Nearly every day brings fresh examples of National Public Radio’s unabashed advocacy of Palestinian Arab views, and of NPR’s willingness to compromise professional standards that require balanced, complete and accurate reporting.
On November 1, NPR reporter Linda Gradstein filed a story from the West Bank town of Hebron. True to form, it is a sympathetic and personal view of Arab circumstances in that troubled city without any reference to the perspectives, difficulties and fears of the Jews. Gradstein’s focus is on the discomfort of that part of Hebron’s Arab community living in the small area still controlled by Israel. The family of “clean-cut and soft-spoken” Hasem Ashroui, an Arab newlywed, with whom she visits, has been under curfew for most of a month.
Why the Israeli-imposed curfew? Amazingly, in a story focused on a curfew, Gradstein omits any explanation for its imposition, offering instead a nonsensical observation. She reports:
“Because of the settlers, who are allowed to move around freely, tens of thousands of Palestinians have been under a 24-hour curfew for over a month.”
That is to say, Israel has ostensibly placed Arabs under curfew because Jews are allowed to move freely. (Never mind that Jews have had free movement there for thirty years...)
She doesn’t tell listeners that intensive, nightly shooting by the Arabs against Jews in their small Hebron enclave prompted the curfew. At the same time, while she omits all reference to Palestinian gunfire (other than a vague reference by Ashroui’s mother that “armed Palestinians may have fired at [Jewish settlers] from another direction”), Gradstein repeats without challenge the mother’s assertion that the Jews “started shooting” the week before. Gradstein says: “The wall above the [mother’s] bed has two bullet holes.”
Gradstein is silent about the bullet-pocked walls, scarred by Arab gunfire, in the homes of the Jews of Hebron. She never mentions the Jewish bedrooms where sand-bags block windows against the deadly sniper attacks of the Arabs. Gradstein is also entirely mute about the discomfort and fear of Jewish families forced to sleep crowded into one room to escape nightly sniper bullets.
There is not a single word in the segment about the concerns or positions of the Jews of Hebron.
Gradstein then quotes an Arab “field worker for the Israeli Betselem human rights group,” who reiterates the difficulties experienced by the Arabs. She does not, of course, make clear Betselem’s well-known stance as a partisan advocate of the Arabs.
Finally, Gradstein concludes with harsh statements by the Arab “newlywed,” Hasem Ashroui. He confesses to feeling “murderous rage” when he sees a Jewish settler and wishes he “could kill them.” His ten-year-old niece agrees that “they’re dogs” who “want to kill us.”
How does such violent language strike listeners? Having just heard Gradstein’s distorted picture of blameless Arabs attacked with bullets, terrorized and confined in their houses, while un-menaced Jews move freely, unrestricted by a suffocating curfew, no doubt many would find the comments understandable.
Gradstein’s report was unalloyed advocacy. She concealed essential information about the Arab shooting attacks that required the curfew, presented only voices assailing the Jews and offered no challenge herself to the one-sided accusations of the Arabs.
Now is the time – take action that will encourage NPR to begin reporting on the Middle East like the responsible, serious news organization it has always claimed to be.
ACTION ITEMS: [In the original alert, action items and contact information were listed here.]