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Middle East Issues





NPR’s Emily Harris Reflects, Blearily, on Three Years Reporting from Jerusalem


National Public Radio's Emily Harris closed a three-year stint reporting from Jerusalem on Israeli-Arab news in a discussion with “All Things Considered” host Kelly McEvers July 26, 2016. Maybe NPR didn't give Harris enough airtime. In any case, the result, “Middle East: Reflecting on Three Years in Jerusalem,” was deeply superficial. And, as with so much of the network's coverage and commentary on Israel-related topics, misleading.

In response, one CAMERA member e-mailed the following letter to NPR journalists and Ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen. The text of the letter as sent appears below in roman type, ex post facto additions by CAMERA staff in italics:

Dear All Things Considered:

Tuesday's program had Emily Harris wrapping up her three years in Jerusalem, and her overall view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As always, there is the refusal to even hint at the elephant in the room. Not once did she mention the real core issue in the conflict—namely Palestinian refusal to accept a permanent Israel of any size and behind any boundaries.

One day after NPR broadcast the Harris-McEvers exchange, former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon told a conference that When the Palestinians talk about the occupation, they are referring to the entire territory of the land of Israel, not just Judea and Samaria. ‘Hamastan' [the Gaza Strip] and the Palestinian Authority [West Bank] refuse to recognize Israel, and we receive rockets in exchange for land. …
 
For the Palestinians, the biggest settlement is Tel Aviv. ... Fatah could have established state infrastructure a long time ago—before the state [of Israel] was established, during the period of Jordanian rule over the West Bank and during the Oslo Accords in '94.”

So long as Palestinian leadership rejected Jewish sovereignty in any part of the land of Israel, Ya'alon asserted, political differences between the Israeli right and left over dealing with Palestinian Arabs was “meaningless.”

Not once did she [Harris] even suggest that If Israel were to hand over the West Bank tomorrow, or at any stage, the conflict would not end, but that in the clear statements of Mahmoud Abbas, the West Bank would be used for further political and military attacks against Israel.

Not once did she mention 70 years of unremitting Arab rejection of Jewish self-determination in any form.

As for that unremitting rejection, Dore Gold, director-general of Israel's foreign ministry, noted on July 27 PA President Mahmoud Abbas' announced intention—a week before Harris' comments on “All Things Considered”— to sue Great Britain over the 1917 Balfour Declaration. Gold said the PA head reiterated Palestinian rejectionism and exclusivity:

“Quite apart from the obvious lack of any legal basis for Abbas' claim, his initiative itself demonstrates yet again the continuing refusal of the Palestinian side to recognize the legitimate and indigenous connection of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland, alongside the recognition the Palestinians seek for their own rights.”
 
Not once did she [Harris] mention official Palestinian incitement to violence, Palestinian maps that show all of Israel as PA land, the TV programs aimed at young children inciting violence, the soccer camps and institutions named after perpetrators of the worst terror attacks, the virulent antisemitism, let alone the suppression of any dissent by Fatah and Hamas, let alone their corruption.

Instead she presented some faux balance—Palestinians talking of one state with equal rights for all, of Palestinian violence being driven by frustration. Of course, she referred to Israeli settlers responding by building more, and putting a two-state solution in jeopardy. Ah yes, as always, play up the role of ‘settlements,' blame them, and avoid the core issue. Those settlements are hardly growing, and then only upwards, not sideways—see, for example, “The Truth About Settlement Growth,” Commentary, July 25.

For a detailed look at how little Israeli communities in the disputed West Bank (Judea and Samaria) actually have expanded under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's governments and the small amount of territory they comprise, See also “Exclusive: Settlement ‘expansion' fails even to match natural growth,” by Ahron Shapiro for the Australian/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, July 21.

Harris' reference to Palestinian “anger and frustration” in the context of remarks on the absence of diplomacy toward a “two-state solution” failed to examine the extent to which that “frustration” has been self-induced. That is, Palestinian leadership rejected U.S. and Israeli offers of a West Bank and Gaza Strip state, with eastern Jerusalem as its capital in 2000, 2001 and 2008—and resumption of talks on the subject in 2014 and 2016—if acceptance meant an end to the conflict and peace with Israel.

She [Harris] talked of an American Jewish student living in Ramallah who had to deal with minimization of the Holocaust. Come on, the virulent antisemitism that is a staple in Palestinian media is readily viewable, for example, at Palestinian Media Watch. Why is there so much refusal to acknowledge it? It is akin to the West's long-time refusal to acknowledge Islamist terror until it finally plagued them!

Of course she remembered the Gaza war and talked about two personal reactions on either side—but did not even hint at Hamas' goals, its tactics, its rejections of ceasefires—and above all that Hamas started the war.

How long will it take to point out that in no other conflict is the clear goal of one side (the Palestinian Arabs) to attack and destroy the other so consistently ignored and even hidden?

How long will it take to stop blaming Israel for unwavering Palestinian intransigence?

How long will it take to even hint that every Israeli concession has led only to more Palestinian attacks and demands?

How long will it take to even hint that the tragedy of the Palestinian cause is that it was built for destroying Israel, has little positive vision, and its obsession with destroying Israel far exceeds the desire for a Palestinian state?

How long will it take to report that it is decades of Palestinian and broader Arab indoctrination for war that makes peace ever less possible?”

The CAMERA letter-writer did not hear from NPR's newsroom, but did get a brief e-mail reply from Ombudsman Jensen. She said she “noted” the writer's concern. That and a few dollars will get one a small cup at a gourmet coffee shop. As for substantive Arab-Israeli coverage, it continues to be the case that NPR disqualifies itself.

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