In 1949, broadcaster Lew Hill founded radio station KPFA in Berkeley, California to "contribute to a lasting understanding between nations ... races, creeds and colors; to gather and disseminate information on the causes of conflicts between such groups; to promote the study of political and economic problems." Eventually KPFA would become the flagship station of the Pacifica Network, receiving tax-dollars from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and counting 53 stations nation-wide.
Pacifica claims to provide a forum for groups with differing viewpoints on controversial issues. In fact, Pacifica has become almost exclusively the voice of the Far Left and has, over time, completely abandoned its original mandate. In recent years, it has repeatedly provided a forum for racists, anti-Semites and virulent critics of Israel.
Virtually all of the coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict starts from the presumption of Israel as villain and the Palestinians as victims. Thus, the program Middle East in Focus, heard twice monthly, devoted an entire edition to "Palestine Solidarity Day" in 1992. One of the participants, a Pacifica producer, Brother Mohammed Martinez, was identified, by the program host, as "a victim of Manifest Destiny as a Mexican brother, and ... a victim of Zionism, as a Palestinian". Another speaker, IIhan Bayoul, was introduced by the Pacifica host with the proclamation: "Long live the Intifada and the struggle of the Palestinian people." Bayoul, who was identified as having been born in a Palestinian refugee camp in East Beirut and as an active volunteer with the Los Angeles office of Amnesty International launched into a lengthy attack on Israel for alleged persecution of Palestinian women.
She claimed, among other things, that hundreds of Palestinian women had miscarriages because they were physically abused by Israeli soldiers. Women, she continued, were arrested merely for trying to prevent beatings of family members, and they were regularly harassed while being interrogated. To get a confession out of one women, Bayoul alleged, Israeli soldiers tied her to a tree, naked, for three days "in sub zero temperatures." Pacifica offered its listeners no Israeli rebuttal to any of these outlandish charges.
Coverage of the Israel-PLO accords has also been skewed. All discussions center around the question of whether enough was gained in the agreements for the Palestinians. The only Israelis to appear are those who have pressed their government to make concessions to the Arabs. Interviews have frequently been conducted with individuals who claim that the Israelis have gotten the best out of the agreements and that the deal has no tangible benefits for the Palestinians. Columnist Alexander Cockburn told listeners on October 12th, 1993 that the Palestinians have gotten "the ability to maybe collect trash (and) send their young people to go work in assembly factories for $6 a day".
In an interview, on October 21st, Ralph Schoenman, a frequent guest on Pacifica, condemned the agreement in even stronger language. He claimed that the Palestinians were given a police force solely "for the purposes of suppressing the Palestinian population itself".
But it is clear that Schoenman would have settled for nothing less than the total dismantling of the Jewish State. He falsely claimed that "In Israel today over 95%, 96% [of the land] is administered under rules where you are obliged to prove four generations of maternal Jewish descent to be entitled to live on land, lease it, sharecrop it, own it." Schoenman's assertions are nonsense. Israeli Arabs can and do own, purchase, lease and cultivate land.
Israel's concerns about security in the wake of the Accords are entirely ignored or dismissed. In Schoenman's view such considerations are unimportant because the state itself is illegitimate.
"You know, it's like saying to me that the Bantustans in South Africa allow for the inhabitants therein, and the Bantustans are generous, by far, compared to what is assigned here. Security for the Israeli state? Do you call security for the Apartheid state of South Africa a condition for the self-determination of the people of South Africa?"
"In Algeria, did you ask that there should be a secure French State in Oran or Algiers? The state is not equivalent to the population. The Palestinians do not put themselves against the Israeli population as such. The PLO Charter, which is to be liquidated, called for a democratic and secular society in which were extended to all [sic], that citizenship was not a function of ethnic origin or religious affiliation." Schoenman also claimed that, "The Palestinian population had never persecuted Palestinian Jews." Regrettably, Pacifica interviewers almost never challenge the virulent statements of guests such as Schoenman nor are there balancing speakers to offer any corrections to the erroneous claims.
Not surprisingly on a network as extreme as this one, anti-Zionism is joined by unabashed tolerance for some of America's most prominent anti-Semites. Some of the worst material has been broadcast on the network's Los Angeles outlet, KPFK-FM. In December, 1991, Steve Cokely told listeners that the AIDS virus had been invented by Jewish doctors to kill black babies. After making these outrageous charges, Cokely, who is himself black, was forced to resign from KPFK... He had already resigned, in disgrace, as an aide to the late mayor of Chicago, Harold Washington. Over KPFK's airwaves he also urged residents of Los Angeles to turn their city into another Crown Heights, the Brooklyn neighborhood where rioting blacks had attacked Jews.
In February, 1992, the station broadcast a 2-day, 30-hour "African Mental Liberation Weekend," hosted by Dr. Kwaku Person-Lynn, who teaches at Cal State — Domingez Hills. He has said that Jews who are white are not really Jews. They call themselves Jews, they may think of themselves as Jews, but they are the usurpers and exploiters of the real Jews who are, according to him, black. In a similar vein Person-Lynn attacked Jerry Shapiro, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, calling him a "psychotic, idiotic, European Jew."
Listeners that weekend were able to hear a series of bigots and anti-Semites. Louis Farrakhan said that whites and Jews were "the pale horse with death as its rider and hell close behind" that had wreaked destruction on red, yellow, and black peoples in Africa, Asia, and the Americas as well as the Palestinians in the Middle East. Farrakhan promised the listeners that a "reckoning" for this slaughter was soon to come. Another prominent hate_-monger, Dr. Leonard Jeffries, also appeared to lecture on "African intellectual warfare."
Some of the speakers were less well-known but their messages were no less venomous. Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan, who claimed to have been raised as an Orthodox Jew, told listeners that Jews had stolen Bible stories from Black Egyptian Muslims.
But the "African Mental Liberation Weekend" was successful both in eliciting responses from listeners, and in generating money for the operation of the station. Person-Lynn raised $15,000 in just three fifteen-minute pledge breaks. One former KPFK program director speculated that much more money could have been raised if there had been more interruptions for soliciting contributions.
Even more troubling than this demonstration of support for the programming, were the reactions of listeners who called in to the broadcast. One caller told Person-Lynn, "The Jews have seen nothing yet...What's going to happen to them is going to make what Hitler did seem like a party." The host made no attempt to challenge such statements.
As could be expected, the "African Mental Liberation Weekend" sparked great controversy. The Anti-Defamation League filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission. In response, station manager Alan T. Fong issued a memo forbidding the discussion of Black-Jewish relations on the air. After meeting with the ADL, Fong promised to give them air-time to discuss their views. Eventually, Fong himself would lose his job because of the controversy.
But all of this had little impact on KFPK's programming. The station continued to provide a platform for promoters of bigotry and anti-Semitism. On the program, "Family Tree", Dr. Tony Martin, a Professor of Africana Studies at Wellsley College, was interviewed. Martin had come under fire for using the virulent Nation of Islam tract A Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews as a textbook. On KPFK, Martin claimed that the basis for the enslavement of blacks was to be found in the Bible and the Talmud. Thus the roots of enslavement were invented by Talmudic scholars a thousand years before the slave trade, and this meant that Jewish scholars were responsible for the death of two or three hundred million Africans who perished because of slavery.
As for the present, Martin claimed that he read the Jewish press on a regular basis and that he had found "virulent racist hostility to everything Black in much of the Jewish press." He also claimed that Jews had taken leadership roles in organizations like the NAACP in order to limit the progress of Blacks. Jews were also said to be responsible for the negative portrayal of Blacks in Hollywood movies.
In response to intensifying protest from members of the public, in June 1994 the House of Representatives passed the Hefley Amendment to an appropriations bill for the the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Sponsored by Congressman Joel Hefley, it called for the reduction of funding to CPB by the amount CPB passes on to Pacifica — $1 million. The bill sent a powerful message. In late July Pacifica announced it was cancelling two of its anti-Semitic, anti-white programs.