National Public Radio bias is unabating and public criticism
is vital. CAMERA recently issued an alert documenting one-sided programs
broadcast on January 9 and 14 in which unsupported and baseless accusations
were leveled against Israel by Palestinians or fringe critics and Israel's
defenders were totally excluded or given scant voice. Again, on January 19 and
21, the network aired indefensibly one-sided reports, presenting ONLY the
charges of Israel's detractors and omitting essential context and counterpoint.
Please read the following and take measures suggested below
to counter the damaging and unprofessional coverage.
1) January 19 All Things Considered
NPR host Robert Siegel reported on Israeli Ambassador to
Sweden Zvi Mazel's angry reaction to an art exhibit in Stockholm considered by
many to be a glorification of Palestinian terrorism. In protest against the
exhibit, Mazel unplugged a light illuminating a pool of blood-red water on
which floated an image of a female suicide bomber, and tossed the light into
the water. The ambassador's action came in the context, he later explained, of
chronic anti-Israel activity in Sweden, some of which the creator of the art
exhibit, Dror Feiler, promoted.
According to a January 18 interview with the Ambassador:
Dror Feiler is the
main anti-Israel activist in Sweden. In the past few years before I got here,
he was known as someone who stands outside the embassy and passes out flyers
against Israel. He appears in lectures here and he writes articles and it is
all against Israel. Every second word of his about Israel are the words
'apartheid' and 'racism'. He is Israel's number one enemy and everything that
he does is Anti-Israel. [Interview with Zvi Mazel, Israel's Ambassador in
Sweden and Dror Feiler, the artist, IBA RESHET BET, JAN. 18, 2004, By
courtesy of Prof. Murray Kahl]
But Siegel omitted any reference to the anti-Israel
environment and interviewed only Feiler. The NPR host did refer to having
tried to reach Mazel, but gave no indication why, if Mazel couldn't
be interviewed, the network didn't find one of the many other speakers who
could have presented Israel's views. Siegel lobbed mostly sympathetic questions
and was silent in response to Feiler's extreme allegations, including his
charge that Israel is a rogue state. Feiler said:
...Mr. Mazel is
behaving the same way like his government is behaving. He has disrespected
international laws, and he is bullying his way around like the Israeli
government is doing. And it's not surprising that the diplomats of such a rogue
state, I would call them, are behaving like this.
In contrast to NPR, most other mainstream media provided a
broader view of the individuals involved in the incident and the backg round
against which Mazel acted. Excerpts below are typical:
Jan 18, New York Times Greg Myre:
Mr. Mazel, who has
served in his post for a little over a year, said he has faced considerable
anger directed at Israel during his time in Sweden. There is a hostile
ambience in this country that is orchestrated by the press and the extreme
left, he said.
Jan 19, UPI Joshua Brilliant:
piece was the work of a former Israeli, Dror Feiler, and his Swedish wife
Gunilla Skold-Deiler. Dror Feiler, 52, was raised in a communist kibbutz in
Israel, moved to Sweden in 1973, and gave up his Israeli citizenship.
Jan 19, Los Angeles Times Laura King::
Maybe if he
had been sitting in that restaurant, and his wife had been killed, he might
have changed his mind, said Tova Bahat, who was widowed in the [Haifa
terrorist] attack [committed by the Palestinian woman featured in Feiler's
exhibit], and her 3-year-old son critically hurt.
Jan 20, Associated Press Dan Perry:
deepening rift with Europe, Israel's ambassador to Sweden received strong
support in Israel after vandalizing a Stockholm art exhibit he saw as
glorifying Palestinian suicide bombers. Zvi Mazel's outburst captured on
a security camera before he was escorted from Sweden's Museum of National
Antiquities added fuel to a debate over artistic freedom and Europe's
views about Israel. But Mazel said those were minor issues compared with what
he described as a tide of European anti-Semitism that reminded him of the eve
of the Second World War.
This exhibit was the
culmination of dozens of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish events in Sweden,
the veteran diplomat told the Associated Press by phone. When you don't
protest it gets worse and worse. It had to be stopped somehow, even by
deviating from the behaviour of the buttoned-down diplomat.
The exhibit opened in tandem
with an international conference on preventing genocide set for this month in
Stockholm, but is not tied to it. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson David
Saranga said the exhibit broke an understanding Israel had with Sweden that the
genocide conference would not include the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
There has long been debate over
where criticism of Israel ends and anti-Semitism begins. But the current round
touched a deeper chord because many Israelis feel outsiders often accept the
Palestinians' use of suicide bombings against civilians...
Even government critics in
Israel sided with Mazel. 'Mazel was not an ambassador but a human being,' wrote
columnist Ben Caspit in the Maariv newspaper. His hand, which pulled the
plug, was the hand of all of us
We are in the 1930s now:
That is the feeling of many of us who know history, said Mazel, referring
to the decade that saw the Nazi takeover in Germany and led to the slaughter of
6 million Jews. There is a feeling among many people, including me, of a
tragedy that could be coming.
2) January 21 "All Things Considered"
In yet another segment faulting Israel for its construction
of a security barrier, five Palestinians are heard commenting on the intrusion
of the structure in their lives and neighborhood near Jerusalem. The specific
theme of this segment, devoted entirely to Palestinian sentiment, is the
allegedly special pain experienced by Arabs employed to help construct the
barrier. Other than one passing phrase by an Arab resident of Jerusalem to the
effect that suicide bombings may be reduced by the structure, the entire
program presents Palestinian accusations, anger and frustration.
Any story devoted to examining the impact of the new
barrier on Palestinians cannot pretend to be fair, complete or accurate if it
omits the Palestinian-launched violence that triggered building of the
structure. Yet, here as in many NPR segments, grievances of Palestinians are
entirely disconnected from their own actions and responsibility, and Israel is
cast as imposing repressive measures without any provocation. There is not a
hint that Palestinians once traveled easily into and around Israel and that
only after Oslo collapsed amid increasing Palestinian terrorism did Israel
impose restrictions. When the attacks became still more intolerable Israel
reached the point of building the barrier. Not a word of this is heard in the
January 21 segment reported by Julie McCarthy.
The transcripts are below.
All Things Considered
January 19, 2004 Monday
Dror Feiler talks about his artwork being attacked by an Israeli
MELISSA BLOCK; This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.
I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL: And I'm Robert Siegel.
What happens when a work of art disturbs a spectator so
that he attacks it? Well, in a moment, we'll hear from the Israeli- born
Swedish artist Dror Feiler, whose installation proved too provocative for one
man who saw it on Friday in Stockholm. Feiler and his wife Gunilla created the
piece. It's called "Snow White and the Madness of Truth": a pool of
red fluid suggesting blood, a model boat floating on the surface, a mast rising
from the boat bearing the portrait of Hanadi Jadarat. She was a Palestinian
suicide bomber who killed 22 people at a restaurant in the Israeli city of
Haifa. There's also a sound component to the piece, a recording of the Bach
cantata "My Heart is Swimming in Blood," and text cut both from the
story of "Snow White" and the story of the life of the suicide
Well, upon seeing and hearing this work, the Israeli
ambassador to Sweden, Zvi Mazel, set about destroying it on Friday. He was
escorted from the museum, and he remains unrepentant, even winning a word of
support for his action from Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon. There has
been some diplomatic back-and-forth between Jerusalem and Stockholm, but
nothing terribly serious, it seems. The artwork was part of an exhibition
called Making Differences, related to a Swedish conference on genocide, all of
which brings us back to the artist, Mr. Feiler, who joins us from Stockholm.
Welcome to the program, Mr. Feiler.
Mr. DROR FEILER (Artist, "Snow White and the Madness
of Truth"): Thank you. Thank you.
SIEGEL: Ambassador Mazel saw in your work what he called a
call to genocide, so he began to attack it. Is "Snow White and the Madness
of Truth" a call to genocide?
Mr. FEILER: Of course not. Ambassador Mazel said in the
Swedish newspapers yesterday that he decided to destroy that work of art before
he even saw it. I don't think he even gave it a chance. I don't think he even
tried to understand it. And I would like to ask Mr. Mazel, if I would make an
installation with a boat and on its sail a picture of Ariel Sharon sailing on
blood, if he will find it as a glorification of Ariel Sharon or as a critique
of Ariel Sharon deeds against the Palestinian people.
SIEGEL: I should say that we have tried to reach Ambassador
Mazel today, and have been unable to do so. But let me ask you, by implication,
what you're saying is that the image of this suicide bomber floating, her face,
a sail on a boat floating in a pool of blood is a criticism of her, not a
celebration of her?
Mr. FEILER: It is a criticism, and absolutely not a
celebration. You want to show that she became what she became because of blood,
and her acts resulted in bloodshed. If we don't understand that this kind of
situation exists, if we don't understand how to deal with culture situations
and to prevent people become like this, then we're really bad situation. We're
SIEGEL: Can you imagine any work of art conceived
sincerely, according to the aesthetic of the artist, that would be so odious to
yourself or to somebody else that you could imagine its destruction worthwhile,
if it were an odiously racist work of art, let's say?
Mr. FEILER: I can say it like this. I think that in
principle, I would permit all art, and I would like to go utmost for the
freedom of speech, in favor of artistic expression. But Mr. Mazel is behaving
the same way like his government is behaving. He has disrespected international
laws, and he is bullying his way around like the Israeli government is doing.
And it's not surprising that the diplomats of such a rogue state, I would call
them, are behaving like this.
SIEGEL: This is the state of your birth.
Mr. FEILER: This is the state of my birth, and this makes
me so unhappy, because I care very much for Israel, and I consider myself as
pro-Israeli, but I'm against the Israeli government.
SIEGEL: Have you had any further communication either with
the Israeli Embassy or the Israeli government, or has the Swedish government
come back to you today at all?
Mr. FEILER: Of course not. Yes, the Swedish government has
came back to me. The culture minister phoned to me this morning and asked me
how I felt and wanted to tell me that the Swedish government, in its meeting,
is hundred percent support to us. And the Swedish prime minister was on
television just one hour ago and said the same, so I feel they totally support.
SIEGEL: Mr. Feiler, thank you very much for talking with
Mr. FEILER: Thank you.
SIEGEL: Dror Feiler, an artist whose work of art,
"Snow White and the Madness of Truth," was the installation attacked
on Friday, literally, by Israel's ambassador to Sweden.
January 21 All Things Considered
Difficulties experienced by Palestinians assigned to work on the security
barrier being erected by Israel in the occupied territories
REPORTERS: JULIE McCARTHY
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert
Massive concrete slabs three stories high have gone up in
Jerusalem, part of Israel's security barrier. The barriers slice through
Palestinian villages on the edge of the city. The wall has divided families and
separated workers from their jobs. For Palestinians, it has been a source of
dismay, but the wall is also a source of income for those who have defied a
religious decree to work on it. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports.
(Soundbite of bells tolling)
JULIE McCARTHY reporting:
The bells of the Notre Dame Nursing Home toll on a rare
quiet day along this narrow street in the Palestinian village of Abu Dis near
the Mount of Olives. Noisy work on Israel's security barrier mostly stopped for
a few days due to rain. But the image along this muddy road screams out. A
27-foot-high wall now blocks the view of the other side of Abu Dis. For
buildings astride the barrier, it blocks the sun. Eighty-one-year-old Mohammed
Kibani(ph) clutches a bag of medicine and says even residents who knew a
separation barrier was coming were unprepared for this.
Mr. MOHAMMED KIBANI: (Through Translator) I stopped
breathing. I felt that I stopped breathing. How can they do this to a person?
How can they suffocate a person?
McCARTHY: The mufti of Palestine was so disturbed by
Israel's barrier carving up Jerusalem that he decreed it was haram, or
forbidden, for any Muslim to work on the wall. Aware of the Palestinian
economic plight, Mufti Ikrima Sabri says his fatwa was an agonizing decision.
Mufti IKRIMA SABRI (Palestinian Mufti): (Foreign language
McCARTHY: 'We have been forced to do this because the
consequences of building the wall are graver to the Palestinian people,' the
mufti says, 'than even the dire economic straits they are now living through.'
Outside the entrance to the Notre Dame Nursing Home,
Palestinian workman Majit Hatib(ph) says he did not know he would be working on
the barrier when his construction firm sent him out in the morning in the
company of Israeli soldiers. He leans out of the cab of his bulldozer, shuts
off the engine to talk, sounding disgusted and sad.
(Soundbite of engine turning off)
Mr. MAJIT HATIB: (Through Translator) I am splitting
inside. I am boiling inside. What I am doing is against my nature. I'm very
upset with myself for the work I'm doing.
McCARTHY: At day's end, Majit says he confronted his
Mr. HATIB: (Through Translator) I came back and I told him,
'How did you put me in such a terrible position? You sent me to close on
another Palestinian,' and I was very, very angry.
McCARTHY: Ministry of Defense spokesperson Rachel Ashkenazi
says she never heard of instances where Palestinian workmen were unwittingly
pressed into service by their own firms to help construct the barrier.
Clarifying who does what on Israel's security project can
be as difficult as collecting information on the wall itself.
(Soundbite of construction site noise)
McCARTHY: There is an atmosphere of tension around
construction sites. Many Palestinian workers refuse to talk for fear of losing
their job at a time when unemployment in the occupied territories is crippling.
Abu Saeed, an Israeli Arab, supervises wall construction around Jerusalem, and
says Palestinian laborers face added intimidation.
Mr. ABU SAEED (Construction Supervisor): (Through
Translator) Yes, I have been harassed because I work on the wall. And there
were some women even that said, 'May God do this and this to you because you
work on the wall.'
McCARTHY: Abu Saeed says he is conflicted about helping
build a barrier that is walling away fellow Palestinians, but he also believes
it is reducing suicide attacks inside Israel, where he lives. He calls the
fatwa forbidding work on the wall political propaganda.
(Soundbite of construction site noise)
McCARTHY: Early one morning before Israeli patrols arrive,
Palestinian Rahid Saleh prepared to board an earth leveler near the wall and
talked about the mufti's fatwa.
Mr. RAHID SALEH (Worker): (Through Translator) I tell him,
'Give me a job. Give me money. Give me work. I will stop.'
McCARTHY: Rahid says working on Israel's security project
is as painful as burying his own mother.
As much as Palestinians despise the wallgraffiti
reads 'Welcome to Ghetto Abu Dis'there is also empathy for workers like
Rahid, who many say have been forced to compromise their conscience to feed
their families. Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Jerusalem.