BOSTONCharging 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 concernedNPR 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
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
"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."