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Media Analyses





PRESS RELEASE: CAMERA Calls for NPR Shakeup


BOSTON—Charging that National Public Radio continues to purvey biased coverage of Israel and Jewish affairs, CAMERA cited fresh examples of what it termed prejudicial reporting and called on the publicly-funded network to replace outgoing Editorial Director John Dinges with an official prepared to examine the coverage objectively and to institute reforms.

"There is not only chronic bias and disregard for factual accuracy where Israel is concerned—NPR has also repeatedly veered into areas that verge on the anti-Semitic," said CAMERA president Andrea Levin. She pointed to an August 22, 1996 broadcast.

That segment, according to Levin, described Christianity and Islam as benevolent faiths in contrast to an allegedly exclusivist and brutal Judaism. NPR's "Talk of the Nation" commentator Ray Suarez had said: "In the story of Israel, this creator God makes a compact with a particular people and sets them apart from the nations, leads them to their own land and smites their enemies. In the Christian story God takes on the form of a human being, lives on earth, and pays for humanity's sinfulness with his own execution. In Islam, the believer submits to God, and submits herself or himself to a God-given way of life."

CAMERA, the Boston-based media monitoring agency, termed the NPR characterization of Judaism offensive. "This is how the Jewish religion is portrayed by anti-Semites. Why wouldn't Suarez have said instead that Judaism gave the world ethical monotheism, setting down such universal laws of moral conduct and compassion as the injunction to love thy neighbor as thyself?" said Levin. She noted as well that the inscription on the Liberty Bell is taken from Judaism: "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof."

Other universalist themes of peace, charity and justice are rooted in Judaism. Levin observed too that, contrary to NPR, the Jewish faith is open to all. The Hebrew

book of Isaiah says "My house shall be a house of prayer for all people." Nevertheless, in the classic inversion Suarez has cast the Jews, historically the victims of aggression and exclusion, as violent and separatist.

Nor is Suarez's comment stigmatizing Judaism an isolated case on NPR. In the aftermath of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Scott Simon invoked Biblical comparisons in a mean-spirited dissection of Rabin's character wrongly charging that the Israeli leader had called for the breaking of children's bones, and referring to the Biblical David as a "brute and a bandit." Simon described the Old Testament as a chronicle of "cynics, rogues and recovered scoundrels." Levin commented that it would be hard to imagine NPR embracing hoary caricatures of other religions.

According to CAMERA, the attitudes toward Judaism appeared to reflect a mindset at the network that colors reporting on Jewish issues and Israel generally. Levin pointed to a number of recent programs seriously distorted by this mindset. "A three-part series on Louis Farrakhan in May was scandalous in minimizing and excusing the anti-Semitic demagoguery of the Nation of Islam leader," said Levin. "The programs were overwhelmingly sympathetic to Farrakhan. His hate-mongering was rationalized as a consequence of childhood encounters with Jewish students and was downplayed as a 'political tactic' that was 'moderating.'"

"In the same way, coverage of Israel relentlessly ignores real issues, including Arab anti-Semitism and Palestinian violations of the Oslo Accords, and substitutes a political agenda endorsed by the journalists." Levin said that the very day Ray Suarez was stigmatizing Judaism, Linda Gradstein was ignoring Palestinian commitments under the Oslo Accords, and blaming Israel alone for lack of progress in peace negotiations. "Unfortunately, NPR seems to have a Jewish problem. It's time for a change of guard at the network and, finally, an honest self-examination."



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