CAMERA Op-Ed: National Public Radio Off the Map

Like deja vu all over again, National Public Radio has covered the release of the road map and surrounding events with the same tilt toward Palestinian interests it displayed for a decade in reporting the failed Oslo negotiations. A sample of NPR reports in the first 10 days after the formal release of the document in late April is a snapshot of network bias.

As throughout the Oslo years, NPR’s indifference to Israel’s concern about systematic incitement of Palestinians to hatred and genocidal violence continues. Only an Israeli official is heard once in that period, on May 1, mentioning the need to end anti-Israel and anti-Jewish propaganda – though such a halt is listed among the road map’s imperatives, “At the outset of Phase I.” The document states: “All official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel.” NPR reporters evince no interest whatsoever in the topic.

And, it must be emphasized, the PA’s indoctrination has not let up. Official Palestinian television continues to air lurid and graphic footage daily of violent clashes and bloodied victims – set to emotional music. MTV-style segments pitched at the young also present staged images of Arab mothers shamed by Israel, staged scenes of brutality against aged and vulnerable Palestinians and segments exhorting Palestinians to answer such alleged humiliations by obliterating Israel and Judaism. (Palestinian Media Watch)

Yet the theme reiterated on NPR in a May 1 segment, as in countless earlier programs, is that it is Israeli actions that “inflame” hatred in blameless Palestinians and drive even “peace supporters” to become “Hamas supporters.” Instead of a segment devoted entirely to whether incitement continues, nurturing new generations of suicide bombers, NPR allotted a whole program to an issue frequently reported by the network: settlements.

Also familiar in these 10 days are the skewed and factually careless segments promoting preferred views, such as Linda Wertheimer’s May 3 interview with NPR favorite Edward Walker, head of the Arabist Middle East Institute and advocate of the Palestinian perspective. Walker declared Israel’s “whole argument on security” now “reduced” in “importance” since the US war in Iraq.

While Wertheimer rightly asks about newly designated Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen having “been forced to take some Arafat cronies into his cabinet” she accepts without comment Walker’s explanation that the retention of longtime Arafat strongmen is “in reality …democracy.” Whatever Mazen is – in addition to author of a book mocking the enormity of the Holocaust and advocate of the so-called right of return of Palestinians to Israel – he was not democratically elected by the Palestinian public, and the thwarting of his effort to replace corrupt leadership aligned with Arafat was not democracy in action.

In a combination of rote caricature and error, Wertheimer then termed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a “tough customer” and “extremely tough in his responses to every act of terrorism…” Every act?

NPR itself reported on Sharon’s forbearance in the summer of 2001 after the Palestinian slaughter of 22 Israelis at Tel Aviv’s Dolphinarium disco on June 1. On June 4, NPR observed “so far, there’s been no Israeli retaliation for Friday’s suicide bombing in Tel Aviv…” On July 31 — nearly two months later — NPR interviewed an Israeli critic of Sharon, Chemi Shalev, who noted that Sharon’s “policy of restraint is extremely unpopular in the Israeli public.” In NPR-speak, however, caricatures prevail, whatever the facts.

Origianlly published in Jerusalem Post on May 23, 2003.

No less a partisan is NPR’s Kate Seelye, former media relations manager for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. On May 2, she covered Secretary of State Colin Powell’s visit in Syria, where Seelye said the top of the agenda “will be what they claim is Syria’s support for terrorism.”

Seelye promptly offered Syrian rebuttal to this US “claim,” citing Syrian officials who deny any “support [for] terrorists” and a Syrian spokeswoman who explains that Hizballah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are “resistance movements with a legitimate right to fight Israeli occupation of Arab land.” She refers three times to Hizballah members as “guerillas” — neglecting to note the group has earned the grim distinction as perhaps the most dangerous and well-organized terrorist entity in the world — this according to CIA Director George Tenet, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, Members of Congress and various investigative journalists and counter- terror experts.

A Seelye story four days later on Arab resentments against America concluded with the observation by an Arab woman that “there is only one way the US can appease Arab rage. By working on the Palestinian state.” The marginalization of mainstream Israeli voices and their concerns is one mark of NPR’s biased reporting. Another, likewise reflecting the network’s protectiveness of the Palestinians and hostility to Israel, is its refusal to air the many Palestinian and other Arab voices that openly insist they will not be appeased by anything short of Israel’s annihilation.

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