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Middle East Issues

Gaza, Oct. 1, 2000: The media's "Kids with Stones"

National Public Radio has an Israel problem. The tax-supported network has sharply distorted the truth about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Over and over again, in skewed and inaccurate stories, the network has cast Israel as a ruthless aggressor against innocent Palestinian civilians. Consider the following:

On October 1, 2000, Jerusalem correspondent Jennifer Ludden stated:

You’ve got this Goliath of an Israeli army with guns. In some places yesterday they used armored tanks. There were battle helicopters buzzing overhead. At one point in the Gaza Strip yesterday, Israeli soldiers fired an anti-tank missile. All this directed at young kids with stones.

FACT: None of the Israeli weaponry cited had been “directed at young kids with stones.” At that point, the tanks had not fired a shot at anyone, but were positioned as a deterrent. The helicopters had been brought to help rescue an Israeli who had been shot by Palestinians during their assault on Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus and was trapped and bleeding to death. The anti-tank missile was used against Palestinian snipers firing at Israelis from high-rise buildings at the Netzarim junction in Gaza.

Ludden’s inaccurate statements were contradicted by fellow reporter Linda Gradstein in an October 4 report in which Gradstein describes Israel firing helicopter gunships at buildings harboring Palestinian gunmen, not at “young kids with stones.”

On October 5, Ludden herself stated:

Armored tanks have moved into key hot spots, though spokesmen say they’re meant to intimidate and have not opened fire. Perhaps most controversial, helicopter gunships have repeatedly shot guided rockets next to the besieged Israeli army post at Netzarim junction in the Gaza Strip.

On October 8, Gradstein reported:

And for the first time since the latest clashes began, in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Israel fired machine guns mounted on tanks.

NPR has never corrected the inaccurate October 1 report.

In another segment on October 1, Ludden stated that “helicopter gunships fired on crowds in the Gaza Strip.”

FACT: This is inaccurate. If helicopter gunships had fired on crowds, there would have been hundreds of casualties. The gunships, as noted, were firing at snipers in multi-story buildings.

NPR has never corrected this additional October 1 error.

On October 31, Ludden reported that “nearly all those killed in the past month have been Palestinian civilians armed only with stones.” She made the same assertion on November 17, when she said of the victims, “most have been civilians armed only with stones.”

FACT: Ludden has no way of knowing what percentage of those killed were “armed only with stones.” Among the rioters have also been men shooting guns and hurling fire bombs. Nor does she report that Palestinian gunmen shoot from within the ranks of unarmed youth, drawing return fire from Israelis.

NPR has never corrected the inaccurate November 17 error.

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