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Media Analyses





CAMERA ALERT: In NPR Report, Dying With Dignity = Killing Jews?


An October 14th segment on NPR's "All Things Considered" typifies NPR's consistent pro-Palestinian news coverage.

Part of a Pattern

In 2000, a two-month CAMERA study of NPR noted that "entirely one-sided programs were commonplace;" that there was "a disproportionate reliance on Arab/Palestinian and pro-Arab speakers compared to Israeli and pro-Israeli speakers;" and a "chronic amplifying of Palestinian grievances and perspectives" which paralleled a de-emphasizing of Israeli concerns. Another three-month study of NPR's reporting during the period Jan 1 - March 31, 2003 found the same tilt in favor of Arab and pro-Arab views as has been the case in every other time span CAMERA has reviewed.

The skewed Oct. 14, 2004 segment focused on the Palestinian mood in the fifth year of their intifada. Despite serious accusations leveled against Israel in the piece, no Israeli speakers were included among the guests. 
 
NPR host Robert Siegel immediately set the tone, defining the so-called intifada as an "uprising against Israeli occupation." This distorted definition of the violence, one espoused by Palestinian advocates, overlooks the fact that much of the violence against Israelis is conducted by groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, whose avowed aim is not an end to "Israeli occupation," but rather an end to Israel altogether. Furthermore, Palestinian violence was launched in 2000 precisely at the moment Israel offered to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Reporter Julie McCarthy stressed the "disproportionate" nature of the conflict, focusing on Palestinian casualty figures that exceed those on the Israeli side:

For Palestinians, the price of four years of fighting with Israel has been disproportionate. This year, for every Israeli killed, five Palestinians have died. It's a trend borne out in Israel's current operation in northern Gaza, where daily funerals are a mixture of militancy and mourning. Some 100 Palestinians have perished. The Israeli army reports that one of its soldiers has been killed.

Since the second intifada erupted in September 2000, approximately 1,000 Israelis have lost their lives; 3,000 Palestinians have been killed. The unequal losses reflect the unequal strength of the two sides. The Palestinians deploy street fighters, suicide bombers and crude Qassam rockets; Israel deploys tanks, helicopter gunships and warplanes.

While McCarthy's monologue emphasized figures that suggest Palestinians suffer more from the conflict, there was no mention that 79 percent of Israelis killed were non-combatants, compared to 43 percent of Palestinian fatalities that were non-combatants. (Breakdown of fatalities according to International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism figures, Sept. 27, 2000 through May 1, 2004.) The reporter also omitted that 67 percent of Palestinians killed during the current Gaza operation were combatants (Breakdown according to Haaretz, Oct. 17, 2004), and didn't note that four Israelis, three of them children, were killed in the rocket attacks that prompted Israel's Gaza operation.

She highlighted that Israel uses warplanes while Palestinians deploy "street fighters," yet she concealed the fact that because Palestinian "fighters" operate among civilians, Israel regularly forgoes warplanes and instead uses foot-soldiers. That is, Israel exposes its troops to greater harm for the purpose of minimizing collateral damage. This happened, for example, during Israel's 2002 operation in Jenin. The Jerusalem Post reported on this operation as follows:

As of last night, 23 soldiers had been killed trying to take over the Jenin refugee camp. The IDF has suffered so many losses because it chose to fight the battle on a virtually one-on-one basis, without the benefit of all its advantages in artillery or fighter-bombers. A senior officer said the attack helicopters have also swapped their rockets for TOW missiles, which cause less collateral damage. The reason is the army does not want to cause civilian casualties.(Arieh O'Sullivan, "Soldiers' deaths won't affect Defensive Shield," 4/10/02).

McCarthy graphically described Palestinian casualties:

Gaza surgeons say the nature of the casualties in the past two weeks has been appalling: men decapitated, boys blown to bits, a bullet lodged in the brain of a teen-aged girl.

By contrast, there was no graphic or emotional description of the gruesome effects of Qassam rockets that recently killed 2 young Israeli children and helped spur the Israeli incursion to eliminate rocket factories.

Instead, seven Palestinians expressed their views, often highly critical ones, of Israel. McCarthy translated the words of one woman who claimed that Israel "opened fire" at her family's house: "I wish that an Israeli family would suffer the same fate as mine." This declaration, which supports NPR's opening theme that Israelis don't suffer as much as Palestinians, is allowed to pass without comment from the reporter.

The reporter didn't ask the woman if she was angry at the terrorists for launching rockets into Israel and causing a shutdown of the entrypoints into Israel and an end to economic development. Nor was she asked how she feels about the Palestinian Authority that encouraged children to become terrorists and spent donor money on bombs instead of improving schools, roads, plumbing infrastructure and/or health clinics.

Terror counter-productive — not immoral

Palestinian politician Haidar Abdul-Shafti and psychiatrist Iyad Sarraj did briefly criticize the terror against Israelis and Arafat's corrupt mismanagement, but only because the terror has hurt their cause, not because killing Israeli civilians is immoral. They reflected on how it has hurt the Palestinians in world public opinion and has led to violence in their own society. McCarthy did not probe their critical comments and never asked whether, aside from considerations of self-interest, they thought terror was morally wrong in and of itself.

Dr. Sarraj then advanced what turns out to be a central theme of the program:

The principle behind [suicide bombing] is that it is better to die in dignity rather than to live in humiliation and shame.

McCarthy didn't ask the psychiatrist why murdering Israeli civilians is "dignified." She didn't interview any additional psychiatrists, Israeli or otherwise, who might have offered an opposing view of what influences suicide bombers. She didn't note that Palestinian incitement, societal glorification of suicide bombers, and religious fanaticism are often cited as factors that motivate suicide bombers.

Though NPR listeners are unlikely to hear about these factors, a PBS documentary about suicide bombers reported on incitement and religious fanaticism, presenting a bomb maker who said he wants to kill women and children because "it's the duty of every Muslim to liberate this land, every inch of it" (Wide Angle: Suicide Bombers, Dir. Tom Roberts, 2004). "Some observers claim that the older, more determined political activists manipulate the younger and more impressionable recruits," adds the narrator. The testimony of one failed suicide bomber supports this observation. He states:

I already had hatred, and [my recruiters] added to it. They also spoke to me about paradise, where I would get all I want. They encouraged and excited me.

None of this information on the roots of terrorism is provided by NPR, where Palestinians are overwhelmingly exonerated of responsibility and the violence they perpetrate is blamed on Israel.

Camp David Never Happened

Another Palestinian interviewed, diplomat Mahmoud Ajrami, also blames Israel for the continuing violence, saying:

Give us a settlement, a real just compromise, you know, and all these radicals will be isolated in the corner and they will diminish.

Of course, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak did offer a generous compromise at Camp David. As Dennis Ross recounts in his new book, The Missing Peace, the Palestinian leader "said no to everything," and did not present "a single idea or single serious comment in two weeks".  This attempt at compromise obviously didn't "isolate" the "radicals," but, again and predictably, NPR's reporter failed to remind listeners of this or to challenge the guest speaker.

In Conclusion

McCarthy ended her segment underscoring the patently inaccurate claim that poverty and loss beget terror (rather than ideology and indoctrination). An unidentified Palestinian says, through a translator:

What do you expect from a people who feel poverty, who lose their children, lose their brothers, their fathers? What do you expect from them who are losing everything?

The answer:

They prefer to die, he says, than to live such a life. Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Gaza.  

To read the transcript of the October14 segment, go to:  http://tinyurl.com/3ovow


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