Buckle Up: NPR Takes Listeners For A Ride 30,000 Trucks Long

April 14 UPDATE:

NPR Publishes New Story Contradicting Baseless Claim About 30,000 Trucks

In response to communication from CAMERA concerning Jane Arraf's March 27 NPR report alleging that 30,000 trucks carrying aid for Gaza were stuck at the Egyptian border, the network has published a new story calling that figure into question. No clarification has been appended to the original report, and the new report was published only online, and was not broadcasted, unlike the original item citing 30,000 trucks. See below for a detailed update.

April 17 UPDATE:

NPR Clarifies Transcript Online

NPR has posted a clarification to the online transcript of Jane Arraf's March 27 broadcast. The correction has yet to run on the air. See below for correction.

It's well known that truckers are accustomed to very long journeys, but what about a line of 30,000 vehicles waiting for months on end to pass inspections and cross a border? If that sounds like beyond the realm of reason, it's because it is. Unless, of course, you are a National Public Radio journalist prone to believing whatever anti-Israel tall tell comes your way no matter how far-fetched. 

And, thus it came to pass that NPR's Jane Arraf, who earlier this year blamed non-existent "Israeli attacks on the Al-Aqsa mosque" for Iraqi militias targeting U.S. troops, repeated without any challenge a Jordanian official's fantastical vehicular fib.

There are no available satellite images showing a line of 30,000 idling trucks by the Gaza-Egypt border. Illustrative image of toy trucks from PickPik

In her March 27 "Morning Edition" broadcast, Arraf neglected to carry out any proper due diligence, reporting:

A Jordanian official says 30,000 trucks are backed up at the main border crossing with Egypt, waiting for Israeli approval to enter. He says some of Jordan's own aid trucks have been waiting in line for two months there.

The assertion garnered widespread ridicule.  The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof deleted his X post citing Arraf's report about the supposed line up of 30,000 trucks after he was widely mocked for parroting the impossible number. As many critics rightly noted, such a gargantuan line would appear on satellite images and would extend hundreds of kilometers long. Where are those images? In addition, an unprecedented jam of that nature would require massive infrastructure – the drivers would need to eat for instance – and yet we couldn't find a published word anywhere about this phenomenon.

Notably, NBC reported March 30 that "hundreds" of aid trucks "sat idle on the roads heading into Gaza recently." Did more than 29,000 trucks magically get through in the three days between NPR's report of 30,000 and NBC's subsequent article citing hundreds? If so, that truly amazing feat would be a global headline, and yet it's only Arraf who reported the line of 30,000 trucks, nevermind its miraculous diminishment in just days. NBC did publish a satellite image of the waiting trucks, and while it's questionable as to whether the image shows "hundreds" of trucks, in no way does it show thousands, much less 30,000 trucks.

Given that the crux of Arraf's story is that Gaza's reportedly dire hunger situation is singularly due to supposedly Israeli-imposed restrictions, the inflated backup is hardly a marginal point. 

Moreover, Arraf's reporting gives no indication that other factors are creating difficulties obtaining food in the parts of the Gaza Strip. While she cites States Department Matthew Miller saying the U.S. is "encouraging Israel to allow in more trucks," she ignores the other points he made in the very same briefing:

So this is not a simple, one-faceted problem. There was a lot of aid going into Gaza before October 7th, before Hamas launched this war that has had such a dramatic impact on the Palestinian people. So anyone that says Hamas doesn’t also bear some responsibility in the tragic situation and in the inability of aid to get into Israel is ignoring the reality on the ground and ignoring the fact that it was Hamas that launched this war in the first place, and it is Hamas that has at times prevented aid from actually getting to the people it needed to inside Gaza.

Significantly, Arraf neglected to report what the State Department identified as the primary obstacle to aid distribution. As  Reuters reported:

The State Department official said one of the biggest issues limiting aid distribution was a scarcity of trucks inside Gaza and that Washington would work to help acquire or help the U.N. acquire additional trucks.

"They're just about at the limit right now. There aren't additional trucks in Gaza to be loaded from Kerem Shalom or Rafah or Gate 96 with food," the official said, referring to various border crossings into the enclave.

Moreover, Reuters coverage, unlike NPR's lopsided reporting, includes the following information from Israel on the causes of food access problems:

Israeli officials say they have increased aid access to Gaza, are not responsible for delays and that the aid delivery inside Gaza is the responsibility of the U.N. and humanitarian agencies. Israel has also accused Hamas of stealing aid.

NBC, like Reuters (and unlike NPR), also includes the following information from Israel:

Israeli officials have repeatedly denied obstructing aid from entering Gaza, and instead blame the U.N. for acute shortages of livesaving supplies in the strip – particularly in the north. . . . 

The Israeli government agency responsible for allowing aid into Gaza, Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT, told NBC News that 995 of the aid trucks are approved after being screened.

COGAT has said it places "no limit" on the amount of aid entering Gaza but subjects some items to higher security scrutiny. . . . 

Israeli officials have also blamed the U.N.'s Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) for failure to distribute aid. According to COGAT, UNRWA has not requested convoys north for six weeks.

Notably, Arraf does mention UNRWA, saying that Israel, "further limiting" aid, "recently told the U.N. agency for refugees it's banning it from bringing food to the north of Gaza, where there's the most urgent need." Yet, she doesn't share Israel's complaints about UNRWA's failures regarding aid distribution. Why is that?

Finally, in her eagerness to attribute any food shortfalls to Israel, Arraf falsely reports that "Israel, with Egypt's cooperation, controls Gaza's main border crossing." Israel does not have any control of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. Egypt, together with Hamas, run that crossing. Other media outlets which have previously corrected after wrongly reporting that Israel controls Gaza's crossing with Egypt include The Washington Post,  The Guardian, and Haaretz

There is a unique, almost intoxicating quality about the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip prompting reporters to suspend their journalistic skepticism along with all reason and to accept as fact the most implausible scenarios: whether it's that there are no MRI machines in the coastal territory, that the release of (non-existent) dams in southern Israel caused massive flooding in Gaza, that a mountain of toxic discarded batteries reached 50 meters high, that there are no swimming pools in the territory, or that the local population requires half a ton of flour per person daily. 

On this growing list of dubious distinction, NPR's Jane Arraf makes her mark with 30,000 waiting trucks. And that's one long load of exhaust and mirrors. 

CAMERA has contacted NPR to request clarifications regarding the 30,000 trucks and control of the Gaza-Egypt crossing. Stay tuned for any updates.

April 14 Update: NPR Publishes New Story Contradicting Baseless Claim About 30,000 Trucks

On April 10, NPR's website published a new article which discredited Arraf's reporting alleging that there are 30,000 aid trucks idling at Egypt's border with Gaza, held up due to Israeli restrictions ("How much aid's waiting to enter Gaza? Depends who you ask"). James Hider reported:

But estimates of exactly how much aid is being allowed into the isolated coastal enclave have varied wildly.

Most aid groups estimate that there are generally between 3,000 to 7,000 trucks currently waiting to be allowed into the Gaza Strip after Israeli and Egyptian inspections for anything that might be used by Hamas in their battle against the Israeli military.

One Jordanian official, Ahmed Naimat, a spokesman for that country's National Center for Security and Crisis Management, claimed recently in an interview with NPR that there were as many as 30,000 trucks waiting at the Rafah crossing on Gaza's southern border with Egypt to get in. He did not provide the satellite images upon which his figure was based. NPR's own examination of satellite images of the Rafah border crossing and truck holding areas did not support that claim.

No clarification has been appended to the original misreporting. Nor has NPR shared with its on air listeners the information that satellite images belie the outlandish claim of 30,000 trucks though the misinformation was broadcasted on NPR affiliates across the United States.

April 17 Update: NPR Appends Correction to Online Transcript

NPR has commendably appended the following clarification to the online transcript but has yet to broadcast a correction on the air:

On March 27, NPR quoted a Jordanian official claiming there were as many as 30,000 aid trucks held up at the Rafah crossing with Egypt to enter Gaza. We were subsequently unable to confirm this figure and no longer believe it is accurate. Ahmed Naimat, spokesman for Jordan's National Center for Security and Crisis Management, said he based the number on satellite images but did not provide them. NPR's own analysis of later satellite images does not support that figure. Most aid groups currently estimate that as of early April 2024 there were generally between 3,000 and 7,000 trucks waiting to be allowed into the Gaza Strip pending Israeli security-related inspections.

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