, a Palestinian Legislator bragged at a 2002 conference that Palestinians had “erected 6,000 illegal homes without building permits, out of which only 198 were demolished.” The rampant unlicensed building has been encouraged by the PA. None of this is mentioned by NPR.
Instead, Gradstein quotes Ascherman as saying his effort to stop Israeli bulldozers from demolishing Arab houses in east Jerusalem “was an act of civil disobedience over what he called an ‘unjust and immoral Israeli policy.’”
Gradstein also cites charges by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, an extreme fringe group whose leader, Jeff Halper, has repeatedly compared Israeli laws to the Nazi Nuremberg laws.